LAS VEGAS – The music pounded, the crowd pulsed and Rob Gronkowski appeared to be in trouble.
He had failed to chug a full can of beer at the outset of his party, Gronk Beach Las Vegas, that started at noon Friday in conjunction with the three-day NFL draft.
About two hours later, after taking the main stage at Encore Beach Club to thunderous cheers, Gronk danced for about five minutes before bending over slightly at the waist.
He took couple of deep breaths. The five-time Pro Bowl tight end looked winded.
Whether he will play next season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and chase another Super Bowl ring with his pal Tom Brady was, at that moment, of secondary importance. The more pressing question: Could Gronk, at 32, survive the day and night ahead with his reputation as a relentless party boy intact?
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He surveyed the crowd of about 4,400 people, a liquored-up blur of bikinis and swim trunks packed inside a 55,000-square-foot venue with three-tiered pools under sunny skies.
The Chainsmokers, the electric dance DJ duo, blasted music that energized the crowd and, suddenly, Gronk was Gronk.
Gronk did pullups on the scaffolding at the main stage.
Gronk drank champagne from the bottle and poured bubbly into the mouth of a partygoer.
Gronk danced as if the fate of his party hinged on it.
“I’m always all-in,” he later told USA TODAY Sports. “All-in, or I’m out.”
A unicorn and Papa Gronk
During the six-hour event, the bedlam turned surreal.
A man in a gorilla suit walked past security and into Gronk’s restricted-access lounge. Someone in a unicorn suit walked on stage and danced with Gronk. In strolled Julian Edelman, his former teammate with the New England Patriots. Followed by Travis Kelce, the seven-time Pro Bowl tight end with the Kansas City Chiefs; and Russell Westbrook, the nine-time NBA All-Star; and Deebo Samuel, the All-Pro wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers.
About that trade demand, Deebo …
“I’m not answering questions,” Samuel told USA TODAY Sports.
Gronkowki had little to say either – at least on stage, where he uttered maybe 10 words before passing the microphone to an emcee.
But Gronk, wearing a pink Hawaiian lei and Pit Viper sunglasses, managed to elicit cheers and occasional chants of “Gronk! Gronk! Gronk!” with his antics.
He punted and tossed autographed footballs into the crowd. He took enough tequila shots to delight the liquor sponsors. He danced on the main stage. With his girlfriend, model Camille Kostek. With his four brothers. With Mojo Rawley, the former WWE wrestler. With the unicorn. And, with special enthusiasm, “Papa Gronk,” otherwise known as Gordon Gronkowski Sr., his father.
Father and son danced together, at one point shirtless. “Did you see my dance moves out there?”’ Papa Gronk later asked.
Gronk and his brothers are all notorious for their partying.
“Where do you think they all got it from?” Papa Gronk said. “Live every day to the fullest. That’s how I brought my kids up, because you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. We’re all about business, but we like to have a good time, too.”
The business element was clear.
The price of admission: $100 for men and $50 for women. The full allotment of 4,400 tickets sold out, as did 130 tables that started at $3,000 apiece, according to Amanda Brocato, who is VP of corporate strategies for Rosenfield Media Group and handled PR for the party.
Gronk worked overtime.
Throughout the party, scheduled to end at 6 pm, he signed just about everything tossed his way. Jerseys, caps, visors, the back of cellphones and, bending down on one knee with a Sharpie at the ready, the giant unicorn’s shorts.
The clock and Gronk kept ticking, as he signed autographs, danced and took one last tequila shot. As he headed back to his hotel room, he addressed his passion for football and partying.
“They’re both the same,” he said. “Dancing, it’s like scoring a touchdown. It’s unbelievable.”
What might he do for an encore at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas?
Does the party ever end?
At about 1 am, at the XS Nightclub at Encore, Gronk and his entourage descended the main staircase and into another sea of partygoers in inimitable style.
Which is to say, he showed up in shorts.
It was business casual dress – unless you’re hosting the party, it turned out.
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Gronk found his way to a roped-off VIP area and the action picked up quick. Drummers wearing lighted, flashing goggles and futuristic outfits arrived. So did five women holding up cards that spelled GRONK.
Of course Gronk ended up with a pair of drumsticks. He banged away on one of the drums and, at least briefly, seemed intent on playing in rhythm with the other drummers. You know, rather than marching to the beat of his own.
Call it a modest success.
Not long after, Gronk ascended the stairs to the DJ booth. More tequila shots. More dancing. More mingling, in a roped-off VIP area outdoors, where Gronk and about two-dozen people drank and laughed
“Is that Nate Diaz?” someone asked.
“That’s Nate Diaz!”
Indeed, there he was, the UFC fighter, holding his phone in the air and recording the scene, which of course led him to Gronk’s entourage. Which of course included Mojo Rawley, the professional wrestler.
“We party with Nate all the time,” Mojo said. “Nate’s got stamina at these things.”
But there was no public embrace between Diaz and Gronk.
Because Gronk was missing. So was his girlfriend. Had been for almost 45 minutes.
An employee at the club shared video of Gronk dancing on stage, only 15 minutes earlier, he said. A stroll through the inside of the club produced no Gronk sightings. Then it was back to command control, in the roped-off VIP table. To Logan Bohbot, VP of marketing for Medium Rare, the company that produced Gronk’s parties here.
Bohbot had been keeping track of Gronk’s whereabouts throughout the day, but now he wasn’t exactly sure what happened. So at 2:47 am, Bohbot explained while pointing to his phone log, he FaceTimed Gronk.
“He said he was in bed.”
Even in Vegas, even for Gronk, at some point, the party must end.