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A royal flush of parties

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 25, 2002

They called it a coronation, but there was as much politicking as there was knighting at Saturday's Krewe of Sant'Yago ball.

Sure, attorney Tony Martino became the 30th king, and his daughter Monica, a freshman at USF, assumed the role of queen. Wife Dolores beamed from courtside at the A la Carte Pavilion.

Amid all the royal playacting, a dozen politicians jockeyed for the spotlight, table hopping and vote shopping among 1,000 guests. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride eyed King Martino's crown as if he might like to try it on. No-longer-a-contenderDennis Alvarez and only-a-year-left-as-Mayor Dick Greco watched mayoral wannabees work the room: Bob Buckhorn, Rose Ferlita, Charlie Miranda, Pam Iorio and Francisco Sanchez.

With no babies to kiss, Buckhorn passed around pictures of his baby daughter, Grace.

Candidates Kevin White (Tampa City Council District 5) and Michael Steinberg (District 47 State House seat) made the rounds, too.

It was great to see Bryn-Alan photographer Eddie Ocasio having fun instead of working. Now a member of the krewe, he can hand his camera over to colleagues, after a 23-year run as royal photographer.

The elegant evening was dedicated to an elegant lady, the late Adela Gonzmart. She and her husband,Cesar, were vital to Sant'Yago since he helped start the Latin men's club in 1970. Their son Richard, El Rey XVIII, reigned in 1990, a year before Cesar died. Son Casey, El Rey XXIX, gave up the throne a month after Adela died. Both get teary when they speak of their parents.

* * *

PARTY CRASHER: Terrorists. Chairwoman Jackie Weaver panicked en route to the Krewe of Venus coronation ball Jan. 5. A teenage pilot had stolen and crashed a Cessna into a building a block from where 500 guests were expected in an hour. Would they be afraid to come? Or stuck in traffic?

But the show went on, and only 45 minutes late. King Venus XXXVII Glen Freeman and his daughter, Queen Tara, took the throne in French-themed fancy, feathered costumes surrounded by a full complement of princesses, squires, pages, duchesses and dukes.

If suicidal pilots weren't enough, singer Pepe Urquiaga canceled because of a death in the family and surgeon Vincent DiCarlo, a longtime krewe member who was to play a duke that night, suffered a mild stroke. Attorney Ron Weaver stepped into DiCarlo's shoes and a Busch Gardens entertainer sang for Pepe.

One happy guest was U.S. Customs special agent Al Suarez, whose two children, Meagan and Tony, joined the court. Suarez's Army Reserve unit (he's been in 27 years) was called up to work security at the Olympics. He leaves Feb. 4 for Salt Lake City.

FAMILY DYNASTIES: This year marks the third time father-daughter kings and queens rule the Krewes of Sant'Yago and Venus. Sharing the year-long experience is very special, they say. Krewe members might get shortchanged though. It's custom for royals to host a king's party and a queen's ball. Does this mean they'll combine two fetes into one?

HEADS OR TAILS? Would Courtney Howell run for queen of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla? Or would her twin sister Mallory? It wasn't hard to decide, Courtney says.

Mallory told Courtney to go after the crown now; she'll make a run for it next year.

Courtney studies clinical exercise physiology at USF. Her sister took a semester off from Hillsborough Community College to check out modeling jobs in New York.

With ballots for king and queen cast and locked up until the March 2 coronation, Gasparilla's 89th court is up for speculation. But Howell roots run deep. The twins' great-grandma, Mary Trice Clewis Howell, was Gasparilla queen in 1920; their great-uncle, A. Clewis Howell was king in 1967.

Another omen? Courtney and Mallory turn 21 on Feb. 2, Gasparilla Day.

IN MEMORIAM: As Ye Mystic Krewe readied for a new court, the oldest living Gasparilla queen passed away Jan. 13. Lillie Wall Honaker Adams reigned in 1922, the 14th queen of the pirates. She would have been 100 on Jan. 22.

Her son, Alfred "Pete" Adams, came back to Tampa from Richmond three years ago to look after her. He doesn't remember hearing any early Gasparilla stories, maybe because she didn't actually attend her coronation. She was in mourning for her father at the time.

He knows his mother was delighted to be recognized on the 70th anniversary of her reign at the 1992 coronation ball.

"They dimmed the lights, put a spotlight on her and brought her a tiara," says Adams.

STILL ROLLING: If cars held up like the Ferman marriage, we could all live like royalty. Automotive dealer Jim Ferman and his wife, Martha, are about to celebrate their 65th anniversary with son Jim Jr., daughter-in-law Celia, granddaughters and grandson-in-laws, Laura and Preston Farrior and Janice and Stephen Straske; and six great-grandchildren.

The family plans to gather for dinner this weekend at the Tampa Yacht Club.

"It was love at first sight," Martha says. She was 21 when she met Jim, soon after her brother married Jim's cousin. Married in Shellman, Ga., they sailed to Havana to honeymoon. That was 1937 and Jim was already working for his father at Ferman Motor Car.

"We've been so very blessed," says Martha after leading last week's book club discussion on Randolph County, Georgia, history. That's a subject she knows well since she wrote the chapter on Shellman.

HERE COMES THE JUDGE: It pleased the court and everyone seated in Falk Theater to witness Virginia Hernandez Covington's investiture as judge of the second district court of appeal of Florida.

Chief Judge John Blue ran the proceedings, ribbing his brethren and the few female judges. He couldn't resist asking if there was a lawyer there who didn't get his first job from Judge E.J. Salcines.

Colleagues lavished love and praise on Covington, an internationally known expert on asset forfeiture who has spent her entire career in public service.

Covington took the oath flanked by her mother, Sofia, and her father, James, a 40-year-University of Tampa history teacher. Husband Doug Bagge and their three children robed her in a black gown.

Judge Charles Wilson of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a friend since they were teenagers, was proud to point out, "Covington was the first graduate of the Academy of the Holy Names to be appointed to any court."

AFTERNOON COWBOY: Actor Jon Voight came to town Tuesday for an appearance at the Florida Holocaust Museum. First he dropped by Sunset Park to spend a leisurely afternoon in Suzette and Monroe Berkman's kitchen, which overlooks Tampa Bay. The Berkmans, arts patrons, were delighted. "He was much more handsome in person," Suzette said.

PALM FRIENDS: About 50 Friends of the Arts of the Tampa Museum of Art supped at the Palm Restaurant Jan. 13, sipping four kinds of wine and attacking giant lobsters and filets. Palm managerDavide Crusoe picked up the tab for everything, allowing the $125 ticket revenue to go right to the museum (except for invitations, postage and waiters' tips). "A $6,000 gift to the museum," says Sue Sutker, co-chairwoman with Beverly Hubbell.

- To pass along tips to Amy Scherzer, reach her at (813) 226-3332 or

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