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Amy Scherzer's Diary

Deed to the party part of the sale

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 1, 2002

Krewe of Libertalia members Kurt and Diane Schleicher added an unusual clause to the sale of their Davis Islands home. The deal stipulated buyers Dawn and Pete Dominici had to agree to host a party for the krewe during Gasparilla week. The Schleicher home had been party central for Libertalia members, and they didn't want to end the tradition. In other words, the house came with four bedrooms, five bathrooms and tonight's gathering for 100 or so.

Krewe of Libertalia founder Jesse Hill, left, talks with charter member Gil Singer at the Founders Ball at the University Club.
"We thought that was cool," said Dawn Dominici of what started as a real estate transaction and has become a great friendship between buyer and seller.

"We're fulfilling our contractual obligations," said her husband, vice president of a startup company in Clearwater called Hydrogen Technology. They expect to join the krewe within the year.

Libertalia started partying last week at a Founders Ball honoring Jesse Hill and the charter members. Hill's mission, back in 1991 when he served on Tampa's Super Bowl Task Force, was to start an integrated social club. You may recall that was the year Gasparilla canceled its parade and Bamboleo was the city's hasty substitute.

"The time was right to start a krewe and get African-Americans involved in the parade," Hill said.

Creating a krewe introduced him to people of all backgrounds, including Gil Singer, "my best friend in the whole world today," he says.

He's especially happy that Libertalia's piracy has a cause, too. In 10 years, the club has donated thousands of dollars for college scholarships.

* * *

CELEBRATION OF LIFE: Eternal optimist and breast cancer survivor Katie Harper was showered with flowers Saturday as she modeled in her 12th Reach to Recovery fashion show, accompanied by surgeon Jim Christensen of St. Joseph's Hospital.

Breast cancer survivor Katie Harper, right, checks outfits with daughter Roi while preparing to model in the Reach to Recovery show.
"Everyone aspires to be Katie Harper," said fashion show coordinator Suzy Holley.

Harper and Christensen were among a dozen doctor-patient models at the 23rd annual American Cancer Society benefit. Others included Moffitt surgeon Elisabeth Dupont and plastic surgeon Bill Carter, along with Tampa City Council member Mary Alvarez and daughter Lori Alvarez Taylor, both breast cancer survivors.

[Times photo: Pam Royal]
Breast cancer survivor Patty Frank, left, attended the Reach to Recovery fashion show with friend Audrey Haubenstock, center, and sister-in-law Lois Frank.
Black belt surgeon Sylvia Campbell marveled at the women's "courage, beauty and strength," calling the fashion show "one of the most rewarding things I participate in."

* * *

E=MC SQUARED: You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the appeal of "Einstein on Wine," the Museum of Science and Industry's annual winetasting. Math ability helps, though, when you try to add up 80 vintners pouring 400 varieties of wine and 20 restaurants offering dinner samples.

Gianpiero Ruggeri, who started the benefit seven years ago, ranked this one "the best ever." The owner of Gianpiero's Pick of the Vine said sippers especially liked the frozen desserts he imports and "they went nuts for the Prosecco," a sparkling wine made north of Venice.

Florida Estates Winery, open just two months in Land O'Lakes, went through two cases of its Chateau Soleil and Plantation produced in Fort Myers. The Fort Myers crop is blended and fermented with California grapes into seven varieties of wine.

* * *

GUILDING THE LILLY: In 1966, Lee Leavengood called her fellow Tampa Art Institute volunteers "Guilders." When they worked even more hours, she called them "Guilded Lillies" and then "Friends of Art."

From left, Joan Garrison, Lee Leavengood and Carole Gaynor long ago reached "Sustainer" level as Friends of the Arts.

"We cleaned bathrooms, hung the shows, made food for parties, everything," said organizer Leavengood. "They did so much we thought we should guild the lilly." The old-fashioned phrase refers to adding an extra layer of ornamentation, or in this case, appreciation.

Eventually, the Tampa Art Institute moved from its N Boulevard location to become the Tampa Museum of Art. Those three early support groups became one: Friends of the Arts.

They've come a long way since Leavengood's day.

Sunday, at a Guilders and Sustainers thank-you party at Jana Koch's art-filled home, FOTA co-president Carole Gaynor spelled out the current rules. Guilders volunteer 25 hours a year for four years. Sustainers put in 40 hours a year for six years.

From left, museum "Guilders" Gene Milas, Michael Cimino and Art Connelly were honored at the home of Jana Koch, seated center.

"So it's a 10-year commitment," Gaynor said. Her late husband, Bill Gaynor, was the first and maybe only male Sustainer. But there are three male Guilders now, Gene Milas, Michael Cimino and Art Connelly.

The shrimp, tenderloin, antipasto and chocolate-dipped strawberries all came from the kitchen of past president Cindy Covington. Ten years ago, she was a caterer in Blowing Rock, N.C. Now she sells real estate for Smith & Associates. Bet she makes fabulous house-warming treats.

SENDING OFF SWANAGAN: Tampa's human leafy sea dragon, ex-Florida Aquarium CEO Jeff Swanagan, is off to Japan to visit 70 aquariums before creating a $200-million aquarium in Atlanta. He's already visited dozens of aquariums around the world and still says Tampa's is one of the best. He discovered veterinarian Ilze Berzins, and biological and engineering program director Ken Yates, have international reputations.

A round of parties sent Swanagan off with generous farewells. Dinner in the panoramic coral reef exhibit cost about 60 friends $250 each, money that went to the aquarium's endowment fund.

Stephen Dryer, chairman of the Aquarium board, has stepped in as interim CEO as a national search gets under way.

* * *

STAR OF STAGE AND FILM: Just try to keep up with Patrick Wilson, 28-year-old son of Mary K. and John Wilson, WTVT-Ch. 13 news anchor. The actor, singer and dancer spent most of December rehearsing lines for the HBO production Angels in America, written by Tony Kushner and directed by Mike Nichols. The 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama touches on religion, politics and AIDS.

Wilson plays Joe Pitt, assistant to Roy Cohn, who is played by Al Pacino. The film also stars Meryl Streep, Gene Hackman, Emma Thompson and Mary Louise Parker.

Last month he spent two weeks in London rehearsing Oklahoma. He'll play the part of Curly when it opens at New York's Gershwin Theater on March 21.

Back in New York now, he'll be shooting Angels from midnight to early morning; sleeping during the day and, beginning next month, playing Broadway every night.

Somehow, says his mom, he's definitely finding time for his relationship with Jennifer Love Hewitt.

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

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