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New matey at the helm

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 8, 2002

KING BEARD AND QUEEN HOWELL: Those partying pirates slowed their rum running long enough to observe Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla's annual transfer of power Saturday, for the 89th time. Real estate developer Richard Beard III and Courtney Howell, the third generation of Gasparilla royalty in her family, now reign over the men's club.

Singer Lou Rawls mixed rhythm and soul into the ultra-formal affair, which began with the krewe's own Cutthroat Chorus singing the national anthem. The chorus got the gig, I'm told, from a suggestion in this column a few weeks ago.

Outgoing king No. 88, Richard "Red" Pittman, lingered a bit on stage, fondly describing his green, gold and purple Mardi Gras "king" cake. Capt. Stephen Swindal put an end to nostalgia. "Let him eat cake . . . after he abdicates," Swindal said. Pittman and Queen Anderson Smith left the throne, trailed by a retinue of rambunctious 9-year-old pages. By tradition, krewe members' sons serve as pageboys and ride on a float the year they turn 9.

One pirate, John Guyton Jr., was honored for 50 years of membership. His son Bryan presented him with a medal. The queen from 50 years ago, Patricia Lowry Sweeney, couldn't attend, but a dozen red roses were delivered to her in Charlotte, N.C.

King Beard and his entourage of 18, including his mother Selma and his brother Bobby, dined at the University Club before arriving at the Tampa Convention Center in two limousines. A king of commercial real estate as well, Beard more than once changed Tampa's skyline. In 1986, he built Barnett Plaza (now Bank of America Plaza), and in 1992, he built 100 North Tampa. Last year, he became chairman of the board of trustees of the University of South Florida.

Howell, 21, was crowned in a hot pink charmeuse silk gown with a hand-beaded silver lace overlay designed by Linda Quisenberry in her MacDill Avenue couture studio. It took five fittings and as many days to make the gown.

Harrison Giddens, owner of Floral Impressions, designed Howell's bouquet of orchids and hot pink roses, matching the flowers to a swatch of the pink fabric. Giddens has been making bouquets for Gasparilla queen candidates for 15 years.

"The girls bring in their dresses and I create the bouquet to their height and coloring, and whether the gown is full or straight," said Giddens.

FROM THE HEART: Mayor Dick Greco arranged the flowers on the kitchen counter himself when he and his wife Linda opened their Harbour Island home to thank underwriters of the American Heart Association's upcoming Heart Ball.

Out on the patio, last year's Heart Ball chairman, Rick Nafe, bantered with this year's successors, Debbie and Guy King. Nafe warned, "Guy King teaches tai chi and sport shoots, so if he can't shoot your a-, he'll kick your a-."

The Kings and committee have planned the March 16 black-tie-suggested fundraiser with one informal aspect. Food stations placed in and out of the Tampa Yacht Club will have people "roving and finding lots to do, rather than sitting at one table all night," said Guy.

Sponsors at the recent Greco gala included Sam Ellison, managing partner for the Beck Group of Florida; John Ramil, president of TECO; a half dozen of the 13 Ugly Men; and Teresa Dunn, marketing manager of Marcelina, A Place for Women. Marcelina donates 10 percent of member dues, beauty services and products and Valentino boutique sales to charities selected by a committee. The Heart Ball got $40,000, making Marcelina the presenting sponsor.

The 50 guests could only explore the first floor (three china cabinets sparkled with crystal wedding gifts; one great, big, flat television screen), but I got a personal tour of the second floor after everyone left, and it's lovely.

STRAW(BERRY) POLL: Candidates of the past, present and future swarmed to the Plant City Airport on Monday, bursting for face time at the Florida Strawberry Festival luncheon. Every politician who ever won or lost a campaign knows the annual buffet and parade is a must-be-seen scene. Gubernatorial candidates Janet Reno and Bill McBride got the message. Judges left the bench for berries, including Herb Baumann, Rex Barbas, Greg Holder, Claudia Isom, Florence Foster and Mark Wolfe and Katherine Essrig. City and county officials, school board members and lots and lots of lawyers shook hands over strawberry shortcake.

It did make you wonder who was minding the store.

RED, WHITE AND TRUE BLUE: Fashionollia 54 was as hard to get into as New York City's Studio 54 back in the disco days. The Tampa Woman's Club's 54th annual fashion show was such a hot ticket that organizers had to turn away about 50 women.

"We had to send back their checks because seating was so tight," said co-chairwoman Cindy Argerious, looking at more than 300 women shoehorned around a runway at the Marriott Westshore on Saturday.

"We are loved," said chairwoman Joann T. Guagliardo, eyeing the crowd. The crowd, in turn, eyed models from her business, First Impressions, and local celebrity models in spring fashions from Dillards of International Plaza. Those celebrities included entrepreneur Maureen Rorech Dunkel; WFLA news anchors Gayle Guyardo and Debra Schrils with their kids; and Grady Elementary principal Fontaine Marion, who was thrilled to accept the proceeds from the show for her school's Exceptional Student Education Program. Three reigning queens, Tara Freeman, Krewe of Venus; Monica Martino, Krewe of Sant' Yago; and Lauren Favata, Latin American Fiesta, modeled in the evening gown finale.

WFLA's Brian Fasulo emceed. Omar Almodovar, Tampa's Marc Anthony, sang. And Guagliardo introduced a dozen Juniorettes -- members' high school-age daughters and granddaughters being groomed to become future members of the Tampa Woman's Club.

The invitation, designed by Peggy Bado McDermott, daughter of member Frances Bado, who gave the invocation, encouraged guests to wear red, white and blue. Most complied, applauding when Guagliardo said they should "wear red, white and blue at least once a week."

SWAN LAKE SPECTACULAR: Guests rushed from the office to the Feb. 26 Swan Lake Spectacular benefit for the Florida Orchestra at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Benny and Joyce Lazzara, Helen Torres, Stephanie Amberg and Carl Lindell sampled the buffet dinner at Maestro's before taking the best seats in Morsani Hall to enjoy Moscow's Grigorovich Ballet. Tickets were $200 each.

Then it was back up to Maestro's for champagne, bananas foster and other sweets with the principal players of the Orchestra and a couple members of the ballet troupe.

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

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