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The Vinoy bids hello to Bardy arty people

By MARY JANE PARK
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 20, 2002

Much Ado About Art, the live auction that benefits participating artists and American Stage's Shakespeare in the Park, was held in the Sunset Ballroom of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg for the first time Friday evening.

The event, celebrating its 11th year, pairs creative works with Shakespearean quotes. A message from The Comedy of Errors accompanied a sterling silver bracelet by Kim O'Brien. "The pleasing punishment that women bear," it read.

With Les Slesnick's work, The Barber and the Bandit, was this greeting from A Midsummer Night's Dream: "I must to the barber's, Monsieur, for methinks I am marvellous hairy about the face."

You get the idea.

Hors d'oeuvres from the Vinoy kitchens were passed to those attending. Minuscule beef Wellingtons were the apparent favorites.

This was the first year there was a ticket fee, although patrons who made purchases recovered the price of admission.

Artist Lance Rodgers, who founded the event, and Al Karnavicius took turns auctioning the roughly 50 pieces offered for sale.

American Stage managing director Lee Lowry and interim artistic director Neil DeGroot are preparing for the next outdoor production, a hip-hop musical titled The Bomb-itty of Errors, set to open April 12 at Demens Landing in St. Petersburg.

Among those at Friday's gathering, sponsored by the Vinoy, were Brian Reale; Lum Pennington and Stephen Bush; Cedar Hames; Robin Gipson and Tom Rinda; Michelle and Ski Beres; Fred and Barbara McCoy; Sue Brody; Louise Weaver; Robb and Susan Hough; Betsy Owens; and Pat Patterson.

* * *

You need a strategy for maneuvering events such as the Abilities wine tasting and auction, held Saturday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. With more bay area restaurants participating than ever and dozens of wines to sample, it would be easy to overindulge.

Thank goodness for program notes that list options for nibbling and for "dump buckets," into which it is perfectly acceptable -- even preferable -- to spit wine you have tasted, and for bottled water, my beverage for the evening. It's tricky even without the spirits to drink and write at the same time.

This is an opportunity to taste the fare from restaurants you may only have read about and those that often have full reservation lists and long waiting lines.

Richard Winning, attending with his wife, Diane, said he makes new dining discoveries at the Abilities event each year.

Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli was present along with George and Dorothy Locascio; Maggi McQueen; Jim Leavitt, USF's football coach; Howard Sachs; and Doreen Quilty, with Lon Compton, who recently moved to St. Petersburg from Boston and is living on his boat.

Ashley and Pete Gairing were just back from New York, where they had tickets to The Producers and saw billboards featuring Patrick Wilson, now starring in the Broadway revival of Oklahoma!

More than 3,000 tickets were purchased for Saturday's event, said Frank DeLucia, executive vice president of the Abilities Foundation.

With donations of space from the Devil Rays, food and drink from restaurants and distributors, and the time of 75 volunteers from presenting sponsor Raymond James, the foundation expected to exceed last year's take -- about $160,000.

The money provides work, medical care, housing and independent living help for people who have disabilities.

* * *

My last stop Saturday night was the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, for La Vie en Rose, a preview party for Art in Bloom, the Stuart Society's annual weeklong celebration of spring.

SideBern's of Tampa catered the buffet dinner. More than 1,000 roses filled the museum's collection of silver vases.

Guests were seated at tables covered with lace overlays and decorated with strings of pearls and vintage photographs of St. Petersburg families, which inspired lots of table-to-table conversation.

Professional designers and accomplished amateurs from throughout the area created floral interpretations of paintings in the museum. Those at the dinner were able to view them at leisure, strolling through the galleries.

Bettye Black, president of the Stuart Society, was on her way out as I arrived but graciously stayed to show me some of the floral arrangements and to point out their relationships to the artworks. Mary Perry educated me on the rest.

I said hello to Jan Stoffels, chairwoman of Art in Bloom 2002; Sunny Endicott; Nancy Thomas; Carol Upham; and Starr and Rudy Weihe.

* * *

Time ran out before I could get to the Great Chefs of Tampa Bay event Saturday night at the spacious home of Toni and Pat Walsh in Tierra Verde.

Inevitably it is a fun evening, and this one offered bowling, with Brad Weigle emerging as the evening's champion.

Personalities from throughout the bay area are enlisted to cook for the fundraiser to benefit Family Resources. Food was served throughout the house, from bedrooms to the game room.

Florida Orange Groves and Winery served tastings of its grapefruit wine, and food was prepared by professionals such as Edyth James of Saffron's, offering curry seafood; Duffy Robinson, executive chef, Aqua Blue Grill, seared breast of duck with a coffee, Kahlua and wild cherry reduction; and Dolton Eller, pastry chef, Mattison's, tiramisu cups.

Civilians who cooked up goodies included St. Petersburg City Council members James Bennett (Martha Bennett's Ice Box Cake) and Richard D. Kriseman (Hail Caesar, as in salad).

Ed Caldwell, of Dickens House Bed & Breakfast, offered fried green tomatoes; Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth T. Welch, Supreme Pasta Salad.

Jean DuPuy, Family Resources' vice president for development and communications, said 275 guests attended the event, which brought in more than $40,000. Members of the Midday Business and Professional Women's club volunteered, setting up before the party, helping out during the evening and staying late to clean up.

-- Mary Jane Park can be reached at (727) 893-8267; fax (727) 893-8675; e-mail park@sptimes.com; P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

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