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Bids bring oasis home

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 19, 2002

SEND YOUR CAMEL TO BED: Chairwoman Catherine Lowry Straz, heeding the words of singer Maria Muldaur in her 1974 classic, led almost 400 Karamu guests to a $250-ticket "Midnight at the Oasis," the 14th Swahili-named formal benefit for the Lowry Park Zoo.

Belly dancers snaked around the hors d'oeuvres. Carrabba's servers swarmed with blue cheese-stuffed filet mignon. Tiffany's left notecards, engraved with an elephant, at each seat.

Interested silent auction bidders could choose from a somnoplasty for snoring (courtesy of Dr. Arnold Goodman) or a falconing trip to Blanchard Ranch with zoo chief Lex Salisbury. They could ponder a pajama party with the manatees or their picture on a billboard for the zoo.

Bidding got hot for auctioneer David Crusoe, general manager of The Palm, especially when Carl Lindell Jr. and Whitney Harrell Ragano both wanted the Straz-Greco dinner package. The offer: dinner for six at the Straz residence prepared by chef/Mayor Dick Greco, with Tampa Bay Buccaneer Keyshawn Johnson helping out.

As bids neared $5,000, Linda McClintock Greco decided to double the dinner party to 12 and the package sold for a whopping $10,000.

The winning $20 raffle ticket will take Wendy Murphy on a South Africa safari for 10 days in November.

QUEST FOR A CURE: Who better than Muhammad Ali's daughter to champion the needs of Parkinson's patients? Rasheda Ali-Walsh spoke on behalf of the three-time heavyweight champ Saturday at a benefit dinner for the Florida Coalition to Cure Parkinson's Disease.

Near tears, she got a standing ovation when she said she longs to open a newspaper and read the headline "Cure Found" to her two sons.

USF president Judy Genshaft introduced one of Fox News' "Beltway Boys," veteran journalist Morton Kondracke. He related his battle on behalf of his wife, who has Parkinson's, which he chronicles his book, Saving Millie: Love, Politics and Parkinson's Disease. The money raised at the dinner and auction will be a big help to the USF College of Medicine's Movement Disorders Center, where Dr. Robert Hauser and his team are revolutionizing treatment for brain repair.

BEARS & DOLLS: Winsome "winners" of the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary Doll and Teddy Bear show were auctioned April 12 before the club's annual fashion show at the Salvation Army Worship Center. A cheerleader teddy bear went for $125, to the delight of club president Anita Gillen. Members and friends modeled bright spring fashions from Stein Mart, prepped by co-chairwomen Betty Wood, Betsey Hapner and Carolyn McMullen.

Every summer for 20 years, members of doll clubs from Land O'Lakes to St. Petersburg sew outfits for hundreds of dolls. They are collected and displayed at a Doll Appreciation Lunch in the fall. That's where they are judged for workmanship, and "finalists" are selected for the auction. The others are given to little girls as Christmas presents.

Dorothy Miller, 80, a retired city sewer department employee from Jackson Heights, dressed 42 dolls this year. Her friends like to tell about the time her house caught on fire. What did she grab first, before she ran out the door? The dolls, of course.

HARD HAT PARTY: Parents, former and current faculty, and six former board presidents, ("all you visionaries," the invitation called them) donned yellow hard hats to tour the almost-finished $22-million Tampa Preparatory School at the corner of Cass Street and N Boulevard. Terry cloth slippers went on before anyone stepped on the shiny wooden floors of the new gym. Trustee emeritus Bob Walter sunk the first basket in the Walter Athletic Complex; Mac and the Damians rocked and barbecue was dished up.

On June 3, 600 students in grades 6 to 12 will move into the swanky, 150,000-square-foot facility.

VIVA LA NOCHE: Cigar smoke wafted over the buffet line at "Viva La Noche!," formerly called Smoke and Firewater, but still sponsored by PALS of the Child Abuse Council. PALS stands for Prevention Advocacy Leadership Support and that's what this group, ages 21 to 35, provides.

Jackson's Bistro on Harbour Island was the place to hear Turk Nelson sing and fill up on hors d'oeuvres. Child Abuse Council board member George Gage and his wife, Susan, brought along daughter Elizabeth, 23, and her friend Ryan Lee, 25. A board member for three years, George would like to see the next generation follow his lead.

He might suggest they participate when PALS sponsors "Summer Carnival" for children and parents enrolled in one of the council's 12 programs. Arts and crafts, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and aquatic learning fill their day at the Florida Aquarium.

NO PROHIBITION INHIBITIONS: Bootleg Bash co-chairwoman Rebekah Heppner drank gin from a coffee mug Saturday night with fellow flappers from Friends of the Arts of Tampa Museum of Arts.

"I could get arrested any minute," mugged Heppner, who studies urban anthropology at USF when she's not promoting FOTA. The roaring '20s theme worked. She and co-chairwoman Kristen Johnson were surprised to see so many fedoras and spats in the dark speakeasy. It was actually Mise en Place's Lafayette Room where the Michael Ross Quartet kept the guys and dolls mellow.

VIVA VIVO: It's got a name. The Florida Orchestra Guild evening chapter will be called VIVO to stand for Vitally Interested Volunteers of the Orchestra. It took three months to pick that name, says president Barb Izzi. "More Music to More People" is the mission; lots of social events is the game plan. Call Izzi at 839-3800, Ext. 2525 to join.

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

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