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Theatrical crowd plays helpful Mahaffey role

By MARY JANE PARK
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 15, 2002

The Mahaffey Stars on the Bay gala and silent auction Friday night for the St. Petersburg theater's foundation featured food and drink along with music.

Patrons socialized upstairs and down before settling in at dinner, catered by Mattison's in the Bayfront Center's Sun Pavilion. Lush bouquets of white dendrobium orchids centered the tables, and each place had a single bloom for wearing as a corsage or boutonniere.

Tony Todaro and Victor Lucas were introduced to each other as sharing a birth date; both celebrated on Thursday.

Also in the crowd were Mary Ellen Woska, David and Kristen Rowell, Bill and Jeanne Heller, Sam and Carolyn Williams, Tom and Darlene Grayson, Marcus and Jennifer Greene, Barb Wastart and Bruce Norton, Jim and Emily Gillespie, Andy and Betty Corty, Ed and Betty Shamas, Tom and Vicky Dunn, Marty and Elaine Normile, Bill and Sally Wallace and Gus and Frances Stavros.

Ruth Eckerd Hall stalwarts Lex Poppins, Sandi McKenna and Robert Freedman were celebrating Thoroughly Modern Millie's 11 Tony award nominations, announced last week. The theater is an investor in the show.

Ann Wykell, cultural affairs director for St. Petersburg, and her husband, Sheldon, a psychotherapist, recently moved from Sarasota to the Lou Gehrig penthouse in the Flori-de-Leon Cooperative Apartments.

"It's more like living at Grandma's" than in a luxury suite, she said, but the couple love the stories -- apocryphal or not -- about the Iron Man and his New York Yankees teammate Babe Ruth, who had the other penthouse. There's an elevator to that one.

Theo Valentin and Friends opened for Jennifer Holliday, who mingled with patrons at a champagne reception after her performance.

At intermission, I visited with Lane Hosmer and Lenton and Carolyn Hobbs.

Ed. Cassidy chaired the planning committee for the event, which included Helen Feinberg, Tom Verdensky, Wanda Hayes-Riddick and Robert Danielson. The Mahaffey foundation underwrites programing and arts education efforts at the theater.

* * *

On Saturday evening, Arts Center supporters viewed stunning private collections at a benefit titled A Progressive Adventure.

Participants gathered at the center on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg for drinks, hors d'oeuvres and dinner assignments.

Details of works in the host houses, photographed by Beth Reynolds and hung on satin ribbon cords, indicated the homes where guests would be entertained. Shuttle buses conveyed us to the neighborhood.

The original idea was to offer al fresco dining; all of the houses have spacious outdoor expanses. Even after sundown it was hot and muggy, and we were grateful that the tables had been set indoors. Mattison's workers served from mobile kitchens nearby.

Frances Pruitt, Susan and Robb Hough and Jean D. Irwin opened their houses and talked about their art collections with a throng of 60 to 70 that included Brenda and Wade Brickhouse, Beth Sholar and Tom Schafer, Russ and Kathy Gustafson-Hilton, Mark and Marty Petty, Anne Shamas, Dar Webb and Clint Page, Diana and Evan Whittle, Fran Risser, Michael and Susan Shapiro, Sean Manning, Carol and Jerry Barbosa, Jim and Suzanne MacDougald and Natalie Judge.

At Pruitt's house, pianist Deborah Siladie offered lilting background music.

The evening was far from over. Pastries, flaming desserts, coffee drinks and port awaited us indoors and outdoors at the home of Fred and Barbara McCoy, who also were generous in talking about pieces in their collection and in allowing people to roam.

Act III, playing against a backdrop of dark sky and shimmering water, had those in the crowd swaying as the night wore on.

The Arts Center team credited with so smoothly orchestrating the event included Donna Fletcher, Kate Hargrove, Lisa Lyons, Evelyn Craft and Kathryn Howd.

* * *

Toni Fudge was chairwoman of the third annual mother-daughter luncheon Saturday at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, where friends and families gathered in the ballroom. At least six tables boasted four generations of women, many of whom wore hats. Jackie Pasco's, strewn with pastel flowers, won accolades.

Mrs. Fudge's white veiled one came from London, where her granddaughter Michelle Lea gave birth to daughter Chelsea on April 4. That made Ginny Mueller, Mrs. Fudge's daughter, a grandmother, and she brought photographs to show us, along with an entertaining story.

At least a dozen paparazzi were camped outside the hospital where Chelsea was born; turns out actor Elizabeth Hurley had a son the same day and reportedly sold rights to photos of him for 1.5-million pounds.

Kitty Wynn, Joyce Bowman, Betty Barclay, Phyllis Hearns, Ruth Gray, Helena Miller, Ann Foster, Patsy Dunlap and Edie Spies were among those attending the luncheon and fashion show coordinated by Karen Agnello of Stein Mart.

Models were the club's first woman commodore, Pat Seidenspinner; Joyce Fraser and daughter Karin Carlin; Tracey Lovejoy, daughter Elizabeth and mother Delores Turner; Nancy Vildibill; Connie Whitehead; Janet Walker; and Cat Coates.

Table centerpieces were cakes layered and decorated to look like hats trimmed with flowers and ribbon.

* * *

At the Belleview Biltmore in Clearwater on Friday night, more than 450 gathered for the inaugural Sheriff's Gala to benefit the Pinellas County Police Athletic League.

What a power-packed event it was, including Sheriff Everett and Linda Rice; PAL chairman John and Jeannie Anderson; Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie and Denise McCabe; Clearwater Mayor Brian and Karen Aungst; Pinellas School Board chairman Lee and Felice Benjamin; Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar; Skip and Jean Olney; Frank Chivas; and Peter and Marcy Meros.

Table settings depicted the sports activities the county PAL hopes to coach.

Co-chairwomen were Zoe Roseman and Kristie Hellinger, who attended with her husband, Jim, and reports that Bobby Barnes and the Impacs had guests dancing until midnight.

-- 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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