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Splashy fun at aquarium wine bash

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 14, 2002

SOMETHING FISHY GOING ON: Human barracudas dove for food and wine at Sea Grapes, a new event put on by the Florida Aquarium's "Fish out of Water" committee.

"Things went grape," quipped chairman Nate English, thrilled to have netted 900 guests and more than $34,000 for veterinary needs. "It's an awesome facility."

Guests queued up at a dozen food and wine stations. Favorites: Mia's seafood paella and Salt Rock Grill's citrus-seared scallops and rare filet. Stumps Supper Club piled Brunswick stew on corn bread and poured Trash Can rum punch into plastic jugs. Blue Gardenia made blackened escargot with caramelized Mandarin Bermuda chutney. Banana-crusted salmon came from the Rusty Pelican. Ciccio & Tony's stir-fried yellowfin tuna with lemongrass.

Jan Ingram, "queen" of Jan's Wines and Boos of Lutz, arranged all the wine sponsors, including Raul Moreno of Marie Brizzard Wines & Spirits, who scooped up White Storms. He mixed Gosling's Black Seal Rum with Diet Coke and vanilla ice cream. Thanks for the diet drink, Raul.

We discovered two wines we really liked, especially the names: Wombat Gully and Bloody Good. B. Winex brought both Australian wines in cabernet, merlot and Shiraz, all less than$10 a bottle.

The small, silent auction racked up $4,500. Dagari Jazz Trio banged a mad professor's rendition of Eleanor Rigby in the Coral Reef. The Persuaders rocked the main lobby.

BE A BRAT: Wine Brats manned a table at Sea Grapes to recruit new members. The nonprofit group started as an educational organization in Sonoma, Calif., in 1992. Now 32 chapters plan monthly themed wine tastings and online chats.

"Our demographics are 21-to-38-year-olds," said Steven Reader. The idea is to make wine accessible in an unpretentious manner. Their motto: "If drinking kills your brain cells, the least you can do is make sure they die happy." You can contact Wine Brats at 740-BRAT or

AUCTION FOR EMPOWERMENT: The acronym LEAP -- Looking to Empower Aspiring Persons -- says it all, says Lee Ware, founder of the Fortune Education Foundation.

Last week's 10th annual Celebrity Elegance Auction Dinner introduced 11 scholarship recipients, all motivated African-American high school seniors graduating with a 3.0 GPA or higher. This year's group received more than $150,000, including $4,000 given to a graduate student, Tommietta Green, for the first time.

Ware, owner of Fortune Real Estate Inc., is a student herself, earning a master's degree in psychology and counseling at Springfield College.

She has a 3.8 GPA.

Hennessy, one of the sponsors, served snifters of VSOP Privilege cognac as 300 guests shopped at the silent auction organized by longtime volunteer Irma Sanabia.

Emcee Secily Wilson, a Fox 13 news anchor, kept the gala moving as Theo Valentin & Friends entertained. Auctioneers Alicia Kaye and Al Santana, WSJT radio personalities, ran the "people and things" live auction. Besides the usual items -- cigars, golf clubs, airline tickets -- they sold seven romantic date packages.

Package No. 9 was "tall, dark and handsome." His high bidder gets a steak dinner followed by dancing and a walk on the beach "and whatever develops after that."

The next was "beautiful, ambitious, enterprising and outgoing" with a degree in cosmetology. Another date started with a workout in the gym followed by brunch and inline skating.

Ariel O. Garcia, a recent Stetson Law School graduate, offered rock climbing, canoeing, dinner at SideBern's and a moonlight walk. Alicia Kaye snared him fast.

Altogether, the dates brought in about $1,000. Bids would have gone higher if many guests hadn't left to watch the Tyson-Lewis fight.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RUTH: There will be some surprises for Ruth Warshaw when she turns 90 on June 15. Her three daughters, Sandy Freedman, Binnie Coppersmith and Iris Salzer have invited family and dear friends to dinner at Cafe Paradiso. Sunday morning, nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren are hosting brunch at the Monte Carlo condominium.

Warshaw was married to the late Joe Warshaw for 62 years. At 90, she drives, plays cards and mah-jongg, swims, does crossword puzzles and loves long weekends in Atlantic City.

"She has a more active social life than I do," says daughter Sandy.

CITY SAYS THANKS: City of Tampa employees have always known they worked in a "Tropical Paradise." Saturday night's appreciation party at the Tampa Convention Center just confirmed it. What a deal -- tickets at two for $5 drew about 800 staffers, with every department represented.

Hawaiian shirts were the fashion. Of course, that's everyday attire for Ralph Metcalf, director of the sewer department, who wears a Hawaiian shirt most days. Wayne Papy, newly appointed director of recreation, donned a Panama hat to complete his outfit.

Richard Coane of the personnel department loaned his surfboard and singing lobster to decorate the boardwalk built by Nick Gennaro of the training and development department.

MOTHER AND SON DEBUT: Guitarist Robert Jacobson chose to come home to Tampa to release his first CD, Cold Water, on Banana Bread Records.

"Cold Water will knock your socks off," says his proud mama, artist Cynthia Jacobson. "He wrote, arranged and produced everything."

The two teamed up Sunday for a CD release and art exhibition at an unusual venue: Alan G. Ledo Beauty Salon in Hyde Park. Amid curlers and blow dryers, Robert played a few songs and Cynthia showed her latest work in mixed media on Yupo, a synthetic paper.

"It's so vibrant, it just sparkles," she says.

Robert's father, Mel "Sonny" Jacobson, hosted the reception.

Robert, 26, a graduate of Tampa Prep who lives in Santa Monica, caught up with old friends Michael Stein and Jesse Norton. Other fans included Don and Mitchell Banks of Banks Music Store, Robert's old hangout, and his mentor, Dr. Mark Switzer, who taught him to play classical guitar.

You'll find Cold Water at Vinyl Fever on Dale Mabry Highway S.

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


  • THURSDAY: Ybor City Lions Club 51st anniversary honors Joseph Capitano Sr., 6 p.m.; Columbia Restaurant, 2025 E. Seventh Ave., $40; 933-1869.
  • THURSDAY: "An Evening in the Garden of Hope and Courage," Tommy Bahama presents fashions and dinner by Art of the Feast; 7-10 p.m.; Botanica International, 2616 S MacDill Ave. $100. Proceeds benefit breast cancer survivors and families at the Garden of Hope and Courage in Naples; 258-8688.

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