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Arts lovers have a ball

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 11, 2002

FEEL THE LOVE: It was Judy Lisi's turn in the spotlight as the Broadway Ball celebrated her 10 years as executive director of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Board of trustees president Frank Morsani gifted her with a Steuben crystal shooting star as past presidents H.L. Culbreath and Hinks Shimberg added their applause. Since Lisi arrived, the center has doubled attendance to 600,000 a year and paid off a $3-million debt. (In May, Lisi was named Presenter of the Year by peers at the League of American Theatres and Producers.)

Alonso High School's thespian troupe wore African garb to play off the upcoming seven-week run of The Lion King. They led 400 guests into a "Circle of Life" dinner on the Morsani Hall stage.

Auction chairwoman Kasey Shimberg Kelly filled tables with offerings from a micropeel to a week in Crete. Auctioneers Mayor Dick Greco and WFLA-Ch. 8 anchor Stacie Schaible made Tampa history at the live auction: Opera outsold football. Amazingly, two tickets to the Metropolitan Opera and transportation to New York on a private jet sold for $5,500. Two tickets to the Super Bowl, four nights' hotel stay and dinner with John and Linda Lynch went for $5,400.

Greco, pitching a Neiman Marcus $5,000 gift certificate, said wife Linda would barely get winded spending that much. Tom James took it home for $4,500.

USF grad Kissy Simmons, who plays Nala in the Broadway tour of The Lion King, knocked the crowd out singing Shadowland. Founding member Louise Ferguson looked resplendent in silky pink. University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft turned heads, too.

The $250-ticket, black-tie ball is expected to raise $200,000 for the TBPAC Foundation to fund programs at the future Pallavi Patel School for the Performing Arts. The $7-million school will offer theater training for ages 7 and up.

* * *

CACHE OF CAREGIVERS: Sunday night's "Jazzy Night at Jackson's" turned out great for Ruth and Bill Wagner, hosts of the patrons party prior to the LifePath Hospice benefit. They won the drawing for the $20,000 Sea Ray 176 bow rider. Bill bought the winning $100 ticket; 194 tickets were sold.

Inside and on the waterfront of Jackson's Bistro on Harbour Island, guests sampled wines from 20 vintners, along with sushi, pasta and ribs from the kitchen of chef Thomas McKinney. Mingling in the crowd: astrologer Janet Sciales, "star goddess," and Judge Susan Sexton, who dubbed herself "probate goddess."

Silent auction tables lined the lobby, where volunteers sold about 100 wine glasses containing a potential "diamond" for $20 each. One glass held a real diamond; the others, a cubic zirconia.

Oncology nurse and newlywed Angie Ruckdeschel chaired the evening. She and husband Jack Ruckdeschel, former head of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, were married three months and four honeymoons ago. The couple spent a week in Nevis followed by two weeks in Alaska, where Angie caught a 100-pound halibut. They returned to Tampa for two weeks, spent Labor Day weekend at Seaside, then flew to Paris and Bruges.

"Life with Angie is one long honeymoon," sighed the happy groom, now at Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.

* * *

FLOCK OF FLAMINGOS: Well-dressed flamingos were in the pink for the Downtown YMCA art auction Oct. 4 at the Tampa Woman's Club.

Social worker-artist Kathy Baker spent eight months dressing up 33 plastic flamingos with beads, sequins and feathers. Sales benefited YMCA programs, including "Y" Girls Rule, a sports mentoring program for at-risk adolescent girls.

Zelda was the most popular flamingo. A Bucs fan flamingo was a big hit, as were Seminoles, Bulls and Gators models. About 20 paintings by local artists, including works by Michael Adejumo, sold in a silent auction.

Meanwhile, across the hall, a live auction of international artwork brought in still more money for the Y.

* * *

BRICKS AND BOOKS: Where's the espresso machine? wondered guests wandering the new media center at the Academy of the Holy Names. The new library looked more like a Barnes & Noble.

Parents, alumni and supporters celebrated the completion of the Media Center and Student Center at the Oct. 4 campaign kickoff dinner hosted by Robert and Peggy Rothman, parents of students Kim and Christine.

Campaign chairman James L. Smith (he and his wife Susan are parents of students Andrea and Rachel) has about $9-million more to raise to reach the $15-million goal. A pedestrian bridge between classrooms and athletic facilities is to be erected next.

* * *

FORMAL AND FANCY: Fewer than 23 more shopping days remain until Pavilion XVII, the Nov. 3 formal gala for the Tampa Museum of Art.

Chairwoman Sara Richter tried on an elegant black and white strapless lace ball gown at an Oct. 3 cocktail party and fashion show of Helen Morley evening wear at Neiman Marcus. About 50 guests, most with spouses in tow, met the British designer herself.

* * *

CIRCLE OF ROSES: Longtime members of the Rose Circle garden club helped celebrate its 75th year at an Oct. 2 luncheon at the home of Glenda Barlow, one of the oldest homes on Bayshore Boulevard.

Rita Lowe, yearbook editor, passed the microphone around the patio so members could recall their early years. Martha Ferman, Virginia Reaves and Louise Leach were among those to tell tales.

The Rose Circle started in July 1927 with 24 women who wanted to protect wild flowers and native plants. This group initiated the city's tree ordinance, said Phyllis Kimbal, chairwoman of the 75th anniversary celebration.

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


TONIGHT: Ybor City Chamber of Commerce Gala; Cesar Gonzmart Award to Dick Greco; 7 p.m.; Centro Asturiano, 1913 Nebraska Ave.; $85; 248-3712.

TONIGHT: DeBartolo Family Foundation All-Star Charity Spectacular; 6 p.m.; guest speaker, ESPN's Chris Berman; A La Carte Event Pavilion; $250; 964-8302.

Oct. 23: Jazzamataz "All that Jazz and then Some" presented by VIVO; 7:30 p.m.; Lifsey House at USF; $45; 839-3800, ext. 2525.

Oct. 25: Nauti-Night Masquerade benefit; 8 p.m.; open bar, hors d'oeuvres, music, costume contest; Florida Aquarium; $50 members, $60 nonmembers, $70 after Oct. 21; 273-4568.

Oct. 25: SMAsquerade, Hannah's Buddies support spinal muscular atrophy research; food, music, prizes; 8 p.m.; the Cuban Club, 2010 Avenida Republica de Cuba; $55; 259-8097.

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