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Costumes for a cause

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 1, 2002

NAUGHTY BUT NICE: A few of the 700 revelers took the naughty part literally at the Nauti-Night Masquerade benefit for the Florida Aquarium on Oct. 25, especially the guy dressed as a dominatrix.

Some made political statements like the pregnant chad. Kester Sink wore an Aladdin costume so that good luck might rub off on his son-in-law, gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride . Most guests just had fun dressing as butterflies, witches and cats, lots of cats.

Spiderman, Zorro, Hulks and quite a few belly dancers cavorted with monks, genies and Elvises. George Martinez of Clearwater won first prize as Atlas by painting his body to match his tights and carrying the world on his shoulder.

For the fifth year, members of the National Association of Catering Executives sponsored food stations throughout the aquarium. Most popular: oysters, cosmopolitans and other aphrodisiacs served in Shark Bay.

Every gallery featured live music, plus the Barracudas rocked the lobby and a DJ played outside. An Austin Powers impersonator flirted until the last bar closed at midnight.

* * *

PATRONS ONLY: A few miles from Nauti-Night, tamer partygoers arrived at Erica and Don Wallace's Bayshore Boulevard home. They were the 300 patrons of Pavilion XVII, the formal gala benefit for the Tampa Museum of Art set for Saturday night.

Patrons pay $600 and up but get invited to two parties: dinner at the Wallaces and a big bash under a big tent at the museum.

The Wallaces underwrote the entire Oct. 25 party, including the 15 valets hustling to find parking spaces all over Hyde Park. They also paid for the sumptuous buffet from Mise en Place (15 waiters and five chefs) and gorgeous flowers. The gala lacked only a cool breeze for a warm night.

First-time visitors found time to explore the 13,000-square-foot estate. Only Erica's closets were off-limits, said Don, because too many husbands complain when their wives see the spacious setup.

Artist James Rosenquist arrived with Gail Levine, whose husband, Arnie, was away. Rosenquist is just back from Vallabolide, Spain, where he was presented the Cristobal Gabbaron Prize.

Auctioneer Mike Booth and two helpers -- radio personality Jack Harris and Mayor Dick Greco -- prodded a few dozen dependable bidders, including Tom Pepin, Harvey Adams and Jim Ferman. The Wallaces got the beautiful Sandro Chia woodcut print, valued at $20,000, for a bargain $12,000.

The action heated up as Alix Dorr and Tom Sansone vied for the right to name a character in Tim Dorsey's next book.

When they reached $5,000, Dorsey agreed to double the offer. They'll each name one of his outrageous characters, and Dorsey gets to tell his friends that he put $10,000 into the museum budget.

Tampa Tribune publisher Steve Weaver bid $8,000 to put a name on a sign when the museum becomes a construction site next year.

He said he would donate the signage to the Spring of Tampa Bay.

* * *

DANCE PARTY: Hannah's Buddies are legion. About 700 of them supported SMAsquerade on Oct. 25 at the Cuban Club. Hannah Elliott, 6, a first-grader at Gorrie Elementary, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) when she was a year old. Her parents, Laurie and Duncan Elliott, started Hannah's Buddies to raise money to research the No. 1 genetic cause of infant death.

Most of the SMAsqueradegoers came in costume to eat dinner from Outback Steakhouse and dance, dance, dance to a three-band lineup. The Rich Whitely Band played during the patron's party; then came local band Full Circle led by Hannah's uncle, Tim Hunt.

By the time NRBQ took the stage, the patio was packed with dancing bodies. Duncan used to book bands when he was in college. He lured NRBQ to Tampa between stops on their current tour with Elvis Costello. SMAsquerade was expected to raise $50,000 for Hannah's Buddies.

* * *

SECONDHAND SMOKE: Smoke wafted through "Cigars and Brandy on the Veranda" on Oct. 24. Forty or more men puffed and sipped and speculated at the H.B. Plant Museum.

Ed Lester, museum board member and chairman of the evening, charmed prospective members and chatted with fellow trustees. Kyle Parks poured brandy; Renee Williams, dressed saloon style, offered up the stogies.

So where were all the women? Most preferred to explore the Museum Store. The shop is chock-full of great gifts: jewelry, purses, porcelain, silver, books and children's toys. Many items are lovely reproductions of the Victorian era.

For a 10 percent discount, visit the Holiday Shopping Extravaganza on Nov. 11 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Serious shoppers should reserve a $5 box lunch to eat on the veranda. (Call 258-7302 before Nov. 8.)

- To send Amy Scherzer a tip, e-mail her at or call 226-3332.

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