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Amy Scherzer's Diary

Let's glance back at the highlights

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 27, 2002

If you doubt that Tampa is a party town, grab a sour apple martini and follow me, as we revisit the best of 2002. And happy new year!

RUNWAY BEST: Ebony Fashion Fair brought name-dropping, head-turning haute couture to town on Feb. 3. Stunning models vamped to live jazz in the Ferguson Playhouse in designer fashions rarely seen in Tampa, with price tags topping many mortgages. Don't miss the extravaganza Feb. 2 at Tampa Theatre to benefit the Tampa-Hillsborough Urban League guild.

History was made April 29 when the H.B. Plant Museum Society and the Chiselers formed the Tampa Bay Hotel Preservation Partnership to stage Silhouettes of Style. Despite similar goals -- Plant Hall preservation work -- the two groups had never worked together before. They split the $90,000 in proceeds, drawn from 40 sponsors of $1,000 or more and an unprecedented number of $100 patrons, more than 280. It was Neiman Marcus' first off-site fashion show in Tampa.

Advice: Any time you hear that Georgette's of Old Hyde Park is putting on a fashion show, buy a ticket. Doesn't matter when or where, you're guaranteed a all-out, full-scale production.

BEST WINE TASTINGS: Wine flowed freely and three tastings popped up as winners. Bern's 5th Winefest filled three air-conditioned tents and the SideBern's dining room with 700 people on April 7. Nouveau hors d'oeuvres, 200 wines and a silent auction raised $9,500 for the Divine Providence Food Bank.

Gone With the Wine packed 500 movie buffs into Tampa Theatre on Sept. 27 and raised $20,000 for restoration. Guests mouthed Scarlett and Rhett's classic lines as Gone With the Wind played behind buffets on the stage, front row and lobby.

Sea Grapes, a new event for the Florida Aquarium on June 8, showed the fishy facility as an unbeatable venue. It's spacious, has plenty of parking and a terrific staff, and you can't help but learn something you didn't know about sea life.

BEST NEW VIEW: Accept any invitation to the ninth floor of the new Vaughn Center at the University of Tampa. Before it opened, only the birds got this westward view of downtown, soaring over the sparkling minarets.

MOST PATRIOTIC BALL: Every branch of the armed forces celebrated at the Army Ball on June 14, along with veterans, reservists and coalition forces. It was a night to be a goosebump-proud American. (I wanted to enlist.) Servicemen in authentic uniforms performed a streamer ceremony commemorating every U.S. Army battle.

SHORTEST SPEECH: A woman of few words, Columba Bush, first lady of Florida, said exactly five words at the Children's Home annual donor recognition luncheon on April 16.

"For the children, thank you," said Bush, upon receiving the Helen A. Davis award at the Hyatt Regency Tampa. A more verbose Mayor Dick Greco picked up the slack and chatted about the work of the 100-year-old children's shelter.

MOST JOCKS: Candy and Eddie DeBartolo recruited an impressive lineup of athletes to the first DeBartolo Family Foundation All Star Charity Spectacular on Oct. 11. Every sport was represented except maybe shot put and javelin. Bartenders were busier than locker room towel boys. ESPN's Chris Berman gave a history of the sports network.

BEST COSTUMES: Hawkeye and Hot Lips came out to the MASH Bash benefit for the Tampa Bay chapter of the American Red Cross on Feb. 9. Syringes and bed pans accessorized Army fatigues and hospital scrubs.

Caesar tunics and safari suits showed up at Explore Ancient Egypt, Tampa General Hospital Foundation's gala May 4 at Busch Gardens. And the Florida Aquarium's Nauti-Night on Oct. 25 brought out gobs of goblins, ghouls and gangsters.

BEST BANDS: The Commodores rocked the Magnolia Ball on May 11 on behalf of the Magnolia Lodging Program at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. Co-chairs Don and Erika Wallace (definitely the Most Visible Hosts this year) introduced the Motown greats.

The Classic Rock Allstars pumped up the Heart Ball at the Tampa Yacht Club on March 16 for the American Heart Association. Members were once lead singers from Iron Butterfly, Rare Earth, Sugarloaf and Cannibal and the Headhunters.

Hannah's Buddies danced all night to NRBQ at SMAsquerade on Oct. 25 on the Cuban Club patio. They were all there to raise money for Hannah Elliott and other children with spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA.

BEST DECORATIONS: Pavilion XVII's chrysalis-to-butterfly metaphor at Tampa Museum of Art's posh party; the falling snow and ice-slick dance floor from University Community Hospital's A Starlight Winter's Night; and the doggone dotty black and white 101 Dalmations Storybook Ball for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

MOST ROMANTIC AUCTION ITEM: A "people and things" auction at the 10th Celebrity Elegance dinner on June 8 offered seven bachelor and bachelorette dates. Tall, dark and handsome lawyer Ariel O. Garcia's invitation included rock climbing, canoeing, dinner and a moonlight walk. The dates brought in about $1,000 for Fortune Education Foundation scholarships.

TASTY AUCTION IDEA: Mayor Dick Greco's hitherto unknown culinary skills raised $15,000 at two events. His offer to cook dinner at the home of Catherine and David Straz sold three times, at $5,000 each. Two dinner parties sold at Karamu on April 13 to benefit for the Lowry Park Zoo. And a third was later auctioned at the TGH Foundation Gala.

LITERARY AUCTION ITEM: Author Tim Dorsey was responsible for $10,000 raised at Pavilion XVII for the Tampa Museum of Art. When bidding got up to $5,000 for the right to name a character in his next book, Dorsey doubled the offer.

MOST ADAPTABLE VENUE: It was just two years ago that A La Carte Catering's Laura Schmalhorst partnered with Outback Steakhouse to open the A La Carte Event Pavilion. An immediate success, the Pavilion stages about 300 parties a year, adapting 17,000 square feet of banquet space for a boxing ring or a black-tie gala for up to 1,500 guests. Schmalhorst knows her stuff.

VENUE WITH BEST RIDES: After dinner in the FestHaus at Busch Gardens, guests at the TGH Foundation's Explore Ancient Egypt gala got to ride the Montu, play carnival games and get tattooed. They also heard Dr. Linda McClintock, wife of Mayor Dick Greco, sing La Bamba.

BEST MARDI GRAS: George and Mary Lib Howell turned the University Club into the Vieux Carre June 1 in honor of daughter Courtney, the 89th Gasparilla Queen. They rolled out a Big Easy spread -- crawfish fritters to beignets -- and a New Orleans marching band for 400 pirates and friends in black-tie.

BEST HOME BARBECUE: Fans surrounded civil rights activist Bob Gilder at a front yard barbecue in his honor on May 18. Convalescing from two heart attacks and a stroke, Gilder held court in a motorized wheelchair in his living room while Jesse Hill governed the grill.

BEST PROGRESSIVE DINNER: A 15-year tradition continued June 15, the Villa Rosa Park Progressive Dinner Association. About 50 neighbors dressed formally to follow the movable feast for adults on the one-block South Tampa street.

MOST HEARTFELT SENDOFF: Friends, fans and colleagues bid farewell to Florida Orchestra resident conductor Thom Wilkins at a Roast and Toast on May 31. Wilkins, now resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony, was stunned to receive the key to the city, many fond tributes and a 3-foot stuffed Thom doll.

ONLINE ONLY: Invitations to Pink Martinis at the Blue Martini went via e-mail and brought 300 online RSVPs to the June 19 kickoff to Race for the Cure. That helped the Suncoast branch of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation raise more than $12,000 without spending any money on printing and postage.

BEST DERBY DOINGS: Easter Seals was the big winner at a May 4 Kentucky Derby party hosted by Joy and Michael Murray of Tampa Palms. Dixieland jazz, mint juleps and an Old Kentucky buffet made a trifecta for 200 patrons.

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


JAN. 4: Krewe of Venus Coronation Ball; invitation only, 6:30 p.m.; Tampa Convention Center; 289-9310.

JAN. 11: Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla Tea Dance; meet the queen/courtier candidates; 6:30 p.m.; Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club; 251-4500.

JAN. 18: Krewe of the Knights of Sant' Yago Coronation Ball; invitation only, 7 p.m.; Tampa Marriott Waterside, 248-3088.

JAN. 19: Friends of the Arts Guilders and Sustainers Cocktail Party; invitation only; Jim Ferman Jr. residence; 5:30-7:30 p.m.; 274-8130.

JAN. 25: Einstein on Wine benefits Museum of Science and Industry; 4801 E. Fowler Ave.; $50; 6-9 p.m.; 987-6000.

City Times: The rest of the stories

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  • The Monday blues
  • City People: The First Lady of Channel District
  • What's in a name: Builders, benefactors and memories
  • Obituary: She loved her family, politics and the Lord
  • Amy Scherzer's Diary: Let's glance back at the highlights
  • RSVP Tampa: Say toodle-ooh to 2002
  • Neighborhood Report: Holidays enhancements are ripe for the picking
  • Neighborhood Report: Neighborhood Notebook
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  • Homes: Work on MiraBay Club starts
  • Homes: Store grows up with community
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