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Amy Scherzer's Diary

Partaking of parties

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 10, 2003

VALDEZ DYNASTY RULES VENUS: Four generations of the Valdez family participated in the 38th Krewe of Venus Coronation Ball on Saturday night. Amazingly, none of the younger members of the clan knew Robert E. Valdez Sr. would become the 38th king of the social club.

"We thought he was going to be a duke," said his son, Robert Valdez Jr. "We had a costume and helmet made for him."

Talk about keeping family secrets. Not even the king's mother, Duchess Zoila Urquiaga, knew until he made his grand entrance at the Tampa Convention Center. Neither did his son, Duke Robert E. Valdez Jr. or his daughter, Duchess Nicole Valdez Dawson. Nor did his son-in-law, Duke Louis Dawson III, or daughter-in-law, Duchess Kim Valdez.

His granddaughters, princesses/crown bearers Jordan and Jaycie Valdez, daughters of Kim and Robert Jr., didn't have a clue.

One family member knew -- the king's ex-wife, Duchess Yvonne Valdez -- but she never said a word to her fiance, Duke Brian England.

King Valdez, a Plant High grad, joined the krewe in 1978 and is the CEO of the Manhattan Hairstyling Academies. He is president of the Florida Cosmetology Schools Association. Yvonne, Robert Jr. and Nicole are co-owners of the academy, which was founded by Duchess Zoila.

The king met his queen, Julia Gorzka, for the first time at rehearsal. The daughter of John and Pat Gorzka, Julia is a Tulane University graduate with a master's degree from the Bard Graduate Center in New York. These days, the artist is chief operating officer of Computer Business Associates.

Ball chairwoman Jackie St. John, named the Duchess of Cochran in honor of the late Lucille Cochran, krewe founder, crowned the king and queen, who represent the sun and moon.

The 20-piece Sun City Center Swing Band kept the beat for the ball's Starry, Starry Night theme. The emcee, TV talk show host Syl Farrell, now of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, added his own star power.

AULD LANG SYNE: The Florida Orchestra's Midnight Magic Gala brought 250 guests to their feet to ring in 2003 at the annual New Year's Eve gala at the Renaissance Vinoy Hotel.

Of course, most were already on their feet, dancing to the full orchestra directed by guest conductor Chelsea Tipton II, a candidate for the resident conductor position. Among his selections: Hedwig's Theme by John Williams for Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone and 'Round Midnight by Thelonius Monk. The orchestra's charming new music director, Stefan Sanderling, took the baton to direct the Sabre Dance, something he said he always wanted to do.

Cocktail hour began with Beluga caviar, shitake chutney and crispy sweetbreads. Then guests found a top hat, tiara and magic wands (wood for the men and glass for the ladies) at each setting. After dining on grilled filet of beef and lobster mashed potatoes, they finished with a chambord chocolate mousse-filled top hat and chocolate magic wand.

Rain forced St. Petersburg to cancel its First Night fireworks, which left more time for dancing after midnight to Southtown Fever featuring drummer Steve Moretti, husband of concertmaster Amy Schwartz Moretti.

Tampa Bay Magazine publishers Aaron Fodiman and Margaret Word Burnside chaired the $350-per-person and up gala.

CIRCUS CIRCUS: Tampa General Hospital's Night at the Circus patron's party turned the second story of the XO Club into a three-ring adventure on Jan. 2. Children and grandchildren of the $2,500-plus sponsors had a ball with the roving performers, face painting, balloon twisting, cotton candy, snow cones and popcorn. They also discovered Beef O'Brady's cheese steak, buffalo chicken and Cuban sandwiches. The adults discovered the bar.

This is the 12th year Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has offered a special ticket arrangement with Tampa General for opening night. Sponsors got circus tickets to keep or give away; about 1,000 went to charity. The sponsorships raised $120,000 for the hospital's Pediatric Emergency Care Center.

Having the most fun: Cody Warren, 7, first-grade son of James and Samantha Warren. This was his mom's second year chairing the patron's party. Her committee members were easily spotted in denim jackets embroidered with the Ringling logo, including Sandy Thomas, Robin de la Vergne, McIver Berner, Suzanne Taggart, Patsy Woodroffe and Deborah Foley.

THEY GOT HEART: 13 Ugly Men and about 1,000 others welcomed the new year at Jackson's Bistro on Harbour Island. Lee Mezrah, an "Ugly" organizer, said the Derek Mack band kept the dance floor jumping. "Outta control," he described it. Outside, huge tarps kept partiers at the bar during the last thunderstorm of 2002.

As always, the men padded the price of the tickets to benefit a charity, this time the Children's Heart Foundation. They charged women $80 and guys $120 for unlimited cocktails, champagne at midnight and a buffet of sushi, prime rib, pasta, seafood strudels and crab cakes. Bananas Foster and tiramisu made the dessert station a yummy meeting point.

Tickets and a silent auction brought in $10,000 for the Children's Heart Foundation.

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


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

JAN. 18: Florida Holocaust Museum honors the Newman Family and Lisl Schick; 7:30 p.m.; Hyatt Regency Tampa; $200; special guests Evander Holyfield and Jon Voight; (727) 820-0100, Ext. 249.

JAN. 18: Grand Krewe de Libertalia Founders' Ball, 7 p.m.; Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club; $75; proceeds benefit Hillsborough Education Foundation.

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 MOSI, $50; 6-9 p.m.; 4801 E. Fowler Ave.; 987-6000.

JAN. 27: Florida Orchestra Soiree; 7:30 p.m.; Schaffel residence; $40, or $60 per patron, reserved seating; 926-0099.

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