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Amy Scherzer's Diary

Tulle, roses adorn garden center benefit

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 21, 2003

A ROSY FUTURE: Honorary chairwomen Louise Lykes Ferguson and Martha Ferman sat or stood to greet every guest -- all 235 of them -- at "An Affair to Remember," a cocktail party and silent auction benefit for the Tampa Garden Center on Feb. 14. Ferman was a young bride when she joined the Rose Garden Circle. She later served as president. Ferguson was president of the Founders Garden Circle. When? "Once upon a time," she recalled.

Guests circulated between buffet and silent auction displays until emcee Ken Walters and auctioneer Laura York got down to business. By night's end, co-chairs Joanne Frazier and Denise Rasmussen knew they had topped the goal of $50,000 toward renovation of the 1969-building and the grounds.

Among the live auction items: supper created by Henry Brown at the home of Sandra and Steve Gardner; an Italian feast prepared by Israel Diaz; and food from Melinda Fair served to six while sailing Ken Walters' Sal.

Decoration divas Liz Reynolds and Rosann Creed asked members to bring in a vase, any vase, and a white candle to make each white-clothed table slightly different. The huge fountain at the center of the room was on loan from Tampa Statuary. Elizabeth Spitler adorned the ladies room with pink and white tulle and roses.

RUNWAY CANDIDATES: The applause meter went wacky at the "Stars, Hearts, Fashion & Fun" celebrity fashion show and auction, the eighth annual benefit for the MacDonald's Training Center Foundation. Each of nearly 40 "celebrity" models drew cheers on the rose petal-strewn (it was Valentine's Day) runway. Three mayoral candidates found their constituencies: Frank Sanchez looked suave in short sleeves and a vest; Charlie Miranda finessed a cigar in one hand and a model on each arm in his ivory linen suit. Pam Iorio went casual in a navy knit pants suit. Bob Buckhorn declined an invitation to model.

Co-chairs Suzy Holley and Pat Colvard rounded up model citizens to wear fashions from Stein Mart at the Hyatt Regency Tampa, including Tampa Police Department Maj. Jane Castor, School Board member Carol Kurdell and City Council member Mary Alvarez. By my reckoning the most applause went to George Williamson, director of the Tampa Port Authority, and to my Times colleague Ernest Hooper.

PRESIDENTIAL TIMBER: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina spent Valentine's evening at the Tierra Verde home of lawyer Jim Wilkes. Wilkes invited a couple dozen friends over to hear the photogenic first-term lawmaker talk about "getting the White House back." In 2000, the senator was on the short list to be Vice President Al Gore's running mate. The father of two toddlers promised "to lead on civil rights, affirmative action and equal rights." He asked the group for help to end George Bush's "government by insiders for insiders."

The guest list included: Lawyers Bennie Lazzara, Jim Freeman, Kent Whittemore, Mac Greco, Joe Saunders, Michael Trentelage and Tom Girardi, the hotshot lawyer who negotiated the settlement in the Erin Brockovich case. Edwards, 49, spent two decades as a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury cases. Addressing the lawyers in the group, he said: "Bush hates you."

BUTTER UP: Guest of honor Lou Piniella swapped a putter for a steak knife this year as the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay replaced his annual Celebrity Golf Classic with the "Piniella at the Palm" dinner on Sunday.

Tickets were $250 each, limited to 100 guests. The Palm Restaurant donated the five-course surf and turf dinners (Nova Scotia lobster and prime aged New York strip steak), paired with five dinner wines. Cheryl Hill is the new general manager of the Palm.

Hosts/underwriters Sharon and Steve Yerrid thanked Piniella, new manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and guests, including Malio and Shirley Iavarone; Joe Capitano and his daughter Nicole, Mondy Flores; Clif Curry; John and Lydia Oliva, Andrew and Maresa Russo, Matt and Peggy Pittarelli, Ron and Shelley Russo, Robin and Tom Carson, Dick and Linda McClintock Greco, Bill and Peggy Poe, Jean Ann Cone (nursing a broken shoulder), and Vince and Lenda Naimoli.

It was a rare sighting -- Lenda without her twin, Glenda -- who was babysitting for her three grandchildren.

"I feel half naked without her," said Lenda.

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC: The view of Tampa Bay was fabulous but the wind chased guests indoors to the living room of hosts Janet Cruz and Steve Rifkind to enjoy a private concert with a trio of Florida Orchestra musicians on Feb. 11. Regulars of the orchestra's Soiree series found their seats (names monogrammed on the seat covers) and sat down for Chantez de L'Amour, "a little Valentine music," as flutist Demarre McGill called it.

Between pieces, the charming and loquacious McGill, oboist Martin Hebert and bassoonist John Kehayas chatted and answered questions from about 75 listeners. Then McGill turned serious, dedicating a sonata by Bach to the memory of the Columbia astronauts.

"For any of us, it could be all gone in a second. Think how lucky we are. No matter how bad things get in this country, we're a thousand times better off than everyone else," said McGill.

High notes to Rita Ehrenpreis who produced the informative program book, including biographies of Handel, Caldera and Haydn and the history of the piano.

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

* * *

TODAY: LAMPLighters Luncheon of Light Fashion Show benefits Metropolitan Ministries and Joshua House; Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay; fashions from Saks Fifth Avenue; 11 a.m.; $60; 250-3737.

SATURDAY: "Love under the Stars" by Divas of Heart; benefits an Atlanta cancer patient with friends in Tampa; food, drinks, music, gondola rides; Jackson's Bistro, Harbour Island; 7-11 p.m.; $100; $75 advance; 299-1149.

FEB. 25: People of Vision Dinner to benefit Prevent Blindness Florida, honoring Ron Vaughn, Gwen Stephenson and Judy Genshaft; 6:30 p.m.; Hyatt Regency Tampa; $150; 874-2020, ext. 104.

FEB. 26: Charisse Strawberry Celebrity Wives Fashion Show, luncheon and auction; special guest, Deion Sanders; benefits National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence; 11 a.m.; Hyatt Regency Tampa; fashions from Neiman Marcus; $100; 769-3708.

MARCH 8: 10th annual Stepping Out Gala to benefit St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation; 6:30 p.m.; Hyatt Regency Tampa; $175; 872-0979, ext. 233.

MARCH 9: Sunday in the Arts sponsored by Las Damas de Arte; exhibition and sale of artworks by 50 women artists; food and entertainment; University of Tampa Scarfone/Hartley Galleries 5:30-8 p.m.; $25 advance, $30 at the door; 253-6217.

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