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Amy Scherzer's Diary

Dressing for a cause

Published December 9, 2005

MODELING WITH A MESSAGE: If you thought arthritis was an "old person's disease," you missed Dressed Up for the Holidays, featuring 10 adorable models with juvenile arthritis. The youngest, Logan Carr, 3, nearly stole the show at the Arthritis Foundation's first fashion brunch in his Gap Kids outfit.

Kids as young as 18 months get arthritis, and they deserved all the applause Saturday at the Renaissance Tampa Hotel at International Plaza.

Craft projects and a visit from Santa Claus occupied the kids while parents eyed chic styles from Adrienne Vittadini. WWRM-FM 94.9 deejay Ann Kelly narrated, noting that two of the models, Emily Muecke, 28, and Rosalie Thomas, 35, were committee members with arthritis. What a treat to meet Patrick Bliven, 10, of Lutz who was diagnosed with arthritis last year. The Maniscalco Elementary fifth-grader organized Patrick's Putters (he loves golf) and raised $6,000 for the national Arthritis Walk. That got him named 2006 Walk honoree and an invitation to speak in a national video.

Patrick thought he lost his speech and did a hasty rewrite, only to find it in his pocket after all. He told the 150 guests about all the fun he had at Camp Boggy Creek last summer playing with other children with arthritis and urged them to help send more kids to camp.

Organizers said proceeds from the brunch and a silent auction, about $30,000, will send 20 kids to camp.

* * *

SEEING IS NOT ALWAYS BELIEVING when it comes to Varekai, the amazing Cirque du Soleil performance now blowing minds under the Grand Chapiteau at Tropicana Field.

I'm told varekai means "wherever" in the language of gypsies. I wonder what the word is for "incredible." Or witty, breathtaking and impossible. I should have asked Cirque du Soleil founder and billionaire Guy Laliberte when I met him during the intermission of the Dec. 1 Florida premiere.

He attended with his bon amis from Montreal who enjoyed "Le St. Pete" hospitality. One pal, Richard Turgeon, swore it was not prearranged when he was plucked from the audience to be in a clown skit with Steven Bishop.

Dress code was "Cirque Chic" for the postpremiere cast party. Several hundred gawkers packed Le Tapis Rouge tent for hors d'oeuvres and martinis with the performers, sans their exquisite costumes. They seemed appreciative of all the attention.

* * *

SNEAK STROLL PEAK: Two 6-foot angels made by Marty Sears watched over the buffet at H.B. Plant Museum Society's annual holiday cocktail party Dec. 1. For the 24th year, the table groaned under the weight of a roast suckling pig, shrimp, tenderloin and many desserts. Not to be missed: Rosann Creed's caviar pie and Raphael Clarke's famous venison sausage. Wynette Hampton brought escargot.

Cork and Olive, opening soon at 1110 S Dale Mabry Highway, donated about 50 kinds of wine to taste. Owner Michael Probst sold dozens of cases and handed back 20 percent of each sale to the museum. In all, the event was expected to net $60,000.

Bob Kokol, representing sponsor Raymond James, and party co-chairs Bert and Marsha Martin offered 400 guests the first look at the museum dolled up for the Victorian Christmas Stroll. One fun trio, Margo Harrod, June Annis and Pat Sullivan, drove up in a 2006 Saab borrowed for the evening.

Some younger faces appeared on the staid museum scene: Bert Martin III and Kathryn Harper, Liz and William Woodroffe and Julianne Howell and Jason Frost. They soon found their way to the back verandah, where Paul Wilborn and the Blue Roses, featuring Richard "Liberace" Lehfeldt, Gordon Moss and Frank Bowman, were a hit.

* * *

PROCHOICE CONVERSATION STARTERS and condoms at each seat helped spread the message at A Choice Affair, the annual Roe v. Wade commemorative luncheon hosted by Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida on Nov. 30. at the Hyatt Regency Tampa.

Four Blake High School students with Source Teen Theatre opened the program with skits on pregnancy, date rape and other serious issues.

Noting county commissioners cut off the group's funding, President Adrienne Garcia announced Dan Doyle's pledge to match anything raised for the teens, up to $10,000. In seconds, $1,000 checks appeared from Joe Redner, Helen Gordon Davis, David and Sara Scher, Roy Kaplan, Sandy Thomas, John Sinott and Betty Castor. By day's end, the group had raised $21,000 for the teens.

The 310 guests, more than double previous luncheons, honored Dr. Charles Mahan, a University of South Florida professor and a director at the Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies. He shared some funny tales from his 45-year career in public health care.

Then it was Barbara Ehrenreich's turn. Known as a champion of the underdog, the author of two bestsellers, Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the American Dream, recounted the birth of the feminism movement and "how we changed the world."

Her fears about politicians restricting abortion rights moved the crowd to their feet.

- Amy Scherzer can be reached at or 226-3332. To find more pictures and read the party blog, go to


SATURDAY: Miracle on 12th Street hosted by Avant Garde; 9 p.m.; Rustic Steel Creations, 114 12th St.; $20 for members in advance online, $25 for nonmembers in advance online, $35 at the door;

DEC. 24: Vodka Latke, formerly Matzo Ball; 8:30 p.m.; Code Nightclub, 1507 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. Jewish singles and couples ages 21-45 welcome; $20 in advance at $25 at the door; 769-2803.

DEC. 29: Sixth annual Kwanzaa Celebration hosted by North Tampa African Alliance; 6 p.m.; St. Paul Catholic Church; 12708 N Dale Mabry Highway; $15 for adults, $10 for teens, $5 for children; 961-6239.

DEC. 31: Florida Orchestra's New Year's Eve Hollywood Nites, gala; dancing to the Florida Orchestra and Southtown Fever; fireworks; $350 and up; Renaissance Vinoy Resort; 286-1170, ext. 318.

DEC. 31: New Year's Eve at the Florida Aquarium; 9 p.m.-1 a.m.; adults only; $80 for members, $85 general, $90 at the door; 273-4568.

DEC. 31: Eighteen89 hosts New Year's Eve benefit for YMCA; black-tie optional; 9 p.m.-2 a.m.; Lion's Eye Institute, 1410 N 21st St.; free for members, $150 for nonmembers; 224-9622.

[Last modified December 8, 2005, 07:49:06]

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