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Amy Scherzer's diary

Amy Scherzer's Diary

Published February 9, 2007


WEDU Sojourn Down Under

Public television station WEDU celebrated its trademark cultural curiosity with nearly 400 patrons at Sojourn, a white-tie benefit with an international theme.

Saturday's "Down Under" itinerary paired Australian and New Zealand wines and entertainment to raise $100,000 during dinner at the Hilton Carillon Park.

Authentic didgeridoo players painted in mud and tribal markings blasted guests into the ballroom where taiko drummers, Maori dancers and fire jugglers performed.

Seven sponsors paid $4,000 to dine at "feasting tables," long banquet tables set for 16 and topped with delicate orchids. Slate- and sky-hued linens reflect earth, sky and elemental extremes, said ColorBAIT designer Frank Clemente.

Vibrant purple, coral and apple spandex wrapped the other tables. Across the room, swaths of royal blue silk draped from the ceiling tempted a fire dancer's flaming sticks.

Special guest Patricia de Stacy Harrison, chief executive of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, gushed in her introduction of honorary gala chairman Mel Sembler, former ambassador to Australia, calling him a statesman like none other.

Auctioneer Aaron Fodiman raised $48,000 pitching five items. He doubled one deal when two bidders got up to $4,400 for a sunset cruise on Sojourn, co-chairmen Scott and Heidi Shimberg's 44-foot sailboat. They agreed to host two sailings and everybody was happy.

In 2008, PBS supporters, led by WEDU president Dick Lobo, will sojourn above the equator to celebrate the station's 50th anniversary.

Tampa Theatre Ruby Jubilee

Memories rolled out like a red carpet at the Oscars when guests reminisced at Tampa Theatre's Ruby Jubilee on Saturday, a formal 80th birthday benefit.

Dada Pittman remembered ushers chasing her to sit down when she and her friends played hide and seek at matinees. Martha Ferman said Eddie Ford played the organ and the crowd sang along as the words appeared on the screen. Betty Culbreath Gibbons recalled modeling the latest fashions from the Viola Todd dress shop on the stage. Sam Gibbons can't forget sitting in the balcony with her when they dated in high school. He even won a set of dishes in a game of Screen-o.

The late architect John Eberson styled the theater on an old Spanish castle in 1926. Now, "it's analog in a digital world," said Harrison Giddens, chairwoman of the 80th anniversary committee. For the first time, the stage was extended all the way to Row S for dinner under the starlit ceiling. With a red velvet curtain as backdrop, beneath soft ruby lighting, sponsor Les Muma asked the 150 guests to raise their red champagne flutes in a toast.

Instead of an auction, theater foundation chairman Beth Bernitt requested checks to restore damaged treasures, such as sculptures and tapestries. Cleveland architect Paul Westlake, renowned for restoring cultural arts facilities, came to add his enthusiasm for the renovation he'll direct.

With no kitchen in the theater, Mise en Place chef Paul Boucher grilled in a Florida Avenue parking lot. Chef Marty Blitz and Mary Ann Ferenc sent a crew of 26 to work the $400-ticket event while they were feeding Super Bowl fans in Miami.

A vaudeville show starring Pat Fenda, Stewart Lippe and the Franzini circus took guests back in time, too, with ventriloquist, dog and musical acts.

Another 150 theater buffs arrived after 10 and paid $40 to drink and dance to the Paul Vescoe Orchestra in the lobby speakeasy. There were strands of pearls for the flappers; black fedoras for the men.

In all, organizers expect the event to net more than $100,000 to launch the restoration.


Monday: Florida State Fair Governor's Luncheon; noon; $20; Charles M. Davis Special Events Center; 621-7821, ext. 216.

Wed.: For the Love of a Garden benefits Tampa Garden Club; 7-10 p.m.; Tampa Garden Club, 2629 Bayshore Blvd.; $50; 251-5059.

Feb. 23: Fifth annual All Star Charity Gala benefits DeBartolo Family Foundation; 6:30 p.m.; A La Carte Pavilion; $300; 964-8302.

Feb. 24: To Life, To Heroes, To Courage dinner benefits Florida Holocaust Museum; guest speaker Rwanda hotel manager Paul Ruesabagina, 6:30 p.m.; A La Carte Pavilion; $200; (727) 820-0100, ext. 243.

Feb. 24: Fourth annual Starry Nights gala benefits Mental Health Care Foundation; 7:30 p.m.; Tampa Club; $125; 272-2244, ext. 246.

[Last modified February 8, 2007, 10:36:41]

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