By LENNIE BENNETT
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001
Some occasions transcend special interests. Such was the case with Monday night's retirement party for St. Petersburg Times sports columnist Hubert Mizell.
As you who consistently read my column know, I do not care about sports. My knowledge of them collectively would fit into a shuttlecock.
But I enjoy reading Mizell. He is, to me, a classic sports writer and one who has helped make sense of a world I often view as esoteric and internecine.
And so it was no surprise that about 300 additional admirers from a wide swath of the community gathered at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort to honor him and enjoy roasts and toasts from famous sports folks.
Mayor Rick Baker, with wife Joyce on his arm, said he was glad he could relax and let somebody else sit in the hot seat. With the election recently behind them, Mrs. Baker has been creative in adjusting to their new roles and finding quality time for their family, saying she brings their young children to daytime ceremonies and presentations, especially if they are in a park, so they can be together as much as possible.
I felt Bill and Sally Habermeyer's pain as they talked of their palm tree saga. They were doing what they thought was minor landscaping, taking out a palm tree and putting in a hedge, but wound up opening up a sewer line, which led to major pipe problems, which led to major replumbing. Everything's back to normal. For now.
All Children's Hospital chief Dennis Sexton is gearing up for the 18th annual telethon, a marathon three-day event that includes the Taste of Pinellas, beginning June 1. Mark Mahaffey is gearing up for a year as president of the Suncoasters, the group that organizes the Festival of States, and word is that some big changes might be afoot with the event.
Higher education was well represented by University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft and Bill Heller, acting vice president of the St. Petersburg campus; and by Carl Kuttler, president of St. Petersburg Junior College, which will not be junior for much longer, with son-in-law Andy Shannon, a teacher at Academy Prep. Kuttler said the college plans to offer athletic scholarships in honor of Mizell, with details to come.
You would think that when county commissioners Susan Latvala, Karen Seel and Calvin Harris huddle, talk would be politically lofty, but the conversation boiled down to macaroni salad.
Though Ruth Harris is the cook-of-record in their household, he is famous for macaroni salad, which he makes in great quantities. Latvala said she used to make stuffed mushrooms, but we agreed that life has become too short to stuff mushrooms or any other vegetables. (I don't know how Bob Stewart, another commissioner in attendance, missed this conversation.)
Also nice to see were Andy and Ann Hines; David and Margo Fischer; Goliath Davis and Teresa Anderson, with an appropriately sporty-cropped hairdo and attired in an evening suit styled like a tuxedo; Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice and Linda Rice; George and Linda Rahdert; Toby and Carole Krayer and their son-in-law Kevin Kellin; George Cretekos; Mike and Suzette Foley; Paul Mellini; Lee Martino; Katharine Ann and Cynthia Lake; Ron Mason; Rick Stroud; Patsy Wheeler and son-in-law Jim Klemawesch; Dick Crippen; and Frank and Dahlgren Scarritt. Knowing as much about cars as I do sports, I pumped Mr. Scarritt, who owns a Lincoln-Mercury dealership, about vehicles and he described the company's new "truck," which appears to have so many bells and whistles it practically drives itself. Look for it around town.
Really nice to see was Nina Polm, marketing director for International Plaza, which we will all love when it opens Sept. 14. "That," she promises, "is the drop dead date." She said the inaugural celebration will include a Cirque de Soleil-type extravaganza. Mark your calendars.
But let us return to the point of this gathering of luminaries: sports and a sports guy named Hubert Mizell. St. Petersburg Times editor and president Paul Tash welcomed us to the Palm Court Ballroom and introduced master of ceremonies Bob Costas, who, in turn, introduced a lineup of other famous sports guys who appeared either live, or via videotape, to skewer one of their own. Even I got most of the jokes and funny stories told by George Steinbrenner, Bobby Bowden, Bob Knight, Tony Dungy, Dick Vitale, Steve Spurrier, Chris Berman, Dave Kindred, Peter Kessler and Tom McEwen.
Mizell had the last word and ended the evening remarking on what really matters, "my family," he said, smiling toward his wife, Marcy, and son Kevin. As you read this, Mr. and Mrs. Mizell will have arrived in Virginia, where they soon will break ground on their new home. Best of times to them.
Hospitality notes: I really liked the clever centerpieces, cardboard containers printed to resemble Wheaties and Crackerjack boxes with Mizell's photo on them, stuffed with flowers. And kudos to the Vinoy for serving some of the freshest grouper in memory, beautifully prepared and part of an all-around fine dinner (though the salad was a little wilted, probably sitting on the table too long before the doors opened).
Having chided the resort in the past when I felt it wasn't up to standard, I praise it now. I attend many big parties there and the meals in the past six months have been consistently excellent. I'm glad the grande dame is back on the high road.
MUSIC TO LIFE: A benefit for the Florida Holocaust Museum and the Florida Orchestra features a performance by Marvin Hamlisch, winner of three Oscars, four Grammys, three Emmys, three Golden Globes and a Tony. 7:30 p.m. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. Ticket prices range from $36 to $100 depending on seats. (800) 622-7286 or (813) 286-2403.
GREAT EXPLORATIONS GATHERING AND FUNDRAISER: Supporters of the museum gather at Sunken Gardens to see the latest plans for its new home at the gardens. 6 p.m. 1825 Fourth St. N. 821-8992.
ALPHA SPRINGALA: Alpha, A Beginning provides housing and support services to homeless pregnant women and teens and new mothers with infants. This year's breakfast fundraiser features keynote speaker Rick Baker. 7:30 a.m. St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. $25. 822-8190.