Two events showcase Lyceum
By LENNIE BENNETT
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000
The new Mirror Lake Lyceum had a workout as a party venue, hosting two special events -- the City Beautification Awards ceremony on Tuesday and the R'Club luncheon and fashion show on Wednesday.
The R'Club party is one of the most creative daytime events of the season.
Volunteer Joni Bartolotta writes a fresh script every year that mixes songs and skits with a parade of clothes and a full measure of charm and entertainment, especially from singer Spice, the show's Eartha Kitt-ish mistress of ceremonies with dominatrix shadings. (Loved the whip.) But I get ahead of myself.
Greeting us at the door as we arrived were Steve Wolf and Michael DelSignor, wearing togas and showing a lot of bare skin. "My Aunt Betty got us into this," said DelSignor, referring to Betty Woods, fashion show chair.
In the pre-lunch crowd milling around silent auction tables were Barbara Guarino; Pie Cook; Diana Michota; Sue Hand; Mollie Walker; Maureen Wright and her mother, Alice Emmet; Sonia Seabol; Tina Mokotoff, just back from a trip to Carmel ("Great shopping," she says); Deb Balinger; Dorothy Waxler; Trudy Murray; Cindy Shain; and Carol Pilkington, with whom I commiserated over the empty nest syndrome -- the Pilkingtons' son, Jeff, is attending Juilliard on a full scholarship.
Before the show, the brace of female models crowded into the backstage dressing room sans the bottle of wine Donna Tyler usually gets to relax everyone "because these steps are so steep and I think I have to walk down them in a bathing suit."
The basement was the staging area for the male models, who milled around in business suits and tuxedos, except for Al "Tarzan" Tarantino, who was the show's Hercules. "I'm an aspiring professional wrestler," he said, as Michele Geissler dabbed on his makeup.
Dr. Jeffrey Tedder, an orthopedic surgeon, wore his own cream-colored gabardine suit because, at 6 feet 7, he custom-orders his clothes. Between members of the St. Petersburg Fire Department and Florida Power lineman Darren Davis, all volunteer models, we were probably prepared for any emergency, though none presented itself, except for several near-collisions I had with waiters carrying large trays of food.
In the parking lot, Wine Cellar chef Douglas Miller oversaw preparations in a set-up "that's as makeshift as it gets in catering," he said. Because the catering kitchen is under construction, everything was done on portable stoves, not unusual except that this meal, unlike most at fundraisers, offered a choice of fish or chicken, "so we have to serve by table," he said, "which is much harder. And the waiters have to carry food up a flight of stairs, which is also hard."
I was seated between Lee Romig, incoming board president of R'Club, and Charlie Mann, outgoing president, and watching a fashion show with men gave me a new perspective. "I think you should wear that to the Suncoasters Ball," Romig said, as Ms. Tyler trailed by wearing a diaphanous black chiffon dress with minimal lining from Nicole's. Well.
Between sets, Romig and executive director Art O'Hara said that R'Club has a waiting list of 2,800 children who qualify for subsidies for the club's pre- and after-school programs. As it is, the organization serves about 4,000 elementary and middle school students in Pinellas County every day. R'Club began as a latchkey program about 25 years ago, said Mann, its first treasurer, who remembered keeping the funds -- $21.47 -- in a coffee can. Today, R'Club has a budget of $10.5-million, six preschools, four middle school centers, two special student centers and 30 youth development programs.
Back to the show and some highlights:
A segment in which the men paraded onstage, then strolled around the audience, pouring wine for the patrons. In the back of the room, Cindy Shuck was so overcome by the spectacle she waved dollar bills in the air, which summoned all the guys to her table. She said she only parted with $3 because "I could only find one pocket to stuff the money into. I guess I could have found other places."
The duet Spice sang with her partner (and real life sister) Sugar. Those gals have great voices.
Carol Kocher, dressed as Lena, the shopping warrior princess.
Vaughn MacCarthy as King Neptune. He knows how to handle a triton.
The finale, which by tradition features members of the St. Petersburg Fire Department. This year, assistant chief James Large, Jim Barr, James Green, Greg Harvin, Scott Lawrence, Rick LeProvost and Eddie Rodriguez descended a fire ladder from the balcony to the song It's Raining Men. Then it rained balloons and confetti.
Hard to believe that the City Beautification Awards are in their 34th year, given by the City Council-appointed City Beautiful Commission to recognize non-residential landscaping and architectural enhancements.
This year's program at Lyceum on Tuesday was set up a little differently, with round tables and chairs creating a more relaxed atmosphere, and a harpist soothing our after-work nerves.
I was about to stuff one of Delectables' small Reuben sandwiches dripping with Thousand Island dressing into my mouth when Mayor Dave Fischer came over and I thought better of the plan. We chatted with Phil Graham, whose firm is landscaping BayWalk, about the color controversy surrounding the downtown development. I relayed a comment from Karol Bullard, who said she loved the vibrant hues being used. "It's very Italian," she said. "Just wait until it's all landscaped," said Graham.
Also nice to see were Dave Duren, commission president; members Sally Salke, M.A. Musselman, Peggy Allen, Rick Nale and Betsy Robertson; Kai Warren, "Royal Palm King" of the Roser Park neighborhood association ("Saying you're president is so boring," he said); Brent and Suzanne Fisher; Perkins Shelton; Ed Caldwell, Vinoy general manager Russ Bond, a northern transplant who guffawed as Cary Lewis and I, St. Petersburg natives, talked about the two instances we could remember snow here; Mary Campbell, who is launching a Sunday afternoon jazz program at Sunken Gardens in November; Sean Musselman; Raul Quintana and Rick Baker.
Receiving awards were Terrace Park Suites, Echelon Development, Arbor Oaks at Tyrone, Pinellas County Teachers Credit Union, Bayboro House Bed and Breakfast, Dicken's House Bed and Breakfast, Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort Marina Cove, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Elizabeth Inc. Mobil, Worley Contracting, Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club, Millennium Playground. Receiving the Elva Rouse Award was Lester Wolff.
The short answer is Lyceum works well for special events and adds one more choice setting to the party landscape. The layout proves a little problematic in some areas. The stage is small, and an abbreviated runway was set up, presumably to allow for more tables, so the models did not have much room to strut their stuff though they improvised well. I imagine the flights of stairs waiters must ascend and descend are a service nightmare, but an elevator being installed will help. This is still a shakedown period for Lyceum, and I expect that the professionalism of managers Scott White and Tom Vantrease will smooth out any wrinkles. I look forward to many more forays there.
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