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On the town


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000

Hospital guild honors a founder, 100, at party

All Children's Hospital Guild is one of the oldest in St. Petersburg, founded in the 1940s. It has enjoyed such success over the years that it has split into three branches: the original St. Petersburg Branch; the Beach Branch, which hosts a holiday party; and the Evening Branch, which hosts the Charity Ball each February.

The St. Petersburg Branch held its annual luncheon, fashion show and card party on Oct. 21 and honored founding member Esther Ulrich, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday, as the special guest. She was accompanied by son and daughter-in-law Bob and Barbara Ulrich.

President Vera Brantley and party chairwoman Regina Venske welcomed guests into the ballroom of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, decorated with fall colors. Ruth Gray brought back autumn leaves from her annual trip to North Carolina and said that before scattering them around the tables, she pressed them to preserve their vibrant colors. (How many of us would take the time to press leaves, I ask?)

Aaron Fodiman narrated the traditional President's Walk, which included Mrs. Brantley, Lenne Nicklaus-Ball, Hugh Ann Cason-Kelly, Doris McIntyre, Greta Myers, Fern Clayton, Jeanne Tucker, Sheila Tempelmann and Judy Cuniff.

The fashion show by Ambria's included segments with the children and grandchildren of members: Nell Clark, Libby Lovejoy, Christy Lee Lippmann and Gabrielle Hayes, all escorted by a tuxedo-clad Hank Hayes.

* * *

Fashion observation: Last week I succumbed to trendiness and tried on, with the help of my friend Betsy in the Saks shoe department, several pairs of mules, those backless, sideless shoes that are au-so-courant this year.

First up were some Manolo Blahniks. They were beautiful. They were the peak of chic. They were $450. Thank goodness they were horrendously uncomfortable. We moved on to other, lesser labels and, in the spirit of sartorial readiness, I forked over a considerably smaller sum for a nifty black pair by Kate Spade.

I wore them for the first time last weekend.

Be warned. Mules require realignment of your walking habits. Giving these delicate creations the same name as livestock seems at first anomalous, but I felt like a packhorse by the end of my first muled evening.

Running in them is, of course, out of the question. Speed on stilts would be far easier, I believe. Unless you desire a turned ankle, you can forget even a purposeful stride. Keeping them on requires a mincing slide that defies any uneven surface (read: brick walkways, gravel paths, my driveway). Descending stairs is downright scary. I went sideways with both hands on the rail, then took the elevator.

Mules are designed with pointed toes that no foot created by God or engineered by man could fit into, so you have 2 inches of dead space that makes your foot look about a half-size larger. That extra real estate is potentially useful, spacious enough to hold your emergency dollar or the clean handkerchief your mother told you to carry. But those points always seem to precede you into a room, much like the contraptions attached to ships' bows that break up ice on cruises through the Arctic Circle.

Driving in them is a challenge. I missed a pedal several times because I didn't compensate for the extra length of the shoe. Once, it became trapped behind the accelerator when the backless heel slipped off my foot.

After the first 20 minutes, my arch hurt and I felt a muscle cramp coming on.

When I finally arrived in my mules at the party for which I had bought them, someone whose taste I admire looked down at my sore feet and said, "Love your shoes."

We sacrifice much on the altar of style.

Looking ahead Saturday

Fish Head Ball: Wacky costumes and lots of merriment are the hallmarks of this fundraiser for the Pier Aquarium. Buffet dinner provided by Pier Marketplace, Cafe Lido, Cha Cha Coconuts, Columbia Restaurant, Burger Bay Candies and Cones, Just Fudgin' and Hong Kong Corner. Music by Monty the Horse. Proceeds will be used for educational programs. 8 p.m. to midnight. 800 Second Ave. NE. $35. 895-7437.

Nov. 5

Golden Baton Brunch: The St. Petersburg Guild of the Florida Orchestra honors John and Susan Sykes for their philanthropy. 11:30 a.m. St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. $35. 360-8685.

Nov. 9

I'll Tell You a Secret: "Allison Massari is back," says the invitation, which is good news to her fans and friends. The artist nearly died two years ago in a car accident and has slowly regained the use of her right hand and arm. She has created a new series of paintings, one of which is previewed on the invitation. I am no critic, but her unmistakeable style and talent appear to have survived the near-disaster beautifully.

The opening party at Ambiance Galleries is a fundraiser for the Roger Pepper Snow Camp, which Ms. Massari founded a year ago to support children from the Tampa Bay area who have been severely burned. Each year, a dozen or so boys and girls travel to Colorado, where they learn to ski and snowboard and, says Ms. Massari, "to see that their possibilities in life go far beyond their perceived boundaries after being injured. Life is not limited for them."

She named the camp after the security guard who risked his life to drag her from her burning car, in which she was trapped. The event is from 6 to 9 p.m. at Ambiance Galleries, 1535 Ninth St. N. $25. The exhibition will be open from Nov. 10 through Dec. 2. 821-8331.

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