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It's been 3 years, 7 months and 29 days since Tampa was awarded Super Bowl XLIII. At that time, Tim Tebow was a junior in high school, the Hogans didn't have a reality show, and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) had been in office only four months. * But there is one thing we've known since May 25, 2005: That come the final weekend of January in 2009, Tampa would turn into the party capital of the world. * We'll see stars like Bruce Springsteen, Jim Carrey, Kevin Costner, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Pamela Anderson, Ashton Kutcher, Dane Cook, Lil Wayne, Jennifer Hudson, Rihanna, Faith Hill and pretty much every NFL star on earth. We might see Tiger Woods, Jamie Foxx, Michael Jordan, Kanye West and maybe, just maybe, Janet Jackson. * But let's start with the basics.

What is a Super Bowl party, anyway?

Dan Parente, who produced the first Maxim Party in 2001 in Tampa and is producing a Coors Light party with Nelly this year in Orlando, said the best parties combine live music, star power, creative sponsor integrations and outrageous themes. "The challenge was, how to bring a brand like Maxim to life in a way that also meant something to paying sponsors," he said.

As Maxim and other events took off, lesser parties jumped in — often with subpar results. "You started seeing guests paying a lot of money for tickets and access, finally getting inside the events, and wondering what they had actually just paid all that money for," Parente said.

So how do you separate the truth from the hype? "Most often, you'll just see a flier, and then you'll invest your $500 based on that flier," said California lawyer Ken Spalasso, 37, who runs the party Web site "If you're going to spend a lot of money, do as much research as possible. Pin down exactly which celeb you want to see, then research and find out how much access you might be able to get."

So pick your priorities. If you want to meet a celebrity, be prepared to shell out for a VIP ticket, which might be the only way you'll get close to them. If all you want is to see a lot of hot women, pick a party that's advertising a lot of Playmates. And read the fine print on your tickets. In the harsh light of day, that $500 looks even worse when you tack on $100 for food and drinks. What to wear

Fashionistas say dress to impress. No shorts, sneaks or undies sticking out. This is the Super Bowl, people. Time to break out your cool threads.

Look for Sky tops and dresses on the ladies, said Debra Redmond, manager of Nordstrom at International Plaza. The Real Housewives of Orange County made them famous, and locals love them. Pair them with some Rock & Republic jeans and strappy jeweled sandals.

For the guys, check out long-sleeved, button-up woven shirts with 1921 jeans, said Scott Moore, owner of Urban Body men's clothing studio in Tampa. T-shirts will be too casual for most affairs.

Moore recommends anything with embroidery or accents on the pockets. And, by all means, lose the Ed Hardy, he said. The shirts fell out of fashion when they hit Sam's Club stores. Do consider getting a rosary bead-style necklace, though. The necklaces, which often have pendants, are "flying off the hook,'' he said. "We can't keep them in stock.''

Who you'll hear

Sure, Springsteen is playing at halftime, but hip-hop is the real soundtrack of any Super Bowl week. "Most of the larger parties tend to go with hip-hop artists as their headliners," Parente said. "They make for great live show and encourage people to dance."

Celebrity DJs will be pouring into town. Samantha Ronson, top left, will perform at the ESPN party on Jan. 30, then at a postgame party Feb. 1 at the Green Iguana on West Shore Boulevard. DJ AM will duet with DJ Jazzy Jeff, top right, at AJA on Jan. 29, then put his spin on Latin music for the Cuban-themed Maxim Party on Jan. 30. Good Charlotte's Joel and Benji Madden will man the boards at the Madden Bowl on Jan. 29, then Benji will oversee the Models and Bottles party at Jackson's Bistro on Jan. 31.

But local musicians won't be left out in the cold. Reggae-rockers Impulse, Radio Reset drummer Johnny Coryn and DJ Christion are all performing at A-list Super Bowl parties. And in Ybor City, Crowbar and New World Brewery are planning local music showcases featuring everyone from Gwan Massive to Magadog to Auto!Automatic!!

What you'll eat

"Goat cheese is in," says the Venue's chef Rob Uzzillia, who's handling food for The Good Life Experience (see Page 50). Guests at the pre-parties will nosh on a buffet of filet and lobster with herb-goat cheese polenta, mushroom ragout and an organic baby green salad topped with fried goat cheese, candied walnuts and yellow and red baby beets and for dessert, banana torejas. For the main parties, it's passed hors d'oeuvres topped with another trend for '09: foam essences instead of heavy creams.

Finger foods are also en vogue for the Maxim Party at the Ritz Ybor: Beef Wellington sliders, roasted vegetable and pepper jack quesadillas and more. In keeping with the party's Cuban theme, there will be a muddle station where guests can learn to make flavored mojitos.

The Jan. 31 Chocolate Ties dessert party will feature specialty chocolate drinks created by local mixologist LaTanya White. And for dessert? White chocolate mini cakes with raspberry filling, mini chocolate cakes with white chocolate icing and a milk chocolate fountain.

How to act

It's a cliche to say "act as if," but, you know ... act as if. "You just want to blend in as much as possible," said Spalasso. "Always have a drink in your hand. If you're a guy, if you bring a girl, that's even better."

When it comes to celebrities, Spalasso said, "don't be that stalker guy." Don't make a beeline for them as soon as you make eye contact. And never interrupt them in the middle of another conversation — Spalasso recalled once waiting 45 minutes for a crack at Anthony Hopkins. On the other hand, if you just hang out at the bar, sometimes celebrities will come to you. "Make conversation, and you should be fine," Spalasso said.

— Dalia Colon, Susan Thurston and Jay Cridlin

THE PARTY'S ALMOST HERE 01/22/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 22, 2009 8:22pm]
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