Stock up on Sharpies. The Super Bowl — and all the celebs who come with it — is almost here. But you can't just walk up to your favorite star and ask for a signature. Or can you? Here's an autograph hound's guide to the big game.
The teams' charter flights will arrive at Tampa International on Monday in an area that's off-limits to the general public. No players will walk through the main terminal. Likewise for celebs flying on private jets; they can be whisked directly from the runway into a limo. But you will have a chance to bump into anyone flying commercial. "Just because you're a celebrity, that doesn't mean you'll necessarily get a police escort unless there's some sort of a security issue surrounding the individual," said airport spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan. ('Member all those Paula Abdul dustups at the L.A. airport? We can only hope.) Camp out on the third floor of the main terminal, where all arriving and departing commercial passengers pass through. You could try baggage claim, although how many celebs stand around to fetch their own luggage? They have people for that. At St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, your chances are pretty much nil. "The celebrities that may come into the airport would come in through private jets," spokeswoman Michelle Routh said.
The idea of the major parties is for A-listers to let their hair down without being hounded by, well, you. At the Maxim Party (Friday at the Ritz Ybor, 1503 Seventh Ave., Ybor City) and Good Life Experience (Thursday-Saturday at the Venue, 2675 Ulmerton Road, St. Petersburg), security will be so tight from the limos to the red carpet to the entrance that you'll barely see a celeb, let alone ask for a signature. But chin up. You'll have another shot at Good Life's Thursday night host, Winky Wright, during the TD Cassaway Breast Cancer Awareness Walk on Saturday at North Straub Park in downtown St. Petersburg.
The Steelers will stay at the InterContinental Tampa (4860 W Kennedy Blvd.). The Cardinals will stay at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay (2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa). But those are moot points, because there's no way you're getting anywhere near the players, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. Hotel security will be "tight," he said. McCarthy and other NFL execs are staying at the Tampa Marriott Waterside (700 S Florida Ave., Tampa), though we doubt it's their autographs you're after.
Other hot spots
Many of the diners at Bern's Steak House (1208 S Howard Ave., Tampa) will likely be of the celebrity persuasion. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are nearly booked, but there are still some openings for earlier in the week and Super Bowl Sunday, spokeswoman Heather Sherer-Berkoff said. If you spot a star, follow Sherer-Berkoff's advice: "I certainly wouldn't go up to their table. It's common courtesy not to bug people when they're eating dinner." Your best bets are to nab a celeb in the lobby, during a tour of the kitchen or walking downstairs from the dessert room. Bern's has fielded calls from the NFL and some of the bigger parties coming to town, but there's no way of knowing if the patrons will be athletes and musicians or the suits behind them. And keep in mind that celebs rarely make reservations under their own name; you're unlikely to hear "Springsteen, party of two?" The media center at the Tampa Convention Center (333 S Franklin St., Tampa) will be swarming with recognizable faces from sports and entertainment, but as the name implies, you must have a media credential to enter. When the parties let out, high-rolling celebs will likely head to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (5223 Orient Road, Tampa). You can't interrupt the table games, but celebs on the main floor are fair game. "If they're willing, I don't see any problem with it," public relations manager Gina Morales said. Even better, stop by the casino ballroom Friday for Mike Ditka's Gridiron Greats Autograph Extravaganza, where you can get John Hancocks from dozens of Hall of Famers.
Dalia Colón, Times staff writer