Amy Scherzer's Diary: End of year revelry, a Vodka and Outback celebrations, too

Published January 5 2012

Outback Bowl 2012

Glowing reports scored points for the Outback Bowl home team, led by CEO Jim McVay, from University of Georgia Bulldogs and Michigan State Spartans players and fans. Of course, none was happier than Michigan State, which broke a 30-30 tie in the third overtime to win 33-30 Monday at Raymond James Stadium.

The preceding week, Tampa Bay dished out Outback-brand hospitality, right down to the weather. Besides bowling, beach games, Busch Gardens and a New Year's Eve parade, visitors were treated to a Ladies Luncheon on Dec. 27 and a Gridiron Gala on Dec. 30.

Coaches' wives Katharyn Richt and Becky Dantonio, plus a few dozen athletic department spouses, enjoyed lunch at Roy's, hosted by Outback Bowl chairman Dale Dignum.

"We stay neutral,'' said luncheon chairwoman Darby Miller, referring to her committee, "but we make an exception for Pat Daley who was a University of Georgia varsity cheerleader."

A table full of kids really got into the entertainment, hula lessons from Netane Polynesian Productions.

Sponsors and corporate ticket buyers "glowed" at the Gridiron Gala, chaired by Tracie Domino for sponsores MetLife and five area Mercedes-Benz dealers. Dancers, drummers and a deejay donned neon colors to entertain 1,800 guests in the darkened A La Carte Event Pavilion ballroom. Bonefish Grill, Fleming's, Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's Italian Grill spread out buffets and bars. Giant cakes sported team logos near the smoky terrace where Thompson & Co. folks passed out cigars.

"Two years in a row, they let me back in the stadium,'' said Jon Gruden, pulling his Monday Night Football and Outback Bowl co-commentator Mike Tirico onto the stage, as Outback Steakhouse co-founder Chris Sullivan cheered him on.

Rooftop Eve

The red carpet stretched 100 feet from Timpano's Chop House past Restoration Hardware as 1,700 revelers celebrated at the glitzy Rooftop Eve atop a Hyde Park Village parking garage. Guests reached the top via stairs, elevator or on a valet-chauffeured golf cart. As they waited, performer Pat Fenda zinged her "Roan Jivers" velvet rope critique of the bling-y bash.

The Flats rocked out 2011 and rang in 2012 with DJ Papi in a huge white tent made cozy with furnished, curtained cabanas. Champagne bubbled as the chic crowd danced and drank against the skyline. The Dec. 31 party raised more than $5,000 for Heartbeat International.

Vodka Latke

Seeing no need to wait up for Santa on Christmas Eve, the young adults of the Tampa Jewish Federation headed to Vodka Latke at Mangrove's in SoHo. The annual mingling minus mistletoe is a tradition for 21- to 45-year-old singles and a bunch of young marrieds. Tampa Bay Matchmakers, sponsor of the evening, not-so-subtly attached mints and toothpicks to its business cards.

Since it was the fifth night of Hanukkah, potato pancakes and potato vodka were popular. Most of the 175 guests brought canned goods to exchange for drink tickets. Team Sandfastic's Larry Hudson, husband of Mangrove's co-owner, Debbie Hudson, sculpted a sand menorah out front.

And those T-shirts spotted on some of the hosts that said "Got Rabies?" They promoted the next young adult party at the Jewish Film Festival on Feb. 18 following the screening of Rabies, the first Israeli horror movie.