Opera and orchestra soirees
"Powerful, charismatic and gorgeous," that's how opera lovers described Renee Fleming in concert at the Straz Center on Jan. 26. Opera Tampa invited Inner Circle donors to stay for champagne and cookies with the diva as she signed dozens of CDs for fans, including Carol I. Crawford and Pamela Armstrong. Anton Coppola, 92, conducted his former Julliard pupil, who called him "a joy."
Grammy-nominated Alastair Willis turned on his British accent to charm four Florida Orchestra volunteer groups Jan. 19 at the Hands Across the Bay luncheon at Armani's. Tampa and St. Petersburg guilds, North Suncoast Associates and VIVO! members met the Coffee Concert conductor who "sounds just like Hugh Grant," says event chair Gayle Bertelstein.
A Choice Affair
President Obama's visit altered the day for dozens of women expecting to attend the annual A Choice Affair luncheon, including honoree Sen. Arthenia Joyner, chosen by Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida "for her 100 percent proactive, pro-choice voting record." U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor also missed the Jan. 28 benefit, but she no doubt promoted Roe vs. Wade en route to Tampa aboard Air Force One.
But 200 other supporters heard sex-expert Dr. Carol Cassell at Maestro's at the Straz. Why care about 3 million unplanned pregnancies a year, she asked, even if one in four are married women? Because often the babies are abused or neglected and need government funds.
Condom "flower" arrangements and envelopes on each table inspired donations.
Pirateering began in earnest at Ye Mystic Krewe's election party, even though ballots for the 97th court in 106 years won't be counted for weeks. Future king candidates are hush-hush, but either Kerry Carson, Liz Cordell, Kate Gruetzmacher, Cassie Kilcoyne, Mica Rosier or Amanda Von Thron will wear the queen's crown. All five runners-up will be royal maids, escorted by courtiers Paul Dolcimascolo, Thomas Farrior, Bill Long III, Billy Miller and Jack Robbins.
Ye Captain's Ball brought 1,600 dressed-to-prowl pirates and wenches to the Tampa Yacht Club, hosted by Lindsay and Capt. Jim Robbins, on Jan. 28. Joe Stagi played for indoor dancers while Ace Factor rocked outside.
Rainy parade day hosts included Hillsborough Community College president Gwendolyn Stephenson, who offered 125 donors and corporate sponsors a perch in the school's Davis Islands executive office to view the invasion flotilla. Conversation during brunch was mostly about how much she'll be missed when she retires in a few months.
The downpour turned Betsy and Steve Chambers' Bayshore bash into a PG version of Animal House. "It was like a frat party with people smashed into every room,'' said Betsy, guesstimating 400 people crammed inside, including her mom, Betty Wood, and assorted Chiseler chums.
Gen. David Petraeus absorbed his first Gasparilla under a white tent on Jill and Scott Kelley's front lawn. The CentCom commander and his wife, Holly, arrived with a 28-cop motorcycle escort.
Capital Grille waiters served lamb chops and crab cakes beside hot dog and funnel cake carts.
Among the dozen guests: Don Phillips, Renee and Ron Vaughn, Christi and David Laxer and Natalie and Vince Monticciolo.
Attorney general candidate Pam Bondi, ophthalmologist Greg Henderson and University of Tampa visiting instructor Robin Guess also cruised by.