Mary Murphy, the So You Think You Can Dance judge, gave Gold and Diamond Source vice president Julie Weintraub a facial. Could there be a greater testament to the bond the two women share? Murphy, a center of attention on the Fox talent show because of her exuberant reviews of dance routines, became fast friends with Weintraub a few years back. Last week, Weintraub and her husband, Steve, visited Murphy in Los Angeles, lending her more than $1 million in diamonds that Murphy sported on the Sept. 3 episode.
"After the show, I spent a couple of days at her house," said Weintraub, who frequently appears on television commercials with Steve. "Mary said, 'When is the last time you had a facial. I said, 'I can't even remember.' She said you can't do TV without getting a facial.
"Just because of our work and doing the philanthropy work, we've met a lot of celebrities. But when you find someone who will give you a facial — know what I mean . . . she's a keeper."
In a recent interview with Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper, Weintraub shared how she grew to be friends with Murphy, who again wore jewelry from the family-owned Clearwater business when the Season 10 winners were announced Sept. 10. She also talked about plans for her Oct. 5 Tampa Bay's Dancing With the Stars fundraiser at Tampa's TPepin Hospitality Centre, and why she devotes so much time to her Hands Across the Bay nonprofit group.
How did you and Mary Murphy become friends?
We were doing an event (in 2010) for Audrey Mabrey, the domestic violence victim who was set on fire by her estranged husband. We reached out to her and asked her to write a letter of encouragement to Audrey because she loves the show and she had been attacked. Instead of writing a letter, Mary contacted us and even though she was traveling around the world for So You Think You Can Dance, she said, "I just flew from Australia to L.A. I want to attend this event for Audrey. If I fly into Tampa Bay, can you pick me up?" I said, "Absolutely." She stayed in my home and she was just the nicest person. My daughter had a basketball game (at Holy Family Catholic School) and I said, "You can stay here and relax and sit by the pool. Instead, she came with us and watched the game with all the other parents and moms. My daughter felt so special. She's just a very nice person. We've been friends ever since.
Tell me about your upcoming fundraiser.
We call it Tampa Bay's Dancing With the Stars. We're really excited. We're just about sold out. The biggest thing people can do to help is go to our page and vote for their favorite dancer. Philanthropists, business owners, an amputee and even a domestic violence victim, Melissa Dohme, who was stabbed 32 times. To me, she's a walking miracle. We always have a focus on domestic violence. We may even have a webcast for the show because we have so many people who want to come. It's going to be a very special year. Votes are only $10 and if everybody goes in, it's a great way to help out.
Who will be the benefactors?
Every year, we pick five or six different charities that we feel are doing good work. We pick different charities and many are not as well known and don't get the exposure. I see a lot more hands-on work by these women and men who are starting grass roots charities. Other charities don't always get the funding. People want to spend the dollars on the big charities that already get a lot of dollars. A lot of times, what we donate is an absolute lifeline to help these charities stay in business. We try to make the most of the funds we give. We like the smaller charities or a larger charity that has a need and niche that we can help fulfill.
What's your motivation with the charity? What keeps you going?
I was going to say Red Bull. (laughs) On a serious note, my father is an inventor and at times, we had a lot of nice things, but there were a lot of times where we didn't. We lost a house. I remember in high school worrying about the electricity getting shut off. I started busing tables, before it was legal for me to work, at a Greek restaurant (in Clearwater). This Greek family knew I was desperate. In high school (at Dunedin High), most of my clothes came from a thrift store in Dunedin. I remember this teacher, Mrs. Whitehead — all the girls had culotte shorts and since I was buying from the thrift store, I was always six months to a year behind — cared enough about me to buy the stylish shorts and donate clothes to me. I know what it's like to have everything, and to have nothing. I know what it was like when someone stepped up to give me a helping hand. I always try to remember that when I go forward. God gives to you and he can take it away. He's blessed me again to do work worthy of success, so we've been giving. I'm always trying to be the person that other people were to me when I needed help.
As one of the founders of the former Dogwater Cafe and the creator of your own interior design business, you are often called upon to give presentations to companies about marketing and entrepreneurship. What do you try to communicate?
Some people request different things when I do the speaking engagements, but what I try to deliver — whether they ask for it or not — is a message about putting community responsibility into your business. Business owners have told me they can't afford to give away something. I say, "You can't afford not to." It's so important to get out and talk to people and support your community. The person you helped today may be a customer tomorrow. One local corporation's charitable givings were little to none and they didn't think there was any purpose.
We talked about it and now they're doing a lot more and realizing it's just so important. One of the biggest things is your employees. Our employees are proud to work here and happy to work here. The morale is high when they pull up to work because they know we do good things. We just don't sell people stuff and take. We give back. Those are the things I try to relate to the owners of a company.
Sunday Conversation is edited for brevity and clarity.