TAMPA — As a cheerleader for his city, Mayor Bob Buckhorn will ham it up with anyone but draws the line at dancing in public.
At least he did until Thursday and the kickoff news conference for the International Indian Film Academy's 15th annual Weekend & Awards.
There, Buckhorn was coerced into dancing in front of dozens of news cameras, then got gigged about it by Gov. Rick Scott.
Less than 24 hours after Buckhorn said, "We can dance with the best of them — except for me," organizers pulled him on stage to dance with the best of them: actor Anil Kapoor and three Bollywood dance contest winners.
The music was Do Da Tampa, the propulsive IIFA theme song composed by and featuring Tampa native DJ Ravidrums. Buckhorn tried to exit stage right. Kapoor, an even bigger showman than the mayor, pulled him center stage for an impromptu lesson. Kapoor's move featured more hip-thrusting than you typically see from a local elected official. Buckhorn, a deliberately poor student, simply moved his hands. Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham likewise was called to dance, albeit with less protesting.
"Now that my political career is over, maybe I can run for office in Mumbai or somewhere," Buckhorn said after.
And that was before organizers called Scott to the microphone. The governor's public persona has been described as stiff and wooden, but on Thursday his timing and understatement were spot-on.
"First," Scott said, "I want to compliment the mayor and the commissioner. That's unbelievable dancing."
And they weren't done. By the end of the conference, Buckhorn was back up dancing with Kapoor, plus Bollywood stars Priyanka Chopra and Sonakshi Sinha and Hollywood's Stephen Baldwin.
It's shaping up to be that kind of weekend.
IIFA Expo glitters with clothing, jewelry, food
Real estate developers from India looked to win new investors. Two food stalls offered samosas and all things masala. UNICEF touted children's issues.
But most prominent Thursday at the IIFA Expo at the Tampa Convention Center were the Indian clothes, bright and glittering.
Mother and daughter Carol and Kelly Binding wandered through the 40 or so stalls mesmerized by wares retailers brought from mostly Atlanta but also Tampa, Chicago, New Jersey and even as far as New Delhi.
"We just came here to learn about what the different outfits are and about the different kinds of saris and where you'd wear them," Carol Binding said. "Everything's so colorful."
"It's a lot pricier than we expected," she said.
Especially by standards in bargain-savvy India. Clothing almost exclusively was priced at more than $100 with some prices upward of $2,000.
Jewelry also was on display at prices that seemed easier to swallow. Riddhi Fazal came from Atlanta with jewelry from her online sales outfit Belsi's Collection, priced from $40 up.
"It seemed like a good place to showcase our products because there are people coming in from all over," she said. "Earrings sell well because they're so easy to match with any outfit."
The crowd was steady but not large throughout the event, which continues today and Saturday — until the stars arrived.
Hundreds of fans pressed in when actor Anil Kapoor entered to inaugurate the first-time IIFA event by cutting a red ribbon and lighting a ceremonial lamp.
"I never expected this," Kapoor said to a crowd screaming and chanting "Mr. India," an iconic 1987 role he played. "I expected everyone to be there at the awards, but … finding crowds everywhere I go this weekend shows a spectacular success."