05/21/15 Human Interest
The Gumbo Boogie Band fiddled guests into a black-tie bayou at Ronald McDonald House Charities' 16th annual Storybook Ball, this year Swamp Kids, Leif N. Pedersen's tales of Pierre a la Gator, Tutu the turtle and Sashay the Crawfish. Busch Gardens authenticated the series bringing a live gator, snake and owl to the Marriott Waterside on Saturday, plus gifted all 600 guests with a ticket to come see more. The String Divas electrified the music and the Southtown Fever band swamped the dance floor and s'mores melted over fiery logs....
05/14/15 Human Interest
Lots of guests wore the color purple — neckties to evening gowns — to the Spring of Tampa Bay's annual Purple Gala, various shades of the bruises often seen on victims of domestic violence.
"There's so much work to be done," said Mindy Murphy, CEO of Tampa's certified domestic violence center. "Advocating starts with you . . . listen, offer support, be available, as you are tonight as donors." Emcee Don Germaise did his part, upping the event proceeds by $6,000 when he auctioned an Arizona vacation and a St. Pete staycation....
05/05/15 Human Interest
Sixth annual Wishmaker's Ball
Sporting hats and high hopes, the Wishmaker's Ball was off to the races Saturday, tying Make-a-Wish Central & Northern Florida's annual benefit to the 141st Kentucky Derby. Event chairman Steven Gillis kicked off the bash by inviting everyone in the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay lobby to join the 350 gala guests for mint juleps and $5 betting games, hopefully on thoroughbred American Pharoah....
04/28/15 Human Interest
Tampa General Hospital Foundation gala
Gala chairwomen Catherine Christie-Zanghi, Heidrun Divers and Gretchen Dominguez made rounds, chief of staff Chas Edwards checked the party pulse and CEO Jim Burkhart scrubbed in Saturday at Tampa General Hospital Foundation's annual bash. Previous themes captured a specific moment in time, but "Channelside: Experience Industrial Elegance" glammed up a vast cruise terminal with galvanized aluminium chandeliers and silky white drapery. Puff n' Stuff catered tin can salads, scallops and short ribs, plus risotto, dessert and coffee bars. Casino tables, an artwork auction and Breezin' Mixology entertained the 600 guests in black-tie and white dinner jackets helping to raise $325,000 for the TGH Fund for the Future....
TAMPA — As her father's health worsened, Sheena Swartz widened her search for the perfect wedding gown. She didn't know if he'd live to see her marry Nick Bentley, but she promised that he would see his only child in the dress of her dreams.
"I tried on more and more until I got the one he absolutely loved," Sheena said.
Paul Swartz of Fort Myers, the victim of a 2004 car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down, passed away at age 58. He exemplified how to make the best of any situation, Sheena said in her eulogy last year....
04/23/15 Human Interest
22nd annual Magnolia Ball
Earth Wind & Fire grooved its greatest hits, rewarding elated Magnolia Ball guests for raising $3,270,775 to expand research and treatment at the Moffitt Cancer Center. Carol and Frank Morsani started the gala appeal with an offer to match the first $500,000. As donors' names flashed across video screens, CEO Dr. Alan List popped up to announce another $500,000 pledge, this one from Jeff and Penny Vinik who were off celebrating the Tampa Bay Lightning win Saturday....
04/16/15 Visual Arts
TAMPA — Ruby Bridges couldn't have imagined the millions of lives she would change that day, Nov. 14, 1960, when U.S. marshals walked her into first grade. Nor was it likely Norman Rockwell anticipated the effect his painting of those historic steps would have.
An artist who specialized in magazine covers, Rockwell stretched the era's publishing boundaries to depict the lone 6-year-old, black child integrating an all-white, public school in New Orleans, the first in the Deep South. Rockwell didn't even know Ruby's name when he painted The Problem We All Live With for the cover of Look magazine in 1964....
04/15/15 Human Interest
Red wine, red evening gowns and a rosy outlook for cardiac research primed Tampa Bay Heart Ball guests to pump more than $1 million into the American Heart Association. Even absentee patrons participated: Jeff and Penny Vinik and Chris and Sandi Sullivan phoned in their $50,000 donations to seed the Open Your Heart appeal Saturday at A La Carte Event Pavilion. Co-chairs Lorraine and Bob Dutkowsky followed with $25,000, then Lauren and Tom Pepin with $30,000 and 2016 Heart Ball co-chairs Nina and Trey Traviesa with $10,000. As dozens of donors popped up, heart transplant recipient Madeline Jones delivered each a framed copy of a poem she wrote....
04/09/15 Human Interest
Mayor's Inaugural Ball
The Economic Club, called the Exchange Club until last year, offered a black-tie, big bang theory to launch Bob Buckhorn's second term. Organizers correctly theorized a two-part Mayor's Inaugural Ball would sell out, starting with dinner on a Straz Center stage for 400 FOBs (Friends of Bob), and ending with a big bang: spectacular fireworks on the riverfront. Former mayors Sandy Freedman (1986-1995 ), Bob Martinez (1979-1986) and Dick Greco (1967-1974 and 1995-2003) nodded knowingly as Mayor No. 58 enthused about the city's explosive growth and potential....
04/02/15 Human Interest
TAMPA — When the band playing in the courtyard took a break that day, Ester Steinberg seized the moment.
It was lunch time, senior year, at Plant High. She climbed on top of a picnic table and riffed on her life, zinging her parents, the yearbook, Facebook. The straight-A cheerleader worked the crowd like an Improv pro, the laughter energizing a budding comic.
Flash forward seven years and you find the Oxygen channel tapping Steinberg, 25, and five other female comedians for a new docu-series, Funny Girls, which premiers Tuesday at 9 p.m. During eight hourlong episodes, cameras document, reality-show style, their everyday lives in the standup comedy culture as they perform all over Los Angeles. Several big-name comics mentor the ambitious young women, in Steinberg's case, Margaret Cho and Bill Burr....
03/31/15 Human Interest
Gasparilla International Film Festival
Volunteers scrubbed every seat in the defunct Channelside Bay Plaza movie theater prepping to reel 130 films at the Suncoast Credit Union Gasparilla International Film Festival. Their efforts — hundreds of hours — were appreciated by some 15,000 moviegoers and filmmakers.
The Florida premiere of The Surface opened the five-day fest March 24 at Tampa Theatre, drawing 900 cinephiles. Actor Chris Mulkey, director Gil Cates and the star, Sean Astin, the charming son of Patty Duke and John "Gomez Addams" Astin, enjoyed the Q & A that followed....
03/26/15 Human Interest
Friends of Joshua House Foundation
Lisa DeBartolo and Don Miggs sheltered Joshua House Foundation's annual Circle of Friends dinner at their Palma Ceia home to help the shelter continue caring for the neglected and abused children under its roof.
No roof covered the Marrakesh Express party March 20, served alfresco by Mise en Place with vivid decor donated by K-4 Productions. Ophelia's fiery belly dance on goblets and guitarist Ted Wray played to the theme....
03/20/15 Human Interest
Chiselers' Market Preview Party
Sure, the open bars and cocktail buffet attracted some, but attractive bargains were the main lure at the 19th annual Chiselers' Market Preview Party: china fit for a queen, stacks of silver platters and irresistible collectibles. Co-chaired by Casey Cathey and Jane Williams, the benefit brought 500-plus guests to Plant Hall at the University of Tampa on March 13. Everything bought that night cost "twice the price" as the next morning when throngs flocked to the 52nd annual Chiselers' Market....
TAMPA — As the owner of five construction equipment dealerships, Alexander "Sandy" MacKinnon set specific goals to attain success in business, a practice he carried over in times of bereavement.
He suggested Sandra "Sandy" Cross do the same to help cope with her own loss.
Before long, the two "Sandys" realized they shared more than a name; they shared a vision of a future together....
03/12/15 Human Interest
TAMPA — What's new at the 52nd Chiselers Market?
Chairwoman Jan Ely gladly rattles off improvements to what has been called Tampa's biggest indoor garage sale.
All types of credit cards will be accepted this year. Information booths will help orient shoppers to the various departments. And purchases can be stored at three Will Call areas.
Three complete estates were donated to Saturday's collection of highly desirable castoffs for sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the University of Tampa's Plant Hall, the former Tampa Bay Hotel built by rail magnate Henry B. Plant in 1891....