11/24/15 Human Interest
LifePath Hospice Island Night
Harbour Island conveniently subbed for the Hawaiian islands when Jackson's Bistro hosted a Big Kahuna luau for LifePath Hospice's 24th annual Island Night. Fire-twirling dancers thrilled and the Landsharks band grooved Nov. 15, but once again, the bountiful buffet stole the show, from roast pig to sushi to gelato and a chocolate fountain. Sipping margaritas and mojitos on the balmy waterfront, guests could play blackjack, roulette and craps, shop a thrift store display and sample gooey s'mores to help send "s'more" kids to Camp Circle of Love. Live auction vacation packages and chef dinners went up for bid two weeks earlier online, but Herman "Steve" Stephenson was right there to score the Holland America cruise. In 24 years, Island Night has raised $2.45 million to help Tampa Bay residents and their caregivers make end-of-life choices....
11/17/15 Human Interest
JDRF Dream Gala
A Friday the 13th Dream Gala sure was lucky for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Tampa Bay chapter, which raised $600,000 "to turn Type 1 into Type None," said Night of Hope emcee Jen Holloway, who pointed out youngsters wearing patches that monitor their insulin level via an iPhone app.
Making life more manageable for those kids while work progresses toward a cure inspired auctioneer Gary Connors. His Fund a Cure appeal collected $400,000 from the 350 guests and he got a bid of $5,100 from Mike and Briley Cienkosz for the Give & Grub Gourmet food truck party for 50, with live music, adult beverages, Wright's Gourmet House desserts, a $50 Costco gift card plus 50 additional meals donated to needy families....
Seeing his name on buildings is not what made auto dealer Frank Morsani one of the Tampa Bay area's biggest philanthropists.
Rather, living the American Dream is what made him want to share his good fortune, as well as the values that helped create it and the responsibility it brings, all of which Morsani writes about in a new memoir, To Be Frank: Building the American Dream in Business and Life. ...
11/12/15 Human Interest
Naughty or nice? The provocative duality delighted Pavilion XXX celebrants dancing in a neon Pink Light District, dining on lobster and roast beef tenderloin and splurging on auction temptations at the Tampa Museum of Art gala. Co-chairs Penny and Jeff Vinik's 30-year tribute popped like the champagne flowing Saturday as LA Follies dancers vamped in scanty panties and Heather Morgan painted celebrity sparkleheads in a peep show....
11/05/15 Human Interest
Chatting between ballads, movie-star handsome in a black suit and tie, Kevin Costner and his Modern West band put the "star" in Starlight Gala, the Florida Hospital West Florida Region Foundation's annual benefit. By the end of the private concert, the audience wrapped the stage in a Mr. Tambourine Man sing-along that had everyone, including honorary chairmen Penny and Jeff Vinik, on their feet....
TAMPA — Stand up comic, writer and author Carol Leifer cracked up the sisterhood of Tampa's Congregation Schaarai Zedek's annual Star Event luncheon Monday at the Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza.
"You didn't tell me the hotel was attached to a mall," Leifer launched. With a spot of free time to explore, "I was delighted to find my favorite perfume at Nordstrom.
"It's called Tester and it smells different every time you use it."...
10/27/15 Human Interest
Tuxes & Tails
Friendly four-legged homeless guests looked as purrrr-ty as the pet-loving crowd at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay's annual Tuxes & Tails gala. Downtown Dogs dressed the adoptables, from a 2-pound kitty to a 100-pound mastiff, walking the runway as WTVT-Ch.13's Russell Rhodes and Cynthia Smoot barked up their best qualities. A record-setting 42 animals found families among the 960 guests, said CEO Sherry Silk....
10/22/15 Human Interest
A retinue of statuesque drag queens towered over admirers at the Straz Center's annual Broadway Ball, all possible customers of the sturdy stilettos that saved the shoe factory in the Tony-, Emmy- and Grammy-winning musical Kinky Boots which opens at the Straz on Dec. 1.
Co-chairs Lori and Bill Goede touted a $100 million performing arts impact crowd as sponsor Barry Levine outed his inner "Lady Barbara," smashing in wig, sparkly dress and shiny red, thigh-high boots. More committee members — none in drag — popped up to help auctioneer Jason Alpert sell a 42-bottle wine collection for $5,500. More bids rang out, for a Broadway trip, sports tickets and Duncan McClellan's Kinky Boots glasswork. When Straz CEO Judy Lisi asked for $1,000 Patel Conservatory scholarships, 65 guests raised their hands. Saturday's net proceeds will reach $400,000....
10/15/15 Human Interest
TAMPA — In the 10 months since Susana Weymouth took over as executive director of Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture & the Arts, she has strategically trumpeted the incontrovertible role the arts plays in making the city more desirable for work and play.
Started in 1989 as a chamber of commerce booster to highlight the economic opportunities created by the arts, TBBCA became one of 12 affiliates of Americans for the Arts. Partnerships with individuals and businesses contributing from $250 to $10,000 collectively fund scholarships for art students, artists' stipends and cultural encounters. Corporate partners earn community kudos as they foster new business, create jobs and enhance tourism; arts organizations gain resources and widen their audiences. ...
10/15/15 Human Interest
Tampa Bay History Center Gala
The seventh Tampa Bay History Center gala, elegantly co-chaired by Linda Ward and Rosemary Henderson, offered more memories for the archives. Ward said seeing the excited faces of students on a field trip while visiting the museum impelled her to help plan the Oct. 9 benefit.
The picturesque buffet of paella campesina, roasted lean buffalo sirloin and much more catered by the Columbia restaurant was all the decor needed in TECO Hall. Hydroponic herbs and lettuce wraps from Uriah's Urban Farms were just as artistic, served by gala committee member chef Caroline Brabson Thaxton. Root beer floats and a waffle station put nostalgia on the dessert bar. Honorary chairmen former Gov. Bob and Mary Jane Martinez ended the night whirling on the dance floor. "Visionary" chairs Jay and Erin Annis welcomed the late-night, under-40, reduced-rate crowd....
10/09/15 Real Estate
TAMPA — The "for sale" sign will stay up. But until a deal is struck, Egypt Shrine will rent its popular A La Carte Event Pavilion on its own.
Starting Feb. 1, event planners may rent the meeting space, the covered terrace and outdoor barbecue area at what will be renamed A La Carte Shrine Pavilion.
While the property remains for sale, the venue will become more of a DIY-operation for weddings and social events....
10/08/15 Human Interest
Tampa Bay's Dancing With the Stars 2015
Far more than fancy footwork captivated the audience at Tampa Bay's Dancing With the Stars glitzy dinner and dance-off. Five victims of domestic violence described surviving unimaginable abuse and in five minutes helped Julie and Steve Weintraub raise $20,000 for their Hands Across the Bay foundation, which Tom and Lauren Pepin immediately doubled. The glam frenzy fireballed as 13 pairs of dancers competed for guests' votes and judges' raves Saturday at TPepin's Hospitality Centre. Orlando Davis, Ashley Glass, Ashley Batey and Ian Beckles — spiffy in red beret and red shoes — snagged breathless interviews after each routine....
10/01/15 Human Interest
OLD WEST TAMPA — The time is now, predicts banker- turned-developer Rob Morris, to raise the curtain on Old West Tampa, starting with a community theater he's renovating north of the Howard/Armenia Avenue exit of Interstate 275.
Called the Space at 2106 Main, it could be the heart of an arts district with the potential to rejuvenate a neglected neighborhood.
"Old West Tampa has been forgotten but can't remain so," Morris said. "It's such an opportunity, with so much history … a three-minute drive from downtown....
10/01/15 Human Interest
Art of Helping Children gala
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay billed its 17th annual gala as An Evening of Wine and Roses, but guests heard that Port Richey police Chief Rob Lovering's rough and tough New Jersey childhood was no bed of roses 30 years ago. Witnessing a surprise reunion with his "Big Brother" Bill Patchett, the audience, including CEO Pam Iorio, realized the profound and lasting impact of that relationship. Another emotional high at the Art of Helping Children benefit Sept. 19: meeting Alan Cohen and SirGiorgio, 13, of Sulphur Springs, the 2015 Big and Little Brother of the Year....
09/17/15 Human Interest
Tampa Theatre's 14th annual WineFest
Geeky Napoleon and his pal Pedro meandered through Napoleon Wineamite, the Tampa Theatre's weeklong food and wine fest that stole its name from the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite. Tasting events ranged from a $10 Movie under the Stars (Bring Your Own Blanket or lawn chair) to a rainy Sunday brunch to Mise en Place's fancy, five-course $250 dinner on the stage. "We'll raise more than $100,000 overall," said chairman John Wolfe II....