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Famous ape promotes fund-raiser

Fay Wray fainted straight away in 1933 when King Kong broke from his chains and swooped her up in his gorilla grasp.

But when Kong loped down Zack Street on Thursday, passing out invitations to a double feature showing of two American films in which he starred, the '90s woman was decidedly blase.

"Thank you babe," cooed Terry Himes from behind sunglasses as she took an invitation from the gorilla. Himes, a teacher visiting Tampa from Okaloosa County, was eating lunch at an outside table with three colleagues.

That bit of gorilla theater during a crowded lunch hour on the Franklin Street Mall was staged to promote the Tampa Museum of Art's Drive-In Jungle Jam on Saturday night. The fund-raiser will take place on the third floor of the Poe Garage, on the corner of Ashley Drive and Cass Street.

As the sun sets over the Hillsborough River, Kong will beat his chest in front of high-rise buildings, and the reggae music of Uprising will waft into the air. After dark, a double feature showing of King Kong will be shown: the 1933 film starring Wray and the 1976 film starring Jessica Lange. A full meal will be served by Outback Steakhouse. The cost of the evening is a $15 donation to the museum.

The museum's public relations staff came up with the idea as they scouted the parking garage trying to think of a good theme. Someone imagined King Kong scaling the NationsBank Building.

"We were thinking campy," explained Paula Parrish, a public relations consultant for the museum.

The theme also fit nicely with the Silouette Selections exhibit on display at the museum until July 18. A 1990 color photograph of Wray by Josef Astor is part of that exhibit.

In addition to promoting the Drive-In Jungle Jam, Kong also picked up the keys to a 1993 Jeep Cherokee Sport from Ferman Jeep-Eagle on W Kennedy Boulevard for Donna Bright. Bright, a sales representative for a medical supply company, won the automobile in a raffle that raised about $20,000 for the museum, Parrish said.