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Fall finery, full house for museum benefit

A record crowd of more than 200 filled the St. Petersburg Yacht Club ballroom Wednesday for the Stuart Society's annual luncheon and fashion show to benefit the Museum of Fine Arts. And that is good news since attendance at some recent fundraisers has been down.

We arrived to the elegant strains of Mozelle Bell's violin as Stuart Society president Bettye Black and event chairwoman Joan Jaicks greeted us along with hostesses trying to induce us to buy "opportunity" tickets, which are really raffle tickets except we cannot call them that anymore since raffles are illegal. But opportunities, as we all know, are always welcome.

Past presidents able to attend were Mary Wheeler, Mabel Easton, Elizabeth Thurston, Jane Hennessy, Judy Stanton, Vicki Fox, Greta Meyer, Fran Risser, Betty Breedon and Jeanne Tucker.

Among the familiar faces I had not seen for several months were Helen O'Brien; Fran Davis; Bonita Cobb, wearing an interesting pin she found in Carmel, Calif.; Barbara Robison; Virginia Harrison, recovering nicely from a broken shoulder; Dolores Scales; Judy Cuniff; Iris Salzer; Carol Dameron, who has holed up in her studio working on new paintings; and Hanna Koch.

Also mingling were museum board president Carol Upham in an elegant fall suit; Starr Weihe in an elegant fall hat; Fay Nielsen; Mary Wyatt Allen; Mary Joan Mann; Madge McFall; Dottie Reeder; Joane Miller; Donna Nagelsen; Mary Moeller; Edie Pace, who surprised me with news of her recent kayaking trip; Judy Stanton and her daughter Judy Holland; Mary Christian; Mary Lou DeVoe; Ruth Gray; Dr. Susan Beaven; Lois Atkins; and Fay Baynard, who arrived hauling what looked like a bag of sailing gear that turned out to be shoes to match the outfits she was wearing in the fashion show.

My table was a lot of fun, with Jennifer St. Cin and her mother, Jeannine Hascall, Anje Bogott, Wendy Chastelet, Suzanne MacDougald, one of the good sports who agreed to be a volunteer model, Mrs. Fox, Sally Habermeyer, Cary Bond Thomas and Rebecca Walter, who recently moved here from Tampa and resides in the Florencia.

It pains me to report that the club's kitchen, which usually does a nice job on mass meals, faltered on this one. The slices of turkey were fine, but I am not at all sure about the viscous yellow sauce resembling pineapple jam that coated it or the uninspired acorn squash that accompanied it, nor was I overwhelmed by the soggy puff pastry of my dessert napoleon.

The fashion show by Coplons on Beach Drive was full of energy and lovely fall clothes worn by Stuart Society members Patty Gassner, Mrs. MacDougald, Mrs. Baynard, Anne Anderson, Carol Ann Rhodes, Kim Brett, Carol Barbosa, Joann Barger and Carol Jones. Store manager Suzanne Fisher bucked what seems to be a trend in fashion shows that send models down the runway in fast-paced waves with no commentary. Mrs. Fisher stuffs us with all kinds of information. My favorite new word is ombre, pronounced like "hombre" even though it has nothing to do with a Spanish guy. It means gradation of shades of a color and described a chiffon evening outfit that flowed from deep red to pale pink and was beautiful in the ombre-ist way possible.

The PARC Black-Tie, benefitting the Pinellas Association for Retarded Children, was great fun. Co-chairwomen Joann Barger, Thelma Gilbert, Celma Mastry, Marty Medley, Cheryl Sanchez and Maritza Smith organized the 32nd annual event, Oct. 27 at the Sirata Beach Resort.

I liked the drama of huge silver candelabra with tapers and flowers, surrounded by fall leaves sent by an Atlanta friend of Candy Scherer, who decorated the tables, along with Tina McDonough and Edie Spies.

No word yet on the total profits, but they raised $31,000 on the chance drawing (not a raffle!) for a 2001 DeVille donated by Dew Cadillac, a most generous gesture. Public relations director Mary Mahoney is not releasing the name of the winner, but if you see an acquaintance tooling around town in a new car wearing a big smile, it could be the person who now owns a luxury automobile valued at more than $50,000 purchased for $50, which was the price of a chance ticket.

Party planners, take note: A new venue is coming to town. StarShip is a 180-foot yacht, built in 1999 as a party boat. It can accommodate up to 600 people on three decks and can be chartered in its entirety for big bashes or sectionally for as many as eight smaller ones. Jack Glasure, who represents its owners, tells me it has its own band and chefs and will offer upscale dining and entertainment _ no gambling _ for private parties. It will be docked at Channelside in Tampa, but will cruise over to our side of Tampa Bay when needed. The yacht will be moored at the Pier on Tuesday and you can check it out at a cocktail party, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Call 821-8700 for information.