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Museum benefit lets diners eat amid the art

One of the great treats of attending the Salvador Dali Museum benefit dinner each year is to be seated in the galleries amid the art.

"Art looks wonderful in a human environment," museum director Hank Hine told guests at the Feb. 28 event, which was sponsored by William R. Hough & Co.

We were able to admire the works of Dali mentor Joan Miro, now on display in Dali and Miro circa 1928, in addition to the works in the permanent collection.

The Morse award, a foot-high crystal Tiffany obelisk, went to Karol Bullard, dinner committee chairwoman, board member and longtime volunteer, who wore a sunny-colored gown.

"If I had my guitar, I would launch into a version of Yellow Bird," mused fellow board member Tom James.

Dinner patrons received cobalt blue heart-shaped Elsa Peretti paperweights from Tiffany & Co.

Museum co-founder Eleanor Morse wore a pendant she called Elephant on Spindly Legs, a representation of a detail from Dali's Les Elephants. It was a gift from the Dali museum in Figueres, Spain.

Dick and Helen Minck brought her sister, Martha Farmer, who was visiting from Lima, Ohio.

Also attending were Bill and Hazel Hough, Jonathan Bruckner and Jennifer Dunlap of Tampa, Bill and Sally Habermeyer, Don and Chris Eastman, Catherine McGarry, Chuck Rainey, JoAnn Pheil, Dwayne Hawkins, Joyce LaRue, Bob Ulrich, Bill and Kathy Stover, Ron and Jane Anne Lees, Sam and Demi Rahall, Roxanne Greenstone, Diane Lake Weatherell, Jerry and Charlotte Kendall, Wade and Brenda Brickhouse, Andy and Betty Corty, Sonia Miller, Bill and Jane Emerson, Dr. Lawrence and Carole Merritt, Jim and Suzanne MacDougald, Russ and Nancy Bond, Bruce Marger, Robb and Susan Hough, Bob and Tina Douglass, Marshall Rousseau, Dr. Norval Marr and Ardith Rutland, Dave and Helen Fineberg, Aila McEwen, Lela Kelly, Natasha Nickodem, LuEllen Murphy, David Scherer and Lola Walker.

Michael's on East from Sarasota prepared the food for the evening. Dessert was a sculptural replication of Miro's painting, Oiseau sur on rocher (Bird on a Rock), in which an air-brushed white chocolate shell held nougat truffle served over lingonberry sauce.

Patt Lamb, the organization's catering director, said hello to Paul Mattison, who had a night off from the kitchen, as did Ed Shamas, who attended with his wife, Betty.

Spectacular centerpieces were an homage to the artists' works. The one at my table had a base of PVC pipe and the primary colors characteristic of Miro: red anthuriums and heliconia berries, yellow lilies and "dancing lady" orchids and blue delphinium.

The event was a celebration of the museum's 21st anniversary.

A group of parishioners from St. Jude's Cathedral in St. Petersburg recently participated in an audience with Pope John Paul II in Rome and visited Mel Sembler, the St. Petersburg business leader who is U.S. ambassador to Italy.

Markus Mittermayr, executive vice president of the St. Petersburg Travel Center, said they were among 3,000 to 4,000 people in the audience at the Vatican.

"We were probably 300 feet away from him, maybe 400 feet," Mittermayr said. He travels in a "standing wheelchair" and speaks for about an hour.

"He welcomes people in all the different languages, and there were 30 bishops from all over the world."

The group also visited two clergymen who are on sabbatical from St. Jude's: the Very Rev. David DeJulio, rector, who is at the Pontifical North American College, and the Rev. Joel Kovanis, who is studying at Casa Santa Maria.

Also participating in the 10-day trip were Mittermayr's wife, Susan, and their son, Anthony; Janice Morgan; Samuel Horton; John and Carolyn Fox; Dr. Jorge and Elena Miyares; Walter and Jane Swan; and Dr. Richard Phares and his daughter, Kayla.

Mel Sembler received the Mittermayrs and the Swans in his office in the Palazzo Margherita, which the United States acquired in 1946.

"His office is just what you'd imagine in a museum," Mittermayr said, with "beautiful wood floors, and gold on the chandelier."

The Venus by Giambologna (1583), a classical masterpiece that depicts the goddess of beauty as she emerges from her bath, is the embassy's most important art work, recently appraised at $17-million.

Mittermayr said it is lit at night so that it can be seen from the street.

_ Mary Jane Park can be reached at (727) 893-8267; fax (727) 893-8675; e-mail; P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.