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Foundation in scouting; a reporter's lyrical bent

It's difficult to imagine a better speaker for the Women of Distinction luncheon than Alma Powell, wife of Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The luncheon is sponsored by the Girl Scouts of Suncoast Council and, as Alma Powell explained, she was born a Girl Scout. Her mother, Mildred Bell Johnson, founded the first Girl Scout troop for African-Americans, so she was attending Girl Scout meetings long before she was old enough to be a Brownie.

"In fact, everyone in my house was a Girl Scout, even my father," Powell said with a laugh.

In an earthy speech, Powell related how her experiences as a Girl Scout helped shape her outlook on life and prepared her for the future.

And in explaining her work with America's Promise, a charity aimed at building the character and competence of youth, she encouraged the attendees at the A La Carte Pavilion to be even more dedicated to building a strong basis and foundation for our children.

It was a message embodied by the four women recognized as the 2003 Women of Distinction: Morton Plant Mease Health Care Foundation president and CEO Holly Duncan; USF Institute on Aging assistant director Lee Bird Leavengood; internationally known artist P. Buckley Moss; and Frances Stavros, vice president of the Stavros Family Foundation.

WTSP-Ch. 10 reporter Mike Deeson hosted Tuesday night's St. Petersburg Times mayoral debate, but he may end up being the subject of a Nashville debate some day: Which Deeson-penned song is the best?

Some may end up favoring I Just Met My Future Ex-Girl or You Don't Know Jack. Others could end up choosing How Can Someone Stupid Be My Boss.

Yes, Deeson writes country music tunes in his spare time. He's dabbled in songwriting since he was a teen and estimates he's written more than 1,000. He periodically has the songs recorded by demo artists in Nashville, and he shops them around in the hopes some star like Toby Keith or Martina McBride will choose one of his works.

While he has yet to have a chart-topper in the United States, his Way Too Hot, recorded by Gene Garrett, reached No. 11 on the European Country Music chart.

I listened to several of Deeson's songs and while I'm no country music aficionado, I think he's got a chance.

The Chiselers' annual market, scheduled for Saturday at University of Tampa's Plant Hall, takes on added meaning this year. The preservation society recently received a $400,000 grant from Save America's Treasures and is now looking to match it. The money would go toward a $1-million renovation project of Plant Hall.

Billed as Tampa's largest one-day flea market, the event will feature jewelry, plants, flowers, kitchenware, books, art, electrical items and tools, toys, gourmet food, china, crystal, silver, furniture and accessories. The sale runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Fox came to town looking for singles for a new reality show earlier this month. Now NBC is literally Looking For Love in Tampa Bay. The new "upscale" reality show is seeking men and women 25-35 who are ready to fall in love. Go to Independent Casting (8313 W Hillsborough) on Thursday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Call 884-8335 for information.

The crowd at the Performing Arts Center Saturday got a chance to see Charleene Closshey crowned Miss Tampa, but I'm almost sure that was not the first time they had seen her baby face.

Closshey, 22, has been making public appearances at grocery stores all across America since she was an infant. As the little "red-haired" baby on the wrapping of Northern Bathroom Tissue, she was drawing attention long before she learned to play the violin or graduate summa cum laude from Florida Southern.

Closshey's violin performance of Classical Gas helped her capture the title. She will now compete in the Miss Florida Pageant June 22-28 at the Mahaffey Theater.

I guess it takes more than a baby face to be Miss Tampa.

That's all I'm saying.

_ Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or