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Actor hosts To Life event

MIDNIGHT COWBOY: Just three days before the Holocaust Museum's annual To Life awards dinner, actor Jon Voight, a museum board member, called to say he would be there to greet 800 guests at the Hyatt Regency Tampa on Saturday.

When celebrities donate their time to fundraisers, you never know what kind of scheduling conflicts may arise. One year, he sent Bo Derek to fill in for him. This year, he had tapped comedian Alan King, but King canceled a week ago for health reasons.

Rather than let the museum down, Voight shuffled around his schedule to emcee the event himself.

"Voight flew in Saturday morning on the red-eye and left at 7:30 a.m. the next day," said museum president Geoff Simon. Voight's commitment to the St. Petersburg museum has helped raise more than $1-million.

Simon announced the Wasser Fund before beginning a video tribute to the late Larry Wasser, the executive director who died suddenly June 2. On the video, Tampa poet laureate James Tokley read his poetic eulogy of Wasser's many accomplishments.

The museum gave the Loebenberg Award to director Steve Goldman for "his strong moral convictions." Goldman recently resigned to take a position with the Sherwin Miller Museum in Tulsa, Okla.

Honored for their efforts to teach tolerance and fight racism, the 2004 To Life recipients, University of South Florida president Dr. Judy Genshaft and developers Brent and Debbie Sembler, gushed during their acceptance speeches.

Genshaft thanked the "best husband in the world," as well as her "team," her staff, board, family and community. As she spoke, Voight ran into the audience and pinned a museum life member pin on her mother, Leona Genshaft.

Presenting the Semblers, Voight got a big laugh: "Brent builds shopping centers _ for his wife," he said. The crowd roared.

Brent responded with a list of his wife's attributes and a kiss. "With full hearts," the Semblers thanked the museum staff, their parents and Voight.

Dinner was served at 9 p.m. to allow for a leisurely cocktail party and silent auction, but many missed the late arrival of a chocolate torte dessert. Those who stayed until the end, including Voight, got to dance to Mike Eisenstadt's band.

The $200-ticket benefit and silent auction is expected to net $300,000 for the museum.

VIVA SANT' YAGO: For the fifth time in 32 years, father/daughter monarchs took over the throne of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant' Yago on Saturday night.

Cuban native El Rey XXXII Steve Yturriaga, 42, and his daughter La Reina XXXII Cynthia Lynn, 21, were crowned at the Latin men's club's coronation ball held for the first time at the Tampa Convention Center.

"It's a family affair," said the king, resplendent in black velvet and sequins. He joined the krewe six years ago because he liked the way it involved his wife, Sandra, and their children. Daughter Christine, 19, is a lady in waiting, and Steve, 16, a cortisano.

Yturriaga owns Ybor Realty Group and is building Fifth Avenue Villas, a 36-unit condominium in Ybor City. Queen Cynthia, a Sickles High graduate, attends Hillsborough Community College while working for her dad.

The ball's theme, Coming to America, recognized that many of the krewe's 300 members immigrated to the United States, including the king who arrived at age 7. A video of historic scenes from Ellis Island segued into interviews with four living founders recalling the krewe's beginnings and their hopes for the future: El Rey IV Henry Fernandez, El Rey VII Joe Granda, El Rey XIV Daniel F. Martinez, and El Rey XXV Joseph Lopez.

The club takes its name from the 12th century Brotherhood of Sant' Yago, patron saint of Spain, explained emcee El Rey XIX Manuel G. Alvarez, Jr.

"And we are his krewe. We are brothers, husbands, fathers, grandfathers, lawyers, judges, teachers, doctors, businessmen, citizens, elected officials."

Captain of the Knights Gasper Martino introduced seven men who fulfilled the requirements to be knighted, including the soon-to-be-king Yturriaga. The others are: Ignacio Armas, Mark Caldevilla, Silas C. Dobbins, Mark A. Lopez, Agustin E. Quintero and Ashley M. Smith. Next came the abdication of rulers El Rey XXXI George H. Lorton and La Reina XXXI Carissa Cicarrello Dolitsky. El Baron Simon Canasi (a.k.a. Triple X) wearing a poofy velvet cap bearing three rhinestone Xs, crowned the Yturriagas.

Singer Paul Wilson, looking a lot like his father, WTVT-TV Ch. 13 news anchor John Wilson, roused the crowd of 1,000. His big finish: Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American. Dinner and dancing to La Machin followed.

BIRTHDAY SALUTE: The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg was abuzz Jan. 9-10 with the opening of "Dali Centennial: An American Collection," a commemoration of the artist's 100th birthday.

A highlight of the members' preview reception Jan. 9 was Tampa poet laureate James Tokley's reading of Domenech, the poem he created for the museum.

Here's an excerpt:

Salvador Dali Domenech

Who sliced up dreams

As if they were peaches

Placed on a table, for the eyes to eat!

Trustee Frank and Carol Morsani attended the Jan. 10 dinner that honored Javier Ruperez, the Spanish ambassador to the United States. He and his wife, Rakela Cerovic Ruperez, were in Florida celebrating their ninth wedding anniversary.

_ Times staffer Mary Jane Park contributed to this column. To pass along tips to Amy Scherzer, reach her at 226-3332 or

Three of the founders _ all former kings of the Krewe of Sant' Yago _ attended the coronation ball: Joe Lopez, from left, Henry Fernandez and Danny Martinez.

Singer Paul Wilson entertained 1,000 guests at the Krewe of Sant' Yago coronation ball.

El Rey XXXII Steve Yturriaga and his daughter, La Reina Cynthia Lynn, were crowned Jan. 17 by the Krewe of Sant' Yago at the Tampa Convention Center.

The new Knights of the Krewe of Sant' Yago dubbed at the Jan. 17 coronation ball: Mark Caldevilla, from left, Ashley Smith, King Steve Yturriaga, Silas Dobbins and Mark Lopez. Kneeling in front, Ignacio Armas, left, and Agustin Quintero.

Artist Joe Nicastri, left, Florida Holocaust Museum director Andy Maass, actor Jon Voight and museum president Geoff Simon are delighted at the success of To Life, the annual benefit for the museum.

Steve and Joel Greenbaum, 10, salute wife and mom Dr. Judy Genshaft, recipient of the 2004 To Life award from the Florida Holocaust Museum.