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Bedazzled by fashion

COLOR SPLASH: What a glamorous escape Ebony magazine staged Sunday eveningat Tampa Theatre, a haute couture fantasy of exotic furs, glitzy evening gowns and flashy frills.

"They're not tops, they're dresses," said commentator Jada Jackson Collins about a trio of micro-minis.

The jazz band was missing this year, but there was plenty of attitude from Tampa model Victoria Bowers and the others who strutted in gorgeous Givenchy, outrageous Oscar de la Renta, stunning Anna Sui, handsome Hanae Mori and other designers' styles.

"If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it," Collins said.

The audience itself dazzled. More than 700 arrived in evening gowns, church dresses, dressy suits and hats. Lots of hats.

The Ebony Fashion Fair travels to 200 cities. Tampa's visit benefits the Tampa-Hillsborough Urban League Guild, which supports the Rites of Passage, the African American Health Forum, the Census Survey, voter registration and other programs, said guild president Lois Davis.

CENTURY ON PARADE: Pirates, mates and others commandeered H.B. Plant Museum last Friday night to crow over memorabilia collected for the exhibit: "100 Years of Gasparilla." The two-hour cocktail party is always one of the museum's best attended events.

Bits N' Pieces' 9-foot Jose Gaspar puppet greeted former Kings Norman Stallings (1966), Dick Clarke (1977), David Murphey (1990) and Bruce Samson (1992).

Former queens came to reminisce about their reigns, including Louise Lykes Ferguson (1934) and her daughter Stella Ferguson Thayer (1962), and Martha Carlton Ward (1936) and her daughter Nell Ward (1970).

THIS ONE'S FOR BUD: Familiar and new faces gathered Saturday night to raise money for medical expenses of internationally known photographer Bud Lee, who is recovering from a stroke.

The donated artwork came from 80 artists, including Lee, whose pieces were enlarged and framed by his cohort, David Audet. Bud's wife, Peggy Lee, and his four children cheered on the bidders to raise about $15,000.

After the Bud Lee & Friends Auction, his musician pals took up their instruments. Singers Liz Hollister and Judy Tampa joined Frances Ross on fiddle; John McEwen on drums; Dan Bradbury on concertina and banjo; and Andy Karpay on mandolin.

Auctioneer Paul Wilborn described the 1,000-plus crowd at the Lotus Room Gallery like this: "It's like the old Artists and Writers Balls minus the drugs."

FRIENDS GO FOR TAPAS: After strolling through the new exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art on Saturday, Friends of the Arts hosted Tapas Live! at the Spain restaurant on Tampa Street.

Crosscurrents at Century's End: Selections from the Neuberger Berman Art Collection set the mood, then 100 guests walked a few blocks for tapas and silent auction sponsored by Smith and Associates.

FOTA member Michael Cimino bought the highest item _ $2,000 _ for a 50-person cocktail party donated and prepared by Realtor Cindy Covington, co-chairwoman Tapas Live!. She estimates the $75-per-ticket party raised more than $7,000 for the museum.

EVERGREEN: More than 150 friends and colleagues wished a retirement farewell to Ross Ferlita, Tampa's director of parks and recreation, at a Jan. 22 dinner at the Italian Club. Former Mayor Dick Greco emceed, praising Ferlita's nearly 30-year stewardship of 65 parks, four beaches, four cemeteries and two marinas.

Ron Rotella announced that the future trail linking the Gandy Friendship bridge to New Tampa will be named the Ross Ferlita Greenways Trail System.

Insurance executive Guy King presented Ferlita a sunburst yellow hybrid hibiscus that he grew. "It's one-of-a-kind, just like Ross," he said.

Henry Gonzalez, a friend of Ferlita's since their Plant High days and a frequent movie buddy, called him "a true gentleman, hardworking and honest."

Cousin Sam Ferlita noted Ross' father, the first king of the Italian Club, "was honored in this same building we honor his son in tonight."

Ross summed up his appreciation to staff and friends: "Thank you for being my roots."

HONORING HELEN: Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida honored Helen Gordon Davis with its annual Choice Award on Jan. 22 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside.

Among Davis' many firsts: the first white woman in Florida to join the NAACP and the first woman from Hillsborough County elected to the state Legislature, serving multiple terms in the House and Senate. Davis was inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame in 1998 and is a 1999 recipient of the Florida Women's Consortium "Failure is Impossible" Award.

Guest speaker Marcia Ann Gillespie, former editor of Essence and Ms. magazines, shared her terror at being 18 and pregnant in 1962. A hairdresser helped her, she said, noting that other women were not as fortunate. She expressed fear that "Roe v. Wade may be one vote away from being overturned.

"Reproduction freedom is a basic right," she said. "Complacency is the death of liberty, the death of democracy."

_ To pass along tips to Amy Scherzer, reach her at 226-3332 or

Patrons Hilary and Doug Cone attended the opening of "100 Years of Gasparilla" at the H.B. Plant Museum on Jan. 24.

Judy Ryan, president of the Athena Society, left, guest speaker Marcia Ann Gillespie and Helen Gordon Davis got together at the Planned Parenthood Choice Affair luncheon Jan. 22.

Retiring parks and recreation director Ross Ferlita, left, got a salute from wife, Jane, and cousin Sam Ferlita at his retirement dinner Jan. 21 at the Italian Club.

Paul Wilborn, left, and Peggy Lee and David Audet organized the Bud Lee & Friends Auction to raise funds for Bud Lee's medical expenses.

Tampa-Hillsborough Urban League president Joanna Tokley, left, and Kim and Dana Barbee stood out in the crowd at the Ebony Fashion Fair on Jan. 25 at Tampa Theatre.

The audience looked as sharp as the models at Ebony magazine's Fashion Fair: Leanora Brady wore a chic beige suit, Tynesha Green dressed sheer hip, and Linda Bigos looked royal in blue.