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Catting around an urban safari

HEAR THEM ROAR: Some 850 friends of Big Cat Rescue got wild at the 5th annual Fur Ball to benefit Big Cat Rescue, home to more than 150 abandoned, abused and neglected exotic cats.

Most everyone dressed for a safari or early Halloween to pack the A La Carte Pavilion on Sept. 17. Jim Gisondi of Florida Voices for Animals won best costume as a lion holding a sign: Will Work for Food.

Photographs of rescued tigers, lions, leopards and bobcats flashed on a 12-foot screen over zebra tablecloths, zebra lamps and a vegetarian buffet. Maurice Raybon and Bay News 9 anchor Jen Holloway ran a lively auction. Musician Prince Rupert limboed, swallowed firesticks and led a crazy conga line. Comedian Happy Cole got the crowd laughing and Urban Gypsies kept people dancing. They found Jana Broder's bongo drum circle surprisingly soothing.

Hundreds voted for their favorite of 15 original works of art inspired by the cats at the 42-acre Citrus Park sanctuary. Winner Lisa Vogt of Originals in Glass on Kennedy Boulevard won with Shere Power based on 800-pound tiger Shere Khan. It will be made into a poster and sold to raise money for Outdoor Arts Foundation and Big Cat Rescue. Charles Warner bought the original for $1,100, helping Fur Ball's net reach about $42,000.

SWEET ON SCOUTS: Whoever came up with the thought, "Life is short, eat dessert first," may have had three hurricanes blow through their state in five weeks. The menu reversal certainly clicked with Helene Pepper who organized Dessert First for the Girl Scouts of Suncoast Council, despite wind, rain and flooding at her home.

Ten chefs experimented with six kinds of Girl Scout cookies to invent a dessert to serve before the dinner benefit Sept. 17 at the Renaissance Tampa Hotel International Plaza. Guests sampled the sweets and voted the People's Choice Award to a Samoa creation by chef Clinton Coombs of the Radisson Lido Beach Resort in Sarasota. St. Petersburg Times food editor Janet Keeler and Tampa Tribune's food editor Mary Scourtes also chose it for the Golden Whisk award.

Other chef standouts: Roy's pastry chef Felicia Lacalle's Hawaiian Delight using Samoas; white chocolate cheesecake with Trefoil cookie crust by Michael Lottermoser of the Marriott Waterside; and Do Si Do caramel apple torte by John Pivar of the Renaissance Vinoy. Chef/owner Marty Blitz of Mise En Place used three kinds of cookies in a chocolate peanut butter concoction.

Did the 130 guests save room for dinner? Sure. They dined on chef Fabrizio Schenardi's marinated beef tenderloin as WFLA-Ch. 8's Brian Fasulo auctioned eight items.

You can cook your own Scout sweets soon. Cookie sales start Jan. 7.

ATTENTIVE CLASS: Pan American University Women were happy to talk about clothes instead of school closings Saturday afternoon at the Tampa Marriott Westshore. More than 300 women, many of them Hispanic educators, attended the annual fashion show to raise money for college scholarships for two Hispanic students and benefit seven local charities. President RoseAnne Garcia Bowers expects to collect about $6,000.

Joann Torretta of First Impressions put some of her etiquette students on the runway in fashions from Valerie Nicole boutique and Strasburg Children. Three school principals modeled Brooks Brothers suits. Frank Sanchez, whose mother, Delia, is a longtime PAUW member, looked quite the country gent in a tweed jacket and corduroy pants.

BODICE ADVICE: Black sneakers are highly recommended by Ye Loyal Krewe of Grace O'Malley. About 50 new members of the women's club got advice for designing their Gasparilla parade costumes at the Court of Ruffs & Cuffs luncheon at the Rusty Pelican Sept. 18. The 250-strong club is proud to have many mother/daughter members.

Krewe member Lady Tashia Diaz of Georgette's of Old Hyde Park organized a fashion show of styles from the 1800s to now, including the coronation gown of the 12th ruler, dubbed an O'Malley, Joy Jones.

Think comfort and cost when choosing fancy fabrics and trim. Krewe members walk miles in Elizabethan-era gowns, carrying thousands of beads in blistering hot or freezing cold parades.

PAVILION PERKS: Organizers of Pavilion XIX are thrilled with the response to the formal bash for the Tampa Museum of Art, set for Nov. 13. So thrilled, that some want to double prices next year, ending the $350-guest and $600-patron tickets. Others worry they won't fill the tent if admission starts at $1,000 per person.

Mother/daughter co-chairs Barbara Romano and Tracy Romano Kral have several perks for this year's top ticket holders. On Nov. 1, the $1,250-and-up patrons, called Pillars of Pavilion, are invited for cocktails at the Renaissance Tampa Hotel. On Sept. 9, about 150 patrons at the $600-level came to Neiman Marcus for hors d'oeuvres and designer fashions. On Nov. 10, Frankie and Stan Harrell host a Wednesday Night Fever patrons party at their Palma Ceia estate.

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