If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Ken Walters should feel very flattered.
But on the eve of his 10th annual "Celebrate Sinatra" party, south Tampa's unofficial social director is not so sure about that.
Don Juceam, the crooner Walters has hired in the past to pay tribute to the Rat Pack idol, has "borrowed'' the concept to stage another Frank Sinatra salute.
Same theme, same night, same part of town--Ybor City.
"He specifically picked the same night to cause confusion,'' said Walters, who sells printing and promotional products when he's not in his trademark tuxedo.
"With a million people in the bay area, there's plenty of room for two parties,'' Juceam insists. He launches his first Sinatra Charity Concert on Saturday, featuring his 22-piece orchestra, hors d'oeuvres and an open bar.
Perhaps a written contract would have prevented the split.
Juceam headlined for Walters' swanky soiree in 2005 at the Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club and thought he had a verbal commitment to perform in 2006.
"He said, 'You are the man,' " as Juceam recalls it.
But Walters booked vocalist Tom Tiratto instead.
"Then he said, 'But you're definitely the guy in '07,' and I still got the boot,'' Juceam said.
Walters says guests' lukewarm feedback is the reason he didn't rehire Juceam. Still, he says, he offered Juceam the chance to perform in Latam's cigar bar Saturday, as opposed to being the main attraction in the ballroom. But he says Juceam never responded.
Juceam, who sings Sinatra-style at weddings and parties year-round, said Walters' back-to-back cancellations affected his credibility with his band.
"My guys held the date for months, and the event was announced on my Web site,'' he said. "So I decided to produce my own.''
Money left over after expenses will go to H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Disabled American Veterans and All Children's Hospital, Juceam said. He figures he needs at least 400 paying guests to meet his goals.
"It's a tremendous risk financially,'' he said. "But I'm told for $70, four hours of dancing, eating and drinking is a very good deal.''
Walters sold out eight reserved tables seating six at $100 each, and stacked the evening with dinner, tapas and concert options for the 600-plus guests he's expecting.
Strong attendance and silent auction and prize drawing sales will allow him to donate about $10,000 to the Mayor's Beautification Program, after expenses, he says.
Competing parties in Tampa to honor Sinatra?
That's life is what Ol' Blue Eyes might say.
Amy Scherzer can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3332.
IF YOU GO
Celebrate Sinatra with host Ken Walters
Event takes place at Centro Asturiano, 909 E Palm Ave. Dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday from menu at Latam's, $19 and up. Entertainment starts at 8 p.m., Paul Wilborn & Blue Roses sing "Sinatra, Paul's Way" in the second floor theater, $20. From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tom Tiratto and the Joe Stagi Orchestra play the third floor ballroom, $45. Tickets to both, $55. Cash bar. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Mayor's Beautification Program. Black-tie optional; valet parking. Call (813) 251-0500.
Sinatra Charity Concert with host Don Juceam
Event takes place at the Cuban Club, 2010 Avenida Republica de Cuba, from 8 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Tickets are $70, including open bar, hors d'oeuvres and dancing to Don Juceam Orchestra (featuring Juceam, right). A portion of the profits will be divided between H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Disabled American Veterans and All Children's Hospital. Black-tie optional; valet parking. Call (813) 600-3134.