Winky Wright knew he wanted to host a glamorous Super Bowl party when the game came to Tampa. He also knew he wanted to show a little love to St. Petersburg, the city he calls home.
Then he got Diddy. And that's when things went nuts.
"You have to get the talent first," said Wright, perched on a plush couch in the Venue in Clearwater, site of "The Good Life Experience," a three-night party he's hosting alongside Sean "Diddy" Combs and Deion Sanders from Jan. 29 to 31. "And when we knew that we had Diddy, all the other doors just opened up. Now we can come to different people and say, 'Look, this is what we've got. We've got Diddy, we've got Winky, we've got Deion, and this is what we plan on doing.' People listen now."
Like they weren't going to listen to the former middleweight champion boxer before. But Wright's point is well-taken: Diddy opens doors. Diddy makes it rain. Diddy turns a run-of-the-mill Super Bowl party into, well, a Good Life Experience.
"Wherever Diddy does a party, he does it right," Wright said. "People go on for years about when Diddy came to their city and threw a party. For us to be a part of that is monumental."
What does it mean when Diddy hosts your party? It means you can book one of the largest clubs in Tampa Bay for three straight nights leading up to the Super Bowl. It means when you send out invites, Dane Cook RSVPs right back, asking for VIP tickets. It means athletes like Warren Sapp, Vinny Lecavalier, Scott Kazmir, Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn are on the guest list.
Wright used to hit the Venue back when it was known as Storman's, but likes the fact that the renovated club now caters to a slightly older crowd of young professionals in their later 20s and 30s. He envisions the atmosphere as spacious and comfortable yet exciting, from his "Vegas Fight Night"-themed party on Thursday to Diddy's "Diamonds and Pearls"-themed gala on Saturday. The hosts will camp out in the VIP skyboxes above the Venue's center bar.
And yes, Diddy will be in the house all three nights.
"I know a lot of people are going to try to get there just the last night for Diddy, but you're going to miss a great experience with the other two nights," Wright said. "All three nights are going to be memories you ain't going to want to miss. So I'm telling everybody, save your money now, and get here."
Tickets to The Good Life Experience go onsale Nov. 1 at goodlifeexperience.com.
Are these ESPN's party digs?
When we first learned ESPN the Magazine's NEXT Party would take place in a vacant lot in downtown Tampa, we wondered: How are they going to pull that off?
With a gigantic series of tents, maybe.
Artists' renditions of the party venue reveal a 22,000-square-foot quad-saddle tent full of bars, lounges and high-tech displays showcasing the future of sports from both a fan's perspective and a player's.
The tent - to be located at 788 E Whiting St., just north of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway - will host two events. On Friday, Jan. 30, there will be an exclusive, invite-only gala for athletes, celebrities, media and VIPs, as well as an A-list performer. Past headliners include LL Cool J, Ludacris, DJ AM and George Clinton and Parlaiment Funkadelic. (No word on a performer this year - but we'd put our money on Lil Wayne, a huge sports fan who's been moonlighting as an ESPN.com blogger this fall.)
ESPN reps say an official site plan has not been finalized, and the renditions are not set in stone.
The second event, on Saturday, is a "consumer village" featuring interactive games, high-tech simulators, giveaways and live entertainment.
Lewis, Bush at Moves party
Moves Magazine, an upscale lifestyle glossy whose target audience is professional athletes, will host a party Wednesday, Jan. 28, at the Venue, with co-hosts Ray Lewis of the Ravens and Reggie Bush of the Saints.
The party has been private in the past, but Moves rep Jennifer Beaver said the mag might release about 25 tickets to the public.
Past guests have included a who's who of NFL legends, from John Elway and Steve Young toLarry Fitzgerald and Marvin Harrison. ESPN personalities often show up. Even B.J. Upton has popped in.
Bush, of course, famously dates Kim Kardashian, who is already co-hosting a Leather & Laces Party that Friday in Tampa with Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra. So look for KiKa to dance around Tampa Bay all week long.
Jeter amps up golf tourney
The Sixth Annual Derek Jeter Celebrity Golf Classic, benefitting the shortstop's Turn 2 Foundation, will take place over three days, from Jan. 27 to 29 at Saddlebrook Resort. Highlights of the football-themed party include a sponsor reception on Tuesday, Jan. 27, followed by a celebrity draw party the next night and the actual tournament at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Organizers are still looking for corporate sponsors, so if you're a big Yankees fan and you have between $4,500 and $25,000 lying around, hop on board. For sponsorship info, contact the Turn 2 Foundation at (212) 475-2975 or email@example.com.
Contributing: Jay Cridlin, Luis Santana