Amy Scherzer's Diary: Partying at the RNC, FARA Energy Ball

Published Sept. 13, 2012

Partying at the RNC

Whoever called the Republican National Convention "uneventful" wasn't referring to the dozens of events that kept caterers, cabbies and security guards gainfully employed all that week.

Mav BASH was one of few parties welcoming locals. Jeb Bush's scion, George P. Bush, hosted Maverick PAC's future GOP leaders at the Cube at Rivergate Plaza. Arriving among the 800-plus "next-gen" constituents were Drew Weatherford, Megan Ely, Nina and Trey Traviesa, Howard Grosswirth, Allison and Robby Adams, Debra and Gary McDaniel, Jay Trezevant and Aakash Patel.

Accountants to the GOP stars Nancy and Robert Watkins invited a few hundred Florida legislators to a tent party on their Bayshore Boulevard lawn Aug. 29, coincidently her birthday. Stone crabs served bite-size in martini glasses simplified politicking while eating.

As promised, the CNN Grill, part TV studio, part bistro, in a cleverly transformed parking garage, offered unparalleled mingling. My sightings included Dan Rather, Piers Morgan, Stephen Baldwin, Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, sweaty Daily Show correspondents John Oliver, Jason Jones and Al Madrigal and actors Carol Kane, Rachael Jones, Angus T. Jones and Evan Handler representing the nonpartisan Creative Coalition.

Who knows how Google aggregated its exclusive guest list at Tampa Museum of Art on Aug. 30. Lucky were those with the bar code needed for scanned admittance, many apparently affiliated with the YG (Young Guns) Network. They munched Mise en Place's Americana menu — lobster roll, fried chicken, sliders, flatbreads — followed by key lime, apple and blueberry tarts, teeny sorbet cones and multiple flavors of macarons. Red Sky cocktails (rum, ginger beer and pomegranate juice) and local beers shone at red, white and blue neon-lit bars. Juices and Pellegrino were self-serve in the cafe fridge. Convention scenes played on huge screens behind white Adirondack chairs, rockers and park benches on the green-turfed waterfront terrace. Inside, Google showcased a Slinky, Post-it notes and zippers as examples of American ingenuity.

FARA Energy Ball

Friendships fueled the FARA Energy Ball founded by former Outback Steakhouse chief operating officer Paul Avery, who began by breaking a promise not to tell anyone it was wife Suzanne's birthday. The crowd of 700 supporters cheered advances toward a cure for Friedreich's ataxia, a disease of cell deprivation that affects the spinal cord, then got busy netting more than $1.2 million for the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance and the University of South Florida Ataxia Research Center.

Tod and Tara Leiweke, co-chairs of the Sept. 8 gala, invited every giver of $1,000 to a Tampa Bay Lightning locker room party, presenting a team jersey to each. Sandi and Chris Sullivan, Bob and Debbie Basham, Liz Smith and Chip Newton, plus Mary and Paul Jacobs and Lauren and Tom Pepin among many others, outdid each other texting donations of $182,000 via Bid Pal.

The live auction was another wild ride: vacation homestays in Cortona, Italy; the French Riviera; and Pebble Beach, Calif. "The more we buy, the faster we find a cure," said Tom Pepin, whose bids tallied at least $75,000, including $8,000 for an intimate concert with Rod Stewart; $10,000 for a week in Telluride and $11,000 for a trip to Nantucket.

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A bear hunting vacation to Avery's 10,000-acre Bell Cross Ranch in Cascade, Mont., sold three times for $28,000 per trip, including to a quartet of Toms: Tom Mollick, Tom Pepin, Tom Frederick and Tom Bradley. Bradley and his fiancee, Dede Field, plan to get married during their visit.

"DJ" Dr. Stephen Klasko, USF Health CEO started off the music, then American Idol finalist Shannon Magrane, 16, sang and Soul Power Review filled the dance floor.