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Scene & Heard

Big Announcement

Campaign alert! Campaign alert! Possible Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney was spotted in March at Beth Moné Children’s Shoppe in Naples. One of his staffers is reported to have bought a slew of children’s clothing. When asked about his plans for the future, Romney replied, “Watch for a big announcement.” Gee, do you think it may have something to do with living in white houses?

Setting a Record

You had the one-two punch of Mayor Bill Barnett and auctioneer Scott Robertson rallying the crowd of 400 guests and the spectacular setting of the mangrove-ringed beachfront property at Gulf Bay’s Cap d’Antibes in Pelican Bay. So it’s no surprise that the seventh annual Magic Under the Mangroves gala in early March was a huge success. The event raised a record $550,000 for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, honored the late John Briggs with the coveted 2011 Eagles Award and demonstrated once again why it’s one of the hottest events of the season.

Big Apple Honors

Part of Naples went airborne to honor one of our most generous souls. Neapolitans Shelly Stayer, Jim and Linda Malone, Shelia Davis, Marissa Hartington, Bob and Barbara Crown, Elliott and Retta Singer, Dr. Alan and Heidi Farrugia, and Tom and Carol Lund flew by private plane to New York, where the Boomer Esiason Foundation honored Port Royal resident Ralph Stayer for his work in the fight against cystic fibrosis. Ralph, the CEO of Johnsonville Sausage, was named MVP of the year at the late February event at the Waldorf Astoria. Ralph and his wife, Shelly, also donated more than $2 million to the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples in the past year. Hail to the “Sausage King” for providing such royal treatment for such worthy causes.

Visit to Royalty

More news from the royal front: His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales invited Shelia Davis (she does get around) to a gala benefit at Buckingham Palace in February. She brought along her Naples pals Jay and Patty Baker to this gathering of 150 guests. “We were the only Americans there,” reports Shelia, “and the Prince and Duchess of Cornwall were so charming and impressed that we flew from America just to attend the dinner.” A little Palace intrigue is always worth a trans-Atlantic commute, isn’t it?

Dollars and Drama

The Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest just keeps getting more spectacular by the year. Just check out these highlights from February’s high-energy event at the Miromar Lakes Beach and Golf Club: 

• It raised a whopping (and record) $1.6 million for The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

• It featured a dramatic bidding shootout between Harry Silverglide, the former dot-com-er from California who now calls Captiva home, and Georganne Williams, wife of AC/DC bass player Cliff Williams, for four tickets to the Playboy Mansion for its Halloween party. Georganne made it clear she would go to any lengths to win this prize for her son Luke’s 25th birthday present. Harry, a competitive guy and newly single, was sitting at the other end of the table from her and was not backing off. The result? Two winners. The anonymous donor upped his gift to eight tickets, and both bidders got their way for more than $100,000 apiece.

• It thrilled me to get a $100,000 bid for my hat. Each year, I collect donations from the crowd to fill my Dr. Seuss-inspired hat. There were four-year scholarships from Florida Gulf Coast University and Edison College, a Tiffany & Co. bracelet, laser treatments to melt fat, Botox, rare wines and cash. Vintner Mary Dewane and her husband, Joe Anderson, made the winning bid and won my heart for their caring and giving.

Star Turn

We can’t keep Kevin Nealon away. And we love it. The star of Showtime’s hit show Weeds brought his act to Off the Hook Comedy Club in early March and played to a packed audience, including such present or former Waterman Broadcasting stalwarts as Craig Wolf, Julene Wolf, Bonnie Geddis and Gayla Wright. Kevin returned to Fort Myers at the end of the month to see his mother honored as a Grand Dame by the PACE Center for Girls and to perform at a benefit concert for HOPE Clubhouse in Cape Coral, which helps people with mental illness get back to work. When are you coming back again, Kevin? We like your vibe.

Loyalty Shows

It didn’t matter that featured speaker Robin Givens cancelled a few days before the event. The Shelter for Abused Women & Children still sold out with 900 guests at The Ritz-Carlton in February for its Mending Broken Hearts with Hope luncheon. A great show of loyalty. It was nice to see more men than ever at this event and, once again, I celebrate Chico’s for stepping up with an enchanting donation: one of their signature necklaces as a favor for each guest. A statement made in a very stylish way.

Vying For Provence

Hope for Haiti’s dedicated supporters came through again this year. They helped raise more than one million dollars at the Flight of Hope Gala in March at the Jubilee Center at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Naples. The big auction item—a week’s stay at Terre de Blanche, a five-bedroom villa in Provence, France—had three bidders vying for the prize. The generous owners, Jean and Debbie Brunel, allowed it to be sold three times and thus raised nearly $40,000 on that item alone. Kudos to JoAnne Kuehner and her husband, Carl, founders of Hope for Haiti, for a great event. We must also acknowledge the divine moves of Father Michael Vannicola on the dance floor. That priest can really bring it.

Paying My Respects

I’d like to pay my respects to two superstars who passed away recently. We shall all miss Arlene Nichols and Duane Swanson. Arlene dedicated herself to making the lives of children better in Collier County. She and her husband, Jerry, were recipients of the Hodges University Humanitarian Award. Duane passed away just six days after being honored by Florida Gulf Coast University in the stadium that bears his name. Duane, owner of Raymond Building Supply, gave millions to the university’s athletic programs and mentored the players as well.

Causes along the coast: Bill and Joyce O’Meara (left) attended this year’s Magic Under the Mangroves, which raised more than half a million dollars. Above, former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason (right) and his son, Gunnar, a cystic fibrosis patient, celebrated Naples resident Ralph Stayer (center) for his work in the fight against the disease.

Bidder battle: A bidding war ensued over tickets to the Playboy Mansion’s Halloween party between Georganne Williams and Harry Silverglide.

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