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Scene & Heard

Cupid’s arrows seem to be flying back and forth between TV newsrooms and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. In the latest hookup—and congratulations to both of you—NBC2 anchor Jamie Yuccas tied the knot on Fort Myers Beach in December to former producer-turned-public information officer John Sheehan. The two Minnesotans met at work. They’re the second couple with this pedigree: Tony Schall, another newsman turned PIO, is married to WINK-TV’s Stacey Adams and works out of the sheriff’s office as well. I guess the lovebirds have put a happy face on all this law-and-order stuff.

Local politics took a timeout at Lee County manager Don Stilwell’s party celebrating the new year. The gathering at his riverfront estate included The News-Press publisher Carol Hudler and her author husband, Ad; assistant tax collector Larry Hart; Jan Baillar-geon, longtime girlfriend of deceased real estate mogul Frank D’Alessandro; and Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah. But the eye-opener came when County Commissioner Brian Bigelow strolled through the doors, considering his very public battle with the host. A show of good will? Good politics? Good party in any event.

I got a surprise listener when I showed up at Saks Fifth Avenue in the Bell Tower Shops to read to children, at the request of friend and general manager Carole Stockard. There I was, reading Snowpeople during story hour, and who sits down front and center? None other than Al Hoffman, who just finished his service as U.S. Ambassador to Portugal. He was there with daughter Ava and both seemed to enjoy the story. The very next day, Hoffman and his wife, Dawn, hosted a party for presidential candidate John McCain at their Gulf Harbor riverfront estate. Al, former CEO of WCI Communities, has been close to the Bush administration and headed fundraising for Jeb Bush’s three gubernatorial campaigns. McCain leaked some news to the 50 or so Republican heavy hitters at the gathering. He announced that Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman was crossing party lines to support his candidacy, and hours later the endorsement turned up in the national press. Welcome home, Hoffmans.

Pssst! Season is upon us, and here’s a hot tip from Neapolitans in the know on where to eat out while crowds flock to the main thoroughfares. Suzanne Chute and her husband, Bob, are big fans of dining in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, Naples. You don’t need reservations, and you can order from the menus of The Grill Room or Artisans in the Dining Room. And you can show up in casual attire—even golf clothes—and kick back on the comfy couches and overstuffed chairs. Other discerning gourmets are catching on. I’ve spotted Martha and Jim Fligg there recently. Speaking of Artisans, I am hearing great things about this new little eatery. Our editor, David Sendler, says the Kobe beef there is to die for.

There were great sights and sounds at the party Joy Williams and Courtney Jones hosted to celebrate Chris Whitaker’s 53rd birthday at their riverfront estate in Gulf Harbour Golf and Country Club. Courtney and Chris, along with Peter Schmid, are the minds and money behind Blu Sushi restaurants. Jones is one of the founders of the search engine company FindWhat.com Group, now MIVA. Along one wall alone in this 9,000-square-foot home, you could enjoy quite a collection of music art pieces: John Lennon’s original drawings, Johnny Cash’s red velvet chairs and an American flag President Gerald Ford gave to Cash when he performed at the nation’s bicentennial celebration. The high note of the evening came when Courtney and his nine-year-old daughter, Christie, sang a song Dad himself wrote.

The boys at Target Builders certainly know how to throw a party! They rented out the entire H2 Tapas & Wine Bar in downtown Fort Myers for a private bash, and I had a great time. Too bad I wasn’t invited! My husband and I were just there for a glass of wine and tried to slip out when we realized a private party was going on around us. Brad Newton with Target Builders caught us and graciously insisted we stay and enjoy the night. And we were glad we did, partying along with Mitch Belding and his wife, Maria Paterno, owners of All Out Bail Bonds; Greg and Robin Donovan, socialites and downtown landlords; and Stephanie Davis, a.k.a. The News-Press’ Downtown Diva.

Former PR maven Suzanne Willis is teaching etiquette classes to children at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. Teenagers get to practice their dining skills while also learning the dos and don’ts when e-mailing, cell phoning and text messaging. Thanks, Suzanne. We adults are eternally grateful to you for this.

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