Scene & Heard
Fire eaters. Dancers from the Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts dangling from a trapeze. Performance artists on stilts. Fashion models from Saks. It certainly was showtime at the Celebration of Women fundraiser for Hope Hospice in April at Harborside Event Center. The place never looked so special to my eyes as party planner and event chair Erleene Sanders transformed the enormous space into a fairy’s garden. Antique candelabra adorned the tables; flowers and butterflies floated from the ceiling; swaths of majestic blue cloth graced the walls and tables. In just three short years, this has become the biggest ladies’ luncheon in Lee County. How can you tell? Well, the 800 guests included a female “who’s who” of Fort Myers. I spotted people such as grande dame Barbara B. Mann and news anchor-turned-bank representative Jessica Stilwell among them. (Jessica, my former colleague, looks smashing, and her new job at FineMark Bank certainly seems to be agreeing with her.) Three cheers for ladies who lunch like this.
Mark your calendars for Feb. 18, 2011. Actress, author and domestic violence survivor Robin Givens will be the keynote speaker for The Shelter for Abused Women & Children’s 11th annual Mending Broken Hearts With Hope Luncheon at The Ritz-Carlton. Married in 1998 to boxing legend Mike Tyson, Givens found herself in the national spotlight a year later as rumors of abuse surfaced. She is now an advocate for victims of domestic violence and wrote about her experiences in her memoir, Grace Will Lead Me Home.
Giving Their All
Hear “Wanderlust” and you think ... fishbowl. This year’s Wanderlust event at Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club in April featured, as ever, the part where guests throw into the fishbowl different types of contributions, which are then auctioned to the highest bidder. Items included a four-year scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast University, tossed in by FGCU President Wilson Bradshaw. The winning bidders? Jason’s Deli owners Diana and Scott Willis, who are dedicated supporters of FGCU’s Hospitality Program, the beneficiary of the annual Wanderlust travel auction. Their winning bid helped raise $230,000 for the program. Retta Singer, in her stylish and sexy red dress, prevailed in the event’s game of heads or tails. That’s because she got lucky. The other finalist called “tails” before Retta could, and the coin landed on heads. Congratulations, Retta—that’s using your “heads” to best advantage.
Cliff and Georganne Williams are all the buzz these days with their rather active plays around town. First, on the housing front. The AC/DC bass player and his wife put their stunning, seven-bedroom Gulf Harbour estate on the market and have reportedly bought a riverfront home around the corner for a little more than $5 million from Al Hoffman, former ambassador to Portugal. Pretty sharp deal, since the Hoffmans at one point were asking $17 million.
Then, on the arts scene … they hosted a private party in April for young artist Ryan Metke, who is becoming quite the rage in New York City. Metke says his work is influenced by his childhood in Southwest Florida, and you can see it in his images of the gorgeous coastline, the scenic Everglades, and the strip malls and Wal-Marts along U.S. 41. Cliff and Georganne and their longtime pals, Mark and Sheri Loren, invited their friends to Space 39 for the occasion. In the middle of all this, a very attractive and stylish young woman got heads turning and tongues wagging. The object of this attention was none other than the Williams’ daughter Erin Lucas, familiar to reality TV fans for her appearances on MTV’s The City, a spinoff of The Hills. The Canterbury School grad was briefly my intern at NBC2 nearly a decade ago. Now she is a TV host and VJ, and is hounded by the paparazzi. This Williams family sure is out there, huh?
Winemaker Steps Up
Cult winemaker Peter Figge celebrated his 40th birthday in Naples in March, serving as guest bartender with Bruce Nichols at Sea Salt restaurant on Third Street South. The pair donated their tips to Opera Naples. The next day, Figge, whose parents have a home in Naples, was pouring his wine at a special dinner prepared by owner/Chef Fabrizio Aielli.
Ring it up. L.A. transplant and fashionista DeAnna Scott brought in the distinctively talented Hari of Hari Jewels for an elegant soirée at her Shadow Wood Preserve home in April. People can’t stop talking about DeAnna’s amazing and unique rings, so she convinced the jeweler to make a trip to this coast after one of his shows in Miami. Hari’s pieces are shown at Barney’s, and designer Vera Wang is one of his biggest fans. We love having DeAnna in town! Former vice president of corporate merchandising at BCBG Max Azria, she is now a vice president for Chico’s Soma brand and brings a welcome cutting-edge style to Southwest Florida.
Members of the Gulf Coast Society of Fund Raising Executives honored its retiring president, Carolyn Moore, at the April meeting. She is the executive director of the Island Coast Aids Network. A $500 scholarship in her honor has been established at Hodges University to assist a student focusing on a career in the nonprofit sector.
Call it The Mixer—and stand back. Guests had one rocking time at the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County’s fundraiser on the campus of the club in April. Attendees got their groove on in three distinct dance clubs—rock, jive and salsa. As emcee, I was pleased to be part of their biggest moneymaker ever: The Mixer brought in $250,000. They primed the crowd with an emotional video of the stories of some of the families who rely on the Boys & Girls Club to provide a safe, educational and fun place for youngsters to go in the summer and after school.
Caring and Kind
The community will miss Paul Sands, 58, who died of cancer in April. Hundreds of community leaders, friends and family members turned out for a memorial service to celebrate his life at Cypress Lake Country Club. Paul played baseball for four years with the Chicago White Sox organization, and then, for more than 30 years, worked as one of the most respected commercial real estate brokers in Lee County. He was a huge supporter of the Cattle Barons’ Ball, which raises money for the American Cancer Society. Paul was a thoughtful and generous man. I shall never forget what he did when one of my co-workers, Thaddeus Osenkowski, retired after 30 years with Waterman Broadcasting. Paul surprised his longtime friend with a brand-new car at the retirement party. The tears of joy on Oz’s face when he saw that automobile said it all about Paul as a caring and kind human being. He was a rare one.