July 22, 2014

Scene & Heard

Beehives and Fedoras
It was women with beehives and white gloves. Guys in fedoras sauntered about in dinner jackets. Yes, Mad Men—in a nod to hit TV show Mad Men—came to Naples in early May for a jolly good cause. M Waterfront Grille was transformed into a swanky ’60s supper club for 239Men, a fundraiser in support of the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee. This brainchild of chairs Amber Shemansky, Michele Coffin and Craig Bamberg featured sumptuous dishes from star chef Brian Roland, great sax sounds of the era, trivia games for prizes—and, of course, a martini or two to round off the theme. You caught the spirit, guys, with quite the flair.

Showbiz Scene
Buzz, buzz, buzz. Denise and Brian Cobb of Naples flew to New York in mid-May for delightful immersion in the showbiz scene. They attended the premiere of HBO’s new movie Too Big to Fail with their friends Regis Philbin and his wife, Joy, and then went to dinner with the Philbins and LIVE! With Regis & Kelly producer Michael Gelman. "Don’t miss the movie," Denise says. "William Hurt is amazing. It shows how really close we came to a complete financial meltdown."At dinner, Denise reports she was sitting next to author-screenwriter Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle) and couldn’t resist her charming wit. Denise found Nora’s writer husband, Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas, Casino), fascinating as well. Regis has no intention of retiring after he leaves LIVE! at the end of November and told Denise he’s fielding other offers for what he calls his "next act."

Go Daddy Steps Up
Call it a big-time go for more help for Haiti. Naples-based charity Hope for Haiti got a huge boost from Bob Parsons, the colorful CEO and founder of Go Daddy (domains, web hosting). Over the past year, Parsons pledged more than $1 million to help build schools and clinics in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. He and some of his staffers came to Naples in April to load up supplies and then flew off to Haiti with Naples Board President Tiffany Kuehner and Executive Director Elizabeth Davison. Parsons wanted to see what his money was being used for. After four days of touring Haiti, he pledged even more money. Tiffany told me, "I know this partnership will make a huge difference in the lives of so many people in Haiti."

Hail, Gail
Well, 60 has to be the new 40. Just consider how radiant and gorgeous Gail Markham looked as 200 of her closest friends gathered at Tarpon Point Marina in Cape Coral in April to celebrate her 60th birthday. Her longtime companion, Doug Meurer, actually thought he could surprise her with this party, but we all know nothing in this community is off her radar. Guests honoring the business owner/philanthropist/community leader included fellow members of the PACE board (which Gail chairs), local politicians (including former county manager Don Stilwell) and many others whose lives she’s touched throughout Southwest Florida. This gal’s a Gail force, and she blew us all away on this grand occasion.

Lots of Heart
For the first time ever, the Heart Ball sold out, packing 450 guests into the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort in April and raising more than $385,000. Kudos to the hardworking chairs, Fred Pezeshkan and Joe Shepard. I was thrilled to host the event and once again marveled at how auctioneer Scott Robertson works the crowd. He’s a wonder at twisting one body part—an arm—to help another—the heart. It’s hard to escape him scot-free.
 

Angels or Devils
Leave it to Charlie’s Angels to stir up a fuss. People are still talking about Hope Hospice’s Celebration of Women at Harborside Event Center in April. Party planner Erleene Sanders put on quite an extravaganza with a delicious lunch and fashion show featuring exquisite ensembles from Saks. It was the Charlie’s Angels theme for the fashions, and especially the entertainment, that raised some eyebrows. In tribute to the comely stars of that late ’70s TV hit, daringly clad dancers flown in from Los Angeles shimmied and kicked their legs high and, naturally, vanquished the bad guys. So many of the crowd of 1,000 guests rocked to the show of empowered women, though some felt the costuming was a little scant. Angels? Devils? However you call it, all agreed that the $100,000 raised for Hope Hospice was divine.

C’mon In
Seek and you could find Nature’s Element at the home of the very generous Simone and Scott Lutgert in April, in the name of raising money for the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (C’mon). Saks Fifth Avenue, Donna Karan fashions and jewelry from designer Coomi Bhasin took the starring roles in making this a memorable evening for the 50 guests. The night’s honoree, Donna Karan ambassador and C’mon campaign chair Simone Lutgert, was graciously celebrated, and more than $250,000 was raised for the museum’s capital fund. The word is that the museum is getting closer and closer to being completed and might be ready for its first visitors by the end of the year.
 

Moon Over Fundraiser
A fundraiser on the causeway? A box of chocolates with a diamond inside? You have to give the gold medal for enterprise to the organizers of Octifest on the Causeway, which hosted 200 guests in April on one of the man-made islands that is part of the causeway. It was all to benefit the Sanibel Sea School. With a big moon above on a glorious Saturday night, attendees gathered under a tent decked out with brightly colored, hand-painted lanterns and DayGlo tablecloths. That almost-full moon and a gorgeous sunset made the evening ever more glorious. "Our committee and staff worked very, very hard to make a great event," says Evelyn Neill, founder of Sanibel Sea School. "But Nature did her part, too!"

The guests could buy boxes of signature Bailey’s chocolate truffles—and inside one sat a diamond valued at $4,000 (graciously donated by Lily & Co.). The $125,000 raised will go to scholarships for summer camp and classes at the Sea School teaching children to value, understand and care for the ocean. That’s some dandy bridge toll … and a good reason to pay it.

Welcome, Governor
I had a chance to sit down with Gov. Rick Scott in May, the day he signed the Andrew Widman Act into law. (Named after a Fort Myers police officer killed in the line of duty, the legislation will help judges keep repeat offenders behind bars.) The governor had spent the weekend at his home in Naples celebrating Mother’s Day with his wife, his mother and one of his two daughters. He told me he has spent only four nights back home since he was sworn into office. This quick trip, he said, which included church services and brunch, was definitely worth it. Glad to have you back, Mr. Governor, no matter how brief the stay.

Departing Heroes
And, finally, a heartfelt goodbye to two major players in this community. NBC2 anchor Jamie Yuccas will be returning to her hometown of Minneapolis to be a consumer reporter at WCCO. Florida Gulf Coast University Vice President Joe Sheppard has accepted a job as the president of Western New Mexico University. Both have made tremendous contributions to Southwest Florida and will be greatly missed.

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