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Kellie Burns' Scene & Heard: May

Theater Emergency … Wine Fest Buzz … Party of the Century

Jeff Binder learned all the lines and physical comedy for The Game's Afoot in record time to fill in for an ailing actor.


There’s a lot of buzz over the amazing growth of the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest. With Dorothy Fitzgerald and Elaine Hawkins at the helm, the February extravaganza raised a record-setting $2.5 million in three hours. In one segment, the crowd raised $445,000 in 15 minutes to keep children with heart problems from having to go to Miami for treatment. Urging on the bidding, pediatric heart specialist Dr. Eric Eason said, “The reason to go to Miami is for salsa, not children’s health needs.” Guests sure followed doctor’s orders When you start a night with a $100,000 pledge, you know you’re in for a fruitful event. The donor was Dolph von Arx in the fund-a-need portion of Magic Under the Mangroves, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s annual gala in March. The net for the evening: $1.3 million, exceeding the goal of $950,000 …



I don’t know how he learned all the lines, the choreography and the physical comedy in such a short time.

—Kristen Coury, Producing Artistic Director of Gulfshore Playhouse Boy, was there drama behind the scenes one week before The Game’s Afoot opened in March at the Gulfshore Playhouse. Cody Nickell, starring in the role of William Gillette, was having some health issues and, with no understudy in the budget, director Kristen Coury was worried. “We couldn’t afford to cancel shows with 26 sold-out performances coming up.” Luckily, on the night of the first preview, who walked into the theater but Jeff Binder, still in town after starring in Gulfshore Playhouse’s world premiere of The God Game. He agreed to understudy, and when it was clear Cody needed more medical attention, Jeff got the call. “One week, three full company runs and two rehearsals with the stage manager later,” says Kristen, “Jeff went on as William Gillette. He looked like he’d been there all along. His performance was spectacular.” Call it Miracle Afoot.

To read the entire article, pick up Gulfshore Life at select newsstands or purchase a copy of the digital edition. A full version of the story will be available on June 1. Or subscribe now to Southwest Florida's leading magazine.



… Berne Davis, the First Lady of Fort Myers, turned 100 years old in March and celebrated with a series of parties. The biggest included 350 guests at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, where they closed the streets off for a concert and dinner outside the Center. The birthday honoree has committed $2 million to help transform this historic federal courthouse into a place for weddings, parties and art shows. Berne held court outside the building, where guests waited more than an hour in a line stretched down the street to wish her a happy birthday. Center Director Jim Griffith called it “the party of the century.” Congratulations to my friend and co-worker NBC2 anchor Lindsay Logue and her husband, Doug, who welcomed Lane Catherine Logue into the world on March 11 Two Lee County legends passed away in recent months—Dr. John Fenning, one of the first orthopedic surgeons in Fort Myers and a great patron of the arts, and Dave Lagaschulte, one of the founders of Hooters restaurants. Both were leaders in their fields, respected in the community and did much for us all as philanthropists



We do like to lay eggs where we nest, and Naples is definitely our main nest.

—Patty Baker, philanthropist With a customary flourish when local arts, health or quality of life matters are in need, Patty and Jay Baker stepped in with $2 million to win the auction for naming rights to the new park planned for the Gordon River Greenway in Naples. Said Patty of the projected Baker Park: “We like to make a difference in people’s lives and this park seemed a great way to do it. And we thought our dog Kizzie might like to take some of her friends there, too. We hope many others will contribute lots to get it done faster.”


Barbara Jordan was honored with the Ken Venturi Award at the Mending Broken Hearts with Hope luncheon at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples in February. More than 650 guests attended the fundraiser for The Shelter for Abused Women & Children, including such staunch supporters as Simone Lutgert, Shelly Stayer, Martha Fligg and chair of the event Sherri Abruzzese. They raised more than $700,000 for the shelter. Upon receiving the award, Barbara told the guests, “The determination my husband John and I feel has to do with our background of family abuse. I knew that we would do all we could to prevent the fear, the shame and the pain that children who witness feel. That experience as a child broke my heart, but not my spirit.” The Bonita Springs YMCA is back. The Y’s inaugural gala in March raised $140,000 for summer programs. The resourceful chairs of the night, Karin Moe, Marjorie Rubacky and Patt Suwyn, transformed the gymnasium into an elegant dinner club Six-foot-tall painted seahorse statues are popping up around Lee County. Eighteen of them were auctioned off at the first ever Seahorse Gala at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott in March to benefit the Golisano Children’s Hospital. Nothing like making a splash in the neighborhood … all for the kids.



A sampling of money raised for local charities.

Evening with the Red Sox $120,000+

Guys and Dolls Gala $100,000+

Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest $2.5+ million

Voices for Kids of Southwest Florida $32,000+

YMCA Sneaker Ball $200,000+

—Compiled by Hanna Romano


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