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Scene & Heard


Call the 2009 heart ball in late April a very together event. For the first time, Lee and Collier counties combined to throw one big gala—and a grand success it was. The decor at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Estero was just stunning … deep chocolate brown table linens as a background for the reds and golds in the centerpieces and settings. And the action on the auction items proved hot—and generous. In one of the most dramatic moments, Dr. Denise Gay, a Naples periodontist, won the intense bidding for an hour’s lesson with tennis legend Monica Seles. The price: $10,200.

“There was no way I wasn’t going to win, no matter how high the bidding went,” Gay told auctioneer and former NBC2 sports anchor Jay Severson. She won it for her eight-year-old daughter, Dominique, a tennis fanatic. When Mom called her from the table with the news, Dominique was heard shouting, “I’m going to play tennis with a superstar.” It was a night for superstars all around, and a coup for the American Heart Association and this year’s hosts, Todd and Angela Gates.



What do you do for your Louisiana-born husband for his 30th birthday? Well, insurance guru Jen Rider Hartley had just the down-home thing for husband Jarod—a real crawfish boil in their Shadow Lane home in old Fort Myers back in May. What a party! She had 130 pounds of crawfish flown here, along with other traditional Cajun fare. Graphic artist and designer Stephanie Battista, ABC7 anchor Len Jennings, real estate whiz Todd Tooley, interior designer Jessica Must and about 50 others stood around cracking open the crawfish and sucking on their heads. Messy? Maybe. But this was pure fun; one of the best backyard bashes I’ve been to in years.


How sweet it was. Desserts by Norman Love of Norman Love Chocolates and Keegan Gerhard of the Food Network. Juicy gossip about Paris Hilton and Princess Diana. Thank Retta and Elliott Singer of Naples for the great dessert dinner they staged at their Gulf Shore Boulevard penthouse in early May. The Singers won the six-course dinner for a $15,000 auction price at the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest and invited all their tablemates to join them for the payoff. There was light dinner and those great desserts and then, over post-dinner wines, the guests got to quiz the two chefs, who are good friends from their days working at The Ritz-Carlton hotels. That’s when the guests learned that the two chefs had made one of Paris Hilton’s over-the-top birthday cakes and Princess Diana’s last birthday cake before she died in that tragic crash. All in all, one enchanted evening … and for a good cause, at that.



Naples philanthropist Patty Baker is on a roll on Broadway. She was one of the backers of All My Sons (with John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Katie Holmes), then took the money she made from that and put it into Nöel Coward’s Blithe Spirit (starring Rupert Everett, Christine Ebersole and Angela Lansbury). “[We won a Tony award], and I’m really excited,” says Patty. She’s a major supporter here of the Naples Players, Sugden Community Theatre and the Naples Philharmonic and clearly a woman with an eye for the finer things.



I was thrilled to see 40-something Kimberly Richards looking so fabulous at the opening of the new Deseo Spa and Southwest Florida Oral Facial Surgery in Fort Myers in late April. I wonder if this office holds the key to her good looks. The mother of five adopted and step-children just wrapped up chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer and is ready to get back to the gym. She and husband John made Gulfshore Life’s Hot 100 list last year and then, in December, she had a biopsy on a lump in her breast and discovered it was cancer. But Kimberly is bouncing back and hoping her beautiful, jet black hair grows back even better!



Some good stories—financial and romantic—came out of the Kentucky Derby party Al and Dawn Hoffman threw at their riverfront mansion in early May. Entering the riverfront estate in Gulf Harbour Yacht & Country Club is like stepping into a castle. Exotic stone floors, spiral staircase, turrets. The estate is actually for sale with its million-dollar price tag, and I’ve got to say, if you’ve got the cash, the place is incredible. Hoffman was offered the ambassadorship to Portugal just before the housing market tanked. He resigned from WCI and sold all his stock in order to take the position. He says he can thank President George W. Bush for unknowingly saving him millions of dollars in losses.

During the party, we all shared our wedding engagement stories. Dawn had her bags packed and was leaving town for another job when Al finally proposed after years of dating. Brian Hummel asked his wife, Kristin, to marry him every day for one year (he’s a heart surgeon, and she was his surgical nurse) before she even agreed to date him. Voice-over artist Randy Thomas and her husband, Arnie, had been friends for years. One night he crashed on her couch and never moved out. They’ve been married 25 years!



A crowd of more than 400 people came out to the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in mid-April in support of the resort and hospitality management studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. The Wanderlust travel golf and gourmet dining auction raised $150,000 for the cause. “I am proud of the accomplishment in such a tough economic time,” says Diana Willis, one of the event organizers. She and her husband, Scott, outbid other guests on a 10-day cruise that begins in Greece and ends in Venice, Italy, with stops in Mykonos Island, Turkey, Croatia and islands up the Mediterranean. That ought to satisfy a little Wanderlust. Well deserved, Diana.



We see where billionaire Tom Golisano, a three-time candidate for governor of New York, will be changing his home address to Naples. He’s not happy with a newly enacted Empire State tax increase. The owner of a $13 million mansion here says he’ll save $13,800 a day in this state with no personal income tax. He’s only just begun to appreciate the joys of living in our paradise.

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