Turning 50 can be one of those moments that separates the women from the girls. When it was Shelia Davis’ turn to celebrate this passage at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples last October, the Naples socialite/world-class dancer did it with all the deftness you’d expect from someone so light on her feet. The 160 guests at this purple-themed fete seemed like a who’s who of Southwest Florida’s social crowd plus dancers from around the world. Even American Idol finalist Lazaro Arbos was on hand to sing Happy Birthday as a 6-foot-tall purple bejeweled cake was brought out during a blizzard of confetti. The night also included paparazzi, costume changes by the birthday girl, a heart-warming video montage presented by her three children, a spectacular band and perhaps the best dancing you’ve seen at any party in quite a while. What better way to move so gracefully into your 50s…
CHEERS ARE IN ORDER
I didn’t want to get down it felt so good.
—Suzy Bennett at her high school homecoming
Suzy’s walking, nimble proof that once you’re a cheerleader you’re always one—no matter how many years have gone by. The well-known owner of a Fort Myers PR firm went back to homecoming at her North Fort Myers high school this past October and, almost five decades after her first performance on the sidelines, slipped into her biking shorts and climbed to the peak of the pyramid, literally. This is the kind of climb over people that we can fully applaud.
… What does a reporter do when she spots Florida’s attorney general, a state senator and a state representative walk into the Bell Tower Shops one afternoon right before the November election? Well, she follows them frantically calling the news desk to find out what’s going on. Turns out Attorney General Pam Bondi had a campaign appearance set in Fort Myers, but the more pressing need was to find an outfit to wear for her appearance on a national news show the next evening. Fashionista and State Representative Heather Fitzenhagen stepped up to help Bondi select an outfit and 20 minutes later the three were spotted walking back to the parking lot, Bondi with a garment bag from White House Black Market slung over her shoulder. I was told she picked out the same WHBM white suit Fitzenhagen was wearing for the shopping trip. I guess State Senator Lizbeth Benaquisto was just along for moral support … Restaurateur/ philanthropist Sandy Stilwell has opened yet another dining spot, this one, SS Hookers, located just before the Sanibel causeway. I understand her pal Mary Susan Clinton helped select all the furnishings. Sandy welcomed 200 guests the first night and donated some of the proceeds to the PACE Center for Girls … A touchy little issue of Taste has nettled the ladies of Fort Myers’ Junior League. For decades, they’ve put on a Taste of the Town event, inviting local restaurants to participate and giv ing the money raised to educational programs in the community. But now, a for-profit event has popped up and—wouldn’t you know it?—the organizers named it Taste of Lee, staged it the day before Taste of the Town and held it at Centennial Park, the same place the Junior League had its event until two years ago. Confusing, huh? And the Junior League ladies are none too happy about a for-profit eating into their Taste contributions to the area’s school children …
The service was exquisite, especially the music.
—Marissa Hartington, owner of Marissa Collections
Marissa and husband Burt joined hundreds of celebrities and world leaders who gathered in a cathedral on the Upper East Side in Manhattan to pay their respects to legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta. He was the Hartingtons’ long- time friend and business associate. They brought him to Naples eight years ago to show his creations on the runway at Hats in the Garden. “The service in New York was so beautiful,” Marissa said, still choked up by the loss of her dear pal. Hillary Clinton, Diane Sawyer and Anna Wintour were among the guests in the cathedral.
… Wardrobe malfunction! A full moon was spotted on the runway at Hats in the Garden in November. A model showcasing a dress made solely of flowers took a quick turn at the end of the runway and, whoosh, her skirt flew up. You could hear the gasps of those sitting just below. The rest of the annual event at Naples Botanical Garden went as usual—sold out amid a parade of dazzling fashions and floral designs … “How do we get the Republican Party to stop being the party of angry white men?” Pat Buchanan was in town for a speech to the Tiger Bay Club in October and that was the question of the night when members of the audience got to quiz the former presidential candidate. He seemed to love the question and spent the next 10 minutes talking about ways for the party to be more inclusive. Ever the party animal, Mr. Buchanan … Arts for Act is back—and thriving. For years the charity art auction and gala was the biggest party in Fort Myers, drawing nearly a thousand guests and celebrities like Joan Rivers, Meryl Streep and Sharon Stone. But after the death of renowned artist Robert Rauschenberg in 2008, the event struggled to draw crowds and make money. This year, a new crew of supporters, including Jenna Persons and Sheri Loren, restyled the evening as Hollywood Glamor and that seemed to do it—the event sold out and doubled the take from the previous year … Speaking of numbers, it seems Carole and Arthur Allen have put their Port Royal home on the market for $80 million, the priciest listing ever for Southwest Florida. The 16,000-square-foot mansion sits on five acres of Gulf front property. The couple are divorcing, but plan to stay in Naples, where his company, ASG, is headquartered. They had met when Carole applied for a job as flight attendant on Arthur’s company jet. More on numbers and the family: When Arthur was adopting his daughter Kenza from China, he complained to Chinese officials that the process was taking too long. They told him the paperwork was delaying everything. So he bought the government adoption agency a whole new computer system to speed up the process for all the children. Generosity rocks.
You can watch Kellie Burns evenings on NBC2 News. Her email address is email@example.com.