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Scene & Heard: Tribute to Cliff Williams

BY April 27, 2017


How do you throw a party for a rock star? Invite about 80 friends, keep the drinks coming and, of course, ask guests to bring their own white-hair wigs. That last part surprised AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams during his retirement party in February. At one point during the party, the men in attendance all came out to an AC/DC song wearing their Cliff look-alike wigs. After 40 years on the road, he and his wife, Georganne Williams, are going to have more time to spend enjoying their life in Fort Myers. Williams strummed the bass a final time in Philadelphia back in September at the end of the band’s Rock or Bust tour. While there’s no doubt loud is the only way to play AC/DC music, local friends of Cliff and Georganne know of their quiet generosity in our community. Maybe there’s no more rock, but Cliff’s still on a roll in bringing joy to Southwest Florida.

When Myra Janco Daniels (pictured) speaks, people listen. Her stories and refreshing candor had the spirited crowd at Royal Poinciana Golf Club in Naples on the edge of their seats for the Celebrate the Stars Gala in February. The United Arts Council of Collier County presented Myra with the group’s Lifetime Achievement Award. “You reach a certain age in life where it’s OK to sigh a little, cry a little, and to say whatever you damn well please.” And that she did. Myra (pictured, with Thomas Riley) spoke of the need for organizations to work together in support of the broader, community benefit. While accepting the award, the former advertising executive remembered getting cold feet about moving to Collier County in 1979 because the community lacked art. “Well, do something about it,” she recalled her late husband, Draper Daniels (he who inspired Don Draper’s character in Mad Men), saying. Ten years later, Myra opened The Phil “debt-free,” she reminded everyone. At 91 years young, she’s not finished. Myra shared that her newest projects involve building a museum for Mother Teresa at Ave Maria and chairing the Salvation Army’s capital campaign for The Frank Cohen Youth Center in East Naples. The Indiana native long ago sold Southwest Florida on the arts and, thanks in large part to her vision and heart, people are still buying in.

The Naples Winter Wine Festival isn’t just wildly successful. More than $15 million came in this year, all going to at-risk children in Collier County. The festival has grown into a global event. For proof, look around under the big tent at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples and you’ll see famous faces and iconic names like Salvatore Ferragamo. The designer and his wife, Christine, donated one of the extravagant auction lots up for bid the last weekend in January: seven days and six nights for two couples in Tuscany, Italy, at the medieval village of Il Borro. This property is separate from the Ferragamo fashion company because Il Borro is the private estate of Salvatore’s father. They commercialized it into a resort, spa and winery. “Each time [Salvatore] is back, it’s like seeing family,” Naples seasonal resident Tracy Scurto told me. She and her husband, Russ Scurto, visited Il Borro a few years ago through a wine festival lot. Tracy remembered, “[Salvatore] arrived from Florence to give us a tour.” The Scurtos originally met the Ferragamos while at a vintner dinner at the home of Simone and Scott Lutgert. Salvatore Ferragamo’s grandfather put shoes on Hollywood stars through incredible craftsmanship. His family is still making quite the impression. “I think it’s the Italian connection, but [Salvatore] and his wife are just very kind people,” Tracy Scurto added.

Talk about a sweet endorsement. Leading up to Valentine’s Day, Food Network star Bobby Flay posted on Facebook, “Check out Norman Love Confections. With a name like Love, you know his chocolates are going to be perfect…” I called Norman Love to get his reaction after I saw the post from someone so highly respected in the culinary field. He told me Flay’s timely endorsement definitely provided an “e-commerce bump” to the fastest-growing part of the company he started in Southwest Florida. Norman said he really appreciated the kind words, especially since he has never personally met Bobby. I know what they say about two cooks in the kitchen, but that’s one duo that would be fun to watch.

Ah, that feeling of youth—can you imagine making your professional stage debut at 9 years old? That’s exactly what Liza Jayne Longenhagen did when she knocked it out of the park starring as Scout in Florida Repertory Theatre’s production of To Kill A Mockingbird, directed by Robert Cacioppo. But, then again, she was destined for the stage. Her dad is popular local actor and FGCU theater professor Greg Longenhagen, and her mom is Liz Abbott, who has graced many an area stage including Florida Rep, Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre and more. Proud mom Liz said on opening night, “Between school and rehearsal, she has worked long hours. When I opened the paper this morning and saw Liza Jayne’s photo in an ad for the show, I woke her up by whispering in her ear, ‘You’ve got this’—and apparently she really does.” Liz added that when she saw her daughter in a preview performance, she sat in the audience and “did the ugly cry for two hours and 22 minutes.”

There’s nothing more traditional in Southwest Florida than the Edison Pageant of Light, where, since 1939 (the same year that Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were released) a king and a queen have been crowned to rule the mythical realm of Edisonia. But, this year, the pageant powers that be broke with tradition. Instead of having the customary male herald (for non-royals, that means “emcee”) to announce at the Kings and Queens Ball, they chose a woman for the first time—and who better than her majesty of the news, Kellie Burns? Talk about breaking the glass ceiling. Kellie tells me the ball was a sparkly smash and that the mothers of the outgoing king and queen stole the show in exquisite gowns. Mother of HRH king John Cantisano, Lynn (who reigned as queen in 1982, by the way), dazzled in navy blue with a shimmering silver overlay. Meanwhile, the mother of queen Alexandra Edwards sparkled in navy blue sequins. Mary Chris Sanders (who was the queen of Edisonia in 1989) chose a gorgeous gold-sequined gown for the ball and led the court in a royal rendition of Uptown Funk, which gave the pomp and circumstance an unexpected fun, youthful feel.

Love is in the air for perennial bachelor Jay Scanlon, who likely broke a few hearts when word of his engagement to interior designer Shana Williamson got around. The pair have been dating for a while, but when they posted a selfie on Facebook highlighting the fabulous new rock on Shana’s finger, they were clearly official.

Also official is the fact that PACE Center for Girls Lee County is now 10 years old. The school for at-risk girls celebrated with a to-do where the wonderful new PACE Choir made its debut. PACE enjoys the support of lots of Lee power women who were there to hear the talented students sing and to enjoy the feel-good atmosphere. There were Gail Markham, Christin Collins, Diana Willis, Michel Doherty, Melissa Cofta and more.

And another decade anniversary came when FineMark Bank, an institution that does so much for the community, threw a party that attracted the likes of David Lucas, Sam and Kathy Galloway, Jessica Stilwell Catti, former Mayor of Fort Myers Jim Humphrey and his wife, Nancy—name a mover and/or a shaker and he or she was there. FineMark is a great place for an event, but they beefed it up with a huge tent in the parking lot, where chef Mike Gavala catered with scrumptious eats.


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