Nick Lachey Braves The Cold, Defends Jessica
Bitter cold wind whipped around the soon-to-open Hula Bay Club Friday night but it didn't stop singer Nick Lachey, NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson and more than 600 of their friends and fans from partying. "It's cold but not that bad because we're all going to be inside," said Lachey, who arrived on the red carpet just after 11 p.m. He arrived solo but his girl friend Vanessa Minnillo, former Miss Teen USA and MTV host, was on the guest list. Johnson arrived with his wife Chandra. Also on the red carpet, braving the cold, were Playmates Amber Campisi and Shannon James, race car driver Marco Andretti; and Nick's brother Drew, who gained new fame thanks to "Dancing With the Stars." Commenting on the media attention given to his ex-wife Jessica Simpson and her apparent weight gain, Lachey said, "I think it's ridiculous that the media is making such a big deal about it. It's ridiculous that it would be making headlines. But you can't believe everything that's written or reported in the media. I wish her nothing but happiness."The $150 per ticket event drew some former professional athletes as well as a lot of people who were wondering where the warm Florida weather went. "Hey, I left New York for this?" shouted one woman, in a short, thin skirt and silk blouse. Despite the cold, party-goers seemed to be impressed with the Hula's warm island-themed interior. The party was a kick-off for today's Super Skins Celebrity Golf Classic. Last year's Super Skins weekend raised more than $400,000 for multiple charities. This year's proceeds will go to the Nick Lachey Foundation and Jimmie Johnson Foundation. Music will be provided by DJ Reach. Owners of the Hula Bay Club, formerly Rattlefish Grill, used the event to show-off the remodel waterside restaurant that opens to the public soon.
Reporter Walt Belcher can be reached at (813 259-7654.