Maxim Super Bowl Party
TAMPA - Maxim magazine Editor-in-Chief James Kaminsky said it best.
"We're bringing the magazine to life."
At the very exclusive and invite-only Maxim party at the Ritz Ybor Friday night, the popular men's lifestyle magazine orchestrated the ultimate joining of star athletes and gorgeous women, solidifying Maxim's spot as the king of Super Bowl parties.
There was no Diddy or Fergie, but nobody cared. There was Hall of Fame infielder Cal Ripken Jr. talking with Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, legendary boxer "Smoking" Joe Frazier, decked in all black, standing feet away from Hall of Fame and former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders -- all surrounded by Maxim models.
And then there was the stunning ratio of two women for every guy.
Two hours before the party even began, nearly 40 long-legged women, all in mini skirts, waited patiently outside the Ritz for their chance to enter, forcing those walking through Ybor City to stare in awe.
Once the party kicked into high gear, there were twice as many inside.
Celebrity guests included Philadelphia Phillies World Series champion slugger Ryan Howard, Bucs' cornerback Ronde and brother Tiki Barber, actor Cuba Gooding Jr., Pepa from the Grammy Award-winning hip-hop duo Salt-N-Pepa, and Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens, to name a few.
In 2001, Kaminsky and a few other magazine heads decided to create a Maxim Super Bowl party because they noticed a gap at Super Bowl weekend. As a result, "we decided we would own the Super Bowl weekend," Kaminsky said.
"Different type of magazine, different type of party," he said.
Complimentary Patron and Heineken flowed as DJ AM and DJ Vice, whose booth stood 10 feet above the main floor, kept guests moving with hip-hop, 80s music and techno beats. There were goodie bags, a delicious array of appetizers, and oh, 2008 Maxim Hometown Hottie of the Year April Rose in a long, purple and blue gown.
"Other magazines are canceling parties due to the economy," Kaminsky said. "This is the core part of our magazine. It's always been a core part of our mission to include sports."
Reporter Nick Williams can be reached at (813) 259-7851.
Diamonds & Pearls Celebrity Gala
TAMPA - There were lots of diamonds and pearls at The Diamonds & Pearls Celebrity Gala Friday night in Ybor City's Good Luck Cafe.
Hosted by the Professional Athletes Wives Association, the event was an evening of music, food and fundraising for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.
There was a silent auction that featured diamond and gold jewelry, a skateboard signed by Tony Hawk, NFL helmets autographed by Barry Sanders, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, and even some pool time with Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps.
Comedian Demetrius Wheeler kept the crowd howling and R&B singer Trumaine Lamar crooned some soulful ballads. Even guests were given a chance to belt out some tunes during a karaoke segment.
The fete also included a yummy all-you-can-eat soul food buffet that included macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, green beans, fish balls and hushpuppies.
Now, getting to the Good Luck Cafe - or any other club in Ybor City - proved to be a battle. Some of the streets were closed off and traffic often backed-up as stretch limousines dropped off guests.
And the prices to park were as high as $30 in surrounding lots.
Tribune reporter Cloe Cabrera can be reached at (813) 259-7656.
NFL Player's Party
TAMPA - The NFL Players Party is a rarity among Super Bowl happenings - the attendees are mostly football players.
That's right, athletes instead of celebutantes, reality TV stars and gossip rag casualties. No wonder Entertainment Tonight wasn't jockeying for position on the red carpet.
A recorded announcement greeted party guests with the announcement that "the A La Caret Pavilion is a weapons-free facility." Just in case you thought it was going to be THAT kind of party. It was also a media-free facility once you got past the tented red carpet area, as media weren't allowed inside.
Maybe things heated up considerably once behind closed doors, but the red carpet area was mostly subdued, with a stream of past and present gridironers stopping to pose for the cameras. Each was given a business card that allowed them to access the photo later - sort of like when your kid gets a picture with Tigger at Disney World.
The Bucs' Warrick Dunn was among those saying "no thanks" to the photo op.
Non-athletes drawing attention included - and in fact, were pretty well limited too - actor Chris Tucker and Claudia Jordan, prominent briefcase holder on "Deal or No Deal."
Tribune reporter Curtis Ross can be reached at (813) 259-7568
ESPN's NEXT Party
TAMPA - ESPN the Magazine offered a lavish opening to the Super Bowl weekend on Friday night, welcoming more than 1,000 VIP invite-only celebrities and guests to its annual NEXT party inside a 22,000-square-foot tent at the corner of Morgan and Bell streets in downtown Tampa.
Inside the tent, guests had their choice of three separate bars, including a center bar on an elevated stage, an outdoor bar and a bar inside a NASCAR garage complete with a souped-up race car. The spacious dance floor and stage was open-air, offering an impressive view of several Channel District condominiums. A small arcade was set up in one corner of the tent with old-school video games and a virtual golf driving range.
Headlining performer Wyclef Jean took the stage at midnight, opening with the 1996 smash hit "Ready or Not" by his former band The Fugees. Jean ripped through an impressive set that included covers of several popular songs plus tracks like "Hips Don't Lie," his 2006 smash with Shakira, and the acoustic "Gone Til November" from his 1996's debut solo album "The Carnival."
The packed crowd included such well-known personalities as 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and Jeffrey Wright, Golden Globe and Emmy-winning actor for "Angels in America."
Who's who of sports legends:
The ESPN party leaned heavily on professional athletes, both those whose glory days are still ahead and those whose prime time has passed.
But almost all of the players took time to say hello and share their thoughts about Sunday's big game.
The red carpet outside the tent was a revolving door of current and former sports superstars ranging from NFL greats like Jerry Rice, Shannon Sharpe, Eric Metcalf and Vinnie Testaverde to USA Soccer star Danielle Fotopoulos to former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield.
They mingled with current stars such as Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson and rising superstars like Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback who nearly led his team to the big game.
Early sentiment seemed to favor the Arizona Cardinals, who are making their first championship appearance against the five-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Bubba Bell said he wanted to see the Cardinals, a team that hadn't been to the big game before, have a taste of victory.
Testaverde, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, said he was happy to see friend and Cardinals' quarterback Kurt Warner back in the spotlight.
"My heart's with the Cardinals," Testaverde said, "but I give the edge to Pittsburgh."
Media friendly and media shy:
ESPN also drew a healthy mix of recording artists and Hollywood icons.
Benji and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte chatted up reporters as they worked the red carpet. MC Hammer pushed his new album. And party headliner Wyclef Jean talked fashion and his love of old-school sports heroes like Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett and Oakland A's Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.
"For me, I like to mix and match. Ever since I was with the Fugees," Jean said of his eclectic style. "I don't feel it's about one designer."
They were joined by an eclectic assortment of reality TV stars like former WWE Diva and Dancing With the Stars contestant Stacy Keibler and famous kid Brody Jenner.
But for every celebrity willing to spend a few minutes greeting the press, there were those who whisked by with barely a hello.
Christian Slater, who skyrocketed to fame with his turn as a twisted high school killer in 1988's "Heathers," waved but refused to stop. Oscar Winner Cuba Gooding Jr., whose memorable acceptance speech at the 1997 Academy Awards for "Jerry Maguire" cemented his place in Hollywood history, offered a quick hello but little else.
He later joined Wyclef Jean on stage to dance during a rousing performance of House of Pain's iconic hit "Jump Around."
And Lindsay Lohan, whose girlfriend Samantha Ronson spent the early part of the night deejaying for ESPN the Magazine, initially avoided the red carpet, only to venture out briefly for pictures before disappearing back inside. Lohan was spotted throughout the night, surrounded by security, but didn't appear to be having much fun. She left by herself about 1 a.m., flanked by security who ushered her down the red carpet, without saying anything.
Lil Wayne and the Subway Guy:
More than anyone else appearing Friday night, celebrity guests said they hoped to spot Lil Wayne, the rap superstar whose received eight nominations in December for the 2009 Grammys for his blockbuster album, "The Carter III."
ESPN the Magazine nabbed Lil Wayne to do interviews with many of the professional athletes on hand, including Flacco, the rookie phenomenon.
Chicago Cubs infielder Tony Thomas Jr., a Florida State University standout, said he listens to Lil Wayne to get pumped up before games. All he wanted, he said, was to meet his idol, even if he had to use his girlfriend to get the rappers attention.
"Any way possible I can meet the guy," Thomas said, laughing.
Maybe Thomas should have talked to Jared Fogle, the Subway spokesman, who met Lil Wayne last year during a taping of Saturday Night Live.
"He's a huge Subway fan," Fogle said. "He likes my commercials."
Sure enough, when Lil Wayne arrived on the red carpet about 11:15 p.m., he confirmed that the two share a mutual respect.
"That's my dude," Lil Wayne said of Fogle. "He's cool."
Reporter John W. Allman can be reached at (813) 259-7915.
Leather And Lace Party
HARBOUR ISLAND - There was an angel on stilts who stood more than 8 feet high. Another dressed in white and wore an exotic headdress.
The Leather and Lace party was no ordinary night at Jackson's Bistro on Harbour Island. The party has been one of the most exclusive events of Super Bowl weekend.
Rebekah Kross stood next to the angel and the headdress woman as if everything was perfectly normal.
Event organizers named Kross "Hottie of the Year," a title that brings no windfall or duties to fulfill during her reign. Still, she hoped it would boost her modeling career.
Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys was the first athlete or celebrity to arrive.
He skipped the red carpet, but obliged reporters' requests for a quick chat or a picture.
Infomercial king/health and fitness guru Tony Little explained his philosophy: "For five days, your body is a temple. For two days, it's an amusement ride. So tonight, I am cutting loose."
Former major leaguer Wade Boggs joked about football players being "a bunch of babies."
The NFL would never let its championship be decided by a best-of-seven series the way baseball does, he said.
Jenny McCarthy, one of the hosts, arrived about 11:16 p.m.
McCarthy said she and her beau, comedian and actor Jim Carrey, planned to go skeet shooting Saturday.
Do you know how to shoot? "I will tomorrow," she said.
Where will she be? She raised her finger to her mouth, "shhh."
Carmen Electra arrived with her fiancé, rocker Rob Patterson.
"We are taking it slow," she said. "We are trying to do things the right way."
Leather or lace?
"Leather," Electra said.
Kim Kardashian arrived with boyfriend, Reggie Bush, of the New Orleans Saints.
Kardashian said she has come to Tampa to watch Bush's team play the Buccaneers.
She said she has become an IHOP regular, having visited three times recently "I love it," she said.
What she doesn't love about Tampa is the cannon fire from the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium.
"It scares the s--t out of me," she said. "Every time."
Once inside, attendees carried whole bottles of vodka and plastic cups.
They smoked cigars -- even a little marijuana on the patio -- and some wore Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses into the night.
Everybody looked famous.
Men and women watched and cheered as young women in bikinis danced on light boxes to rock music.
Women in skin-tight dresses huddled under heat lamps, chatting or sending text messages.
One woman sat in the corner crying, inconsolable. The man she was with just looked out onto the water.
A few minutes later, security guards started to stir.
Electra and her fiance wanted to leave. It was about 1 a.m., less than two hours after they arrived.
Security rushed them past the crowds and out the door.
Boggs came next. He shook hands and embraced a police officer on the way out.
A man who wouldn't give his name left about the same time.
"It was OK," he said. "I wouldn't have paid for it."
As he reached for his cell phone, dozens of finely dressed ticket-holders pressed against the glass waiting to get in, hoping to take in the final fleeting moments of the party that was already losing its breath.
Tribune reporter Baird Helgeson can be reached at (813) 259-7668.
Under The Veil at MOSI
The pair of diplodocus skeletons towered above the main lobby of the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry; their 150 foot-long bodies striking dance-like poses. Below them on the dance floor, dozens of models wearing black dresses and veils strutted across the runway striking dance-like poses of their own.
Friday marked the first day of the "Under The Veil Celebrity Super Bowl Party" at MOSI, hosted by Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib and music producer and hip hop artist Jermaine Dupri.
Party guests were able to dance and mingle through the museum's five levels, including the simulated destruction of the Disasterville exhibit, or gather around the main lobby to watch as models offered a glimpse of some of the latest clothing presented by Fashion Week Tampa Bay. As the name of the event suggests, party hostesses wore veils to disguise their faces as they socialized with the crowd in order to create an air of mystery to the event.
The celebrity guest list was said to include singer Janet Jackson, actor Jaime Foxx, actress Vivica Fox, boxer Antonio Tarver and the So So Def Family, although only Tarver had made an appearance before 1:00 AM.
The party continues on Saturday with ticket prices ranging from $100 for women up to $600 for VIP access.
Multimedia reporter Scott Butherus can be reached at (813) 259-8066
Snoop Dogg Concert
TAMPA - By 9:30 p.m. last night, a crowd of 10,000 was cold, tired and desperately wanted their Snoop Dogg. Now.
They were packed into the makeshift concert venue next to Channelside Drive that's normally a parking lot.
Clutches of ladies in whisp-thin cocktail dresses huddled under propane heating poles against the 50 degree wind. In a large tent pavilion, other ladies hired as exotic dancers swung around poles (brass) on elevated platforms as tourist awkwardly took cell phone video.
As 9:30 p.m. passed, a forgettable opening act came and went.
Then a "video DJ" from Las Vegas, "Ronnie G," took the stage and absolutely whipped the crowd into a frenzy with wildly eclectic music and video clips projected on a gigantic Jumbotron.
Picture him mixing video and audio tracks from:
* Ozzy Osbourne "Crazy Train" with the composer John Williams' theme from "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
* Fergie's "My Humps" with AC/DC's "She Shook Me All Night Long."
* "The Jeffersons" theme of "Movin' On Up," with Gun's & Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine" with video from Saturday Night Fever, Napoleon Dynamite, 300 ("This is Sparta!!"), Batman and 100 other clips and tracks in dynamic sequence.
When Ronnie G started throwing DVDs to the crowd, the masses pretty thoroughly climaxed. He gave the crowd his all, and badly blew out his knee jumping from the stage after the show. Later, he sat in his trailer backstage, rubbing his twisted leg and taking congratulations from a line of new admirers.
Still, everyone wanted Snoop. Word was, one of rap music's greatest legends sat relaxing his trailer, immune to concert staff trying to start his show. Meanwhile in the crowd, guys took endless cell phone photos and ambitious women pleaded with security staff for access backstage (successfully, I might add).
Without Snoop, Sarah Morrow from Sioux City, Iowa, ached with shivering anticipation, leaning on the aluminum rail that separated crowd from stage. "I want to hear his old school stuff," she pleaded. Crystal Carlisle from Florida did pushups on the rail to keep warm - wildly entertaining guys nearby.
Security guards at the stage edge tried telling the front-row crowd "No Cameras. No Photos." This worked as well as telling the ocean to quit making the beach so wet.
Then from what sounded like 1,001 speakers, blared the classic symphonic anthem "O Fortuna," known as a near-universal theme for Big, Nasty, Glorious, Battles.
Snoop appeared like an appellation through the stage smoke with his entourage, his hoodie and his personal, iconic microphone - a majestic contraption with a sword-like shield around the shaft, encrusted with silver and diamonds that spell out "SNOOP."
"Bow, wow, wow. Yippie yo. Yippie yeah," Snoop almost cooed to an ecstatic, bouncing crowd.
Now, remember this. Don't go to a Snoop Dogg concert if you have delicate ears or delicate sensibilities. He curses with frequency and poise.
I won't quote.
But Snoop gave up tracks from his most modern CDs, plus the old-school rhymes that first made him famous and broke the door of MTV down for the dawning of modern rap: "1, 2, 3, and to the 4. Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre are at the door."
Other rappers may scream, or mumble.
Not Snoop. He calmly rolls out casually rhymes like he's lounging on a couch, talking into a phone, or soothing a youngster that everything's going to be OK.
The crowd went nuts. Even the exotic dancers 100 yards away switched their routines to match Snoop's rhymes and beats. Snoop took the crowd through is 15+ years of music.
"Can I get a bounce, bounce?" Snoop asked.
Yes, yes, he could. That's what people come to hear Snoop say.
As an epilogue: Just an hour later, it was over. And 10,000 people flooded into one of two places:
1) The Channelside parking garage and its new, jabberwocky payment system that requires a complex combination of yellow "payment chips," maddening credit card kiosks and paper receipts. It didn't go well.
2) Any of a dozen private and semi-private parties in the district. The new AJA ultralounge, the "Girls Gone Wild" party in the renovated movie theater complex and one event plainly named "The Party" in the upper floors of the Towers at Channelside. Each had its own set of velvet ropes, gigantic security guards and model hosts checking their clipboards for names of VIPs.
Never, I think, has Channnelside seen so many people.
Tribune reporter Richard Mullins can be reached at (813) 259-7919.