Mr. Chatterbox

By staff March 1, 2003

Watch out, I'm in a bad mood. Passed over yet again for a Man of Style award. I wasn't even nominated! And you should see what was. Three rabbis! Just think-if I were a rabbi in Sarasota there would be three of them more stylish than me. It kind of makes you want to throw in the towel.

What I want to know is, who chose these guys? It says in the PR that a special blue-ribbon panel of experts, some from Saks and some from SARASOTA Magazine, narrowed the 100 nominations down to the 10 winners you see on pages 106 through 115. Who was on this panel, please? Saks won't divulge its "experts"; but I happen to know for a fact that over at our end the fashion arbiters consisted of the boss's wife, our new intern from Malaysia, and David the computer guy, who's always surprising us with unusual body piercings.

At any rate, Saks had a big party several weeks ago for all the nominees. Now, men and fashion have a very strange relationship. A real man wants to look good, but he doesn't want to look too good, and he certainly doesn't want to look like he spends too much time at it. This is the hidden story of every man's life. How far do I go? Where do I draw the line? Do these pants make me look fat? I hear that the only thing that upset Roy Palmer about that story about him in Time Magazine was the picture they used. There was something a little bumble-bee-ish about his black and yellow outfit. In person, at the Kanes' Oscar party, it was sensational. On the pages of Time, when you're being accused of cheating the poor and hungry Indians, well, it doesn't come across right. (By the way, that picture was taken by our very own Rebecca Baxter, who makes a comfortable living selling pictures of prominent Sarasotans suddenly caught in the national spotlight.)

Thanks to a strategically located martini bar, the party turned out great. I brought Peanut, who loves Saks, as it is the only store in town that still allows him to enter. The aisles were packed with stylish men and their ladies, and even those who didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning, like Bob Drohlich, seemed to have made an extra effort. None of the rabbis showed up, which I found rather rude of them, until someone pointed out it was Friday night.

One of the first people to catch my eye was that Emily Walsh. She's the girl of the moment, what with her social column in the Longboat Observer. It's much better than it has to be and just goes to show what I could do if my father owned the magazine. Rumor has it that Emily is engaged to Mark Famiglio. I asked both of them about it, separately, and they insist it isn't true-not yet, anyway. But what a couple-the town's most eligible bachelor and the It Girl of the moment. Tabloid heaven! Now, if only we had tabloids. Mark flies Emily everywhere in his private jet; they had just returned from Washington and the Katherine Harris inauguration. (Those who accuse the press of a liberal bias don't know Sarasota!) As glamorous as Emily's life is, though, I was pleased to note that they make her take her own pictures. I think it's so tacky when the social columnist has to tote around a camera. That's the one thing I can hold over Marjorie. At least our magazine has its own photographer.

It was a treat, as always, to see Iris Starr presiding over the party. Iris manages Saks, and pity the poor Winona Ryder who walks into her store. "Would you have me arrested if you caught me shoplifting?" I asked. "In a heartbeat," she said, her visage suddenly grim and serious. "But, Iris," I protested, "I'm your friend." "I don't care," she said. "It's a crime." And with that I slunk away, wondering how in the world I was going to sneak back that cashmere sweater I had slipped under my coat. 

And speaking of Men of Style, the previous evening we had all been treated to the song stylings of Mr. Harry Belafonte as he performed to benefit the Van Wezel Foundation. There was a dinner beforehand in the foyer that faces the bay, with a steel drum player and tropical cuisine.

I was seated at a raucous table that had to be shushed several times by annoyed patrons. Iris Starr-she's everywhere these days -regaled us with stories of her first job as a gift wrapper at Gimbels. And my date Marian Wallace had many interesting tales to tell about life backstage at the Asolo, where she works. Unfortunately, these must remain in the "vault," for the time being anyway.

After finishing our banana mousse we all trooped upstairs, each carrying a little shopping bag (or in my case, three shopping bags) full of Saks products and got settled for a magnificent experience. Harry is over 70 but still the consummate entertainer. He sang all his hits, often in tandem with the audience, and what a bunch of songs it was-Island in the Sun, Matilda, Try to Remember, and of course, the immortal Day-O. "Hey, Mr. Tally Man, tally me banana." They don't write songs like that anymore.

Two particularly interesting things happened during the concert. At one point a stagehand snuck out on stage with a note for Mr. Belafonte. Now, there is no more effective way to rivet an audience's attention than to crawl out onto the stage, behind the drummer, through the bass section, and try not to be noticed. He finally got to the little stool where Harry keeps his glass of water and deposited his missive, then snuck off. Of course everyone is dying to know what was in the note, but I guess that will remain in the "vault" also, as Harry never divulged its contents.

Toward the end of the evening came my favorite moment. It was announced that Mayor Carolyn Mason would present Harry with the key to the city, and out walks Her Honor. Now, in case you don't know, our mayor is an African-American who on this particular evening was wearing a dashiki. Harry obviously didn't know this either. He took one look at her and said in awe, "You're the mayor?" "Yes," she said sweetly. "Honey, give me a hug," he said; and they fell into each other's arms.

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