Mr. Chatterbox

By Robert Plunket December 1, 2011

Breast friends: Clockwise from above, Susan Jones, Kyla Weiner and Sally Schule; Jim Helmich and Gloria Moss; Jason Champion; Rita Greenbaum; Robert Roubideaux. (Can Dance by Andrea Hillebrand; Key to The Cure by Rebecca Baxter)Guess what? I got hair extensions! And they’re pink! This happened at Key to the Cure. The girl who installed them said it was the hardest hair extension she’s ever had to do. The first problem was to find some hair to extend. But I must say—the end result is fabulous, even if most people think I have a fishing lure stuck in my hair.

Since this is our annual Visitor’s Issue, you may be reading this in your hotel room and not know about the fevered pitch of social life here in Sarasota, so let me explain. Key to the Cure has become a sort of Sarasota institution, and the semi-official opening of the social season. It’s always been great, but several years ago they got the idea of not just raising money but glorifying the breast, with things like pageants and brassiere contests. This, of course, brought in the men. Now it’s packed and raucous, more than 650 guests, and not just the old fogies but lots of people in their 20s.

Sally Schule, the general manager of Saks, is the organizer—along with Susan Jones and Kyla Weiner—and her touch is everywhere. And so is mine, come to think of it. The party is right in the store, and everything in Saks begs to be touched. I went around with a glass of Canadian Club, fingering the cashmere, stroking the leather, sniffing Jo Malone and fondling the Jimmy Choos. Sometimes things get spilt. What can you do? I dribbled a little tortellini sauce on an Elie Tahari but fortunately I was able to hide it under a pile of Luca Lucas.

Everybody wears pink, including the men. Sometimes it’s just accessories—Saks design director Robert Roubideaux had a shocking pink tie and pocket square (along with Prada sunglasses and a love patch), and my cardiologist, Hakim Morsli, was in a shirt that was a very dark pink, almost the color of blood. Raul Molina wore pink underwear, or so he said.

But no time to linger at Saks. We’re off to the next party—from now through May, they will be coming fast and furious—the CAN Dance, Sarasota’s version of Dancing with the Stars. Every year they get six local celebrities to participate in a ballroom dancing contest, and the competition can get pretty fierce. Last year I was one of the dancers, and someone—I think I know who—put itching powder in my dance belt, which accounts for some the odd moves I made on the floor. I did not win—that honor went to Dr. Tanya Schreibman—but I was glad to note that even now, a year later, people were still talking about my performance. (I sparkled in a hip hop routine to that song that goes, “I like big butts and I cannot lie.”)

This year’s dancers were amazingly well matched. It was very hard to choose between Mark Caragiulo’s number from Nine, or Scott Anderson and his swing dance, or Jason Champion and his matador routine. The girls were just as good—Clerk of the Court Karen Rushing, Dr. Alison Silver, and the grand prize winner, Rita Greenbaum, who did a sensational version of All That Jazz in which Sid Pocius threw her around the floor, draped her over his shoulders and then swung her over his head by her ankles. But still, it was hard to top Gloria Moss, who, in an exhibition number with Jim Helmich, wowed the crowd with Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. Gloria, who just turned 86, was attired in tight jeans and a see-through blouse and danced with all the aplomb of a show girl from the Copa, which is exactly what she used to be.

Everybody shows up for the CAN Dance, and it was great to see old friends like Roy and Susan Palmer. Roy is now an apiarist out east of the Interstate and has been stung hundreds of times. Judy Bronstein looked lovely in gold—it was her birthday and she hardly left the dance floor. The Key to the Cure girls had a big table and became quite raucous as the night went on. Emily Walsh apparently brought along some sort of noisemaking machine, like a foghorn, which never failed to make me have a little spasm and put my hands over my ears. And Myrna Band has a cute new hairdo. It flips around the edges. And speaking of hairdos, I can’t tell you how many comments I got on my new extensions.

I did not see the McGillicuddys, which was a shame, as this year they have a very interesting Dancing with the Stars connection—Chaz Bono used to be their step-grandniece. Yes, their nephew, Connie Mack III, is married to Mary Bono, Chaz’s stepmother. Of course, now he’s their step-grandnephew. I bet they have tales to tell.

Poor Jason Champion. He had to run home from CAN Dance and clean his house, as hundreds of people were coming the next morning to check it out. Yes, Jason—you remember him from Design Stars on HGTV—was one of the designers whose house was open to the public for the Designers Digs tours to benefit Habitat for Humanity. He and his partner, Jim Del Rio, bought a tiny little ranch house in Southgate and have turned it into the cutest thing. A lot of the furniture came from Habitat’s ReStore Store. Jason’s style is very Hollywood Regency—lots of bold pieces, saturated colors and big prints. They enclosed their lanai with big windows they found at Habitat, and they did all the work themselves. “We’re very butch,” as Jason put it. “Me, too,” I said, patting my pink hair extensions.


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