A Weekend to Remember

 To say that last weekend was spectacular truly is an understatement. It started out with dinner at Café Lurcat (the yellowtail snapper there is divine) and then on to Opening Night of Gulfshore Playhouse’s production of David Mamet’s Race. Kristen Coury, Gulfshore’s producing artistic director, again knocked the ball out of the park with her choice of the most excellent professional actors to star, under her direction, in one of the most thought-provoking dramas I have seen. Do not miss this amazing play—it moves so quickly, you will be wanting even more when it ends. Race runs through February 12 at the Norris Center. For tickets, log on to www.gulfshoreplayhouse.org or call 1-866-811-4111.

On Saturday, I was thrilled beyond words to be able to attend the Naples Winter Wine Festival Auction at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. This year’s theme was “Believe in the Magic” and there was magic everywhere. After checking in at just after 11:00 a.m., my first stop was the meat-locker-cold auction room to view all the lots the patrons and guests would be bidding on starting at just after 1:00 p.m. What always strikes me is the vast quantity of incredibly rare and fabulous wines on display—some vintages as old as 1935. No wonder there are guards everywhere. A highlight was the magnificent dry bar with Lalique crystal inserts crafted especially for the 2012 Wine Festival by Thomas Riley Artisans’ Guild and loaded with a one-of-a-kind collection of the greatest vintages of Haut-Brion wine. Wow.

Next stop was the pre-auction food and beverage celebration, located just outside The Ritz-Carlton’s fabulous new Grand Lawn Pavilion, where the auction would take place. Food stations lined the area, representing every Ritz-Carlton in Florida with everything from crab cakes to sliders to prime rib to tacos to every kind of chocolate to cheesecake—I could go on and on. And the choice of wines was staggering, so many to choose from and all top of the line labels. All the beautiful people were eating and drinking and gearing up for the exciting afternoon ahead of them.

It is difficult to describe the auction itself unless you actually experience it. To see all these folks gather with anticipation to see who will bid the highest for each lot is amazing. And then to watch as auctioneers Ann Colgin and Humphrey Butler work at such a feverish pace to get the price of each and every lot to the very highest dollar amount is a lot of fun. Again this year, they accomplished their task. I joined in with my “clapper” to egg and cheer the bidders on to bid often and very high. The result was $12.2 million for the kids of Southwest Florida. The dry bar I mentioned above sold for $320,000; a trip to Elton John’s White Tie & Tiara Ball in London along with Wimbledon tickets also sold for $320,000; and a sensational Baltic Sea cruise on a luxury yacht went for $600,000. A 22-day around-the-world trip for two on a luxury jet sold for $240,000. These are just a few of the highlights. The NWWF auction is an experience like no other; the founders and trustees of this wonderful group must be so proud.

On Sunday, Bob and I were honored to be on stage at the Sugden Plaza as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, spoke to more than 1,000 supporters. What a thrill to meet them both. And what a way to finish up a truly remarkable weekend.


Jefferson A. Russell and Eric Hissom star in Race.


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