By: Mary Jo Almeida-Shore
If there’s ever a good time to be on the “Black list” it’s for the highly anticipated, annual bash known as The Black Gala, hosted by power-couple Lea and Roy Black. And if you are “blacklisted” because you are, in fact, “under suspicion, disfavor, censure…” as per the dictionary definition – famed attorney, Roy Black is definitely ONE person with whom you should spend an evening. In our book, being on the Blacks’ list means that you are one of the lucky few (hundred) invited to participate in an unforgettable night of performances, dancing, gourmet food and bidding on one-of-a-kind auction items.
In its 18th year, the Black Gala, which was held at the Fontainebleau Hotel took place right smack in the middle of the Winter Music Conference and rivaled many of the musical performances and Madonna’s surprise appearance at Ultra-which occurred simultaneously. After all, the Blacks had a QUEEN! attend and perform at their gala. So what if it was Queen Latifah, rather than an actual queen? Can you think of any queen with such fabulous style, matched only by her incredible pipes? The Blacks’ guests were also treated to an unforgettable concert by Tony Bennett- whose legendary voice was accompanied by a full-piece orchestra- the presence of which caused a last-minute rearrangement of the tables and dance floor. No one seemed to mind- as the crowd was blown away by Bennett’s moving performance, which ended with a live rendition of “Who Can I Turn To?” a duet by Bennett and Latifah, which had only been performed live once before.
After the concert, Lea Black captivated the excited and chatty crowd with the expertise of a rodeo wrangler for the live auction, giving the adorably, dimple-faced, Mario Lopez, (whom you may remember as AC Slater), a run for his money as TV host. At one point, Lopez shouted out, “I think I just got fired!” We wouldn’t be surprised to see Lea hosting her own show after her stint with Housewives draws to a close. Lea had guests bidding on exotic trips, one of a kind custom cars including a McLaren and Maserati from The Collection Coral Gables; tickets to championship sporting events, trips to the Grammy Awards, a Halloween weekend at the Playboy manse, fine jewelry from Martin Katz and David Yurman, a signed soccer jersey from David Beckham, a world poker tournament with Noah Schwartz, and tickets to The Late Show with David Letterman to name a few.
But the party was just getting started. Queen Latifah performed an entire set after dinner, followed by songstress Maryel Epps, who has wowed us with her Gospel Brunch (most recently at City Hall) for decades. Then things got really crazy- as 80s singing sensation, Deborah Cox, took over and got everyone on their feet- and some on the stage- with her hit, “How Did You Get Here?” (which we still can’t get out of our heads) and several other well-known songs. Fueled by the excitement of Cox’s electrifying performance, the crowd wore out the dance floor until well-passed midnight, dancing to dance-til-you-can’t-even-walk music by DJ Irie.
Notable guests on the Black list this year included: Queen Latifah, Tony Bennett, Mario Lopez, Burn Notice’s Gabrielle Anwar, Baseball legend Sammy Sosa, Light Heavyweight Champion of the World Bernard Hopkins, Deborah Cox, Emilio Estefan, Joe Francis, World Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis, Real Housewives of Miami’s Adriana De Moura and Alexia Echevarria; Dancing With The Stars and Real Housewives of Miami’s Joanna Krupa; CSI: Miami’s Wes Ramsey, Alonzo and Tracy Mourning, Diva Miss Elaine Lancaster, Distinguished Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Mayor Carlos Gimenez Miami Dade County, and Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the gala benefitted The Consequences Foundation and its programs with Teach for America Miami Dade and Juvenile Services Miami Dade. The event also recognized Dr. Sanford Ziff for his commitment to helping those less fortunate for over 50 years. Prominent gala sponsors included Heys USA, which had many guests tweeting, The Collection Coral Gables and Grey Goose vodka.
Lea Black shared the following: “Each year I am so thankful our Gala is received by the community with such open arms, and wallets. Between our work with Juvenile Services and now our new program with Teach for America, we’re reaching kids through prevention early on and remaining there to support them should they wind up in trouble. This year we have created a curriculum to teach kids the consequences of their actions that will be rolled out across the state of Florida and then we plan on sharing it nationally.”
Sony Ericsson Fun
A lucky few of us got to watch Andy Roddick beat favored Roger Federer in a grueling match, and then see Venus Williams take on Ana Ivanovic in a women’s match from the beautiful Veuve Clicquot suite. Limitless made-to order sushi and free-flowing champagne kept us in great spirits throughout the exciting tennis matches. Now that’s one way for the socially-obsessed to enjoy a sporting event. Every day during the Sony Ericsson tennis tournament, tennis fans got to enjoy thirst-quenching flutes of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label or Rosé, with sushi bites from local hotspot, Sushi Maki at the Veuve Clicquot lounge.
JW Marriott Marquis served up smiles during the week when they hosted several Miami Children’s Hospital patients for personalized lessons with two renowned tennis athletes – World #5 ranked David Ferrer and world #9 ranked Janko Tipsarevic. The children, whose ailments ranged from a broken leg to a heart transplant, had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn a sport they’ve never played or improve their skills with two of the world best teachers. In partnership with TennisTip.com’s Brian Lutz, the event took place in the hotel’s one-of-a-kind, indoor pro-quality tennis court which was transformed from its usual 10, 000-square-foot NBA-approved basketball court to feature the same surface as the Sony Ericsson.
On Monday, March 26 the Bombay Sapphire Lounge at the Sony Ericsson Open invited twin-phenom doubles partners, the Bryan brothers, behind the bar to compete off the court in a cocktail mix-off. The star pair, normally accustomed to playing for the same team, were pegged against each other in a cocktail competition judged by host Jilian Sanz, Bombay Sapphire brand ambassador Gabe Urrutia and one lucky consumer selected from the crowd (the first to name 3 botanicals infused in Bombay Sapphire gin). The event was fun and lively, and the extra-sweaty tennis players (straight off the court) were able to unwind and enjoy themselves between victories. After a grueling battle, the judges deemed Bob Bryan’s Sapphire Ace Collins cocktail just a tad too sour to defeat his brother Mike’s perfectly balanced libation.
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