+ JT debuts new tequila in Sarasota
Wait a minute. Justin Timberlake has a brand of tequila?
And what? He was in Sarasota last week?
How did the singer-turned actor-turned-liquor distiller manage to elude the paparazzi?
Well, by being discreet and picking a private yacht club to premiere his new subtly fruity 901 Silver Tequila.
Distributed by the New York-based wine and spirits importer Palm Bay International, the Timberlake beverage was undoubtedly the main attraction during last week’s Palm Bay corporate retreat held at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota.
To ensure that the 30-year-old pop star wouldn’t create a spectacle, the company chose to host its 901 kickoff Wednesday, March 9, at the Sarasota Yacht Club, where staffers were asked to remain mum about the party’s man of the hour.
According to food and beverage manager Anthony Puccio, Timberlake was “very cordial and very polite” as he posed for pictures with the chef and wait staff.
“Years ago, I managed an offshore race team for Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys,” Puccio says. “So I understood where they were coming from as far as keeping things secret.”
Not that the tabloids weren’t hot on Timberlake’s trail. Two days after the event, a staff reporter from US Weekly phoned Puccio looking for dirt on Timberlake, who recently split from longtime girlfriend Jessica Biel.
Puccio wisely told the rag mag “no comment.”
+ Teen journalist reports for Disney
Bravo to Sarasota’s Raven von Wood for landing a coveted hosting gig at this year’s Disney’s Dreamers Academy.
Now in its fourth year, the program functions as a four-day, career-enrichment conference for teens, featuring celebrity keynote speakers and educational workshops.
Two years ago, the 16-year-old home-schooled student was one of 100 students accepted into the program.
This year, the aspiring journalist was invited back to the event, which was held March 3 to March 6, in Lake Buena Vista, to host video segments for Disney’s social media network.
“I was told I’d do well on camera,” von Wood says. “And I’ll admit, it’s a lot of fun, but to be honest, writing is my love.”
To see von Wood in action, search “Disney Dreamers Academy” on YouTube. She’s a total natural.
+ Rhoads’ gospels bring down the house
In a cultural mecca such as Sarasota, preachers have no choice but to work theatrics into their sermons.
Meet Dr. David M. Rhoads, this month’s scholar-in-residence at St. Armands Key Lutheran Church.
Rhoads, a former New Testament professor at the Lutheran School of Theology, in Chicago, is such a first-class orator, parishioners have been speculating whether the guy studied theater.
He didn’t. That’s a rumor.
Instead, Rhoads, who was ordained in 1968, has a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary, a master’s degree from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Duke University.
“The ancient manuscripts were like musical scores,” explains Rhoads. “You can’t read them without humming. The New Testament is performance literature. In a sense, we’ve lost that dynamic.”
Although Rhoads’ specialty is his two-and-a-half-hour delivery of the Gospel of Mark, he says his Book of Revelations is just as emotive and equally exhausting to perform.
You can catch Rhoads’ last two lectures from 10 to 11:30 a.m. March 17 and March 24, at St. Armands Key Lutheran Church.
+ Sarasota Ballet gets a leg-up in Washington
The Sarasota Ballet shared some big news last week.
The company, which has so far enjoyed a pretty remarkable 20th anniversary season, will pad its fall repertoire with a collaborative performance with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet this October, in Washington, D.C.
Suzanne Farrell, a former prima ballerina and George Balanchine muse, has kept her eye on the Sarasota Ballet over the past two seasons.
In December, she contacted Director Iain Webb to invite the company to perform Balanchine’s “Diamonds” Oct. 12 to Oct. 16 on her home turf, Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center.
Adding further clout to the project: The famous Balanchine ballet was originally created in 1967 specifically for Farrell.
“This is quite an honor for our dancers and the entire community,” Webb says. “I believe this marks the first time one of Sarasota’s leading arts organizations has been invited to perform at such a prestigious venue.”