Scene & Heard by Heidi Kurpiela

Scene & Heard 11.18.10

Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:00 am

by Heidi Kurpiela

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+ Sarasota gets ‘DWTS’ fever
It’s about time Sid Pocius got a ballroom of his own.

After years of bouncing from studio to studio as an independent dance teacher, the 34-year-old champion ballroom dancer, coach and judge celebrated the grand opening of his Empire Ballroom Studios Nov. 12, in the Rosemary District.

Thanks to a little Hollywood muscle, the opening generated some serious buzz among Sarasota’s close-knit ballroom dance community.

Pocius’ friend, “Dancing With the Stars” regular Karina Smirnoff, flew in last Thursday for the event. The two have known each other since their early days on the competition circuit.

With the help of Rosemary District President Lori Frary, Pocius and Smirnoff snipped the official red ribbon Friday night in front of a gathering of star-struck spectators and then delighted the crowd late in the evening by performing a steamy rumba.

“It’s almost like we have more in common now,” Pocius says of Smirnoff. “I have a serious girlfriend (Christina Stewart) and she’s engaged. It’s all good.”

Earlier this month, Smirnoff announced her engagement to St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Brad Penny, who did not accompany the dancer to Sarasota, but according to Pocius, called frequently to make sure his fiancée was safe.

Stay tuned for more celebrity appearances. Pocius is expecting DWTS professional Louis Van Amstel to swing by the studio next month; followed by another visit from Smirnoff in January for the Sarasota Star Ball competition.

“I’m very, very happy,” Pocius says. “And very, very lucky.”

+ Manatee Players’ injured nun takes bow
Jeanne Larranaga can finally rest after spending nearly three weeks performing — with a torn knee ligament — as Mother Superior in The Manatee Players’ “Nunsensations”.

Those of you who saw the production know that Larranaga seamlessly pulled off the role while confined to a motorized scooter. Some audience members assumed the scooter was supposed to be a part of the production, thanks to Sister Robert Anne’s (Stephanie Woodman-Costello) clever cover-up curtain speeches at the start of each show.

Larranaga, an East County resident and longtime community theater actress, tore a ligament in her knee last month while chasing an actor off stage during rehearsals. The mishap, which happened a week before “Nunsensations” opened, would have laid Larranaga up for four to six weeks had Alpha Mobility Center, a Sarasota wheelchair retailer, not offered to donate a motorized scooter for the run of the show.

“It’s got a real tight turning radius so I can do spins,” Larranaga said, prior to her final performance on Sunday. “I haven’t done any wheelies yet. I would if I could.”

+ Oleda Baker reveals her fountain of youth
Surely we’re not the only ones wondering what’s in Oleda Baker’s Wheaties.

The 76-year-old former fashion model and author has penned another beauty book, “Breaking the Age Barrier: Great Looks and Health at Every Age,” about how she’s managed to maintain the figure and face of a woman half her age without going under the knife.

The ageless wonder will launch her book at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, at Saks Fifth Avenue. Proceeds from the book will benefit The Humane Society of Sarasota County.

To RSVP, call 954-0355 or e-mail

+ Local chimp gets up close and personal with Jon Stewart
Don’t let the bored expression fool you. Sarasota chimp, Ricky, was thrilled to pose alongside Comedy Central star Jon Stewart for the cover of Stewart’s latest book, “Earth: A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race.”

In fact, the two entertainers worked together once before on a Vanity Fair shoot. According to the chimp’s owner, Pam Rosaire Zoppe, whose family runs the Big Cat Habitat on Palmer Blvd., the debonair chimp remembered “The Daily Show” host and appeared stoked to see him again.

“Earth,” which hit bookstores in September, has enjoyed success at the top of the The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.

Ricky, who has so far spent his fall feasting on banana royalties, will be at the pre-season opening of the Big Cat Habitat from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, to sign copies of the book.

For more information, visit

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