Tag Archives: Billy Jolie

Labor Day 2013 in New Orleans

NOLA 2013 Bourbon Group 3Labor Day weekend 2013 could not have arrived at a more vital time in life with all of the craziness that was going on.  I NEEDED this weekend!

Every Labor Day weekend involves reuniting with all of the New York and Chicago peeps at a destination not in one of those cities (or Tampa).  (READ: The Big Easy & Back!)  To my Jambalaya & Hurricane guzzling delight, New Orleans was once again chosen as this year’s location.  I don’t know what exactly happened that weekend.  It almost felt as if it never even took place, because it all happened so fast.  I only remember that the entire time just felt good.  It felt good to let loose.  It felt good to reunite with my best friends and other family.  It felt good to meet new friends.  It felt good to just get away.  I can’t come up with another way to describe the trip other than playing “It Feels Good” by Tony Toni Tone’.

Oh, I also remember eating raw oysters every single day for lunch and dinner.

…until Labor Day Weekend 2014!

NOLA 2013 Group

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The Theme Song of Labor Day Weekend 2013: “Triumphant” by Mariah Carey? Huh? I am afraid this song oddly became the anthem for Jason, Billy and I when lost in the French Quarter. Don’t ask… because we wouldn’t be able to explain it to you.

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The Event of 2013!

Okie Group 07

The beginning of summer.  The time of year when your AC thermostat lowers while your electric bill rises.  The start of beach season and sunbathing.  And that time of year when Pride & Passion, arguably one of thee top events in town takes place.

The 8th Annual Pride & Passion was held on Saturday, May 18, 2013 at the Tampa Museum of Art, which this wonderful event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for each year.  In the four years that I have attended Pride & Passion, it has rapidly become one of Tampa’s signature fashion events known for its pomp, flash and extravagant entertainment and decor.  This year’s event was no exception and easily tops previous celebrations in grandeur and eminence.

This year’s Pride & Passion also happens to be the first that I sat as the Public Relations, Marketing & Host Chair.  So it was fulfilling to not only attend this kick-ass party but to also help plan this event with the rest of the fabulous Steering Committee members.  If you missed out on this year’s festivities or have (gasp) never attended a Pride & Passion, mark your calendars for May 2014 and make plans to be there!

Pride & Passion 2013Okie Boys Group 01Cake Areis Rayda 01Shane Aimee Mike 01Group 01Group 03Okie Boys Group 04Okie Jonathan Cheri Linley JocelynOkie Jess 02Okie Linley 02Okie Linley Billy 01Okie Jocelyn 01

Photography by Radko Keleman
Select Photography by Todd Montgomery & Ruslana.Studio
Noticeable Photography by Okie Tilo’s cellphone

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…and in dedication to my fan that became the it-prop of Pride & Passion 2013:

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Food Throwdown: May 2013

One of my most favorite periodic gatherings with friends, the Food Throwdown (the first one of this year) took place last weekend.  What exactly is a Food Throwdown?  My good friends Katina and Justin open the doors to their home and host these Food Throwdowns which are culinary competitions where a specific dish and cocktail are selected for the event.  Anyone from our social network of friends is free to prepare that particular dish and/or cocktail for everyone in attendance to taste, publicly offer their taste buds’ critique ala Bravo’s Top Chef and then anonymously vote for their favorite dish and cocktail.  (Fun Fact: Katina still holds a grudge from the very first Food Throwdown where I criticized her BBQ Short Rib’s pasta for tasting like Chef Boyardee despite voting for her winning dish.)  What’s fun is that anyone tasting the food is completely unaware of who concocted any of what’s being served.  What’s not fun?  The Food Throwdown winner only wins bragging rights.  (C’mon people, can’t we all throw money towards a prize already?)

Previous Food Throwdowns have involved a pasta dish with all ingredients including the pasta and sauces made completely from scratch, and a very fun quesadilla and margarita challenge.  This past Food Throwdown had my friends competing by making their favorite tacos and sangria.  While Rayda’s AMAAAZZZING beer-battered chipotle tilapia tacos with homemade peach salsa and tartar sauce did not come out on top with the other guests, Stephanie’s St. Germain white sangria did win proving that there was some palatable justice after all!

And since I’ve been told that I can typically be a bit harsh on my table comments (Chef Boyardee anyone?), I am making a vow to obliterate the competition enter my very first Food Throwdown as a contestant the next time around to prove that I can take the feedback as  much as I serve it.  (You hear that Katina?!  I’m coming for ya!)

Congratulations to Jesse & Stephanie who won this season’s Food Throwdown and a very special THANK YOU as always to the lovely hosts Justin and Katina!  Bon Appetit!

Food Throwdown May 2013

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The JOKIE 7th Avenue Strut 2013

Jokie 2013

Jocelyn and I are no strangers to the historic entertainment district of Tampa, Florida known as Ybor City.  If Jocelyn and I were pugs, all of Ybor City would be our marked territory: We have eaten here.  We have drank there.  We have partied here and there to the front, to the back, to the right, to the left, to the left – everything you own in a box to the left, sideways, diagonally, zigzag and back.  So when the opportunity arose, and after heavy suggestion for both J and I to officially show our backyard to our friends that were strangers to Ybor City, we immediately devised a plan.  Born was The JOKIE 7th Avenue Strut.

Here’s how it worked:

The Hosts:  JOKIE…  and for those readers lacking any common sense: just as Brad + Angelina = Brangelina and Ben + Jennifer = Bennifer before them, Jocelyn + Okie = JOKIE!

The Players:  John Fontana (Jocelyn’s leading man, Material Boy and Italian stallion), Kali (Jocelyn’s work baby and Hyde Park Village heir-apparent), Andy (Kali’s main squeeze and boo) and Lorena (no stranger to Ybor City, but a friend in need of an Ybor City refresher after her recent two-month stint in Los Angeles)

The Plan:  The Hosts must show the Players key Ybor City destinations, with stops at JOKIE’s signature hang-out locations.  May the odds be in their favor!

Jokie 2013 Gaybor

The Details:  We began the evening with ear candling (yes, ear candling!… don’t ask) at mi casa and then strutted on over to The Columbia for a pitcher of their famous Spanish sangria, James Joyce for a Framboise, Bernini for 1/2-priced dinner entrees and $2 mango martinis, Tampa Bay Brewing Company for the sampler beer tray, The Bricks for an art show and Pisco Sours, Liquid Tampa for a twirl, Bradley’s on Seventh for a whirl, Reservoir Bar for second-hand smoke inhalation and a beer, Hamburger Mary’s for the 10pm Drag Show, Hurricane pitchers and a photo with Mark & Carrie (above), The Castle for dungeon photo-ops and a vodka cranberry minus the cranberry, MC Film Fest for a lil’ shopping, The Honey Pot for shots of Patron and dancing and G.Bar for more dancing but this time with blurry vision and slurred speech.

It was indeed a long night, but the Players threw their hands up in exhausted and inebriated defeat and called it a night.  The JOKIE 7th Avenue Strut failed to reach the final three destinations: an ice shot at CZAR, a hookah at Zoya and a slice of pizza at New York, New York Pizza / Shepherd’s pie at The Dog’s Bollocks.

The Players (minus a few still recovering from the night before) reconvened the next morning at Gaspar’s Grotto for the Booze Cruise Brunch and to officially conclude the inaugural JOKIE 7th Avenue Strut 2013.

Conclusion:  While the Players showed bravery, dedication and very admiral attempts at hanging with the Hosts, and as much fun was had by all…  another JOKIE Strut must and will be planned at a later date and time.

Special Thanks:  Jocelyn and I would like THANK all of our friends who we texted, messaged & called for any special favors, along with their wonderful staff for showing our Players true Ybor City hospitality at its very finest!

Who run this mutha?  For all-intended purposes of this blog post, please press play and replace the words “WORLD” with “YBOR” and “GIRLS” with “JOKIE”…  “Run The World (Girls)” by Beyonce

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The RITZ Ybor Photos: Churchill, The Used & The xx

Churchill 2013 A Churchill 2013 B

Churchill LIVE at The RITZ Ybor on Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Used 2013 A The Used 2013 B The Used 2013 C The Used 2013 D

The Used LIVE at The RITZ Ybor on Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The XX 2013

The xx LIVE at The RITZ Ybor on Thursday, February 7, 2013
no meet & greet (insert sad face)

Check out Churchill‘s music video to their catchy and addictive title single from their Change EP.

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Aquarius Triumvirate

Jess 2013 Bday Okie 2

My dear friend Jess a.k.a. the reigning Queen of running late celebrated her 27th Birthday at Martini Republic in downtown Tampa and at CineBistro in Hyde Park Village over the weekend.

…in all actuality, the entire weekend was spent celebrating Aquarius birthdays.  Three birthdays in one night to be exact.

It was a Saturday night.  My favorite gal-pal Jocelyn and I had plans to start off at her college buddy Mark’s birthday at Mangroves, followed by her sorority sister Michelle’s birthday party at what could only be described as mine and every other red-blooded human being’s dream mansion on Davis Island, and ending with Jess’s birthday celebration at Martini Republic.  Jocelyn and I were no strangers to the party-hopping routine, and have in fact become experts on the subject. (For proof, READ: Legally Fabulous post from January 2011.)

Mark 2013 Bday Jocelyn

BIRTHDAY PARTY #1:  I’ve attended quite a few events with Jocelyn where the statement “all of my friends from UT from back in the day will be there” accompanied her invitation.  Those events are always a good time and Jocelyn’s “old school” crew is always welcoming and friendly.  Mark’s 40th birthday party at Mangroves was no exception.  You can’t help but enjoy hearing any group of longtime friends reminisce with past stories that cement their deep-rooted bond and enrich their history with one another.  (Fun Fact:  According to all of the stories I’ve heard at these blast to the past parties, Jocelyn was just as legally fabulous as a college freshman as she is today!)

Michelle 2013 Bday Jocelyn

BIRTHDAY PARTY #2:  On the way from one 40th birthday party to the next, Jocelyn commented on how “40 is the new 30.”  I used to dismiss those type of statements as something we all say to ourselves and one another as a way to help cure our fears of aging, but Jocelyn is 100% correct: getting older just means more money, better jobs, more mistakes made to learn from and an authentic understanding on who your true friends in life are.

Jocelyn’s sorority sister and college cohort Michelle celebrated her 40th birthday party that evening at her house mansion on Davis Island.  The party was a Hawaiian luau themed soiree equipped with a live band and performers, tiki torches, a balloon entrance arch the size of The Hulk, catering and dessert stations… the works.  As evidenced in the photo above, Jocelyn and I only felt it fitting to pose in corny photos as if we were honeymooners aboard a Carnival cruise ship that actually had running water and working toilets.  Aloha!

Jess 2013 Bday Martini Group

BIRTHDAY PARTY #3 and the final celebration of the night for Jess’s 27th birthday.  Her birthday party was a two-parter this year: Saturday night at Martini Republic and Sunday afternoon painfully watching the dreadful Identity Thief movie at CineBistro.

It’s hard to believe that I met Jess five years ago when she was just 22-years-old, new to the Tampa Bay area from Illinois and also newly separated from her husband.  We immediately hit it off when our mutual friend Harry introduced us that one summer night, and we’ve only been going strong ever since.  Seriously, I love that girl despite the truth that she runs 30-minutes late for every planned event, well except her 27th birthday this year.  But of course.

Happy Birthday Jess & all of the other Aquarii in the world!

Jess 2013 Bday Cinebistro Group

 

CLICK ON THUMBNAIL TO ENLARGE PHOTO:

“Losing You” by Solange

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Congratulations, Happy Holidays & Farewell

Congratulations, Cheers, Farewell… it seems that the trend this year was for every celebratory event to conclude with a goodbye.  (Click here.)  I have always disliked saying goodbye and try to make the situation as short, sweet and to-the-point as possible.  Last weekend was yet another weekend filled with commemorative celebrations followed by a goodbye.

I know a handful of people who have been in school since what seems like 48 B.C.  When I first met Bryan 7-8 years ago, I thought that he too would be one of those people I refer to as a lifetime student: a person who takes one class every other semester and swears to the high heavens and Madonna that graduation is the ultimate goal.  Well what do you know?  Last weekend, Bryan graduated from USF with not just his Bachelors but his Masters degree and threw a party to celebrate.   So congratulations to Bryan for busting his ass and working so hard to accomplish his goal, for proving me wrong in my very initial assumption and for putting up with Jocelyn’s 40-balloons graduation gift.

Bryan Okie 1 Bryan Jocelyn 2 Bryan Boys Jocelyn Balloons 2 Jocelyn Balloons 1



After recouping from Bryan’s Greygoose-filled evening the night before, I had a Holiday Dinner with friends to attend at Texas de Brazil the next day.  My good friends Cheri and Mike were in town from Los Angeles for just one day, and maximized their brief time in Tampa by inviting their closest friends to dinner.  Every year, my best friends and I throw a Holiday Party / Gift Exchange.  Given everyone’s crazy schedules this year, Cheri & Mike’s dinner doubled as this year’s Gift Exchange.  As always, it was wonderful to see Cheri and Mike again, to consume 931 lbs of meat at Texas de Brazil and to remind yourself how friends can also become your family.  Happy Holidays and cheers to Cheri, Mike and everyone and anyone else who is reading this!

Cheri Group

Cheri Boys

Cheri Girls

Cheri Okie

Cheri Jocelyn

Cheri Billy

Cheri Linley

Cheri Robby

Cheri Jaime

Cheri JadenCheri NielyCheri Kristin Cheri JonCheri JessCheri Jaime Jaden



The celebratory weekend concluded on a bittersweet note with my friends Jamal and Lorena leaving Tampa and moving to Los Angeles.  I first met Lorena through mutual friends three years ago, and since then we’ve traveled together, lived with one another (best roommate ever), worked together, shared a toy poodle (and the best dog ever) named Zoe and devoured chili dogs and taters in the middle of my living room floor at 4am.  Although I will miss her and Jamal dearly, its encouraging to know that my annual trip to California is right around the corner.  So for now, farewell to Lorena and Jamal.

Okie Lorena Jamal Okie Lorena

 



I willl conclude this entry with a lyric video for the song “I Am Yours” by the band Churchill.  Right now, the band is right on the brink of taking off with their hypnotic and catchy current single “Change” but this particular song has been receiving much more love on my iPod and Spotify.

Congratulations… Cheers… and Goodbye… but Hello to new music!

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Invincible Summer

“In the depth of winter…
Winter Radko 3

I finally learned that within me there lay…

Winter Radko 1

…an invincible summer!”  -Albert Camus

Winter Radko 2

I have been fascinated with the Albert Camus quote that this year’s 5th Annual Square One Creative Event revolved around since I first read it in High School.  An invincible summer in the winter… that statement transcends to so many more meanings and interpretations.

With speculation that the world will come to an end when the Mayan Calendar concludes on December 21st of this year, I felt that an event exploring the theme of summer (light, life and hope) always prevailing amid a dark, lifeless and bleak landscape was needed.  I liked the idea and contrast of having an event called Invincible Summer taking place in the fall.  I loved the optimistic message of energy and light never dying.

Invincible Summer had much more personal meaning than any other event that I’ve ever been associated with.  Whether living in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago… whether married, single or divorced… whether  black, white, Asian or a Russian Jew… whether I see them once a year, twice a week or every other year…  this event represented the invincible  lifelong friendships and bonds that I am blessed to have with the numerous individuals in my life.  They all flew in and/or drove in from various parts of the city, state and country for this event.  We’ve all endured the up and down nature that paints the canvas of any great friendship.  And in the end, unconditional love is our friendship’s invincible summer.

Invincible Summer
IS Jocelyn

“If there’s one thing I love about the Square One events, it’s that they bring all of us back together.  So many memories, history… You can’t match that feeling.”  -my friend Billy Jolie (in Tampa)

“They say that you can tell a true friend if you can go months without seeing them and pick right up from where you left off.  That is exactly what happens every time I reunite with the plethora of people I saw this weekend in Tampa.”  -my friend Jason (in NYC)

“Your theme this year for Square One has really touched my heart.  I feel like deep within us there is an “invincible summer”… despite all the hardships and negativity in our daily lives, there will always be this ray of hope and inspiration that is deep inside.”  -my friend Lorena (& future Californian resident)

Okesene Diamond
Salvador Live
JPop
Straz
Mr Sawbladehead
Bella Danza
Kinetic Radko
7th Avenue Annie7th Avenue Dancer7th Avenue Girls7th Avenue Hoop7th Avenue PoleArt 1Art 2Art 37th Avenue 1
7th Avenue 2

Photos by Kevin & Lisa Tighe and Radko Keleman

For more information about Invincible Summer, the event that took place on Saturday, November 17, 2012 at The RITZ Ybor in Tampa, please click here.


“Diamonds” performed by songwriter Sia

 

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Oops! I Became a Palindrome… Again

pal-in-drome:  a word, verse, or sentence or a number (as 33) that reads the same backward or forward

I never understood why people in their 30’s and 40’s feel the need to proclaim that they’re re-celebrating their 21st birthday on their special day.  Anytime I told someone that I was turning 33-years-old this year, they jokingly tried to correct me by saying, “oh, you mean 21, right?” which only prompted me  to correct them by letting them know that I am proud to be the age that I am.  When compared to when I was a clueless 21-year-old, I am in a much better place in life: basically wiser, richer and more connected with who I am and what my purpose in life truly is.  Getting older is inevitable, so I fully embrace each new year like a brand new pair of shoes.  I am 33-years-old dammit!

Kristin and I decided to host a birthday party for 40 of my closest friends at her house this year.  With friends already flying in from NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ohio and Miami for that weekend’s Square One event at The RITZ Ybor the next day, I didn’t want to invite everyone out to a huge group dinner for 40 at (insert restaurant name here).  Those type of birthday group dinner gatherings always turn into more of a headache, lack any type of intimacy and just are never any fun: you are forced to socialize more with whoever you happen to be sitting next to, the bill is always wrong, food comes out late, the wrong dishes come out with some dishes not even making it to the table, etc.

Even with the already hectic and crazy work schedule, this year’s birthday party was worth every dime and minute that went into planning it… mainly because I love my friends more than the world.  I wish everyday could be my birthday if only I could have as much fun as I did last weekend!


33rd Birthday… BEST Birthday Ever!


Diamonds by Rihanna

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L’italiano Scrive

My close friend (as well published author and proud Italian) Billy Jolie celebrated his 33rd birthday the other week at Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe’.  One of my favorite parts of attending Billy’s birthday gatherings each year, obviously besides celebrating with the bday boy, is the opportunity to come together amid our mutual friends’ crazy and hectic schedules.

With jobs, families, kids, marriages and relationships, any opportunity to come together counts.

Right now, Billy is busy in the midst of a blog tour for his debut novel, The Lust Garden and is currently working on his second book.

He took time from writing one Saturday last month to kidnap me so we could attend Teresa Giudice’s (from Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New Jeresey) promotional signing of Fabulicious!: Fast & Fit, her latest cookbook, at the Orlando Barnes & Noble.

I waited nearly an hour to meet another Italian author.  Next time, Teresa’s handlers should seriously consider Billy’s “Italians to the front of the line” suggestion.

Two Italians.  Two authors.


Happy Birthday Billy!



“Let It Go” by Alexandra Burke

 

Be sure to purchase The Lust Garden, the debut novel by Billy Jolie online HERE.

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