And Carrie is clearly no novice when it comes to the Indy Cars game, in which the driver steers a faux racecar while watching his progress on a screen. Or maybe it's not so much that Carrie is good — though the cowboy hat definitely gives him a Nascar-meets-Liberace flair. It's that I totally suck. (What — there was a gas pedal? Now you tell me!)
7:45 p.m.: Wear Me Out!
We duck into the new domain of Sharon Rose, who has moved her boutique from the casitas at Centennial Park to Centro and changed the name from the vaguely ethereal Mermaid's Slipper to the more in-your-face Wear Me Out! The wearable art in her shop might not seem the perfect fit in Centro, but business, says Sharon, is great.
Take the taffeta boas — the perfect what-the-hell-I'm-on-vacation impulse buy. And you don't even need to be on vacation: my partner, apparently inspired by the sartorial glories of our hosts, decides an Avatar-blue boa would be the perfect accessory for our Oscar party. It's the Gaybor Effect: Sharon says most of these boas have been sold to men.
8 p.m.: Teatro
Our table's not quite ready, so we hang by the bar for photos (there are always photos in a MarkandCarrie excursion) with one of Teatro's co-owners, retired Air Force Major General David Scott and his wife Jill. They've just returned from Bike Week in Daytona Beach so the general is still wearing his leathers. He looks, dare we say it, pretty hot (and so does Jill). Chaps! Boas! Sequins! It's like a '70s flashback.
The wedding reception's still going strong, and as we sit down for dinner we discover there's also a high school reunion in progress: the Hillsborough High Class of '53. It's a party in here! (Before long, a frisky white-haired gentleman named Arlen Mohler is up and dancing with the wedding guests, which is just the normal course of things, his wife Sandy tells me: "He's hard to keep down when there's music going.") Chef/owner Bill Haines and his wife Leigh, the charming general manager, come by for more, you guessed it, photos. And in the middle of it all, I listen to the story of how Mark and Carrie met. Carrie was working for a boat company at the time, so for each of their first three dates he took Mark out on a different boat, neglecting to tell him they were borrowed. Mark was suitably impressed by this show of waterborne wealth until he learned the true provenance of Carrie's fleet. The couple chuckles at this now. They still make each other laugh.
9:30 p.m.: Leaving Teatro
On the way out Mark stops to sign the bridal register. He imagines the reaction when the bride and groom look over the list: "'Is "Teacup" on your side of the family?'"
10 p.m.: Hamburger Mary's
On our way into this new outpost of a fun-loving national chain, we find a group of young ladies getting makeup tips from one of Mary's drag performers, Robyn Demornay ("a former Miss GaYbor"). Inside, between bouts of 'smores and fried Twinkies (like I said, fun-loving), I'm introduced to the voluptuous and very blonde Miss Joey Brooks, a former Baptist church organist who's now "The First Lady of Ybor City." ("I'm the First Lady of GaYbor!" Mark chimes in.) "I gave most of the girls their start," Joey tells me, noting that there's been a drag revival in Tampa since the days she had to sneak into the legendary drag club El Goya at age 16.
Carrie introduces me to Yolanda "Yoli" Borrero, who's the center of attention at two big tables by the stage. She's the kitchen manager at Mary's, celebrating "one year of being cancer-free." She looks around at her friends, many of them fellow crew members at the restaurant: "They're my rehab," she says.
11:30 p.m.: o1o Organic
We're late, but Nicholas Volpe, the affable co-owner of this PR firm/art gallery, opens up for our crew. We ogle the art, including a singular vision of a crushed can by Tampa artist Noah Deledda — winner of the grand prize in Red Bull's "Art of Can" competition. On our way to our next destination, Carrie gets the best compliment of the night from a passerby: "You're shining like a disco ball, Lady Gaga!"
Midnight and beyond: The Honey Pot/ G Bar/The Eagle
OK, by this point it was all beginning to blur a bit: Girls' night at Honey Pot, hot women dancing on pedestals and flirting with the ladies on the floor; boys' night at G Bar, hot men dancing on the bar and flirting with the guys on the floor (Carrie knows all the dancers, he tells me, because he sells them their underwear and their cock rings); a visit to the Leathermen's Den at the Eagle, where the genial shopkeeper introduces us to his "pup," a young man on all fours who stays faithfully by his master's side.