Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Thousands help Ruby celebrate No. 55

Sure, Sunday was a school night. And sure the weather was perfect for working around the yard. But that didn't stop about 4,000 people from showing up for Jeff Ruby's 55th birthday party at Newport's Tropicana.

Well, the Tropicana and then some. The party was centered there, but it stretched into Cincinnati, courtesy of the newly opened Purple People Bridge, half of which was closed lengthwise to the public for the evening. Guests either walked it or hopped one of the golf carts shuttling people across.

The bridge is where they set up the half-mile buffet - salads, pastas, cheeses, shrimp (served from ice carvings in the shape of slot machines), steak, crab cakes, corned beef, salmon, ravioli, seven whole hogs on gigantic grills, two lambs on open grills and heaven only knows what else.

"The cooks stayed all night working on food," said Tropicana assistant general manager Howard Doane. "Then a staff of 60 people got here at 11 a.m. to set up. We're checking with Guinness (Book or Records), but we think it's the first half-mile buffet spanning two states."

"I'm good for at least a quarter-mile," promised Deb Haas, a producer with Jay Shatz' TV production company, who was there with husband Eddie Fingers and Bob Berry, both from WEBN.

Bar manager Mike Gaines supervised seven full-service - and very busy - bars outside and one inside, serving the $20,000 worth of wine and liquor to a guest list that included all the city employees of Newport and Cincinnati, all the Bengals and Reds, regulars at Ruby's five restaurants, dozens of politicians and media, too.

Ruby, meanwhile, celebrated with cigars and a tiered 6-foot- high cake - chocolate, raspberry - with orange and yellow icing. "Why not? I only have one a year," Ruby said.

He's baaaack: Hmmm, sounds to us like it's the Easter Bunny running around in congressperson clothes. As in Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

He and wife Jane are fresh back from a six-day tour of overseas military bases with six other congressmen and staff members. It was organized by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who encouraged delegates to bring a touch of home to share with troops. Base commanders in turn arranged it at each stop so they could meet with troops from their home states.

Portman took Graeter's candy - 100 milk chocolate bars - because, he reasoned, Skyline and Montgomery Inn are great, but they don't travel quite so easily - or quite so lightly - as a candy bar.

Stops included Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Cyprus, an aircraft carrier and Fairford Air Base in England. No war zones.

Portman just got back into town, so there's no word on how the troops took to the goodies. Or if he wore pink bunny ears.

Film awards: We're going to need a round of applause here this morning. Clap it, please, for Cincinnati filmmaker Jim Amatulli.

Seems his first feature film, Artworks it's called, was honored with two awards at the WorldFest Houston International Film Festival, a do that attracted more than 450 independent filmmakers from 37 countries. Amatulli wrote, directed and co-produced the film.

Artworks, a romantic comedy about an art heist, stars Virginia Madsen and Rick Rossovich.

It won one of the top feature film awards - the WorldFest 2003 Gold Remi Award - and a Gold Special Jury Remi Award.

E-mail jknippenberg@enquirer.com

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