JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It took all week, but Jacksonville finally got its groove on yesterday. And it started early, even before the first face-painted fans streamed into the parking lot at Alltel Stadium to set up their elaborate tailgate operations. It started in the pre-dawn dark, on the sidewalk outside Jacksonville's elegant Garden Club, where Maxim's breathlessly hyped party had just wrapped. ''It's game day!" howled a 20-something hipster waiting for his superstretch limo to pull around. The week's earlier shindigs, it turns out, were just a warm-up for the debauched blowouts put on Saturday night by Maxim and Playboy and attended by the likes of Dennis Quaid, Adam Sandler, Ashton Kutcher, Cedric the Entertainer, and ''Dawson's Creek" cutie Katie Holmes. (You know it's a party when Nicole Richie shows up before anyone else.) Hanging out in the ''Little Chapel of Love" at Maxim's matrimony-themed party, Damien Fahey, the MTV VJ and Massachusetts native, said he came around because he was invited. ''I don't really have a plan," said Fahey, who's a big Pats fan. ''I'm kind of like the Iraq war: I go in and whatever happens happens." Walking into the Maxim party with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, CBS chairman Les Moonves explained the popularity of men's magazines like Maxim and Playboy. ''Men are drawn to beautiful women, it's that simple," he said. (Unless, of course, they're not.) Ogling the women wearing less than lingerie at Playboy's party were NFL stars Julius Jones, Michael Strahan, and Ben Roethlisberger; former Bears QB Jim McMahon -- looking as obnoxious as ever in his sunglasses and spiked hair; actor Owen Wilson; ''American Idol" Randy Jackson; rapper Fat Joe; and Boyz II Men's Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman. Adding a little local flavor was Kristi Cullinane, youngest daughter of Pats defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who said she'd spent the whole week in St. Augustine and needed to blow off some steam before the big game. Mission accomplished. It's rare for rocker John Fogerty to perform at promotional events these days, but he made a wise choice to close out a private party across the parking lots from the Alltel Stadium just moments before game time. Fogerty did a rocking rendition of ''Proud Mary" to wrap up the NFL's invite-only tailgate party for corporate friends and sponsors.
SUPERSTITIOUS Why mess with success, right? Just as they did in Houston a year ago, the Krafts hosted a private party for 150 close friends and family the Friday before the big game. Taking in the view from atop the Modis building were Governor Mitt Romney, Hizzoner Tom Menino, Gillette CEO James Kilts, Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson, Sovereign Bank president Joe Campanelli, CBS Sports president Sean McManus, media magnate Rupert Murdoch, and FOX fat cat Peter Chernin. The hotter ticket, however, was the one to last night's post-game party at the Pats' hotel. Tapped to play, win or lose, were the Black Eyed Peas and, for the older folks, Lionel Richie. ''There might be a few surprises, too," said Pats vice chairman Jonathan Kraft. (Last year, Aerosmith and Kid Rock showed up.) For ''good karma," Kraft said, the team also brought Eye to Eye, the band that played at the ring ceremony last June, to Jacksonville.
A FINE HOW DO YOU DO If he ever quits his day job, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's got a future as a party planner. The commish's annual pre-Super Bowl spread, held this year at an equestrian center outside Jacksonville, was a lavish affair. The food was exquisite, not to mention excessive, and the entertainment decent. (The Ray Charles look-alike was a tad tasteless, but Cab Calloway's grandkid, C. Calloway Brooks, sounded good.) In the VIP corral, Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Saints CEO Tom Benson paid their respects to Pats pooh-bah Bob Kraft, while retired Army general Tommy Franks, former congressman Jack Kemp, basketball legend Magic Johnson, and ex-Cowboys Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, and Emmitt Smith all mingled nearby. Aikman showed himself to be a Hall of Fame heel, stiff-arming a 10-year-old boy looking for an autograph. ''Not a surprise," muttered Marc Serota, a photographer shooting the party for the NFL. ''The guy's a jerk. I worked with him on a book for nine months, and he doesn't even say hello." The book, by the way, was called ''Aikman: Mind, Body, and Soul." Said Serota: ''Troy managed to tell us nothing about his mind, his body, or his soul."
HAVE TEAM SPIRIT, WILL TRAVEL Foxborough resident Noel Texeira, named as the ''Bank of America Patriots Fan of the Year," arrived in Jacksonville early yesterday, in time to collect himself and get over to the official NFL party that leads up to the game. Texeira's schedule had him taking in the game, but on a plane early this morning after 24 hours of Pats fun. . . . Also spied in Jacksonville for the game, ''Yes, Dear" star and area native Mike O'Malley, Dunkin' Donuts COO Will Kussell; Re/Max New England honcho Chuck Lemire; Legal Sea Foods executive chef Rich Vellante and Chez Henri chef-owner Paul O'Connell; and Boston Magazine's Dan Scully. . . . Steve DeFillippo is the owner of Davio's, which hosts Bob Kraft most Saturday nights before a home game, but DeFillippo also has a Philly Davio's in a former bank downtown. DeFillippo headed to Florida on Friday, but his staff has a wager: The losing town provides the winning town a dinner of a local specialty. That sits well with the staff in Philly, who would be getting a dinner of lobster, but Eleanor Arpino, Davio's director of restaurants, said it's a little unfair for the Boston and Cambridge crews, who will get a dinner of Philly cheese steaks. . . . Boston restaurateur Anthony Athanas Jr., like a lot of folks, decided to forgo staying in Jacksonville for the nicer accommodations in Orlando. Athanas tells us he spotted Playboy Hugh Hefner getting on the train at the Grand Floridian at Disney World. . . . And PR guy George Regan has some good friends. We're told Regan convinced Back Bay restaurant owner Joe Cimino and Boston banker Richard Kennedy to bring Regan's mom, Ann, down yesterday in time for the game. And then Regan's 83-year-old mom and the guys were slated to come back after the after-party at the Pats' hotel.
OLD SCHOOL If James Brown is the Godfather of Soul, George Clinton has to be the Godfather of Funk, and he proved it again this weekend. While Willie Nelson was serenading 'em at the Super Bowl-sanctioned party downtown, the pioneering Parliament Funkadelic freak tore it up for a tiny but ecstatic crowd at Fuel, a coffeehouse in a bohemian section of Jacksonville. In the wee hours Saturday, Clinton, who's 64 but looks much older, was joined onstage by Blues Traveler's slimmed-down singer John Popper. Even later, Greg Martens, a Roxbury native who works at the Stone Coast Brewing Co. in Maine, jumped onstage with Clinton. Looking just a little out of place in his oversize Pats jersey and Sox hat, Martens rapped briefly, then disappeared backstage. If there was a curfew, Clinton didn't know or care, kicking it until after 3 a.m.
GOD ON THEIR SIDE Prayerful Pats Richard Seymour and Ben Watson showed up at Saturday's Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, featuring Patti LaBelle. At the Superfest downtown, Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme took the stage to introduce Holliston native Jo Dee Messina, calling the country singer a ''decent-looking woman." Way to go, Jake.
EAT UP You don't think the Atkins Diet's still popular? Jacksonville's Ruth's Chris Steak House was ground zero for the beautiful people this weekend. In one two-hour span, meat eaters Nick Lachey, accompanied by a pair of burly bodyguards, Donald Trump, Jimmy Buffett, and Demi Moore all stopped in. Bill Belichick, meanwhile, was reportedly eating rib-eye across town at Morton's, The Steakhouse. . . . And someone still on carbs is Fat Joe, who was spotted chowing at the International House of Pancakes.
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