Byline: Judy Wells, Times-Union staff writer
As the final touches were being made on the super agent Leigh Steinberg party Saturday afternoon at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, a plane flew overhead towing a banner. On it was written "HelpMeHelpYou.com."
At the time, no one knew for sure if it was planned or a coincidence, but it gave those in the know a good laugh. That's the other catch phrase (after "Show me the money!") from the movie Jerry McGuire, and Steinberg is the agent on which Tom Cruise's character was based.
This was the party where the A-list celebs were supposed to show and the stage was certainly set with care. Animals -- alligators, a tarantula, a lizard or two, a boa, macaws and a baby chimp -- for petting and posing with, sushi bars, cheese tables, piles of shrimp and stone crab claws and the requisite adult beverages filled the lobby upstairs and down.
"We're the opposite of the noisy, dark, crowded party," said the rail-thin, dark-suited Steinberg. "People can actually talk to each other."
About 3,000 guests were expected, plus celebrities. It wasn't rich with Hollywood types -- Joey Fatone of 'N Sync was about the biggest name there from the entertainment biz. But sports fans were happy with new Hall-of-Famer Steve Young, Steeler Ben Roethlisberger, Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon and a host of other potential "gonnabes."
Ran into former Orange Park resident Matthew Mayes on the red carpet; he was manning the camera for Entertainment Tonight.
Inside, there was Jeff Betts, 2002 Winter Olympics freestyle skiing bronze medalist, who was reveling in the -- at last -- Florida sunshine.
"I've been to a lot of these," the self-admitted showboater said, "and Jacksonville's doing a good job. It's just great."
Parties reach a fever pitch the night before the game so we asked: If you had to choose, which would it be, go to the game or go to the parties? Except for Eagles fans, parties won out. Here are some typical comments.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Marcellus Wiley: "I went the last three years [to the Super Bowl], and I'll tell you, I'd rather be at the parties. I'm not a fan of sitting there because you don't get the commercials and you also get to see the dull of the game. It's boring when they call a timeout and you're just sitting . . . When you're not tired [from playing] and you're sitting there with a hot dog like, 'Come on, hurry up and play,' I'd much rather be partying."
Hall-of-Famer Warren Moon: "Parties. I can see the game on television but I can't see the parties."
Ben Roethlisberger: "The game, of course. …