TAMPA, Fla. -- Security was tight inside and out the VIP-only ESPN Magazine party Downtown, so when a city police officer cut a path past the go-go dancers, holding a bashful, beautiful actress by the hand, it was clear something was up.
Tabloid fixture Lindsay Lohan was in the house -- or in this case the tent -- so the Super Bowl party was officially underway.
Super Bowl week kicked into fifth gear Friday night as the last wave of celebrities, football players, fans â€" and a certain Pittsburgh mayor -- hit the city in preparation for tonight's game. By midnight, with several giant parties going on across Tampa Bay, the cold city streets were reverberating with thudding dance beats and the kind of loud voices that can only be amplified by alcohol.
Yes, it was cold by Tampa standards, dropping to the mid-40s early yesterday, with a harsh and cutting wind. Young women in microscopic cocktail dresses and ridiculous heels shivered in the long lines outside the parties, waiting through the Steelers weather for it to get hotter inside.
At ESPN's bash, it was.
Ms. Lohan, in black leather and tight blue jeans, spent the evening perched on a white leather couch, clinging to girlfriend and disc jockey Samantha Ronson's side. Two officers guarded them.
Other guests included musicians Lil' Wayne; Wyclef Jean; Stevie Van Zandt, wearing a long brocade shift and looking sort of like a priest at a Native American Mass; Jordin Sparks; Joel and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte; MC Hammer; and Sean Kingston, laden in ropes of gold chains and diamonds.
Actors included Alyssa Milano, Kevin James, Cuba Gooding Jr., Christian Slater and Jeffrey Wright, whose films include "Syriana" and the latest James Bond films.
"It's my first Super Bowl. It's a celebration of American culture in this new era," he said, referring to the Obama administration.
Athletes included boxer Evander Holyfield; former All-Pro cornerback and Aliquippa native Ty Law, talking proudly to the national media about family friend and Pitt grad Darrelle Revis of the Jets; former Ravens QB Trent Dilfer; Bengals receiver Chad Johnson; Eagles QB Donovan McNabb; former Tampa Bay safety John Lynch; Jaguars receiver Reggie Williams, wearing a green corduroy suit, with pants tucked into high leather riding boots; former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez; and Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco.
"It's pretty crazy," Mr. Flacco, a one time Pitt Panther, said of his first Super Bowl trip. "I don't know where to go, I'm just getting dragged around."
His pick for tonight? "I hope Arizona wins. We'll see."
Mr. Flacco was certainly right in one sense. The party was crazy.
Open bars lavishly stocked with Patron tequila fueled the dance floor, while go-go dancers in tiny jerseys, short shorts and knee socks gyrated on raised platforms. Models and hostesses roamed the rest of the rooms.
Taking in the scenery was ESPN's top talent, including Chris Berman, Mike Wilbon, Bonnie Bernstein, John Clayton, Kenny Mayne, Scott Van Pelt, and former players Chris Carter and Steelers tailback Merril Hoge.
At parties elsewhere across the bay, celebrities included Jennie McCarthy, Carmen Electra, Kim Kardashian and Snoop Dogg, in a custom Steelers jacket.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino's "Revolution" party after 1 a.m., the St. Petersburg Times reported. Also attending the event: actor Kevin Dillon and Playboy playmate Colleen Shannon. The mayor's spokeswoman did not respond to phone and e-mail messages.
Earlier in the night, future Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice -- who, noting his NFC background, also picked the Cards to win -- admitted why he was out on the circuit.
"I'm looking for celebrities and things like that," he said.
Timothy McNulty can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1581. First Published February 1, 2009 5:00 AM