What Does It Take To Qualify as a "Socialite" in Tampa?

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 13 2012 10:58 AM

What Does It Take To Qualify as a "Socialite" in Tampa?

I'm used to hearing about "socialites" in New York, London, Moscow, and other major cities, but Jill Kelley, the woman whose complaints about harassing emails sparked the whole Petraeus saga, lives in Tampa and is being consistently described in those terms. What does it take to cut it as a socialite in the more modest circumstances of Tampa Bay?

Having your parties written up in Tampa Bay Magazine seems like a good start:

Dr. Scott Kelley and his wife Jill had a live band, a caricature artist and a carnival tent for their first annual parade-side Gasparilla Party at their home in Tampa.
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By Manhattan standards that doesn't seem too extraordinary (the Gasparilla Festival is a pirate-themed Tampa thing), but this kind of thing seems to make you the toast of Tampa society:

Dr Scott Kelley and his wife Jill invited friends for an extravagant evening of champagne, caviar and dinner at the Palm Restaurant to celebrate their decision to remain in Tampa.

They're also at least friends with some genuinely rich people:

The Hon. David Straz, Jr. and his wife Catherine hosted a surprise champagne and caviar reception and dinner to delebrate Dr. Scott Kelley's 38th birthday.

Straz is a banking guy, now retired, who's donated millions to build Tampa's Straz Center for the Performing Arts and is on a few charitable boards. That's the kind of guy whose wife I expect to see described as a "socialite."

I'm sure that Scott Kelley earns a nice living as a surgeon but he doesn't seem to be mega-rich or particularly involved in charitable pursuits. His claim to fame is that he's one of a relatively small number of doctors who performs a less invasive form of laparoscopic surgery than has traditionally been done:

But perhaps the moral of the story is simply that to be a socialite you just need to be friends with the right people. The Kelleys appear to have been on good terms socially with people at Tampa Bay Magazine, with genuine rich guy David Straz, and with celebrity general David Petraeus. So why not?

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.