If former state Sen. Vince Fumo's life were a book, last night would make sure you kept turning the pages.

Heading off to federal prison in 12 days, Fumo threw a party at Popi's, in South Philly, to celebrate his engagement to Carolyn Zinni.

"We're turning a page in the book and starting a new chapter," said Fumo, flanked by the woman who stood by him through an arduous corruption trial and conviction on 137 counts. "What I have ahead of me doesn't make me happy."

Fumo and Zinni laughed off a question about whether the party could become a surprise wedding ceremony.

"In this dress?" asked Zinni, who runs a dress shop in Springfield, Delaware County.

Asked what she was wearing - a shimmering royal-blue dress with one bare shoulder - Fumo joked, "Something from her shop."

Fumo nearly slipped into his party unnoticed. His defense attorney, Dennis Cogan, drew a crowd of reporters and photographers just as Fumo and Zinni emerged from a white limousine.

Around the front door at Popi's, security guards pushed news photographers, and the owner's wife scolded reporters who approached guests.

Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News and a longtime Fumo pal, gushed about the party. "It's about love," Segal said. "Ain't that a beautiful thing? It's giving Vince something to look forward to."

Geno's Steaks owner Joey Vento said that his own family had a few "skeletons in the closet" but you stick by your friends in times of trouble.

"I'm here for Vince," Vento said. "You don't throw your friends under the bus, no matter what."

City Council President Anna Verna praised Zinni as a "very lovely girl," and admitted that the night had a bittersweet quality.

"As for Vince, I'm not ready to say farewell," Verna said. "It is sad. But it is what it is."

City Councilman Frank DiCicco, who dated Zinni years ago, said that he was the couple's matchmaker.

"It makes me feel good," DiCicco said. "He's my friend. I've said all along I don't abandon my friends when they're in trouble."

State Sen. Tina Tartaglione, accompanied by her mother, City Commission Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione, seemed briefly overcome by emotion.

"We're trying to keep a stiff upper lip," she said. "I'm losing a friend."

One guest miffed by the news media's attention was David L. Cohen, now an executive vice president of Comcast, whose name had come up during the Fumo trial. Cohen, former head of the law firm Ballard Spahr, reportedly told the then-CEO of Verizon to "work it out with the senator" when he sought advice about demands for money being made by Fumo.

"Don't you think this is rude? Even a little?" Cohen asked reporters who had gathered to interview him about the party.