Friday, August 29, 2014

Ask the Locals: Manny Kool, record store impresario

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:06 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Manny Kool is the manager of Daddy Kool Records in downtown St. Petersburg. If you’re wondering how married to the business he is, you need only know his real name: Manny Matalon. Years ago he stopped using his surname in exchange for the store’s name. He calls it his “nom de guerre.”

Kool, 45, has worked at the cult record mecca for 15 years. Much like the store, which originally opened in Bradenton in 1985, Kool has been the lifeblood of Central Avenue. In 1999 Central wasn’t the hot spot it is today.

A Tampa native, he grew up listening to The Jackson 5, Kiss and The Rolling Stones. He watched Soul Train, MTV and the MTV knock-off Friday Night Videos. His favorite record was (and still is) Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits, which he swiped from his parents' collection when he was a kid.

In 1995, he joined the crew at No Clubs Productions, a live music production company that owns Daddy Kool Records. In 2010, he and a small group of local music lovers and concert promoters helped conceive the Antiwarpt Music Festival, an indie alternative to  the Vans Warped Tour.

You can catch Kool, who lives in South St. Pete, riding to and from work every day on his Origin-8 Cutler bike.

Favorite open-air market: Deuces Live Sunday Market. “It’s like the Saturday Morning Market for South St. Pete. It’s got a real old school ’70s funk vibe. They’ve got a DJ, which is pretty awesome, and some amazing sweets. The standard is sweet potato pie and red velvet cake, but I’m into these graham cracker cookies and brownie bars. I bought sweets for the week and ate them all in a day and a half.”

Favorite worn-in waterhole: Emerald Bar. “It’s older than I am –– and I’m old. Sometimes they have live music. Sometimes it’s just a DJ or a jukebox. It’s a dive. It’s smoky and the drinks are strong and reasonably priced.”

Favorite secret live music hideout: The back of Mandarin Hide. “When you’re in the back you don’t have to feel bad about talking to your friends during the concert.”

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Ask the Locals: Fawn Germer, author, speaker and Dogedin fan

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:06 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Fawn Germer is a self-help author, international leadership speaker and a four-time Pulitzer-nominated journalist.

She shot to self-help superstardom when her first book, Hard Won Wisdom –– a collection of stirring interviews with 50 high-powered women –– landed on Oprah’s radar over a decade ago.

A former correspondent for the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report, Germer worked as a staff writer for the Miami Herald and an editor for the Tampa Tribune before Hard Won Wisdom launched her speaking and book-writing career.

The book’s popularity, coupled with Germer’s natural ability to connect with audiences, thrust the writer into the upper echelon of keynote speakers. The 53-year-old Dunedin resident has headlined speaking events for NASA, Microsoft, Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Ford Motor Co., State Farm, Xerox, Kraft and The United States Department of Defense.

She has since published six other books, including the bestseller Mustang Sallies, which features interviews with Hillary Clinton, Martina Navratilova, Susan Sarandon and Erin Brockovich. Her work and her life are a lesson in perseverance. (Hard Won Wisdom was rejected 15 times by every major publisher in the country before it was finally picked up.) She’s currently working on an eighth book about resetting your life to gain deeper meaning and purpose.

Best place to swim with dolphins: Three-Rooker Bar. “There’s a pod off Honeymoon Island and Three Rooker. Even the dolphin babies will play with you. It’s my favorite secluded beach. Go on a weekday, though. On the weekends it’s filled with boats.”

Best place to explore: Egmont Key State Park. “It’s like a National Geographic magazine cover out there. There’s so much erosion and the water is unbelievable.”

Best place to eat with your dog: The Living Room on Main in Dunedin. “For $7 they’ll bring your dog a bowl of grilled salmon with rice, or chicken and green beans. My dog Louie gets so excited when we go to the Living Room.”

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Ask the Locals: Hal Freedman & Willi Rudowsky, couple about town

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:05 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

When Hal Freedman and Willi Rudowsky moved from San Francisco to St. Petersburg 14 years ago, their friends took bets on how long they’d stay. Freedman and Rudowsky –– urbanites with eclectic and cosmopolitan tastes –– didn’t exactly fit the typical Florida retiree profile.

Freedman, 72, was a Manhattan native who worked in real estate, technology and garment manufacturing, and Rudowsky, 66, was a San Francisco native who managed foreign buying agents for Williams-Sonoma.
They moved into Bayfront Tower in downtown St. Pete just as Freedman says he felt like, “the city was about to pop.”

Rudowsky went back to school to get two masters degrees and in 2012 took a job as manager of program coordinators at the Poynter Institute. Freedman began working in local real estate and founded Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront (POWW), the group opposed to building a new Rays stadium downtown.

Now deeply embedded in the community, Freedman and Rudowsky, who’ve been together for 44 years, are season ticket holders at American Stage and freeFall Theatre Company, among others. They’re regulars at arty parties everywhere from the Dalì Museum to the Warehouse Arts District. They helped lead the charge to build The Lens and are passionate about Greenlight Pinellas, a 30-year plan to overhaul Pinellas County’s public transportation system.

“Our friends still wonder why we’re here,” Freedman says. “They think St. Pete is Florida. That’s like saying Austin is Texas.”

Favorite alternative to Starbucks: Brew D Licious. Hal: “Brigitte [Whitaker], who owns the place, is great. It’s comfortable and inviting and the No Name Java is great.”

Favorite clothing proprietor: Cozette Roche of Cozette’s Boutique. Willi: “I don’t run into someone wearing the same clothes every time I walk down the street. Strangely enough Cozette, who is very tall, always picks stuff that works for me.”

Favorite commercial corridor: 600 Block of Central Avenue. Willi: “It’s a very San Francisco block.” Hal: “The business owners all appear to be hard-working and self-made. I don’t think there are a lot of trust fund babies setting up shop on the 600 Block.”

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Ask the Locals: Erin Cardinal, beautiful mover

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:05 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Erin Cardinal is the co-artistic director of Moving Current, a collaborative dance collective that presents modern and aerial dance performances across Tampa Bay. If you attended Creative Loafing’s Sensory Overload at the Glazer Children’s Museum in 2011, you probably saw the lithe mother of two performing an aerial feat in the museum’s rain exhibit.

Cardinal, 41, helped launch Moving Current 17 years ago, back when the only dancers turning heads in Tampa were strippers. Since its inception in 1997, Moving Current has raised the bar for modern dance in Florida. The company’s New Grounds initiative has served as a springboard for dozens of young and emerging choreographers across the state and the country.

Cardinal, who grew up in Dunedin cutting a rug in what she calls “family room productions,” earned her B.A. in modern dance from the University of South Florida. She moved to New York shortly thereafter, but moved home a year later to study massage therapy.

When fellow dancers Shelley Bourgeois and Cynthia Hennessy approached her about starting a company in Tampa, Cardinal immediately jumped at the opportunity.

The Lake Magdalene resident doubles as the company’s costume designer. She has taught and choreographed dance at Blake High School for the Arts, the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg College and Hillsborough Community College. This summer she will relinquish the reins at Moving Current to pursue her M.F.A. in dance at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Favorite dance venue: Mainstage Theatre at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City. “It reminds me a lot of the Joyce Theater in New York City. The house is angled steeply so the audience can see the entire stage all the time. The audience feels close to you even when they’re in the back row. It’s a big space, but it becomes very intimate very quickly, which is nice for dance.”

Favorite Tampa Bay mover and shaker: Christina Acosta, director of the dance department at Hillsborough Community College. “She is in constant think mode and always puts the community first. She’s always asking, ‘How can we make this better? How can we make a bigger impact?’”

Favorite Sarasota mover and shaker: Leymis Bolaños Wilmott, artistic director and co-founder of Fuzión Dance Artists. “Leymis keeps a clear direction with her company. She always pays attention to the quality of her work and the quality of the dancers. Her professionalism is a good balance to her artistic direction, which is hard to find in artists.”

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Ask the Locals: Maryann Ferenc, hospitality honcho

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:04 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Maryann Ferenc is the CEO of Mise en Place, the posh South Tampa restaurant that's been named No. 1 on USA Today’s list of “Best Foodie” spots in Tampa Bay.

Regarded as one of the Bay area’s early pioneers of New American cuisine, Ferenc grew up in the restaurant biz. (Her parents owned a Detroit eatery.) She opened the restaurant in 1986 with then-husband Marty Blitz, who still serves as its chef. The upscale hotspot owes its success equally to Blitz’s delectable fare (lobster manchego mac ’n cheese, anyone?) and Ferenc’s whip-smart management.

A 55-year-old Detroit native, Ferenc is a fast-talking workaholic with keen business instincts. A cheerleader for local tourism, she has served for 15 years on Visit Tampa Bay’s board of directors. She’s on the board of directors of the U.S. Travel Association and Visit Florida, the state’s official non-profit tourism marketing corporation.

Now in her third two-year term on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, Ferenc is committed to bringing more butts to the Bay area. Her sister businesses –– Sono Café at the Tampa Museum of Art and First Flight Wine Bar at Tampa International Airport –– cater directly to tourists.

Yet despite all this power playing, Ferenc feels the most at home in Pass-a-Grille, the sleepy beach community where she spends her Sundays and Mondays flying under the radar with her fiancé Russ Alba and eight dogs.

Favorite local beach bar: The Wharf in Pass-a-Grille. “It’s where the locals meet on a Sunday to wager on a football game. You sit there with the windows open and the wind blowing off the water. It’s so chill.”

Favorite place to hang with co-workers after hours: The Retreat in Hyde Park. “It’s always been an escape for both my staff and management. It’s a great place to have a beer after a long day. It used to be the kind of place that opened at 9 a.m., but not anymore. They keep upscaling it.”

Favorite place to find inner peace: Pass-a-Grille Beach. “There’s a special energy out there. I love the little business district and the little park that leads down to the water. You feel rejuvenated just being there for a few hours.”

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Ask the Locals: Dr. Gary Mormino, Florida's historian

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:04 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Dr. Gary Mormino is a history professor, newspaper columnist, highly regarded author, avid gardener, Italian foodie and venerable expert on anything and everything Florida. He is currently the scholar in residence at the Florida Humanities Council.

An Old Northeast resident, Mormino spent 35 years in the history department at the University of South Florida in Tampa and St. Petersburg. Though he retired in 2012, Mormino, 67, still teaches a class on food and history at the St. Pete campus. The class involves trips to old Cuban bakeries in West Tampa and Mazzaro’s Italian Market in St. Pete, where Mormino regularly shops for bread, wine, sausage and cheese.

Widely regarded as Florida’s leading historian, Mormino has been tapped by The New Yorker, the New York Times and NPR to weigh in on Florida-centric stories.

Dubbed “Mister Florida” by close friends and colleagues, Mormino arrived in Tampa in the 1970s. He was raised in the Midwest and got his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

During his long and storied tenure at USF, Mormino penned four history books, including The Immigrant World of Ybor City, for which he earned the Theodore Saloutos Prize for Outstanding Book in Ethnic-Immigration History and Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams, recipient of the Florida Historical Society’s Charlton Tebeau Prize. In 2003, he and colleague Ray Arsenault founded the Florida Studies program at USF St. Pete.

An unabashed technology laggard, Mormino’s reputation for living in the past (he avoids computers and cell phones) and his Mark Twain-ian ability to tell a good story, have endeared him to USF students and faculty. In 2012, Florida Trend featured him as one of their Florida Icons.

His columns have appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald and Tampa Tribune.

The restaurant where the chef knows his name: Z Grille. “My wife and I know Zack Gross, the very eccentric, very tattooed, very extraordinary chef and owner. His fish dishes are amazing and we love his famous deviled eggs.”

Best mom and pop chow: Arco-Iris in Tampa. “The attention to detail they give black beans and rice is amazing. Every grain of rice is perfectly arranged. On the back of the menu is a whole page of Chinese fried rice dishes. At first it’s disconcerting because you think it’s a Cuban restaurant, but Chinese fried rice is not as crazy as it might think considering the history of Tampa. The Chinese and the Cubans arrived in Ybor around the same time.”

The closest you’ll get to Italy in St. Pete: Mazzaro’s Italian Market. “It’s one of the greatest Italian food emporiums I’ve seen in the U.S. The cheese, bread and wine selection is first rate. I teach a class on the history of food and I like to take the students to Mazzaro’s. It’s always fun to see them react to how mozzarella is made.”

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Ask the Locals: Gina Vivinetto, writer/professor/proto-hipster

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:03 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Gina Vivinetto is like the Chuck Klosterman of Tampa Bay. A former music critic and pop culture writer for the Tampa Bay Times, Vivinetto is a zingy, tongue-in-cheek commentator with a keen eye for absurd details and a soft spot for punk music and celebrity kitsch. She grew up in St. Petersburg and graduated from Gibbs High School back when the only thing to do downtown was poke around thrift stores with the city’s elderly denizens.

In the early 2000s, Vivinetto co-hosted one of the first 25 podcasts offered on iTunes (Stuck in the 80s) and authored a blog that earned a 2004 shout-out in Ms. Magazine. A longtime LGBT activist and champion of St. Pete’s early hipster art scene, she owned the short-lived arts and music venue Bombshell Gallery in the Grand Central District.

She left the city in 2007 to pursue her M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University and returned five years later to teach writing at the University of Tampa. Now a freelance writer and assistant professor of English at UT, Vivinetto, a Crescent Lake resident, spends her time hanging at dog parks, watching friends’ bands play, scoping out vegan eats and spearheading cool events.

“It’s a real testament to St. Pete, that we can have these all indie events,” Vivinetto says. “The people who own these spaces are open to it. It fills me with pride to ride my bike up Central Avenue and see all these amazing places that are owned by actual people and not corporate entities.”

Best place to hunker down with a laptop: Community Café in St. Pete. “It’s an adorable coffee house in the Grand Central District with a great terrazzo floor and really cozy décor. They have vegan-friendly stuff, which is a big deal. You can get coffee with soy.”

Best fallback restaurant: 9 Bangkok. “There’s something about the lighting and the booths. It’s all very woody. I know all the waiters and they know my order. They make the best vegetarian sushi I’ve had anywhere and they’re always playing the Bee Gees’ greatest hits. The last five times I was there the Bee Gees was on. “

Best place to dine with West Coast foodies: Leafy Greens Cafe. “My friends from San Francisco and L.A. agree that it can go head to head with some of the nationally known raw places.”

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Ask the Locals: Okesene “Okie” Tilo of the RITZ Ybor

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:02 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Okesene Tilo is the director of public relations, marketing and events at the RITZ Ybor. He arrived at the storied theater in 2008 after it had undergone a transformation from seedy nightclub to hip new concert venue.

Tilo –– known as “Okie” among Tampa Bay artists, musicians and Ybor clubbers –– is a 34-year-old social butterfly; an Ybor denizen with a weakness for Madonna, music festivals and comfort food.

An Army brat, Tilo was born in Berlin, Germany and moved to Tampa in 1991, where his knack for bringing people together made him the obvious choice for senior class president at Armwood High School in Seffner.

He studied political science at the University of South Florida and in 2005 produced his first fundraising event. The project proved the perfect outlet for a party-going extrovert with an admitted “OCD streak.”

For five years Tilo served as the managing director of Square One Creative, a collective of artists, designers and entertainers best known for hosting raging art parties at venues across Tampa.

In addition to his work at The RITZ, Tilo is the managing partner of the Up Up Up Group, a special event, festival and attractions planning company. He serves on the steering committee for Pride & Passion at the Tampa Museum of Art and the planning committee for Festa Italiana.

Best Ybor watering hole: First Chance Last Chance in Ybor. “It’s not too overwhelming or too loud. It’s a good place to have a conversation with someone over drinks.”

Best place to people watch: The bench in front of Honey Pot. “You’ll see rockers, hipsters, drag queens and people in fetish costumes coming and going.”

Best reason to cross the Howard Frankland bridge: Sake Bomb. “They make my favorite saketini. I’ve tried to replicate it at home and I can’t.”

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Ask the Locals: Wilton Morley of Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:02 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Wilton Morley is the co-owner of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, a South Tampa pub and restaurant inspired by Morley’s native England, his theatrical roots and London in the swinging ’60s.

A 62-year-old Seminole Heights resident, Morley grew up in show business. He is the son of the late English actor Robert Morley, an Oscar-nominated character actor who perfected the art of comic bluster in a 60-year career on stage and screen. Wilton's grandmother, Gladys Cooper, was also an Oscar-nominated actress, remembered fondly as Mrs. Higgins to Rex Harrison's Henry in My Fair Lady.

As a 20-something, Morley staked out a career as a theatrical producer in Australia, where he cast the hotheaded, unknown Russell Crowe in one of his first theatrical roles. After living for a brief spell in Italy, Morley moved to Tampa, where he fell in love with the sun and easy living. In 1991, he opened his South MacDill watering hole with Rick Craig, a retired U.S. Marine colonel.

Favorite neighborhood restaurant: The Rooster & the Till. “I like the way it’s set up, with the chefs behind this long bar. They talk to you while you’re sitting there. It’s an interesting place to have in Seminole Heights.”

Favorite steamy nightclub: San Carlos Tavern. “It’s got a Havana kind of feel with fascinating salsa dancers. It’s a well-kept secret. You wouldn’t expect a salsa dancing nightclub next door to the Rooster & the Till.”

Favorite place to buy a tailored suit: Bespoke & Co. “Those of us at the bar call the owner [David Kahn] the Tailor of Panama. He’s the kind of guy who gets out a good bottle of wine when you walk in the door. It’s a very English business.”

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Ask the Locals: Jerome Ritchey & Wendy Ryan, TV twosome

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:01 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Wendy Ryan and Jerome Ritchey are Tampa Bay broadcasters. Ryan is the co-anchor of the evening editions of ABC Action News and Ritchey is an on-air personality at HSN and the former co-host of WTSP-TV morning show Studio 10.

The couple met in 2001 when they were working at separate TV stations in Illinois. Ritchey, a former radio disc jockey from Illinois, was forecasting the weather from a station in Champaign. Ryan, an Ohio native who earned her reporting stripes covering the financial sector in Los Angeles, was co-anchoring the evening news at a sister station in Springfield.

Sparks flew when they finally met at a station photo shoot after interacting on air for weeks via video monitors. They got married two years later and moved to Tampa when Ryan was asked to join the ABC Action News team. In 2010, Ryan gave birth to their daughter Raquel. (Ritchey has a 20-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son from a previous marriage.)

The South Tampa couple admits they have a hard time flying under the radar at local restaurants. Ryan serves as a consumer watchdog for restaurant cleanliness. Her Dirty Dining series has long exposed roach- and rodent-infested eateries, so when the anchor enters an establishment you can bet the staff takes notice.

Luckily the pair has forged close relationships with many Bay area restaurateurs. In fact, Ritchey jokes that they select where they eat based on whether or not the owner hugs them when they walk through the door.

Best place to dine in style: Donatello Italian Restaurant. Jerome: “[Owners] Gino and his dad Guido [Tiozzo] are like family to us. Donatello is one of the few places in town that tolerate us and our loud friends.” Wendy: “I love to dress up on a Saturday night. I can do the bling thing at Donatello’s and still feel totally at home.”

Best place to get your grease on: Pach’s Place. Jerome: “The place is stuck in 1979.” Wendy: “So are the prices!”

Best place for teriyaki: Yoko’s Japanese Restaurant. Jerome: “It’s another one of these places where we get a hero’s welcome when we walk through the door.”

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