Best Young Hopefuls
Current of Tampa Bay
A non-profit volunteer organization based in Tampa and operated almost entirely by college students, Current of Tampa Bay says its main mission is “to educate young adults on current social initiatives and mobilize them to bring about change.” The group gathers at the USF Tampa campus once a week for meetings, as well as hosting documentary screenings and events. Founder and president Jason Sowell (pictured) is a former youth pastor, but he says Current is non-denominational; if anything, it’s a reaction against organized Christianity, which has gotten “really good at talking,” says Sowell, “and really bad at acting.” Geared toward meeting “specific needs people can’t meet themselves,” Current’s projects include Hope for Homes, which assists low-income families whose houses are in need of repair. Current puts up the family in a hotel over the weekend and entertains them at local attractions like Busch Gardens, meanwhile working on their home around the clock. On Sunday, the group surprises the family with the big “reveal” of their newly renovated home. Current’s Laundry Love Project turns laundromats into ad hoc community centers, putting coins in the slot for those unable to pay for clean clothes themselves and providing activities for families while they wait. EngageTheCurrent.org.
BEST LOCAL POLITICIAN,
Although Castor definitely is not the Ninth most liberal member of Congress (as the National Journal dubbed her two years ago), she is the only Democrat representing the entire Tampa Bay area in Washington, and she’s been a solid progressive voice.
Best Local Politician, FL Legislature
When we grow up we want to be Kriseman. The day that Rick Scott canceled high-speed rail in Florida, the St. Petersburg state representative introduced legislation that would allow Floridians to recall their governor (unfortunately, as he admitted, the measure had less than a 1 percent chance of passage). He’s also got a nice family and an energy-efficient home.
Best Local Politician, Hillsborough
He doesn’t like labels, but when did it become an embarrassment for a Republican to admit he’s moderate? Sharpe proved his independent bona fides a year ago when he led the doomed fight for light rail in the county. And he likes speaking to the press.
Best Local Politician, Pinellas
Now the lone Democrat on the Pinellas County Commission, Welch is smart and thoughtful — and given his party status, remarkably successful.
Best political up-and-comers
Harry Cohen, Lisa Montelione and Mike Suarez
The three Democrats elected to the Tampa City Council in March are all in their 40s, smart, thoughtful and humble. Along with the mayor and Council stalwart Mary Mulhern, they will have a big impact on the development of Tampa for years to come.
Best way to kill the hopes and dreams of the Tampa business and political establishment
Kill high-speed rail
Gov. Rick Scott rejected federal funding for a high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando before a feasibility study came out. Instead, as PolitiFact reported, he “based his claims on hypothetical cost overruns from a suspect study written by a libertarian think tank.”
Best indication that Tampa Bay may never achieve top-tier status
The light-rail vote
The county is the only region in the country’s top 30 that does not have a light-rail mass transit system, yet Hillsborough voters rejected a penny tax to fund such a system last November.
Best potential 2012
election in Tampa Bay
Mark Sharpe vs. Kathy Castor
Though Sharpe may not be a shoo-in for the GOP nomination next year (state Representative Shawn Harrison may run for the seat as well), a Sharpe-Castor race could be one of those rare things in this country, and certainly in the Tampa Bay area — a competive Congressional race. Whoever the Republican candidate turns out to be, he’ll be hoping desperately that this predominantly Democratic district can be re-districted into something more hospitable.
Best way to mar a legacy
Mayor Iorio’s water problem
In the twilight of her successful reign as mayor, Pam Iorio’s administration made an uncharacteristically boneheaded move. Pounded by thousands of Tampa residents who were irate about getting water bills 10 times higher than normal, what was city officials’ first response? Blame the residents.
Best worst politician
Although St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster’s clumsy handling of the Tampa Bay Rays stadium situation has been embarrassing, it’s nothing compared to Kevin White’s indictment. The former Tampa City Councilmember and Hillsborough County Commissioner easily wins CL’s honor in this category this year for the signal achievement of having been arrested by the FBI on corruption charges associated with his chairmanship at the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission.
in a time of apathy
The voters break
up with Dick Greco
Only 23 percent of Tampa voters went out to the polls, but at least they had the good sense to reject septuagenarian Dick Greco’s bid to become mayor for the fifth time in the city’s history. (Even so, it was a close call: he finished only 384 votes short of qualifying for the runoff.)
Best campaign comment that nobody understood, though they knew it was bad
The panty-raid thing
In the first and only live televised debate during the Tampa mayoral campaign, Dick Greco downplayed civil rights riots in the 1960s in Tampa, equating one with a “panty raid.”
Best weird-ass comment during a local government meeting
Ronnie Duncan, TBARTA head
Emphasizing that life is full of choices, Duncan announced during TBARTA’s June meeting that he’d never truly realized how many transportation choices there were until he went hunting for a toilet seat at Home Depot. “There are wood toilet seats, there are plastic toilet seats, they’re pink, they’re blue, they’re green, they’re white, they’re beige, there are some that talk to you, some that sing to you… I thought to myself, one of the basic things in life, you actually have options. And then it dawned on me. Perhaps one of the most basic elements in life — that is, getting around to our jobs and our work and our schools — we have few options in transportation.”
Best questionable decision made by a local mayor
Razing the Lacy house
A day after St. Petersburg tragically lost its first police officers in the line of duty in over 30 years in a shootout with Hydra Lacy Jr., Mayor Bill Foster ordered the St. Pete Police Department to bulldoze Lacy’s home, leading a former New Jersey SWAT commander to tell the St. Petersburg Times that a “a crime scene of this magnitude being destroyed by a mayor is unheard of and the police chief should have stopped him.”
Best Political Breakup
Foster & Goliath
Mayor Foster, never on the same page with high-ranking administrator Goliath Davis, fired the former police chief after he refused Foster’s order to attend the funeral of a slain St. Petersburg police officer.
Best Way to Frighten
Smile and say “uterus”
FL Democratic Representative Scott Randolph, from Orlando, suggested that if his wife’s uterus were incorporated, the right-wing lobby might drop the 18 anti-abortion bills filed last session. Speaker Dean Cannon asked him not to use such language on the floor of the House when teenage pages are present. “Uterus,” a word synonymous with womb, life and Catherine Durkin Robinson’s writing career, has since been seen on buttons, campaign literature and its own Facebook page (over 4,200 fans!).
Best example of how
wing-nutty the Florida Legislature has become
Ronda Storms looked reasonable
The Eastern Hillsborough County state senator has been a previous winner of Worst Local Politician in CL. But over the past year Storms has been a beacon of… well, something, compared to some of her neanderthal-leaning colleagues in Tallahassee. She called for the corrupt Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission to go out of business; she argued against Citizens being allowed to charge outrageous amounts for sinkhole insurance; and she fought against abuse at nursing homes. Storms’ “moderation” truly shows how far to the right this state’s leadership has turned.
Best flame-out campaign
Florida Senate President Haridopolos looked to be a top contender to win the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate and take on Bill Nelson; however, a series of bumbling incidents led to him dropping out of the race in July. The clincher: getting kicked off a radio talk show by host Ray Junior for being unable to give a straight answer on whether he supported Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan to dismantle Medicare.
BEST REASON TO AVOID POLK COUNTY
Sheriff Grady Judd
We got an out-of-control lawman on our hands, folks. Not content to let Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio retain the crown for biggest gasbag Fox News suckup in law enforcement, the camera-chasing Judd has blatantly flouted the constitution’s separation of church and state with his decision to give public property — in this case, the basketball hoops at the county jail — to churches (lawsuits are pending). Then he engaged in harassment and selective prosecution of the woman leading the charge against him. (Again, court cases still pending.) Judd is a media whore of the worst kind, a Bible-thumping, holier-than-thou asshole whose downfall we eagerly await.
Best succinct putdown of Governor Scott’s agenda
The former Florida governor, U.S. Senator and 2004 presidential candidate, being interviewed by CL in June: “Our current political and public policy seems to be the way you create jobs is to make us the cheapest and least regulated state in the nation. I think that’s absolute stupidity.”
Best awkward sex
scene in a political novel
Bob Graham, in
Keys to the Kingdom
“The shower curtain flung open behind her. She gasped as Tony, naked, stretched his muscular right leg into the tub. Carol jerked the curtain shut, leaving only the leg protruding into her space.
“‘But you’re lovely, with your smile so warm and your cheeks so soft,’ Tony crooned through the plastic barrier. ‘All of your cheeks so soft. And getting softer by the minute, I presume.’
“With the showerhead pouring water on her head and shoulders, Carol pulled back the curtain. ‘You presume correctly.’”
BEST NICKNAME BATTLE
What do we call Rick Scott?
Florida’s Tea Party governor has inspired more rage among left-leaning citizens than any politician in recent memory not named “Bush.” As such, the governor has been slapped with a litany of potential nicknames, none of which has actually stuck so far. Current favorites include “Governor Gollum,” “Skeletor,” “Voldemort” and “PRick Scott.” In the end, though, the only moniker that will actually stick is probably going to be “Worst Governor Ever.”
BEST CIVIC UPRISING AGAINST A STUPID STATE INITIATIVE
The Honeymoon Island controversy
Residents have watched Rick Scott pile on one noxious decision after another since taking office, so it was refreshing to see public outrage finally crack the guv’s cone of silence and force a change of course. A plan to turn over portions of state parks, including Pinellas County’s beautiful Honeymoon Island, to a private company for expanded RV camping ran afoul of environmental activists and local residents alike, leading to a raucous public hearing on July 5 at which an overflow crowd of hundreds clogged Dunedin’s Hale Senior Center to share their disapproval. A week later, Gov. Scott changed his mind and the camping plan was abandoned, proving that the people still get their way when they make their voices heard.
Best Activist Group
The Awake the State Movement
An amalgamation of activist groups and organized labor, the movement — inspired by the reality that Florida had actually lost its collective mind and elected Rick Scott as governor — was a powerful display of protests that showed that Democrats maybe, just maybe, aren’t dead yet in Florida.
Best foreclosure watchdog
Although most of the reporting prizes go to its cross-bay rivals, the Tribune’s Behnken has been on the cutting edge in reporting on the foreclosure crisis that has devastated the Bay area over the past four years. Earlier this year, she won an award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors for detailing the inside operations of foreclosure law firms accused of performing sloppy work or improperly documenting cases.
Best new long-form narrator
St. Petersburg Times
In an era when media often cater to the shortest possible attention span, the Times continues to support long-form narrative by writers like Lane DeGregory, Michael Kruse and Ben Montgomery; their prose only occasionally makes its way into the paper, but it always makes a maximum impact. This year you can add the 28-year-old Zayas to the list of reporters skilled in writing “creative non-fiction” — in her case, chronicling the human stories that unfold within the Hillsborough County court system. In 2011 she was moved off the regular courts beat, but she’s still utilized for breaking judicial cases (Kevin White, Jared Cano).
Best LOCAL PAPER THAT’S
HANGING ON DESPITE ALL ODDS
The intrepid Tribune
William March, Christian Wade, Sherri Ackerman, Kathy Steele, Mike Salinero, Howard Altman, Elaine Silvestrini and others continue to pound out solid work at the Trib, despite the fact that their mother ship, Media General out of Virginia, dictated this summer that all employees (including those at News Channel 8) would need to take three weeks off without pay.
endorsement of Jim Norman
After reporting that the FBI was investigating the then-Hillsborough County Commissioner, the St. Pete Times went on to recommend him for the state Senate District 12 race last November. He won. Thanks, editorial board.
Biggest local journalism losses
Elly, Testerman, Troxler
Three stellar journalists bowed out in the past year, each in his own way irreplaceable. Warren Elly’s retirement from WTVT Fox-13 was announced just before the end of the space shuttle — an apt coincidence, considering that Elly, local television’s best courts reporter, was also a space aficionado who’d attended and written about many of the shuttles. Jeff Testerman ended his 30-year career with the St. Pete Times earlier this year; nominated five times by the paper for a Pulitzer, the bulldog reporter will be remembered as one of the finest investigative writers ever in the Bay area. And Howard Troxler, the indispensable Times columnist, headed for the hills of North Carolina in June. There has been no replacement at the Times since, and we hear there probably won’t be until after the 2012 election.
Best Al Pacino
imitation by a reporter
WTSP Channel 10
During an intense Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Agency (HART) board meeting to decide the fate of CEO David Armijo, an attorney mentioned that perhaps the agency should meet behind closed doors. Channel 10 investigative reporter Mike Deeson was having none of that: in a move that recalled Al Pacino’s classic “No, you’re out of order!” bit from the 1979 film And Justice For All, Deeson stood up and dramatically declared he would call an attorney before that happened. Visibly shaken, the board opted not to go into closed session.
Best Local Voice for Media
A frequent guest commentator on CNN and MSNBC, Deggans started out as the pop music critic over at the St. Petersburg Times back in 1995. He has since served as TV critic, reporter, lecturer and adjunct professor, and was president for eight years of the Tampa Bay chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists — and still manages stints as a touring bass player and drummer. In his current role as media critic, Deggans regularly provides ethical reporting, balanced commentary, the latest celebrity scoop, as well as analysis of why we’re so fascinated with celebrity scoop. We’re proud to know him, and still get excited when his face is on the television. @deggans.
Best Social Media
Response to a Crime
On the weekend of April 10, internationally renowned Morrisound Studio in Tampa was robbed. The suspects disabled the alarm, broke in, and made off with thousands of dollars in equipment, instruments and gold and platinum records. What was described as a “kick in the gut” by owner Tom Morris was softened by an outpouring of online support — in the form of hundreds of friends and fans sharing details of the crime with their networks as well as people dropping off computers at the studio so that the staff could at least check their email. The studio is now back up and running.
Best Local Tweeter
He’s a master of pithy political observation, as in: “BAD: #JCPenney’s “I’m Too Pretty to Do Homework” T-shirt. WORSE: Failing to also include Bachmann & Palin glamour shots.” He’s also got good taste in Re-Tweets: “RT @samantharonson Dear guy with your picture on your business card — thank you for reminding me who I’m never going to call.” And if you’ve been forced to endure the televised GOP presidential debates, there’s no better online companion than @gagsparilla, whose hilarious Twitter commentary will have you laughing instead of throwing things at the screen.
Best Radio Format Change
WUSF’s switch from
classical to news
News junkies — especially NPR news junkies — rejoiced when WUSF shifted from its mix of classical, jazz and limited NPR programming to a news-all-day, jazz-all-night format. A year in, it’s hard to remember when WUFS didn’t have Terry Gross, BBC News Hour, Talk of the Nation, On the Media and all the other good stuff they have now — plus two, count ’em two, broadcasts of the funniest show on radio, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me. Now if you miss a joke on Saturday morning, you can catch it on Sunday. (The Wait Wait crew comes to the Straz to do a taping this fall; Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell groupies, start lining up now.)
Best radio format excuses
WUSF’s ever-evolving apologies to classical music fans
The antennae are too high; oops, now the frequency is interfering with the Coast Guard; oh, sorry, the parts got lost in the mail — well, maybe not that last one, but WUSF’s various explanations for the delay in launching its new classical music station began to sound like the excuses you hear from an auto repair shop. But WSMR is now operating at full throttle, and we can get a classical fix whenever we want. Cue the Hallelujah Chorus.
Best Plucky Communications Takeover of a Corporate Overlord
Bright House’s mass contract-buyout of Verizon customers
Over the past decade, Verizon lured customers with too-good-to-be-true deals that wound up unleashing a fresh hell of problems: prohibitive contracts, unsavory sales tactics and mystery fees. All the while, Bright House was lurking in the shadows and working out Rocky-style, beefing up its services and technology. They moved in for the kill late summer, their salesmen swarming neighborhoods with rock-solid sales pitches that came with offers to provide bundled services a good 20 percent or so cheaper than Verizon’s. In a flash of blue and yellow, the Bright House trucks invaded Tampa neighborhoods, making the switch everywhere. The scene was almost cinematic, like seeing the playground bully get his just desserts.
Best Sign You’re Not
Equipped to be a Communications Overlord Just Yet
Bright House’s Massive 9/6/11 Breakdown
According to news reports, more than 1 million Bright House Networks customers across the Tampa Bay area lost their telephone, cable TV and Internet service during a massive network outage on Sept. 6. Bright House officials say a software bug caused the glitchtastrophe and service was restored the next day to all affected customers by about 4 p.m. Even the Bright House Networks 24-hour news channel, Bay News 9, lost the ability to broadcast. In addition, complaints of shoddy modems and unpredictable service are miring the pretty underdog-coming-up-from-behind picture Bright House so wanted to paint for you.
Best Douchey Rock
Star Lawyer Commercials
Culpepper and Kurland
“Aggressive, tenacious” … chiseled and buff, too. Cue techno music or hard rock (depending on the time slot) for Brad Culpepper and Brett Kurland, who come to the aid of auto accident victims, wielding the power of passionately gesticulated cross-examinations and sexy closeups with legal pads. Boy, Geico didn’t see them coming! In one scene, slo-mo cameras flash while the dynamic duo stands majestically at a podium, staring back with searing intensity. You can almost see them squeezing their butt cheeks under those suits.
Swings Tampa Bay
Who woulda thunk a homemade swing could be the start of a movement? Some of the judges for CL’s 10/100/1000 contest last spring were at first unpersuaded by Swings Tampa Bay, but the sweet simplicity of the idea — hanging colorful rope swings in unexpected places, leading to spontaneous bursts of inter-generational playfulness and communion — won us over. And now the brainchild of USF students Reuben Pressman and Hunter Payne has grown from a guerrila effort to a full-fledged cause celebre, with a new website, swing-painting parties, plans to create a 501(c)3 — and, of course, swings. “We’ve hung 61 swings and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!” their website promises. There’s one hanging in CL’s office — swing on by. swingstampabay.com.
Best Thanks for the Mammories
Alisa Savoretti, My Hope Chest
Dancer Alisa Savoretti was diagnosed with breast cancer at 38. Following a mastectomy in which one breast was removed, she returned to her career as a Vegas performer and called herself “The Lopsided Showgirl” — a moniker that reflects Savoretti’s sassy, self-deprecating humor. Her experience led her to form My Hope Chest, a nonprofit organization that helps uninsured women receive reconstructive surgery. Though she eventually underwent surgery herself, Savoretti didn’t forget what it was like to be one of the women who can’t afford it. My Hope Chest has worked hard at a grassroots level, putting on and sponsoring major events, including the Imagine fashion show and the BOOoobie Ball. myhopechest.org.
On Valentine’s Day, Laura Campanello, 43, spotted something she didn’t approve of at her son’s high school: cleavage. Campanello asked the owner of the cleavage to cover up. An argument ensued, attracting the attention of the deputy on duty at Bayshore High. In an attempt to convey the seriousness of the offense to the officer, Campanello allegedly jerked down her blouse, pulled out her breasts, and squeezed them together. This demonstration earned Campanello a misdemeanor arrest for disorderly conduct. After being released on bond, Campanello told TheSmokingGun.com that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress due to the encounter and planned to sue the school, the sheriff’s department and the jail.
Best Friends to the Furry
Animal Coalition of Tampa Bay
The hard-working animal lovers at ACT truly have the best interests of pets at heart, providing an easy walk-up service with supportive and courteous personnel who are helping prevent overpopulation of dogs and cats. The Coalition does it all, providing low-cost spay and neuter services for those who cannot otherwise afford it, plus low-cost vaccinations, dental exams and products for flea and heartworm prevention. In addition, the monthly all-volunteer program, Project SpayDay, provides trap-neuter-return services for feral cats. 1719 W. Lemon St., Tampa, 813-250-3900, actampa.org.
Best idea incubator
& Innovation Alliance,
USF St. Petersburg
Last year the Princetown Review named USF Tampa’s graduate entrepreneurial program one of the top 25 in the country, and this year it seems to be USF Pete’s turn to shine; its business school’s new Sustainable Entrepreneurship & Innovation Alliance unites undergrad curricula, a small business development center, an entrepreneurship journal and networking events under the leadership of an aggressive, forward-thinking team including Bill Jackson, Daniel James Scott and Nathan Schwagler. Most exciting: the Gazelle Lab business accelerator, a mentoring program that provides seed money, expert advice and networking opportunities to selected startups in exchange for a 6-percent equity stake. The 10 companies currently working with the Gazelle Lab get to strut their stuff before potential investors on Demo Day, Nov. 17 at the Mahaffey. seialliance.om.
Best Celebration of Diversity
(and Best People-Watching)
St. Pete Pride
If you’re looking for the widest possible range of people worth watching, St. Pete Pride provides plenty of opportunities every year. The 2011 edition of the parade and festival seemed even more packed than usual, with colorful clusters of pierced-and-tatted alterna-teens, retired couples (both hetero and gay), liberal soccer moms and their broods, drag queens waving from floats, and many others. For anyone who thinks Florida is all righteous Red Staters, the festival is an eye-opener; for those of us who already know better, St. Pete Pride is a reminder of the diversity that makes us proud to live here. stpetepride.com.
Best LGBT Victory
The gay adoption decision
In September of 2010, the Florida District Court of Appeal upheld a trial court ruling that declared Florida’s law against gay and lesbian adoption to be unconstitutional. A few weeks later, the state of Florida announced it wouldn’t appeal. Because of the timing, we missed including this development in last year’s Best of the Bay issue, but we won’t miss it this time around — because with all of the bad news and even worse politics that sometimes surrounds gay issues, this was one of those rare moments in which LGBT residents of our state were able to celebrate equality. (And many thanks to the efforts of Equality Florida for helping this change come to pass.)
Best gay takeover
Sawmill Camping Resort
Sawmill’s long been a popular destination among Central Florida’s LGBT population. As the name suggests, it manages to be at once rustic (cabins, RVs, cruisy hiking trails) and resort-like (disco, bars, pool parties). But in addition to the weekenders who pay a small membership fee to enjoy the amenities, there’s also a sizable contingent of residents who’ve turned their trailers into permanent second homes, and a group of them banded together last year to purchase the 120-acre resort from its former owners — who, as it happens, were straight (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Sawmill’s now believed to be the largest gay-owned non-profit co-op community in the U.S., and its board is planning facility upgrades and seeking new shareholders. 21710 U.S. Highway 98, Dade City, 352-583-0664, flsawmill.com.
Plan with Benefits
Corporal Scott Guffey
Some police officers go out in a blaze of glory after sacrificing their lives for the greater good. Some quit for a better job. Corporal Scott Guffey retired at 46 with a $60,000 annual pension after repeatedly having sex in his cruiser with a 24-year-old woman while on the clock. Despite his evasion of duty, Guffey remains a role model for many, as he demonstrated the key to carrying on a lunchtime affair in your car without breaking any lewd-and-lascivious laws: Get a heavy tint-job and put up a sunshade.
Best Reason Not
to Believe in Evolution
Florida bans sex with animals
Although Florida has never had a problem with overly intimate alligator-wrestling or X-rated manatee experiences, this year Gov. Rick Scott felt the need to sign into law Senate Bill 344, which makes it illegal for humans to have sex with animals. Although the bill makes special exemptions for those whose livelihood depends on fondling animals — veterinarians, those who dabble in animal husbandry, and livestock judges — the language of the bill may be troubling for Floridians who believe humans are animals.
Best Tongue Action
Not since the Senator has a freaky-deek become so infamous in Tampa’s historic district. The slender, somewhat androgynous fella known as “Jamie” approaches Ybor’s gentry, engages them in a lighthearted chat, and then compliments the shoes of his favorite male in the group. Here’s where it gets weird: After he supposedly bends down to inspect the footwear, he proceeds to make out with the guy’s foot. Jamie licks the laces. Jamie licks the sole. Jamie has no fear of feces or bug carcasses. The lickings have recurred over the past six months, and so far Jamie — miraculously — has not gotten his jaw kicked off his face. He must have a good screening process. Some suggest he might have some narcissistic-OCD-schizoid personality issues, but Jamie says he’s just after new experiences, scented with eau de sweaty Converse. Check out his latest exploits on his Facebook page: The Tampa Bay Shoe-Licker.
Best Inappropriate Works Program For the Homeless
Staring at fit women in bikinis and watching fights are national pastimes, but that doesn’t mean the two activities always go well together. The operator of SheFights.net allegedly paid homeless St. Pete men between $25 and $50 to endure brutal beatings from athletic women on video. None of the participants seemed to mind the work until an advocate for the homeless noticed an increasing number of men loafing around Williams Park with suspicious injuries. Now at least two of these fetish stuntmen have found a better way to make money. They are suing the owner of SheFights.net.
Best Defense of Viewing
a NSFW Video at Work
During a deposition, Tampa Storm Coach Tim Marcum calmly sipped a glass of water while he was shown a video pulled from his work computer featuring two naked women using a funnel and a fish to commit an unnatural sex act. Along with this video, Marcum’s work computer also allegedly housed racist email chains and videos of women having sex with horses. The most successful coach in the Arena Football League did not see a conflict of interest between this content and his job. While the video may not have been relevant to Marcum’s job, it was pertinent to the lawsuit which Marcum filed against the Storm’s former owner for unpaid wages.
Best Reason to have
a Weekday Beer on the Beach
Treasure Island’s 11-06 Ordinance
Sunset Beach was the last beach in the bay area where budget partiers could lounge in the sun while keeping cool with a tub of cheap, iced beers. That all changed with the passage of Ordinance 11-06, which banned the consumption of BYOB alcohol from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day — basically any time when massive amounts of hard-working young people are off of school and work and want to relax on the beach with beers that don’t each cost the equivalent of their hourly wage. While this law may have been intended to drive business to local beach bars like Caddy’s, it also gives poor college students and recent college grads in service industry jobs a great excuse to flood Sunset Beach during the week, or after dark, with beer and bad behavior.
Best Florida tourism campaign
“Promises” and “Play,” Visit St Pete/Clearwater
Is someone at Pinellas’ tourism office a Terence Malick fan? These two TV spots might be outtakes from The Tree of Life, the visuals are so dreamy and the narration so sonorous (“Youth is not to be squandered!”). The ads might strike some observers as a teeny bit pretentious (for that matter, so did Tree of Life), but we think they’re classy and alluring and do exactly what they’re supposed to do: They make you want to go to the beach. youtube.com/user/stpetecvb.
Best alternative to golf
Golfing is great if you don’t like wearing gym shorts in public. If you do, try disc golf instead. (Take a plastic disc, stand a couple hundred feet from the “hole” and throw the disc at it.) Tampa Bay has a few parks in the area with 18-hole courses — Youth Park in Pinellas Park, Cliff Stephens in Clearwater, Taylor Lake in Largo, Maximo in St. Petersburg. Get really crazy and pick up expensive neon discs from special disc golf stores. But most of the courses have water around the holes — try not to lose too many discs (and watch out for gators).
BEST OFF-SEASON ACQUISITION
Remember back in February, when local baseball fans were buzzing about the signing of a ’roided-up Manny Ramirez but were somewhat less focused on the Rays’ other big-name free agent acquisition, Johnny Damon? We don’t either, as Damon has annihilated the memories of Manny’s awkward arrival/departure (not to mention his recent domestic unpleasantness) by becoming the veteran leader of this young Rays squad. Always a danger at the plate, Damon has stayed (mostly) healthy, and has proven as valuable for his good-guy demeanor and leadership skills in the clubhouse as he is for hitting with runners in scoring position. Damon’s a sorta-local (his family lives in Orlando), so we should get a few more good years out of the crafty veteran.
Best Baseball Blog
There may be a plethora of baseball blogs throwing out stats and name-dropping connections, but when we want to get our daily Rays update we turn to RaysIndex to give us the latest without any of the pretension. If you miss a game, the Professor, aka Cork Gaines, the independent blog’s lead writer and editor, will give you the good, the bad and the in-between in his “Hangover” every morning. The blog reports on everything from what crazy move JoeMa pulled last night to what the heck Longo did to his hair, all things inquiring fans want to know. raysindex.com.
BEST BUZZING SOUND
The St. Pete Grand Prix
It has become a yearly rite of passage for St. Pete residents. First, there are traffic closures around Albert Whitted Airport, Demens Landing and the Dali. Then the buzzing starts, as several weeks of test runs commence in anticipation of the St. Pete Grand Prix. On race day, you don’t have to be in the grandstands to enjoy the race along the scenic waterfront; anyone within a three-mile radius can hear the action, a humming swarm of rubber and metal ripping through downtown. If you listen really hard, you can almost hear Danica Patrick not winning … again.
The Lee Roy Selmon Expressway
Taken a ride on the Selmon Expressway lately? Gone are the old tollbooths staffed by actual people working for a living and pumping their paychecks back into the local economy. In their place, a new “Pay by Plate” system that has the city sending bills to drivers who lack a Sunpass. Only problem: The bills never seem to arrive on time (if at all), and stories of people receiving invoices stuffed with late charges are becoming as commonplace as the constant roadwork that dots the highway.
Best Running Shoes
The great personal service at Feet First reflects the fact that the folks there actually know running, and in many cases are runners themselves. So whether you’re running down Bayshore or hitting the Pinellas Trail, it’s good to know there’s a place on either side of the Bay where you can get a pair of running shoes that will last you — for at least a year. 3401 Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa, 813-835-1339; 4949 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-898-1130. feetfirstrunning.com.
Best Cost-Effective Shopping
Revolve Clothing Exchange
While Plato’s Closet is great and all, we can’t rave enough about this local retail consignment shop. Revolve is geared toward fashionable adults (as opposed to Plato’s teen-leaning selection) and offers up just as many opportunities for you to buy, sell and swap gently-used clothing (dresses, band tees, jeans and the like), jewelry, shoes, accessories and other miscellany. The result is a selection that is chic, eclectic and most importantly, cost-conscious. 2000 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, and 1620 E. Seventh Ave, Ybor City, revolve.cx.
Best Florida Wear
for Young Folks
We don’t usually associate casual Florida looks with the words youthful, hip or cool, but DROP puts to rest our seniorly associations with beachwear. The Northeast St. Pete house-converted-into-a-shop offers the best of “surf or city,” where a combo of urban sophistication and trendy looks converge with cute outdoor-friendly fashions. Owner Caroline Saunders has lived in Hawaii and traveled all over. Her experiences inspired her to sell clothes that “snuggle up harmoniously in your suitcase.” 2012 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-490-7799, surforcity.com.
Best Retail Upgrade
The local merchandisers’ and artists’ co-op known for funky events and enviro-friendly repurpose-ification has moved into its own digs on Central Avenue — a spacious, artsy but aesthetically pleasing environment. The conscious retailers are loved on the 600 Block for their “great clothes, knickknacks and energy.” 683 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-557-5812,ramblinroseupcycle.wordpress.com.
Best local fashion blogger
Belle de Couture
Move over, Anna Wintour. Jennifer Rand’s Belle de Couture is showing us how girls on a budget can keep up with the latest trends without sacrificing their paychecks on that Alexander Wang dress. Rand’s style blog remains the freshest in the Bay area; mixing vintage at low prices for high-fashion looks, Rand shows readers how to transform those palazzo pants you picked up at your local thrift store into the trendiest outfit in town. belledecouture.com.
Best Secondhand Delights
Sherry’s YesterDaze Vintage Clothing and Antiques
For the past 13 years, YesterDaze has been serving up a wide variety of vintage clothing and accessories for ladies and gents alike. If you can’t seem to find that perfect pair of 1960s tapestry hot pants or that 1980s terry jumpsuit, look no further than YesterDaze. The shop sponsors huge sales events quarterly and has been a ringleader in Seminole Heights’ retail renaissance. 5207 N. Florida Ave., 813-231-2020, yesterdazevintage.com.
Best New Fashion
Kids On The Block
Whimsy, fun and function epitomize the Dolls’ designs. The studio run by sisters Kristine Bush and Leigh Anne Balzekas and hairstylist Maxwell Maisano is an artistic space equipped with hair, styling and tailoring services. Their new collection, made entirely of vintage and recycled fabrics, marries style and sustainability. Whether you’re looking for vintage cocktail dresses, colorful tees or gypsy skirts, the Disco Dolls have you covered. 408 N Howard Ave., Studio A, 813-641-4367, thediscodolls.com. Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and by appointment.
Best Decorative Odds and Ends
It’s a little bit of Laurie Petrie and Barbarella and a whole lot of Seminole Heights’ funky style. Last winter, Sherry King, owner of Sherry’s YesterDaze, partnered with her husband, David Call, of A Modern Line mid-century modern furniture, and interior designer Karen Brown to bring Tampa an eye-catching spectrum of retro goodies, closeouts and upscale consignments. 6415 N Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-231-2020.
Best Holiday Shopping
Black Friday Art and Fashion Show, Vitale Studio
Discerning shoppers skipped the leftovers the day after Thanksgiving and partook of a cornucopia of deals at the Black Friday Fashion Show art party and sale, an event that embodied the creative ingenuity of the St. Pete 600 Block art scene. The two-pronged affair started with the Black Friday Store at the Vitale Studio, where jewelry, prints, T-shirts, smaller original pieces and other miscellany sold for under $199. Later, the major works exhibition kicked off at the Local 662 with DJ Mega providing the sonic backdrop, and the stylish secondhand mavens of MISRED Outfitters putting on a fashion show.
If you see someone with that bangin’ haircut that no one else has, there’s a pretty good chance they got it at BentleySalonTampa. The sleek and welcome space has been a haven for the area’s hippest style enthusiasts. Bentley employs trained educators who have traveled both nationally and internationally, and the salon is a flagship for Screen Professional Hair Care products, an independently owned line from Italy. In addition, owners Scott Bentley and wife Erin, run an animal rescue group called HoodRatz. 3228 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-877-9801, bentleysalontampa.com.
Best Hair Colorist
As you settle into her chair, expert color diva Nikki Rice will instantly make you feel at home. She’ll chat (but not too much) and tickle your funnybone with her witty jokes and theater-Gleektasticness before blowing you away with her amazing skill. Her highlights and lowlights seamlessly blend and turn heads with unique dazzle and dimension. Sought after as an authority on corrective color, Rice brings to her work 15 years’ experience at high-end salons. Studio G, 2603 W. Azeele St., Tampa, 813-598-4155, nikkiricehair.com.
Best Place to Get
Pampered and Prettified
Pia Esthetics Day
Spa and Body Shop
Big girls, thin girls, punk girls — and guys — you’re all treated like royalty at Pia Trujillo’s comfy and clean salon. Get a waxing made painless by their “no-scream cream” and service with TLC from Pia’s trained professionals. Other services include full-body scrubs (ooh), mani/pedis, microderm abrasion, eyelash lengthening and massage (double ooh). Locations in South Tampa, 813-831-2418; Winter Park, 407-767-7100; Westchase, 813-854-6424, and St. Petersburg, 727-346-6740; biapia.com.
Best New Soap Star
Just past The Refinery on Florida Avenue you’ll find a fragrant oasis of cleanliness. Cool slate blue walls and spare but comforting decor make you feel like you’re ready for bath time. On sale are aesthetically refined soaps, candles, cleaning products and gift items, plus chemical-free Caldrea Aromatherapeutic Homekeeping products. 5127 N. Florida Ave., Tampa. 813-374-0305. cleanseapothecary.blogspot.com.
Best Place to Show Your BUTT
It’s got the most indiscreet sign in Pinellas County: COLON THERAPY, in really big letters. Unless you find some way to enter through the back door (ba-dump-bump!) there’s no keeping this visit private. Once inside, it’s all good. Your butt’s in safe hands with Kim Russo, a massage therapist and colon therapist. She is licensed by the State of Florida and offers an impressive slate of services to revitalize you inside and out. 4434 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-321-6966, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best Suntan Without
Going to the Beach
You Glow Custom
Spray Tan Studio
Look like you hit the shore every day without that pesky skin cancer, and we’re not talking about tanning beds. They are so last century. Beauty professionals swear by YouGlow’s personalized, by-hand custom spray tan application. Owner Tara Brown is both personable and professional and will make sure you look sun-kissed with a natural and healthy glow — not that yucky orange sheen. 2607 W Azeele St., Tampa, 813-876-4569, youglowspraytan.com.
Best Way to Keep
Your House from Catching Fire
Delintz Dryer Vent
Apparently those vents behind your dryer need to be cleaned out every once in a while. Who knew? delintz.com.
BEST-KEPT SECRET IN A/C REPAIR
David Ashmore of Ashmore Air
Air conditioning repair is often a racket, with unscrupulous repairmen blindsiding customers with $5,000 bills for new equipment when the old unit might have been fixed for a fraction of the cost. But that’s not how it works for David Ashmore of Ashmore Air. The guy’s honest, and his first instinct is to fix your ailing a/c instead of selling you the latest and greatest (though he can do that, too). But don’t bother Googling him, as you’ll come up empty. Ashmore’s success is built on the type of real-world word-of-mouth that social networks can still only emulate. So here’s his number — don’t lose it: Ashmore Air, 727-424-8708.
Best Lawn Service Company Name
We don’t really believe in lawn maintenance, but if we did choose to have a manicured lawn we’d go with The Sodfather based solely on their name. “Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do [lawn] service for me…”
Best multicultural mentors
Alayne Unterberger & Florida Institute for Community Studies (FICS)
FICS’ high-minded name doesn’t quite suggest the vital gathering spot Alayne Unterberger has created for the families of Town ‘N Country in an unprepossessing strip-mall storefront. But that’s because the community center is only part of what the organization does, which includes research projects on disadvantaged and rural populations and initiatives to fight drug use and gang violence. But the beating heart of it all is the Multicultural Family Center, serving the area’s amazingly polyglot mix of ethnicities (Cuban, Dominican, Brazilian, African, Jamaican, Mexican, Haitian and many more) with after-school programs, a computer lab, youth summits and a strong emphasis on parental involvement. And Unterberger, a mini-dynamo of seemingly unstoppable energy, keeps it all going with Facebook posts, food fests and a committed staff who, like her, are passionate in their embrace of diversity. ficsinc.org.
Best Emmy, Oprah and CL-approved historian
The John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at USF St. Pete and founder of the school’s esteemed Florida Studies Program, Ray Arsenault has earned ample acclaim for his books on St. Petersburg, Jefferson Davis, Marian Anderson and the Freedom Riders (which won him CL’s Best Local Author in 2006). But this year, in the wake of a PBS documentary on the Rides for which he was a consultant, he’s been achieving new levels of celebrity — re-creating the Riders’ bus trips, appearing on Oprah, co-curating a nationally touring exhibit and sharing in the glory of multiple Emmy wins. Even more important, the film has allowed him to shine an even brighter spotlight on the courage and resilience of the Freedom Riders, for whom Sept. 22 is a significant milestone: it’s the 50th anniversary of the Interstate Commerce Commission’s decision to desegregate buses and terminals, validating the Riders’ crusade. (Look for Arsenault to make another big splash with his next book, the first biography of tennis player Arthur Ashe.)
Best Pole Dancing Fitness Studio
Impulse Pole Dance
CL’s Sex & Love Editor Shawn Alff comparison-shopped this one: When my wife got a stripper pole for our apartment, I thought it was a great idea, at least until I racked my nuts on it and then a semi-drunk friend brought the pole crashing down. Since then my wife has been working on her body and her moves at pole dancing studios all over town. Unfortunately some instructors focus too much on moves they claim make “daddy” open his wallet, while others give too few instructions on technique. Impulse Pole Dance gets the balance of performance, artistry and fitness just right with an intimate studio where you can sweat and commune with your sexy side without feeling self-conscious. The owner, Sarah Murray (right), and her instructors are personable and fantastic at breaking down the movements. The studio is colorful and inviting, with six poles, full wall mirrors, soft lighting, and no outside views in. 6346 4th St. N., St. Petersburg, 813-325-1990, impulsepoledance.com
Best Post Verdict Hair
When we first saw tabloid photos of Casey Anthony partying while her daughter was missing, we saw a girl with the short hair of a beauty-school dropout — the haircut of an impulsive girl who does stupid things when she needs a change, like cutting her hair too short, or getting a “Bella Vita” tattoo, or letting her daughter die from neglect, then impulsively stuffing the child in a trunk. When Anthony’s courtroom drama aired nonstop on major TV networks worldwide, we saw a changed woman, with the long, professional and pulled-back hair of a responsible woman who wears pantsuits. Then, after Anthony was deemed not guilty of murder, she arrived at her sentencing with yet another change — a Jersey Shore celebrity-rehab blow-out that showed she was ready to embrace her high-profile, potentially high-earning role as America’s biggest loser.
Few details of the Casey Anthony trial defined the ordeal’s tacky insanity as perfectly as that ruffled mess of a blouse Anthony wore during the verdict. Questionably pink, it looked like a tuxedo shirt stolen from Tony Clifton’s hamper and later washed with a pair of red undies. Talk about life imitating Andy Kaufman. What’s next, Latka’s jumpsuit? Ironically, the Taxi mechanic once made the ominous declaration that “in America, a man can become another O.J. Simpson!”
BEST PINELLAS PRANK ON ORLANDO
Ha ha, Orlando. The whole country thinks you’re a city full of child-murderer sympathizers, thanks to the controversial not-guilty verdict in the Casey Anthony trial. What these critics don’t realize is that the folks who set Anthony free had been bussed in from Pinellas County. Thanks for taking one for the team, Orlando. Next time you’ve got a heinous murder trial on your hands, maybe look for a jury pool in The Villages. Those people hate everyone.
BEST BUDGET-BUSTING VACATION PACKAGE
In addition to nearly stroking out Nancy Grace and pissing off pretty much the entire country, the Casey Anthony jury also cost Florida taxpayers a small fortune during their time sequestered in an Orlando hotel. According to Ninth Judicial Circuit Court spokeswoman Karen Levey (as quoted in an ABC News report), the total cost of sequestering 12 jurors and eight alternates for an eight-week trial is a whopping $360,000. That figure includes $137,000 for hotel rooms, $48,000 for food, $2,240 for laundry and $128,000 for extra court clerks and security. And you thought taking a family of four to the Magic Kingdom was cost-prohibitive.
Breath of Life Birth Center
We’ve got nothing against hospitals, and Bayfront’s All Children’s expansion is beautiful, but for some, the atmosphere created by modern medicine is more suffocating than sterile. A Breath of Life delivery (below) is altogether different, with midwives encouraging mothers to get out of the stirrups and walk, squat and bend that baby out, and water births at least as common as dry deliveries. Breath of Life recently welcomed Henry Bardi (son of Associate Editor Joe Bardi) and Ashton Oppelt (son of Marketing Director Joran Oppelt) into the world, and both mommies are raving about the experience. Yes, Breath of Life only offers all-natural child birth, so if you’re pain-phobic and can’t see making it through delivery without a stiff epidural, you’ll have to seek help elsewhere. But for women willing to brave the extreme discomfort of a drug-free delivery, the benefits are real and amazing. And if anything goes wrong, you can still go to the hospital and get a C-section like (seemingly) everyone else. 1900 East Bay Drive, Largo, 727-216-1420, breathoflife.cc.
Best Kids’ Consignment
Buying secondhand items for your precious little ones demands care and attention, what with all the viruses and bedbugs and other germy germs out there wreaking havoc on their tiny immune systems. Stellie Bellies is a safe bet, offering quality brands like Gymboree and Japanese Weekend in clean and aesthetically pleasing settings. Sizes preemie through size 8 are available, and along with clothes the shop sells toys, shoes, books, videos, bedding, baby needs and nursing items. Two locations: 3475 Fourth St. N., St. Pete; 31071 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, 727-330-7785, stelliebellies.com.
Baby Boutique Mash-Up
Thank You Mama
New moms have it rough. We don’t need to tell you about the sleepless nights, the sore nipples, the swollen ... well, you get the idea. Sometimes you don’t want to drive all over town. Sometimes you just want to network with (and be around) other moms. Enter Thank You Mama, a retail store (clothing, bottles, toys, accessories) that also features a yoga and massage studio, acupuncture clinic, community workshops, cloth diapering seminars and more. All conveniently located near downtown St. Pete. 1511 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. 727-289-7250,
Best Place to Have a Man Shower
The Lotus Pond
Located on 4.5 acres of secluded woodland in north Tampa is a spacious and rustic log cabin that is home to regular yoga classes, massage, workshops, musical performances and Ayurvedic treatments courtesy of The Lotus Pond and its Ayurvedic counterpart, Balance and Bliss. With the recent baby boom at CL, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the grounds of the Lotus Pond also lend themselves to other rites of passage, including baby showers and fatherhood ceremonies (the Man Shower). 6201 Lynn Road, Tampa, 813-961-3160, yogalotusroom.com; balanceandbliss.com.
Best Downtown Bike Shop
City Bike Tampa
The full-service shop not only has a slew of cool two-wheelers for sale — Bianchi, Kona, Jamis, Eastern and KHS among them — with parts, accessories, service and repairs, but it has been heavily involved in restaurant and history tours. 212 E. Cass Street, Tampa, 888-484-BIKE (2453) or 813-225-1777, citybiketampa.com.
If you get around on a bike or ride one for sport, you most likely already know that the South Tampa biz has awesome doodads and accessories, great closeout deals, how-to classes and just about everything you need to ride safely and swiftly. Customer comments on Yelp! and other sites have praised the staff for being knowledgeable, professional and helpful. South Tampa, 2409 S MacDill Ave., Tampa, 813-839-0410; Westchase, 13038 Race Track Road, Countryway and Race Track Road, Tampa, 813- 854-1738, flyingfishbikes.com.
Best New Bike Shop
This year, Velo Champ has upped Seminole Heights’ retail profile, bringing life to Central and Hanna’s long-abandoned vintage storefronts. The sleek, distinctive one-stop shop offers a range of performance road, cyclocross and track bikes, as well as today’s most functional townie and commuter bikes. Mad props to owner Jordan Miller, who has helped organize and bring sanity to the PBR Pub Bike Rides and has been a staunch supporter of bike culture and safety in Tampa Bay. 6112 N. Central Ave., Tampa, 813-374-2424, velochamp.com.
Best Bike Retailer Before Bikes Were Cool
Clearwater isn’t known for much in the way of hip retail (exceptions include back-in-the-day shops Sagittarius and Crash and Burn, of course), but Chainwheel Drive is a survivor, thank God, a stellar standout amid the city’s strip-mall mediocrity. The mainstay in North Pinellas for the past three decades supports local bike clubs and state and national cycling organizations, providing support for rides and races all over the region. They are also involved with many different aspects of cycling, including racing, triathlon, mountain biking, cross country touring, and BMX. 1770 Drew St., Clearwater, 727-441-2444, chainwheeldrive.com.
Best Local BMX
BMX is an under-appreciated sport. Mucho thanks to Profile Racing for reminding us why its daredevilry and skill is so cool, bringing international prestige to the Tampa Bay area and offering a vast array of products. Tucked away in a Bay Pines neighborhood, Profile is only one of four BMX manufacturers in the U.S. and sells to international distros, domestic bike shops and through its online store. You can see the gravity-defying Profile Pro Team in action at the Skatepark of Tampa and all over the web, and at profileracing.com.
Best Advocates for Bicyclists
Alan Snel and the South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers
SWFBUD is the country’s only localized alliance of bike store dealers, comprising 10 shop owners and two lawyers. Group spokesman Alan Snel, a bicycle advocate and former metro newspaper reporter, has lobbied local governments to provide more bicycle resources and helped put on the touted Bicycle Bash festival each year. With the staggering statistics placing Tampa at the bottom of bike-safety lists, it’s encouraging to know that Snel and SWFBUD are fighting the good fight for two-wheelers. Snel also organizes the popular Hub Grub Bike Ride, and the next Bicycle Bash takes place at Flatwoods Park on Nov. 6. bicyclebash.com/swfbud.html, hubgrubride.blogspot.com.