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Bohemian's music lives; ace counter tallies birds

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2002

In the Ybor City of the early '90s, if you perused a copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook in a book shop, cheered your favorite tortured soul at a poetry slam, or listened to a pair of brainy songbirds with accordions sing naughty references about Greg and Mrs. Brady, you could thank Cindy Wheeler.

A pivotal figure in Ybor's bohemian era, Wheeler co-owned the Three Birds Bookstore on Seventh Avenue, created the Three Birds Poetry Slam, which ignited Tampa's spoken word scene, and co-founded the eclectic pop group Pee Shy.

Three Birds went out of business in 1994. Tampa's spoken word scene fizzled not long after. But Pee Shy, which started out in 1993 as a dual accordion/vocals in-joke act, signed a record deal with mega record label Polygram in 1995.

As a quartet, the band moved to New York City, lived on a big advance from Polygram, and recorded and released their debut album, 1996's Who Let All the Monkeys Out?. It garnered some critical acclaim but little sales. The 1998 followup Don't Get Too Comfortable started out strong. The band got airplay and toured the East Coast and Midwest. Suddenly, their financial support disappeared when Polygram was bought by Universal.

Pee Shy was also coming apart. By late 1998, Wheeler and band co-founder Juristo bitterly parted ways. But Wheeler is proud of Pee Shy's run. "We got to make two records and run up a big ol' debt with a stupid major label."

Wheeler, 38, married fellow Brooklynite Sam Fogarino in May 1999 and co-owns Beacon's Closet used clothing store with him. She continues to make music with former Pee Shy bassist Mary Guidera. Along with a third former Tampa resident, drummer Aaron Kant, they operate under the moniker the Caulfield Sisters.

"Just the act of playing music with people -- that's enough," said Wheeler.

* * *

She counted votes for Hillsborough County for 18 years. Now Robin Krivanek is happy counting birds.

After her first husband, University of South Florida charter faculty member Jerome Krivanek, died in 1974, Krivanek was elected Hillsborough County supervisor of elections and won every subsequent election until she retired in 1992.

In that time, she watched the county's population boom and change in its political dynamic. She also changed her mind about retiring in 1988, deciding at the last minute to run again. She went on to beat out her longtime administrative assistant Helen Swisshelm.

She also weathered the 1992 election fiasco, when two of the county's five ballot-counting machines stopped working on an evening of unusually high voter turnout. Hillsborough results weren't known until the next morning. But Krivanek retired with a reputation for having run her office on a lean budget through some tough economic times.

Now 72, Krivanek lives on Sanibel Island in a house she bought in 1988. She lives with her second husband, Jack McAllister, whom she married in 1977. She has two children and a grandchild.

A longtime naturalist, Krivanek reckons she's in an ideal environment. "Two-thirds of the island is preserved land in one way or another. If you like outdoors and nature, it's a wonderful place to be."

She participated in the Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count, and in her assigned territory spotted cormorants, herons, warblers, mourning doves, and kestrels. She's on the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation board of directors and takes people on guided field walks. Last summer she took a boat tour on the Erie Canal between Troy and Syracuse, N.Y.

- Michael Canning can be reached at (813) 226-3408, or canning@sptimes.com.

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