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The 'Sound of Music,' dueling colas, diving fiancees

By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2002

The first time I heard a song from The Sound of Music, I was amid those hills that were supposedly alive.

The first time I heard a song from The Sound of Music, I was amid those hills that were supposedly alive.

I was 16, on a tour bus, rolling through Europe as part of a high school study group. The bus was humming, and so was I. I'm not sure, but the tune in my head was either Rapper's Delight or Kurtis Blow's These Are The Breaks. Suddenly, like a needle scratching across a vinyl record, my notes were interrupted with "The hills are alive ..."

At first, it was just one person on the bus. Then it was two, three, four. Then the whole bus, even the guys. I couldn't believe they were singing, and loudly. More importantly, I didn't know what they were singing.

"What? You've never seen The Sound Of Music?" they all asked incredulously.

For several days, as we toured Austria, they went through the whole soundtrack as I sat there looking as sheepish as one of the animals in Julie Andrews' flock.

It was kind of like the time colleague Darrell Fry conceded to some office mates that he didn't know who George Harrison was. It became the subject of howling guffaws.

"Hey," Darrell countered, "I bet you guys can't name the Jackson 5."

And they couldn't, save for Tito and Michael.

But I digress. The point is, I'm all too familiar with The Sound Of Music's hypnotic influence, and it is not one of my favorite things. In fact, it haunts me so much so I still refuse to see it.

Until now.

I'm going to relent thanks to the Tampa Theatre. "Sing-A-Long Sound Of Music," an interactive phenomenon that encourages people to sing while watching the movie, begins Feb. 14. The exclusive Tampa Bay premiere will be Jan. 31 and will benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

The film comes complete with lyrical subtitles, but it's not just singing. It's booing the Nazis, waving edelweiss and participating in other rituals. At a news conference, Tampa Theatre director John Bell explained the fancy dress contest by showing up in a nun's uniform.

A couple of friends are convinced this is going to be the kind of event that totally captures the city's imagination. Honestly, I still don't get it. But that's why I'm going.

Here's an update on the 7-Eleven Slurpee war between Coke and Pepsi. Pepsi Slurpees, you may recall, have been test-marketed here since last summer, much to the ire of Coke fans such as myself.

The test is supposed to continue, according to 7-Eleven officials, for several more months. But I've found at least three 7-Elevens in the area that have switched back to Coke, and a fourth that said it will soon offer Coke and Pepsi.

To me, that's the solution. Keep everybody happy and keep the peace. The last time I brought this up, one woman said the Coke-Pepsi dispute is a bone of contention in her marriage.

Hey, this is serious.

Nearly 100 brides-to-be are expected to take the cake and the ring at the 16th annual Dream Wedding Bridal Extravaganza today. The ladies won't look too ladylike when they dive into a cake to get a $1,500 engagement ring, but if it were my fiancee, I would have her out there with a scuba mask.

Other prizes to be given away include a $20,000 dream wedding package. The event will feature 70 exhibitors, plus wine tasting.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com. His column appears on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

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