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Plaza jewel, Big Easy, political visionary

Tampa columnisthooper
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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 31, 2002

Strolling through International Plaza's Bay Street section of restaurants and stores Tuesday evening, I had a thought: it's a great night to be in an open-air marketplace, but I appear to be the only person enjoying it.

Granted, hardly anyone draws a crowd on a Tuesday, but with the exception of the Cheesecake Factory, none of the restaurants appeared particularly busy. Could it be this slice of IP is still something of a hidden jewel?

Maybe, but a new music series may change that. Starting Valentine Day's, Bay Street will have outdoor concerts every Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m., and on Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. The Leah McCoy Show starts the series Feb. 14.

Monique and Company, one of my personal favorites, brings her jazz and blues renditions to the stage on Feb. 16.

* * *

I'm often asked if I miss sportswriting, and nearly every day I can honestly say I love my new gig. Not this day, however.

Today I would have been in New Orleans gearing up for the Super Bowl. This would have been the day I attended a media conference at the Louisiana Superdome featuring the pregame and halftime entertainers.

This would have been the day I met Mariah Carey.


And I won't even mention that Paul McCartney, Barry Manilow, Mary J. Blige, Marc Anthony, Yolanda Adams, James Ingram, Patti LaBelle and Wynonna are also scheduled to be there.

* * *

The University of South Florida kicks off Black Emphasis Month with a celebration in the Martin Luther King Jr. plaza from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. There will be food, entertainment and a display of African-American inventions.

* * *

Mise en Place chef Marty Blitz will be going to New Orleans this week. Blitz will represent Tampa Bay at the league's annual Taste of the NFL food and wine-tasting fundraiser Saturday. Each event pairs a chef from each NFL city with a current or former player from the team.

Blitz and former Bucs linebacker Scot Brantley will prepare guava-vanilla-coconut mojo pork loin with scotch bonnet purple potato salad.

I hope Brantley, afternoon co-host on WQYK-AM 1010, is doing a lot of watching and eating, and not a lot of preparing.

* * *

Speaking of Bay Street, Blue Martini, an upscale martini bar with a tapas menu, is slated to open there in late March or early April. In case you're wondering, a blue martini is Finlandia vodka, Cointreau, blue curacao, sweet and sour mix and orange juice.

* * *

Fans have often wondered how the underdog New England Patriots made it to the Super Bowl this year. Perhaps a part of their success is related to a movie currently being aired at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick took his team to see Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure at the Boston Museum of Science during the grueling days of training camp. Belichick championed the film's principles of endurance, courage and teamwork.

Now MOSI is offering Tampa Bay organizations a chance to see the film as part of a teambuilding workshop. For more information, call 987-6100.

* * *

I was part of a media panel at the Leadership Tampa Institute, a multisession program designed to educate potential political candidates.

After answering questions and commenting on scenarios, I was asked to offer some final advice. I thought about saying, "take the Patriots and the points."

Actually, I recounted what Willie Jolley said at the TOBA's Martin Luther King breakfast: "Vision without action is an illusion; action without vision is confusion; but vision with action will change your life and give it a transfusion."

If you want to run for office and change our lives, have a vision and a means of achieving it. And remember vision is more than promising to widen roads, fill potholes and cut taxes. It's having a plan on how to maximize Tampa's potential and minimize its problems.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or

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