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Blowups, bachelors and Ybor's image pain

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 5, 2002

Did you know the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau is marketing local buildings to Hollywood's special effects wizards? At the top of the list for a possible action film implosion scene is the old Walters Industries building at Dale Mabry and Interstate 275, and some defunct silos in the port area.

* * *

A guy I know got married Saturday in Sarasota -- trust me, he was really lucky -- and he had his bachelor party in Ybor City on Wednesday.

That's not a surprise because the entertainment district has been largely reduced to three purposes: college-age watering hole, tourist attraction and bachelor/bachelorette party headquarters.

Centro Ybor remains the beacon for anyone outside of those categories, but it needs some tweaking. For example, the music from Adobe Gilas should not compete against a band performing in the courtyard. In fact, a degree of quiet might make a cup of coffee in the plaza a little more enjoyable.

* * *

Call it Mott & Hester magic. Academy of the Holy Names softball coach Larry Rodriguez eats at the South Tampa deli before each of his team's games, and since he started the pregame Vinny T sandwich ritual, Holy Names has won 18 in a row.

Rodriguez had lunch at 10 a.m. Thursday before taking the Jaguars to Winter Park for a regional semifinal game against Trinity Prep. The Jaguars won, 3-0.

* * *

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo says politicians campaign with poetry but govern with prose.

Mayoral candidate Bob Buckhorn has put a different spin on the adage with the first of what he says will be several position papers. Buckhorn's four-page plan for neighborhoods is available on his Web site, and he says in the coming months he will have other papers detailing his plans.

It's a somewhat risky approach. It gives his opponents a chance to search for holes in his plans, and if he's elected, voters have the promises in writing.

"That's okay," Buckhorn said, "I want people to hold me accountable."

* * *

From the small-world category: Former wrestler/aspiring county commissioner Brian Blair and stand-up comic Thomas Brown knew each other as kids in west Tampa. In fact, for three years they lived on the same street, Minnehaha.

There must have been some kind of performance enhancer in the water.

* * *

Blue Martini at International Plaza is drawing happening crowds, and Channelside's restaurant/bars also appear to be doing well. I know Ybor City is still drawing throngs, but it has no real buzz. Everybody in my sphere says it's only for the young, and raves about just about every other place, including a '70s/'80s joint in Clearwater called Bricktown 54.

My friends argue Ybor needs more clubs aimed at adults (ages 25-40), but if that's true, why did clubs like Blues Ship, Jazz Cellar, Frankie's Patio and Cha-Cha Coconuts fail?

Perception is the key, and I don't think the clubs down there can change that without working together. They could start with some noise control, and maybe one cover for a group of clubs, even if it is $15 to $20.

And while Mayor Dick Greco argues that face-scan cameras scare away just the criminals, they are not the only ones steering clear of Ybor.

Face this: If image is everything, Ybor needs a new one.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or

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