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City People

He's all smiles

Randy Feldman moves in ''jet mode,'' as one associate says, whether its his orthodontics practice, his limousine company or his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 10, 2003


GOLFVIEW -- Dr. Randy Feldman is the consummate multitasker.

He moves at a frenetic pace, walking while he talks, talking while he reads. He juggles the assistant, the fiancee, the paperwork. He points to the award on the wall.

A light blinks. It tells him that a patient needs attention. He hurries out the door and into the main room of his Neptune Street orthodontics practice, but not before saying, "Can you hold on a second?"

And then he vanishes to tend to the teeth of Tampa.

He'll be back. He's South Tampa's most visible smile maker. Kids know his teeth-shaped toys, like they remember his T-shirts and video games. Adults know him from society parties. He lives around the corner in Golfview, a land of million-dollar homes.

When Feldman returns, he sits in a chair, but only for a bit, before springing up.

"We all say he's in jet mode," says business associate Lindsay Anderson.

He plucks business cards from a cupboard and hands them out. There he is: the boxing promoter. There he is: part owner of a limousine company. There he is: board president for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

At 49, he has the energy of a 12-year-old. He looks young. He doesn't drink coffee or smoke. His pep is natural, and constant.

"Life is fun. Life has to be lived," he says. "I enjoy being active. I enjoy doing stuff. It's hard for me to take a vacation. It's hard for me to relax."

He's been that way since childhood, when father Herb Feldman would grouse about taking his boy to restaurants. "He was so antsy to get something going," Herb Feldman says. "He couldn't sit there and do nothing."

Feldman works 50 to 70 hours a week. He divides the time between two orthodontics offices -- the other is on Fletcher Avenue in North Tampa -- and an array of other ventures.

"He keeps it exciting," said fiancee Kelly Bocknor, a 28-year-old Tampa native. "There's always something going on. He usually has five events every night. He rarely sleeps."

He used to sleep three hours a night but progressed to 51/2, from 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Occasionally, he'll splurge and rise at 7:30.

"That's a big deal to me," he says.

He's as outgoing as he is busy. When employees arrive for work, shortly before 7 a.m., he greets them with his daily ritual: a handshake.

"That's his way of getting a little personal with you and starting your day off right," says Anderson. "It's a great environment. It's upbeat and pleasant."

Feldman once put together a schedule of phony appointments.

When his staff showed up for work, he told them, "Hey, let's go shopping." He took the group to a local mall and gave everyone a gift certificate.

He spent $2,000 that day.

Feldman grew up in Ohio. His father worked for a discount department store. Herb Feldman gradually moved up the chain, but early on, the family lived in a two-bedroom apartment and had little money.

Feldman says he was majoring in "general knowledge" at Ohio State University when he began dating a dental hygienist.

He took one look at a wax carving of teeth and proclaimed, "I can do that."

Later, a friend pointed out that dentists get called doctors. "He said, 'There are no emergencies -- it's only a tooth. And if you need a little extra cash to buy your kid a bike, just do a couple extra crowns,' " Feldman recalls.

He was convinced.

After dental school at Ohio State, he did his residency in North Carolina. Twenty years ago, he settled in Tampa. He quickly became involved in local charities and other business opportunities. They keep Feldman busy.

Fixing smiles keeps one on his face.

It seems that way, at least.

He remembers a quote from Adlai Stevenson: "If you like what you do, you'll never work another day in your life."

"I love being an orthodontist," he says. "Truthfully, I don't work. This is a lot of fun."

Randy Feldman

  • AGE: 49
  • OCCUPATION: Orthodontist.
  • OTHER CALLINGS: Boxing promoter, Sarasota/Tampa Bay Make-A-Wish Foundation board president, 13 Ugly Men board member, part owner of a limousine service, property developer, bank shareholder, brochure publisher, notary public.
  • FAMILY: Children Adam, 16, Chelsie, 7, and Dalton, 7; parents Herb and Toni Feldman.
  • FIANCEE: Kelly Bocknor.
  • HOBBY WITH PUNCH: Boxing.
  • OUTINGS: He enjoys spending time with his children and doing community service.
  • LOYALTY: He's a Bucs fan. He also roots for Ohio State and North Carolina.
  • FAVORITE ORTHODONTICS PROCEDURE: Removing braces and reshaping the edges of a person's teeth to give them the "Hollywood" look.

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