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A false Day hits scene; store rumor persists

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist
Published October 22, 2003

Earlier this month, I wrote about a most unforgettable night at the Cuban Club, as described by members.

At a monthly club social Sept. 26, the legendary Otis Day of Animal House fame just happened to show up, I wrote. Members urged him to perform. To the delight of the crowd, he eventually did three songs, including Shout.

A few people were so inspired they got on the floor for the "gator crawl." It was a good time.

But it wasn't Otis Day.

After coming across my column on the Internet, Ron Kurtz of the Rock and Roll International management company in Burbank, Calif., called to say his longtime client was not in Florida in September.

"We don't want anyone making appearances under his name. That's his legal name now," Kurtz said Tuesday. "The real Otis Day has a particular look that's real hard to duplicate."

Hard, but not impossible. Ross Bannister, the TECO senior coordinator for media relations and a Cuban Club member, said he was thoroughly convinced the man he saw was not a new Day.

"You could pretty much imagine it was him, albeit 25 years older," Bannister said. "He had all the mannerisms. He was very believable."

Not only did "our Otis Day" perform at the Cuban Club, but we believe the same man - whoever he is - also has joined a local band for several jam sessions at the Rare Olive in Ybor City. Jonathan Milton, a Times editorial assistant and sax man for the Birdstreet Players, said his group also thought they had the real Otis.

The impersonator is exceptionally good, and he apparently doesn't receive compensation for his performances, except for a few free drinks from well-wishers.

Still, with the real Otis Day planning to perform in Tampa later this year, Kurtz is troubled that an impostor has wrongly assumed the identity.

I guess it makes him want to shout.

* * *

Sephora. Just a mention of the word piques the curiousity of most women. Tell them the major beauty retailer is opening a store in Tampa, and they get downright excited.

Unfortunately, I cannot say for certain the retailer, which carries more than 250 makeup brands, is on its way. I can tell you that for the second time in as many months, I've gotten word on the grapevine that Sephora will soon open in the area.

International Plaza seems a likely location, but its general manager, Aj Jemison, said she couldn't confirm the rumor.

"I love the store, but at this juncture I don't have anything to indicate they're coming to International Plaza," Jemison said.

A Sephora marketing official could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but a person in the San Francisco corporate headquarters said the chain is looking to come into the area.

* * *

The details of a fascinating meeting between Times reporter Paul de la Garza and five-time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong are chronicled in Armstrong's new book Every Second Counts. In September of 2002, Armstrong, a cancer survivor, was at the White House to promote cancer research. A White House press official arranged for de la Garza, who was being treated for Hodgkin's Disease, to meet with Armstrong. Although it was a brief conversation, it proved to be a teachable moment for both men.

Armstrong used four pages to explain how the meeting - and a later Times column by de la Garza - made him realize that heroism can be impossible to fulfill. De la Garza found the meeting with the cyclist helpful but came to realize that real heroes were the everyday people in his life, starting with his family.

Since the meeting, de la Garza has moved from the Washington bureau to the newspaper's Tampa office, where he covers MacDill Air Force Base. He completed radiation and chemotherapy treatment in February, and his cancer is in remission.

I guess you don't have to come in first at the Tour de France to be called a winner.

That's all I'm saying.

- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 813-226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com


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