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The Heart Beat

Headbangers in Love

Sounds like a new band, but it's the reality for a couple of death metal fans, who decide to tie the knot in a most traditional way.

Published June 17, 2005

YBOR CITY - Juan Carlos Gonzalez called his fellow roadies over to the stage of New York's legendary Irving Plaza.

He was about to ask Jennifer Jolly to be his wife.

"Right before sound check," Gonzalez, a front-of-house sound engineer for heavy metal band Monster Magnet, said in November.

Jolly radiated her acceptance. Then Gonzalez went back up to the balcony to start the show.

It was a far cry from the kind of music Gonzalez grew up with in Tampa. His parents, Mary and Rene Gonzalez, are well-known performers and directors of the Spanish Lyric Theater. They've produced dozens of Broadway musicals, traditional Spanish zarzuela operas and Vegas-style variety shows.

"I played all kinds of roles until I was about 12 and got into the technical side," said Gonzalez, 33, known as "Punchy," a nickname from his best man, who says he looks like the Hawaiian Punch mascot.

A diverse group of guests attended the wedding April 30 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ybor City. A tattooed performance artist danced with a college professor at the reception. Musicians, actors and stagehands celebrated with aunts, uncles and cousins.

Though their musical tastes were anything but traditional, the couple wanted a traditional wedding.

"Three generations of my family were baptized, confirmed and now married at (Our Lady of Perpetual Help)," Gonzalez said.

At the reception, the song list started with Johnny Cash and went on to disco, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond and Dinah Washington.

Not a single track of death metal - the music that brought the couple together.

Jolly, 24, grew up in Elizabethton, Tenn., and moved to Tampa in 2001 when her stepfather, Tom Zimmerer, became dean of the business school at St. Leo University.

She earned a degree in English literature and creative writing from St. Leo. She wants to go to graduate school and eventually teach. In the meantime, she's a nanny caring for 2-year-old twins in South Tampa.

At 5 feet 9, blond and aqua-eyed, Jolly looks more like a debutante than a death metal devotee.

"Actually, I was presented as a deb by the Krewe of Sant'Yago two years ago," she said. Later, she discovered that her future in-laws were in the audience that night.

Before coming to Tampa, Jolly attended Drury University in Springfield, Mo., where her younger brother Jesse Jolly, lead vocalist and bass player for the Blastmasters, turned her on to extreme metal.

"He kept telling me, "You've gotta go see Morbid Angel,' " Jolly recalled.

She bought a ticket but never went.

"I might have met Punchy back then if I had gone that night," she said.

In Tampa, she made it to several death metal shows but never ran into Gonzalez.

"We were at some of the same concerts," Jolly said, including Cannibal Corpse, Nile and Diabolic.

After years of working on his parents' theatrical productions, Gonzalez, who graduated from Plant High in 1989, became a union stagehand. He attended the University of Tampa but quit after one year to tour with Morbid Angel. He spent the next decade on the road with various bands.

Locally, he works shows at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Ruth Eckerd Hall and Ford Amphitheatre.

In 2003, Gonzalez started a recording studio, Diet of Worms, in a house he rents in Seffner, where the newlyweds live. He produced Morbid Angel's most recent album, Heretic, (Earache Records). Other clients include Lover of Sin and Cosmic Punch.

His reputation reached Jolly's brother, who wanted to record a CD. After the two men met in February 2004, Jesse Jolly asked his sister to follow up with Gonzalez.

"I called and we talked for two hours," she said. "I thought he was hilarious."

"I thought she was something very rare in this business: intelligent," Gonzalez said. "The conversation wasn't about how trashed she was last night."

They arranged to meet a couple of nights later at the Brass Mug on Fletcher Avenue.

"I knew who he was the minute he walked in the door," she said. "He was adorable."

They continued talking during her brother's recording sessions and found they had similar interests.

On one of their first dates, they went to a Morbid Angel concert in Orlando.

Like their musical preference, their relationship was intense. When Gonzalez was on the road, they talked daily. Among the subjects: marriage.

Jolly flew to New York on her birthday, Nov. 14, her first time in the city. She landed at JFK Airport and took a cab to Irving Plaza.

Her future husband was waiting at the stage door.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at 226-3332 or

[Last modified June 17, 2005, 06:35:01]

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