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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A king who creates his crown
Maybe you've seen him around. He works at Bosco's pizza on State Road 54, he's at Applebee's a good bit, and he's lived here all his young life. The soft-spoken, punk-loving, 18-year-old kid with the eye-catching liberty spikes in his hair is headed to Florida State to study theater in the fall, and last year he was maybe the least likely homecoming and prom king in the whole US of A. Here's Stephen Hopkins:
By MICHAEL KRUSE, Times Staff Writer
Published August 2, 2007
Everyone who lived in my neighborhood, all the male adolescents, I'd say, they've all done three things. They skateboarded. They went to Wesley Chapel High School. They worked at Taco Bell. Yeah. Pretty much everyone.
Except for me.
I didn't work at Taco Bell.
I've been living in the same house for 18 years.
Back when I was 5 to 10, Applebee's wasn't here, no Publix. I remember. It was all just pasture.
I like light. Except for sunlight. I'm not too keen on that. That's why I always wear sunglasses. I really don't like to squint. I don't want to get crow's feet when I'm like 35. I'd be really bummed about that.
I'd seen this hairstyle done by a couple of bands I was listening to. I was, like, it can't be that hard. How hard could it really be? I attempted to do it a few times and it came out pretty bad. It just looked terrible. Then I started using the hair spray instead of the hair glue and at that point it came out a lot better. I use Got2B Glued. Anywhere from a third of a can to a half can of hair spray. The freezing spray, as it's called.
I'm very precise about what I'm doing. The first time I got it the way I wanted it, it took four hours, from 8 p.m. to midnight, and then I slept on it, and then I went to school the next morning. I only did that two more times. Then I started being not so nitpicky with it and just going with it. The way you see it now? It only took 45 minutes.
I think it's my biggest pet peeve: If someone comes up and hits my hair, or touches it, without saying hi or anything, it really, really aggravates me. But if they ask, "Can I touch it, please?" I say sure.
If you say hi to me, I'm going to say hi back.
If I leave it up for multiple days, then I respray it. The longest I left it up was I think five days. I leave it down in spurts. If I know I'm going to be hanging around the house for two or three days, I don't see any reason to put it up. I don't need it up for everyday things - like, I don't need it up to brush my teeth or anything. That's kind of silly.
It's definitely more comfortable to sleep when it's down.
At Bosco's, mainly I'm a cashier - but it's rather weird what I do. The pizzas I make - it won't look pretty, I guess. I would make a pizza, it would take longer, and I would never make it look the same way. I wasn't good at it. So I got good at all the odd jobs at Bosco's - dishes, stocking the sodas. I'm especially good at folding the boxes.
I'd say I'm a failed perfectionist.
Uniformity? It has its ups and downs. Say you have a room or a dorm or an apartment. You keep things nice and organized and clean so you don't have to trip over anything. In that sense, uniformity is good. But when things are too uniform, they lose their spark. When everything's the same, that - that's not as fun.
The housing developments only really started I guess when I was midway through elementary school. I'm not going to lie: I can't stand the cookie-cutter houses that have sprung up. On the bus, my friends would joke about it: Model 1, Model 2, Model 1 with a bigger roof. Lame.
Even the mailboxes are the same. The same mailboxes.
I leave for Florida State either Aug. 19 or Aug. 20. It'll be something new. I've never lived away from home, really, for that kind of extended period of time, and so, I guess - I guess I'm just excited about it because I like meeting people. And college - that's a lot of people to meet.
This month will be a lot of goodbyes. A lot of last whatevers.
I'm nervous. I don't want to screw it up. I guess I'm scared - like, I don't want to lose contact with people. But mainly it's exciting. So I'm not too scared.
Theater allows you to express yourself in a unique manner. You can get your emotions out on stage and you don't have to worry about any repercussions. You can be someone you're not.
I think what it taught me is that I'm a lot more confident than I let myself realize. I guess it's really exciting to know that I can really do something.
They made me prom king and homecoming king this past year. They were like, "You're on the homecoming court," and I was like, "What, I've got to go the football game now? Do I get in for free?"
So they gave me a crown and a cape and took a lot of pictures. I got the sashes. I got all the hoo-hah. For homecoming, they gave me a friggin' scepter. I was, like, What am I going to do with a scepter! But I went with it. Whatever.
A punky kid who likes Star Wars and does acting? I don't credit myself with being cool. I think I do pretty uncool things, to tell you the truth.
I guess my hair was very recognizable.
As told to Michael Kruse, Times staff writer
About this feature
Everybody has a story, and that's what this feature is about - just letting them tell it. Know somebody who'd be good? E-mail Michael Kruse at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 813 909-4617.