Gasparilla 'royal family' rift

A Sant' Yago krewe member quits over a DJ's comments.

By Justin George, Times Staff Writer
Published February 20, 2008

TAMPA - The Krewe of the Knights of Sant' Yago was created in the early 1970s.

Cesar Gonzmart, the owner of the century-old Columbia restaurant, was a founder, and his family gave Sant' Yago three krewe kings and four queens.

"Tampa's most royal family of all the krewes," Richard Gonzmart, Cesar's son, said.

But four decades of involvement ended this week when Gonzmart and his brother Casey resigned after an incident in the 2008 Gasparilla Pirate Invasion.

The split has left Tampa's elite scratching their heads.

This much is known: On Jan. 26, scores of boats filled the Hillsborough Bay for the invasion. Richard Gonzmart, his family and friends boated near the krewe's giant multistory barge.

Gonzmart said he heard a hired DJ on the barge yell over loudspeakers: "Hey you in the orange shirt, show us your boobies. Come on, don't be embarrassed. We have beads for you if you show us your boobies. Hey you, the guy with her, if you were a man, you would tell her to take her top off!"

Women on Gonzmart's boat felt insulted, and he said he sent Sant' Yago Baron Dan Haya, Jr., an e-mail a few days later.

When Gonzmart got no response, he said he handed the baron the letter at a function. Haya called later. That's when Gonzmart said the krewe leader told him that he was disappointed in Gonzmart's handling of the situation.

Gonzmart responded with a call for Haya to resign.

Haya didn't quit but apologized in writing and reminded the krewe's 275 members of appropriate behavior. The DJ would not be rehired, he said.

The krewe's board of 15 directors agreed with the course of action, said Simon Canasi, Haya's spokesman and the krewe parliamentarian. So did all 75 members at a meeting last week.

"We have a procedure for any member to file a complaint about any member or about a situation," Canasi said. "Mr. Gonzmart did file a letter of complaint with the baron, however, Mr. Gonzmart did not allow the process to run its course. That complaint also issued ultimatums, which were found to be unacceptable and unreasonable."

The standoff led to a rift.

"Do you think I want to resign from something my dad fought so hard to establish?" he said. "No. No. No. But the members of the krewe weren't behind me."

Gonzmart acknowledges times when he was drunk and "benched himself" from marching in Gasparilla parades. But he said lewdness shouldn't be tolerated. He complained about a society that has gone too far, lumping in the recent theft of his mother's bust from his restaurant as a sign that people lack respect.

Canasi was puzzled by Gonzmart's strong reaction to the DJ's comments. "Our krewe, our board of directors, our members do not condone that type of behavior," Canasi said, "but realistically speaking, every member of our krewe, including the Gonzmarts, are well aware of what happens out in McKay Bay out during the flotilla invasion."

Other krewes' members also said it's hard to police more than a half-million people at a parade. "I can't believe the Gonzmarts would walk away from it over a stupid DJ," said Yvonne Painton, president of the Krewe of Pair O'Dice. "I don't get the big deal."

Justin George can be reached at 813 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.