Bam, Chef Lagasse serves up his super dip
|[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Traffic backs up on Dale Mabry Highway as fans try to get to Raymond James Stadium. Drivers complained it took half an hour to travel one mile.
By KATHYRN WEXLER, PAMELA DAVIS, JANET K. KEELER, JEAN HELLER, PETE YOUNG, JOHN C. COTEY, CHRIS GOFFARD, JAMAL THALJI, SCOTT PURKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001
Not even temperatures in the 40s could dissuade celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse's fans from turning out to watch his live appearance on ABC's Good Morning America from WFTS-Ch. 28's parking lot in Tampa on Friday. About 150 people watched. With Raymond James Stadium across the street, the Food Network's Lagasse teamed with Rams quarterback Kurt Warner and Steelers running back Jerome Bettis to make Super Bowl party dips. They could have made liver and onions and this crowd would not have minded.
|[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Emeril Lagasse does a live appearance for Good Morning America near Raymond James Stadium with Kurt Warner and Jerome Bettis.
"We Love You in Lutz" proclaimed one sign. "Bam! I'm your No. 1 fan," yelled a man in the crowd.
Bettis and Warner spent most of the morning in the warm confines of their bus, while Lagasse signed autographs and mingled with the crowd. By 8:30 a.m. even Lagasse was getting weary of the weather.
"Man, it's like New York here," he said.
Room service, and then some
Radio personality Don Imus, who usually complains about everything, raved about his stay at the Westin Innisbrook Resort in Tarpon Springs on Thursday and Friday. He told listeners of the Imus in the Morning show it was a "very nice facility."
He should have been pleased, because the resort's staff bent over backward to grant his every wish. Days before Imus arrived at the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport on his Gulfstream jet, he asked that all liquor be removed from his penthouse kitchen. He wanted Stairmaster exercise equipment in his room and a private phone line so his wife would not have to go through the hotel switchboard. Imus also wanted (and received): his chair flown in from New York, Imus Brothers' coffee and mugs, two limos (he asked for black but only white was available), New York and local newspapers delivered by 5 a.m., lots of Poland Spring water and boxes of Nicorette gum (minus the mint flavor).
To be on the safe side, Innisbrook had someone standing by 24 hours a day to take care of Imus' needs.
"We had heard that he would have a lot of requests and others in the business told us that it's a real challenge when he comes on the property," Innisbrook director of public relations Cindy Cockburn said. "We are so pleased that he enjoyed every minute of his visit."
Giants, Ravens put players on inactive
Backup cornerback Reggie Stephens, a regular on the Giants' special teams, was among four players New York made inactive for the Super Bowl. Linebacker Kevin Lewis, offensive tackle Chris Bober and defensive end Jeremiah Parker will be inactive Sunday. Baltimore deactivated wideouts Marcus Nash and Germany Thompson, cornerback Clarence Love and offensive lineman Sammy Williams. None was active in the playoffs.
Stephens played in 15 regular-season games, recording three interceptions and 12 special-teams tackles, both tied for second on the team. He hurt a foot in the Giants' NFC semifinal win over Philadelphia. The Rutgers product also was inactive for the NFC Championship Game against Minnesota.
Lewis, Parker and Bober have not been active in the playoffs.
Pretty as can be
Clearwater hair stylist Catherine Catanese is going to see the celebrity side of the Super Bowl up close and personal, at the side of Jay Leno, host of NBC's Tonight Show.
Based on the recommendation of WFLA-Ch. 8 management, for whom Catanese had done hair and makeup for celebrities appearing in commercials, Leno's staff tapped her to spend most of today at the comedian's side, making sure every hair is in the right place. "We're going to a lot of places -- Busch Gardens, the ESPN party in Ybor City, the NFL Experience, an MTV event," said Catanese, co-owner of the Cathy & Me Hair Salon on Roosevelt Boulevard. "My job is to make sure everything about him looks great all day. ... I'm really nervous. I mean, this is Clearwater, not L.A."
Putting spaces under wraps
Visitors to downtown Tampa were met with an unusual cityscape Friday morning: empty parking places everywhere.
That's because every parking meter in 16 square blocks was marked "Reserved," with a note threatening a tow if the warning was ignored.
Confused motorists circled, parking blocks from their destinations and jamming other lots.
And it was all a misunderstanding.
The streets were supposed to be clear of parked vehicles beginning at midnight for today's Gasparilla parade. Police got a head start.
"There was confusion over what "Friday at midnight" meant," said Jim Arnold, Tampa parking enforcement supervisor.
Instead of taking all the bags off and replacing them hours later, officials decided not to enforce the prohibition. Of course, no one knew that, so they kept driving around.
"If you do get a ticket, we would take it back," Jose Fernandez, assistant parking manager for the city, said.
Vacancy ... for a price
There are some advantages to living near Raymond James Stadium, where residents must endure a nightmarish tangle of cars during Super Bowl week. Such as: selling car spaces.
"All year long you've got to put up with the stadium stuff -- it's some kind of compensation," said Kathy Wiesen, 46, waving people into the dirt lot of a Tampa Bay Boulevard house around the corner from the stadium. Her boyfriend, whose family owns the house, gives her a cut of the profits.
On Friday she was charging $5 for motorists attending the NFL Experience or coming to buy football merchandise, and she had plenty of takers. There were also plenty willing to pay $50 to reserve a parking spot for Sunday's game.
"They're panicked, and they can't pull a 50 out of their pocket fast enough," she said.
Are you ready for some ... waiting?
If you're going to the NFL Experience, the interactive football site on 20 acres north of Raymond James Stadium, have patience.
On Friday afternoon, traffic on Himes Avenue stretched more than a mile from the NFL Experience's entrance and moved at a snail's pace. It was pretty much like that in all directions leading in.
|[Times photo: Bill Serne]
The Bucs' Warren Sapp, retired Dolphin Dan Marino and rapper Nelly hang out at NFL Experience.
"It took me 30 minutes to go (about a half-mile)," said Michelle Orama, whose family's house is four blocks from the stadium. "It's been unbelievable."
Orama said the traffic was backed up from about noon to 4 p.m. as she parked cars around her parent's house for $5, a price she said was "way too low. Everyone around us was charging $10 to $15."
Once you get to the NFL Experience entrance, be prepared to wait. Lines averaged 20 minutes to get in. Once in, lines averaged 20 to 30 minutes to participate in interactive events, such as catching a pass and throwing to targets.
Though not as popular with NFL players as the Madden video games, NFL Gameday 2001 held its annual pre-Super Bowl game at the NFL players party Thursday. The Giants' Jason Sehorn squared off against Baltimore's Qadry Ismail.
Ismail won 14-12, which may be an omen for Sunday's game. In the event's previous six years, the team that won the video game won the Super Bowl.
At the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor on Thursday night: CBS' Andy Rooney, sports columnist Tony Kornheiser.
Todays Super Bowl story lineup