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Voids in music, movie houses, art and bridal gowns

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By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 19, 2001


Radio stations change formats, call letters and owners as often as runway models change in and out of haute couture, but the significance of Don Cherry's purchase of WMGG-FM 96.1 cannot be diminished.

If Cherry, who owns WTMP-AM 1150, receives FCC approval, he will be able to fulfill what many blacks have perceived as one of this area's greatest voids: an urban music station on FM. Newcomers have simply been bewildered by the absence, especially when seemingly every other city in the state (Orlando, Miami, Ocala, Gainesville, Jacksonville and Tallahassee) has an urban station.

Understand, this is not so much about a desire to hear Blu Cantrell and Alicia Keys on a clearer signal (although that thought does excite me) as it is having a beacon for the community on social and political issues.

WTMP has fulfilled that role for years, but a presence on FM will greatly enhance the station's efforts. What it would mean to the other four stations that currently enjoy a share of the black market remains to be seen.

* * *

The bridal shop on S Dale Mabry that went out of business Thursday was aptly named the Main Event, because there were a lot of women who were fighting mad when they found out they had no recourse for getting their dresses.

* * *

Given a choice, would you take a short walk to a neighborhood theater that didn't have all those newfangled accoutrements, or would you endure the hassles of searching for a parking space and standing in a long line for stadium seating and surround-sound?

A lot of Hyde Park residents have that choice, but they may not have it forever.

The AMC Hyde Park 7 is classified as an "older theater," and the AMC folks have made it clear they plan on closing some of their older theaters over the next three to four years.

AMC spokesperson Rick King would not talk specifics Friday, but everything points toward the possibility of the Hyde Park 7 shutting down.

With new apartment complexes such as the Madison at SoHo joining existing residences in Hyde Park, it seems to me there would be enough neighbors to keep the theater going. But maybe I'm overestimating the willingness to walk and the desire for convenience.

There is a chance another company, such as Atlanta-based Cinema Grill (think buffet with beer, wine, pizza-by-the-slice and sandwiches) could take over if AMC exits. If not, the loss could cripple the village's presence on Swann Street.

* * *

Atlanta-based Leroux Corp. head Robert Leroux is touting the benefits of the new Tampa Bay Events Center, a company picnic facility which recently opened on McIntosh Road in East Hillsborough. The 35-acre facility includes two ponds and a large covered pavilion with picnic tables and restrooms, but Leroux said the real advantage is turnkey service.

For a flat rate, the company can provide all the necessities: food, drinks, interactive games, space jumps, giant slides, music. Sounds a lot better than "you bring the chips, I'll bring the brats, and get somebody there early to get a table."

* * *

I wonder if Alanis Morissette can rewrite that song, because irony is not rain on your wedding day; irony is showing up for your $3,500 bridal gown and being told the dressmaker is bankrupt.

* * *

Shortly after the highly touted Museum of African American Art closed in 1998, Cynthia Bailey opened a smaller African Art Gallery and Museum on Kennedy Boulevard just west of that wacky three-in-one KFC/Pizza Hut/Taco Bell (yeah, I'll take an original recipe pizza with taco sauce, guacamole and anchovies).

You may have passed it a million times without noticing, but once inside, I'm sure her collection of paintings and authentic hand-carved works and furnishings will leave you with an indelible impression.

The museum has been a labor of love for Bailey.

She dreams of some day moving into a larger location with better parking, such as the abandoned Winn-Dixie next to Wendy's, but for now she carries on hoping to gain more attention.

Bailey appreciates the interest (and purchases) of out-of-town visitors -- she's a favorite during gallery hops -- but laments the lack of support from the local community.

Maybe it would help if she could generate publicity on an urban station on the FM dial.

- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com. His column appears on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

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