Cigar City Magazine/Jan-Feb 2010

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Paul has been a journalist in Tampa for the past 10 years. He has also written and produced a number of award-winning independent films, including Charlie Wall: The Documentary.

Rodney Kite-Powell

Rodney is the Saunders Foundation Curator of History at the Tampa Bay History Center, where he joined the staff in 1994. His academic degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Florida and a Master of Arts in History from the University of South Florida. Born and raised in Tampa, he has written extensively on the history of Tampa and Hillsborough County. In addition to his duties at the History Center, Mr. Kite-Powell is an adjunct professor of history at the University of Tampa, where he teaches a course on the history of Florida.


READ CIGAR CITY MAGAZINE ONLINE AT WWW.CIGARCITYMAGAZINE.COM Cigar City, Inc. | P.O. Box 18613 | Tampa, Florida 33679 | Tel 813-373-9988 | Fax 1-866-869-0617 e-mail: ©2010, Cigar City, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use without written permission of the publisher, of editorial, pictorial, or design content, in any manner is prohibited. The opinions of writers commissioned for articles are not necessarily those of the publisher. All advertising is subject to approval before acceptance. Publisher reserves the right to refuse any advertisement for any reason whatsoever. Publisher assumes no responsibility for claims made by advertisers. A self-addressed, postage paid envelope for return must accompany manuscripts, photographs, and other materials submitted. The publisher is not responsible for loss, damage, or any other injury to unsolicited originals unless specifically requested to do so by the publisher, Inc. in writing. You can write to us at, P.O. Box 18613, Tampa, Florida 33679 or via email at All letters, emails and their contents sent to Cigar City, Inc. become the sole property of the publisher and may be used and published in any manner whatsoever without limit and without obligation or liability to the author there of. Cigar City ™ is a trademark and the the sole property of Lisa M. Figueredo.

I always told my family that the business was first in my life- which sounds harsh until analyzed and understood. Our business has been the vehicle that has carried us, and many others, on a wonderful ride through life. It has allowed us to achieve and do more good than we could have ever imagined or hoped for. Its success has allowed us to look within ourselves, recognize the things that are truly important, and act on those things. Without the company's success, our intentions would have been just as honorable and philanthropic, but we would never have been able to act on these intentions.

Angel Oliva Leaf Tobacco Pioneer 1907-1995 To read more about the Oliva Tobacco Company please visit our website at

FROM THE PUBLISHER LISA FIGUEREDO| PUBLISHER@CIGARCITYMAGAZINE.COM Wow, I can't believe Cigar City please call us. People often think we are beyond their reach Magazine is beginning our 6th year! I financially. We are not. In fact, we make every effort to keep our guess the saying “time flies when you're rates affordable for every business. Call us; we'd love to see your having fun,” is true after all. This past business in the glossy pages of Cigar City Magazine. year has really helped to enlighten us as There are two advertisers in particular who I would like to to what you, our readers, think about personally thank. The first is my friend Trey Oliva of Oliva Cigar City Magazine- good and bad. I Tobacco Company. When I first thought of publishing a magazine want to take this opportunity to address about Tampa's history, Trey was the first person I asked for some of those questions and concerns. support. It only took a second for him to give me his answer and The number one question is, “Are you a cigar magazine the Oliva family has advertised in every single issue of Cigar City or a history magazine?” My answer? “We publish a lot of stories Magazine. The Oliva Tobacco Company is one of the largest about Tampa's history but we have a tobacco importers in the lot of cigar advertisers.” United States. Needless to say, Cigar City Magazine IS a history they do not need to advertise. magazine about Tampa and we are They are a part of Cigar City rapidly expanding into other historic Magazine because they love areas of Florida. As many of you Tampa and our rich heritage. I know, Tampa's early growth is due in would also like to thank large part to the cigar industry and, Arturo Fuente, III of Tampa years ago, Tampa was known as the Sweethearts Cigar Company, Cigar City. Though we have published another supporter from day many an issue without a feature on one, and our annual “Light Up the cigar industry, it is hard not to The Night” event partner. I touch on it periodically or support it guess it was fate: Arturo's with some of our columns like, “Look grandparents and my grandWho's Smokin'”, and our cigarparents grew up together and themed events. lived across the street from Lately, the cigar industry has each other while raising their been affected by legislation at both families many years ago. I want the State and Federal levels. While personally thank both of these we do not take a political position men for the love and support when it comes to smoking cigars, we they have shown my staff, must acknowledge that if it were not Cigar City Magazine, and me. for the cigar industry, Tampa would Of course, I couldn't have Christina & Arturo Fuente with my grandparents Rose & Joe Figueredo, Sr., at the beach, late 1920s be a very different place and we made it this far without my would not have the rich heritage that our cigar-maker ancestors family and friends and their unwavering support and who put built in Tampa. The cigar industry is part of the fabric of the countless hours into helping me because they believe in Cigar community and while we embrace their support of our magazine, City Magazine and what it brings to our community. we leave judgments about smoking to you, the reader. Finally, thanks to you, the reader, who keeps coming I also receive a lot of questions about advertising in Cigar City back for more, and the many great things you have to say about Magazine. First, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Cigar City Magazine. This truly is your magazine! of our past and current advertisers for your continued support. I look forward to another exciting year. We understand that, in this tough economy, cut-backs are inevitable and advertising is often on the top of that list. It's been a difficult year but, thanks to our advertisers, we are still here. Lisa M. Figueredo If you have ever thought about advertising in Cigar City Magazine, Owner and Founder of Cigar City Magazine

FROM THE EDITOR EMANUEL LETO| EDITOR@CIGARCITYMAGAZINE.COM When Paul Guzzo approached me with his story, Six Feet of Fame, which chronicles Tampa's Strip Club King, Joe Redner, I have to admit I was a bit nervous. What would our readers think? Is this the kind of thing we want to celebrate in the pages of Cigar City Magazine? To be sure, Redner is a divisive figure. There are plenty of folks who dislike him, who believe him to be nothing but Emanuel Leto an exploitative pornographer. Still, there Editor are others who revere him as a champion of the First Amendment, a principled, if rough-around-the-edges populist unafraid to challenge social mores and the status quo. Whatever side of the divide you find yourself on, however, it would be tough to argue against Joe Redner's status as a Tampa icon. Celebrated or despised, Redner is part of our city's social and political fabric. A three-time candidate for public office and an outspoken free speech activist, Redner's personal life, legal battles and business ventures have played out on the local (and sometimes national) stage for the past 30 years. Indeed, he is as much a fixture of Tampa's political landscape as three-term mayor Dick Greco, whom Redner “went to war” with over the City's efforts to regulate nude dancing in 2000. You simply cannot discuss modern politics in Tampa without acknowledging Joe Redner. He ran against- and lost toBob Buckhorn in 1999; in 2004, he ran for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission; in 2007 he ran against Gwen Miller for the District 1 City Council seat, which he lost with 44% of the vote. He was arrested in 2002 for protesting outside of a designated “free speech zone” at rally for then- president George W. Bush. Following his arrest, he sued the United States Secret Service, among others, for violating his First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. In 2005, he filed a federal lawsuit against the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners claiming their ban on County- supported gay pride events violated his constitutional rights as a homosexual. While these battles underscore Redner's broader commitment to civil liberties, they don't include the myriad suits he has filedand won- against the City and County to keep his adult businesses open. According to Guzzo's feature, the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County have combined to award Redner nearly 1 million dollars in court settlements. That number, by the way, doesn't account for the man hours expended by the two governing body's legal departments. 8


It is not my intention to either celebrate or denounce Joe Redner. Some view his First Amendment battles as a guise, a selfish ploy for legitimacy. Others see him as “a legend”, a folk hero, an anti-establishment rabble rouser. Both definitions are perhaps imprecise. Although we do it far too often, it's just too easy to define a person as all one thing and none of something else. So, I'm not going to do it. So, although I was nervous- and still am- about putting Joe's smiling mug on this month's cover, I remember a bumper sticker from the 1980s and '90's that simply read, “Leave Joe Alone”. Well, I guess I couldn't do that, either.

See You Around the City!

Emanuel Leto




Six Feet of Fame


Tampa's African American Baseball Teams


An Ybor City Love Affair to be Remembered






12 14 15 16 40 46 52 54

Cigar Label History

Looking Back: This Month in Florida History

Lost Landmarks Look Who’s Smokin’

Interview with Tampa's official poet laureate, James Tokley, Jr.

On The Town with Dave Capote

The Kitchen

Mama Knows

Visit our web site at

Brothers F.P. and Joaquin Arguelles along with Celestino Lopez established the Arguelles Lopez and Brothers Cigar Company as early as 1892. By 1899, the business was located on the southeast corner of 15th Avenue and 21st street in Ybor City where it remained until the mid-1930s. The company continued under the name Arguelles Cigar Company, relocating to the West Tampa area. Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema was a well-known Dutch artist of the Victorian era.




FLORIDA HISTORY January 2, 1914 Tony Jannus completes the first commercial flight between Tampa and St. Petersburg. The airline offered twice-a-day, sixdays a week service across the bay. Each flight lasted 22 minutes and the standard fare was $5.

January 23, 1984 The Oakland Raiders defeated the Washington Redskins 38 to 9 in the first Super Bowl to be held in Tampa.

February 4, 1926

Jack Dempsey, by this time at the end of his career, came to Tampa for a boxing exhibition to promote B.L. Hamner's Real Estate Development Project near today's Forest Hills neighborhood.

February 22, 1910 After suspending the parade for several years, Ye Mystic Krewe revives the annual Gasparilla Parade, which was previously held in November.




LOST LANDMARK Can you identify this Lost Landmark?

The building on page 19 of the November/December 2009 issue of Cigar City Magazine is or was called Holsum Bakery on 22nd Street and as a kid, Mama (Flora), my brother Bevi and my sister Lydia and I would walk from 1808 11th Avenue and we all lined up to see the decorations. They would also give a small loaf of hot bread as a gift. - Frank Lopez Congratulations to Francisco (Frank) Lopez of Archer, Florida, who guessed last issue's Lost Landmark! Simply mail the answer and your contact information to:

Lost Landmarks C/O Cigar City Magazine P.O. Box 18613 Tampa, Florida 33679 or email us at by February 1, 2010. All correct entries will be entered into a drawing and one name will be selected as the winner. Good luck! JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010




Look WhosSmokin by Emanuel Leto

Tampa Humidor is located at 1418 East Busch Boulevard Tampa, FL 33612 1-800-990-8535



Busch Boulevard- across the train tracks and down the block from a place that sells used hubcaps- isn't where you would expect to find Tampa's largest cigar lounge. It's 4:00 p.m. on a Wednesday and there's about a dozen people relaxing inside Tampa Humidor, drinking coffee, watching TV, and, of course, smoking cigars. “This is actually a light crowd for this time of day,” says General Manager Bryan Scholle. Tampa Humidor draws a consistently large crowd because, in addition to being the only establishment of its kind in the immediate area, it's also centrally located off the interstate. Because of this, Tampa Humidor is the de facto happy hour hot spot and a spacious outpost for cigar smokers and people just looking for a place to hang out for a while before heading home. “We're a destination,” said owner Mike Howe, who opened the storefront on Busch Boulevard in 2008. He admits that people were initially skeptical of the location but, he points out, “our rent is low and we have more room to spread out.” Indeed, Tampa Humidor is roomy. Leather couches and recliners are set up as sitting areas, several domino tables dot the room and a long boardroom table is occupied with people working on laptops. Howe started Tampa Humidor as an online business in 2003 selling humidors and other cigar accessories. In 2005, he added cigars to the mix and opened the brick and mortar location on Busch in 2008. “We sort of grew in reverse,” says Howe, since most of the time, businesses open a physical location first and add internet sales later. The Pennsylvania native moved down to Florida as a child and, as an adult, worked for a South Florida inventory company, helping retailers with multiple aspects of their businesses. All of the back-end experience working with a wide spectrum of retail storefronts proved invaluable when Howe set out on his own. Tampa Humidor boasts 2,500 square feet of retail space with a bar offering coffee, beer and wine. The 1,500 square-foot walk in humidor is one of the largest in the city. “There wasn't anything really big in Tampa before we opened,” said Howe. In just short of two years, he's managed to build a loyal clientele and work with the top names in the industry, hosting monthly events and meet-and-greets. To top it off, Oliva Cigar Company has just agreed to sponsor the cigar lounge at Tampa Humidor. As he surveys the crowd of people lounging in recliners, sipping coffee and telling jokes, Howe seems pleased with what he's built and adds with a smile, “We're like the T.V. show Cheers. We're the Cheers of cigar lounges.”

SIX FEET OF FAME BY PAUL GUZZO 1972- Empty beer bottles on a bar table rattle from the reverberations of the motorcycles pulling out of the parking lot outside. A beautiful blonde wearing nothing but a G-string and pasties hurtles a pile of swept up broken glass and hurries into the dressing room of the Deep South, a bar known as much for its rough and ready-to-fight customers as it is for being Tampa's first and only go-go bar. A few more scantily clad dancers follow suit, all heading for the bar's dressing room so that they can grab their clothes and head home for the night.


he bouncers toss the straggling drinkers from the bar as the bartenders begin to clean up the night's mess. Smoke from smoldering cigarettes rise from beer bottles. Sticky, sugar-filled liquor drinks that were knocked over during a brief scuffle stain the bar, a few broken bottles from the fight have yet to be swept, and a dried pool of blood is caked to the floor. Tables are scattered about and chairs are everywhere; some are even turned upside down or on their backs. One of the bar's owners, the 37-year-old Bobby Rodriguez, boasting slicked back hair, dusty jeans, sunglasses despite the late hour of the night, a tight black T-shirt, and swollen hands from years of crushing skulls- a cross between Al Davis and Johnny Cash- strolls through the bar and smiles at the carnage. A messy bar means a successful bar, and his bar has never enjoyed so much success. Business has doubled ever since his partner Pat Matassini hired some brash 32-year-old named Joe Redner to manage the bar eight months ago. Redner thought big. He came to the bar and saw that it was doing decent business with one stage and one go-go dancer performing at a time and decided that he would build two more stages so that three girls could dance at a time. His plan immediately saw dividends. More and more men flocked to the bar and it became one of Tampa's hottest night spots.



Emerging from the dressing room of the bar with a fully-dressed dancer on his arm, Redner looks the part of a ‘70s swinger- thick mustache, flowery button-down shirt with a butterfly collar popping to the side, wide bellbottoms and medium-length cropped hair. Jingling his motorcycle keys in his hands, he winks to Rodriguez and heads for the door, as the other dancers stare jealously at their coworker. “Where the hell are you going?” asks Rodriguez in his raspy machismo voice. Most men are intimidated by Rodriguez. A military veteran and former bodyguard, he is one of the toughest men in his circle of tough guys and real life gangsters. But Redner, despite not being a fighter, doesn't flinch. Nothing seems to scare him. “I'm going home,” he says coolly and heads for the door. “Not on my motorcycle you're not!” screams Rodriguez. “His motorcycle?” thinks Redner. “He gave me the motorcycle a few months ago as a present for my good work.” Rodriguez taps his own head with his forefinger. Redner knows what he is getting at. “You're not going anywhere without a helmet!” says an angry Rodriguez. Without missing a beat, Redner reaches behind the bar, grabs an ice bucket, places it on the girl’s head and leaves the bar. Rodriguez rushes out of the bar to tell Redner to get his butt back inside, but Redner is already pulling out of the parking lot, the dancer holding him tightly around the waist- the ice bucket on her head and a helmet on his. “He was a crazy son of a bitch,” laughed Rodriguez while reminiscing about the night in an interview published in La Gaceta in 2007. “Crazy and stubborn.”

Top Left to Right: Bobby Rodriquez with associates. Bottom Left: St. Petersburg Times, January 9, 1987.

These two attributes are what enabled Joe Redner, a high school dropout, to later become a self made millionaire and one of the most well known adult business owners in the country. Redner didn't invent nudity, but he did invent nude clubs in Tampa and he made these bars as much a part of Tampa's lure as café con leche and cigars. But, 10 years ago this past December, Redner's empire was threatened. In the process his name transcended the strip club industry and he became more than “the strip club king,” he became one of the most infamous men in Tampa; its loveable outlaw. At issue was Tampa City Council's 1999 attempt to ban lap dancing in the city. If the ban was enacted, Redner, the godfather of Tampa strip clubs, said his establishments would have gone bankrupt. The City Council said they wanted the dances banned because they promoted prostitution and spread disease. Redner claimed City Council was trying to regulate morality. When the two sides went to war, an epic battle ensued, a war that was talked about in every corner of the nation. But, while this past December 2009 may be the 10-year anniversary of the Six Foot Rule War, it is a story that started further back than 1999.

Born in Hackensack, NJ in 1940 to Richard and Agnes shouldn't be obscene either because it was also a form of entertainment Redner, Joe Redner moved to Tampa at the age of 8 with his mother and artistic expression. following his parents' divorce. By his sophomore year of high In 1976, Redner decided to test his assessment of the Supreme school, he said he realized that school was not for him, and Court ruling and venture out on his own. He opened Tampa's first dropped out. all nude club- the Night Gallery. Redner was right- men flocked to “I always felt out of place,” Redner told the St. Petersburg his establishment. The city leaders, though, didn't agree with his Times in a profile published on January 21, 1991. “I didn't laugh at legal argument that nude dances were constitutionally protectedthe same things. I didn't like the same things. I just couldn't they deemed them obscene. The city asked the Hillsborough remember things, you know. Other kids would get A's in spelling County Court to declare Redner's club illegal because it was a without even trying. I'd study and study and still not pass. It just “house of ill fame,” and threatened to arrest Redner and the didn't seem fair.” dancers if he didn't have the women wear at least G-strings and In the ensuing years, he bounced around from job to job, pasties. including five years in the carnival business. He then moved to The stubborn Redner, a high school dropout from a blue Illinois and married an exotic dancer. While she danced, Redner collar family who was making more money than he had ever worked as a bouncer. Eventually, they divorced. Redner married dreamt he'd make, refused to comply with the city's wish. wife number two soon after, but that also ended in divorce. “I wasn't open one week before they started raiding me,” said He returned to Tampa and picked up Redner in the 2008 documentary on where he left off- working odd jobs his life, Strip Club King. “And then they where he could find them. He worked in a started raiding me five days a week, and furniture store. He started his own only because the vice squad didn't work business maintaining parking lots. on Sundays and Mondays. And then it In the early 1970s, he performed got to the point that they were raiding some carpentry work for Pat Matassini. me seven or eight times a day.” Matassini owned a number of bars in Redner said the Tampa Police Tampa, including the Pad Lounge- a Department would send an undercover popular music venue- and the Deep police officer to the Night Gallery. The South, Tampa's first go-go bar. Matassini officer would take a seat at the bar and and Redner became friends and wait for each girl to dance. Once the Matassini hired him to work the door at rotation of girls was complete, the officer the Pad Lounge. When a manager's posiwould identify himself and arrest all the tion became available at the Deep girls. With no girls to dance, Redner South, he gave it to Redner, believing would have to shut down for the night. that Redner's hardworking attitude To combat the police, Redner began would have a good affect on the bar. He breaking up his girls into shifts- three girls was right. Redner built new stages for per rotation. When a rotation was over and the bar, hired more beautiful women to the police would arrest the girls, Redner dance, and turned it into the place to be. would send the second shift up. When they After a few years, Redner felt he was were arrested, he'd send a third shift. And Ocala Star-Banner, June 19, 1978. ready to make the move from manageby the time they were arrested, the first shift ment to ownership. would be bailed out and ready to take the stage again. Redner paid for In 1975, while listening to the radio on a drive home from the the fines, and the girls were making so much money that the hassle was Deep South, Redner heard a news report that would change his worth it. life and the city of Tampa forever. The United States Supreme Emboldened by his success, along with his former boss, Bobby Court had ruled that drive-in movie theaters could show films with Rodriguez, Redner opened a second all-nude club, the Tanga Lounge. nudity because movies constituted free speech, which is protected The police used the same method to raid the new bar and Redner used under the First Amendment. A light went off in Redner's head. He the same methods to combat it. With two bars to worry about, the police had long thought that if women in G-strings and pasties were eventually ran out of undercover officers that Redner couldn't identify drawing a crowd, women wearing absolutely nothing would draw immediately, and they had to find other ways to bust him. “So then enormous crowds. He rationalized that if nudity in a movie wasn't they'd change their tactics and I'd change mine. I always stayed one step obscene because it constituted free speech, then a nude dance ahead of them,” bragged Redner. 20


Dancer at the Tanga Lounge, circa 1970s. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010


Joe Redner at the Night Gallery Lounge in the 1970s.

In the early 1980s, the Florida Supreme Court declared that the charges against Redner- that he ran a “house of ill fame” and that his dancers worked at one- were unconstitutional, stating that the phrase “house of ill fame” was such an antiquated term that it was meaningless. Believing he was now free to operate without city interference, in 1982 Redner opened a third bar- Mons Venus. But the city's war against Redner had only just begun. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that city governments had the right to revoke a bar's liquor license if the city deemed the bar a nuisance. Tampa immediately took away his clubs' liquor licenses, but not even this move could stop Redner. He knew that the women, not alcohol, were his main draw. He remained open, making his money off cover charges, bottled water and non-alcoholic beer. Redner claimed the Mons Venus actually improved after he ceased selling alcohol, as sober patrons meant calmer and more respective patrons. Nude clubs were now popping up all over Tampa as Redner's victories over the city gave others the courage to open similar 22


businesses. The city was quickly becoming known as the “strip club capitol of the world.” Believing the city would turn into a strip club amusement park if they didn't act, in 1982 the city leaders passed a zoning ordinance disallowing sexually oriented businesses from opening within 500 feet of any property zoned for residential or office use and at least 1,000 feet from another adult-oriented business. Mons Venus and the Tanga Lounge were both in violation of this new zoning law due to being located too close to office space, so Redner filed a law suit against the City of Tampa, claiming that the new zoning ordinances were unconstitutional. Not only did his lawsuit allow his clubs to remain open while the court debated the zoning ordinance, but Redner continued to expand his empire. He was fought every step of the way. In 1984, he tried to open a nude club on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City, but the city declined his business license, citing an earlier drug conviction as the reason. Redner sued the city in federal court,

won a $1,000 settlement and the court ruled Venus yielded Redner “an impressive profit: that the city had to license his club. The club roughly $1 million a year on revenues of $3 later closed anyway due to lack of business. million. (That money is nearly all from the In 1988, Redner planned to open a nude club's cover charges; it does not include what club in Citrus County, but just days before he the dancers earn.) His half interest in the was set to open the doors, the Citrus County Tanga Lounge is worth $300,000 annually.” Tampa City Council and Redner then Commission held an emergency meeting adopting butted heards in 1996 when Redner opened a temporary ordinance that established new a nude club, Club Flamingo, on Seventh rules and regulations for operating adult businesses Avenue in Ybor City. The move threatened in Citrus County. Redner opened the club anyway, the future of the Centro Ybor project, a believing it was unconstitutional for him to be development city leaders hoped would revive punished by laws put into place after he a struggling historic district. announced he was opening a business. “Our prospective customers are national The girls danced, the police came, everyone retailers,” Jay Miller, executive vice president was arrested, the county shut down the bar, and of Steiner Associates, was quoted as saying in Redner sued the county. In 1992, the U.S. a December 1999 Tampa Tribune article. “We District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that the ordinance was indeed expressed concern to the mayor that the unconstitutional. The judge said that while destination would become more slanted nude dancing is subject to governmental regulation, towards adult entertainment.” Citrus County's ordinance went too far because “I went to Joe and I told him that the it didn't promise a quick appeal if a license was developers wouldn't build Centro Ybor if denied, meaning the County Commission could there was a strip club down the road,” said stall the procedure indefinitely. Redner was then- Mayor Dick Greco. “I told him the city awarded a $374,000 settlement against Citrus couldn't afford to lose Centro Ybor, but he County. Despite the victory, he decided against didn't care. He told me to sue him if I didn't St. Petersburg Times, Februaury 17, 1990. reopening the club. like it.” While the Citrus County case played out, The city did take Redner to court and it Redner was also suing Hillsborough County. In March 1990, he had the ammunition it needed to win. opened Mons II in an area of unincorporated Hillsborough In early 1996, after 14 years of court battles, U.S. District County. A week after he opened, the county filed an injunction Court Judge Susan Bucklew upheld the city's 1982 zoning ordinance, ordering him to shut down. The County Commission claimed that stating that the zoning restrictions still allowed adult oriented Mons II was too close- 1,000 feet- to the Florida Suncoast businesses in three parts of the city- those zoned for general, Gymnastics Academy, which also served as a kindergarten, violating intense and heavy industrial- and that 72 sites totaling 5,364 a county zoning ordinance disallowing adult oriented establishments acres remained available for adult oriented businesses. Because fromoperating within 2,000 feet of churches, schools or parks. Redner's Club Flamingo was within 1,000 feet of office space, it Redner shut down the club but filed a law suit against the county, was illegally zoned, which gave the city the right to shut it down. claiming that the county never properly advertised the ordinance as The city filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough County Court in a rezoning proposal and that the school in question was hastily April 1996 against 10 strip clubs that violated the zoning ordinance. organized after he decided to open his club. In November 1991, The city asked the judge to fine each club $1,000 per day until Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Richard Lazzara ruled in favor they shut down. Club Flamingo wasn't the only Redner-owned of Redner. A federal jury later awarded him $230,000 in damages club named in the lawsuit. So was Mons Venus, the bread and and he never reopened the club. butter of his enterprise. Redner was winning more than money in each lawsuit he filed; “I never intended to close Mons Venus,” said Greco. “I just he was winning over the people. didn't want a strip club in Ybor City. I didn't want it to stop us All of the free publicity turned the Mons Venus into the most from getting Centro Ybor done. But the city couldn't file a law suit popular nude club in the city and one of the most famous in the against just one club; they all had to be included. If Joe had just world. “The Mons Venus has achieved legendary status within not opened Club Flamingo, the suit would never have been filed.” America's sex trade,” wrote Steve Huettel in a 1999 profile on Greco promised the Centro Ybor developers that Club Flamingo Redner in the St. Petersburg Times. He then reported that the Mons would soon be gone, and the development went on as planned. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010


In January 1999, Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge James Moody ruled that Club Flamingo was violating the zoning ordinance and had to cease nude dancing. Redner abided by the decision, but the court ruled that all clubs that opened prior to the 1982 ordinance, such as Mons Venus and the Tanga Lounge, were allowed to stay open because a business cannot be “retroactively punished.” By successfully shutting down Club Flamingo, the city won a battle against Redner, but the war was far from over. In 1999, Redner ran for Tampa City Council with a campaign theme focused on his years of long legal battles with city and county governments. He argued that Tampa needed a leader who would fight for the rights of business and property owners, claiming that Tampa was becoming “Big Brother.” Redner's opponent was a perfect foil- Bob Buckhorn, an incumbent who spent his first four years on council as its spokesperson against indecency. Buckhorn drafted an ordinance banning “rave clubs,” all night establishments that catered to patrons of all ages and that had a reputation for allowing open drug use. He also railed against prostitution with three ordinances that, according to a 1999 profile on Buckhorn by St. Petersburg Times reporter Steve Huettel, “alarmed some civil libertarians. He pushed for an ordinance to impound the cars of people arrested for soliciting prostitutes and put their pictures on government-access television. Buckhorn also proposed making it a crime to flash undercover cops or make them expose themselves, which was a common tactic for prostitutes. And he advocated tougher enforcement against lingerie modeling shops, massage parlors and body scrub shops, targeted by police as fronts for prostitution. Buckhorn wears those crusades against sex and drugs like battle medals.” Redner's supporters depicted him as the last line of defense against an increasingly oppressive city government. Buckhorn's supporters depicted him as the man fighting for Tampa's family values. In the end, the election wasn't close. In March 1999, Buckhorn defeated Redner by a 3-1 ratio. The resounding defeat wasn't about to dampen Redner's longtime fight against what he deemed to be oppressive governments. If anything, in defeat he actually won, as his campaign made national news- the sex peddler running for office. The election increased his fame and strengthened his reputation as an anti-establishment leader. Ironically, while the adult-business zoning ordinance allowed the city to keep nude clubs out of the areas the administration's development efforts were focused on, specifically Ybor City and Channelside, it caused problems in Drew Park, an area of Tampa located on the outskirts of the Tampa International Airport. “In the late 1980s, Drew Park residents lobbied for blanket commercial zoning, in an effort to keep their property values high. They believed the Tampa Aviation Authority would soon be buying up land to expand the airport,” wrote Tampa Tribune reporter David Pedreira in 1997. “They ended up getting expansion of a different kind.” Adult clubs and massage parlors flocked to the area when their 24


owners realized they wouldn't face the usual distance requirements from homes and churches. By the late 1990s, almost 20 adult businesses were located in the small community, and the residents began complaining to the city that some of the strip clubs and massage parlors were peddling more than nudity. They were selling drugs and prostitutes. “When someone asks me where I live, I'm embarrassed to tell them,” one resident told Pedreira for his Tribune article. “It's just unreal what's happening.” The city vowed to crack down on prostitution throughout the city, a measure made increasingly possible after Buckhorn's anti-prostitution laws were passed. In 1997, police made more than 1,000 prostitution arrests. In June 1998, police raided more than 20 massage parlors, body scrub salons and lingerie shops, arresting 36 people on charges ranging from prostitution and drugs to illegally performing massages. That year, 39 licensed body scrubs shops were reclassified under bathhouse codes, forcing workers to apply for a license, take a 70-hour course on the theory of bath, and wear surgical gowns when bathing clients. In 1996, more than 70 massage parlors and lingerie modeling studios existed. Two years later, only 18 remained. The strip clubs in Drew Park remained a problem, though. Undercover police reported to the city that strippers in some Drew Park strip clubs would take men into VIP rooms for private lap dances and perform oral sex for extra money, while bolder clubs allowed the strippers to have sex with men right out in the open while the other patrons watched. “Lap dancing was becoming more than lap dancing in these clubs,” said Greco. “The more prominent ones like Mons Venus were fine. Joe always ran clean places. But some of the ones in Drew Park were terrible.” “Sure these places are on the sleazy side and they don't help the neighborhood,” City Councilman Charlie Miranda was quoted as saying in the St. Petersburg Times in 1997. “But if the zoning for adult businesses is there, which it is, there's really not much we can do.” City Council did find something they could do. They took a cue from Hillsborough County's neighbor- Pinellas County. In the early 1990s, in order to crack down on the county's prostitution problem, Pinellas County passed a law prohibiting strip club patrons from being within three feet of the dancers. It solved Pinellas County's problem, but added to Tampa's, as unhappy customers flocked to Tampa where strip clubs, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, were “more of a free for all.” In September 1999, the Tampa City Council announced they would be voting on an ordinance in December that would forbid strip club patrons from being within six-feet of the strippers, criminalizing lap dances. Violators would face a maximum penalty of $1,000 and six months in jail. Establishments with more than

three violations in 30 days could be declared a public nuisance and Escalating the war of words was Buckhorn, who became the the city could go to court to shut them down. City Council also City Council's spokesman for the six-foot ordinance, appearing claimed the lap dance ban would help cut down on STDs, which before the cameras as often as Redner, continuing to proclaim that they claimed were spread by lap dances. nude clubs promoted prostitution and STDs. Despite the fact that Redner didn't see the ordinance as a health issue or as way to Redner's clubs were not the ones promoting prostitution, stop the shadier strip clubs from dealing in prostitution. He saw it Buckhorn wasn't distinguishing Redner's clubs from the guilty as a danger to the empire he'd built. If lap dances were banned, he ones, furthering the illusion that the six-foot ban was a personal thought his clubs would go out of business. People went to his club crusade by the city against Redner. specifically for lap dances, not to watch strippers get naked six feet “Bob saw it as his way to become mayor,” said one City Hall away. Following City Council's announcement of the pending vote, insider who did not want to be named. “He thought it was his ticket Redner announced he would spend millions of dollars to fight the to the mayor's office. He thought it was the issue that would get six-foot rule. his name out there. He even had six-foot rulers made up with his “If Joe had never made a big deal out of it, I don't think we ever name on them. He turned it into a moral issue, not a political would have bothered his clubs,” said Greco. “This was about cracking issue.” down on clubs breaking the law. Joe's clubs were fine. The police “Once Bob Buckhorn got involved in it, it really got big,” said probably never would have said a member of city's legal department, anything to him if he kept who also wished to remain anonymous. allowing lap dances had he not “He didn't initiate that thing. The turned it into such a big issue.” legal department was already In the two months leading working on it, but he was so up to the vote on the ordinance, vocal about it that he got the Redner led an all out public credit for it. Bob meant well, but I relations war on the Tampa don't think he ever gave a good City Council. explanation on why we were passing Strip club owners collected it. It was being done to end the thousands of signatures for prostitution in Drew Park. But petitions that they sent to the Bob got caught up in a war of Former City Councilman Bob Buckhorn & former Mayor Dick Greco city. And dancers went public words with Joe, so the reason with their stories, telling the media that their wages enabled them behind the law was lost, and in the process Bob helped turn Joe to raise their children and send them to private schools they wouldn't into a cult hero.” be able to afford with other jobs. The quadriplegic brother of a Churches and congregations got involved, picketing outside dancer at Mons Venus told the press that without his sister's strip clubs, and gathering tens of thousands of signatures and income to help him with his bills, he'd have to move into a nursing placing full-page ads in newspapers on behalf of the lap dance ban. home. Redner and his crusade against the city even made national Redner bought full-page ads in newspapers stating that sexual headlines and news programs, including 20/20 and The Daily oppression is unhealthy and that the city had no right to regulate Show. He was usually billed as a hero, a man fighting against the morality. He hired lobbyists to help him with his campaign and prudish Tampa City Council members who wanted to regulate the paid economists to put together an economic study touting the city's morality. impact strips clubs had on the city. According to the study, the On The Daily Show, Redner joked that the only way a blind clubs had a $110 million a year impact on the city through the man knew what the dancers looked like was by feeling them like wages of the 6,000 jobs the industry created. Redner also preached brail. The segment ended with The Daily Show's host, Jon Stewart, that some conventions chose Tampa specifically because of its asking “what kind of monsters would pass a law that would hurt numerous strip clubs. blind men?” “These clubs probably outdraw the Buccaneers and Devil Rays “There's more interest in this than in any election I've ever seen,” combined,” wrote St. Petersburg Times reporter Howard Troxler on Tampa City Councilman Charlie Miranda told the St. Petersburg September 19, 1999, following the release of the economic impact Times prior to the December 2, 1999 lap dance ban vote. “They're report. “A few years ago, the taxpayers built a $30 million stadium for aware of the issue and what's going on. It's sad in a way.” the New York Yankees, on the excuse that their spring training games The City Council vote had to be moved from City Hall to the would produce an economic impact of $50 million a year. By that Convention Center. Over 2,000 people attended. The meeting logic, shouldn't we be offering to build Redner a bigger place?” began at 1 p.m. and didn't end until 2 a.m., as countless individuals JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010


Joe Redner

with signs verbally attacking City Council, and national news cameras were all over the city. In the end, city leaders would not bow to public pressure. Following a unanimous vote by City Council, the six-foot ordinance was signed into law. As he always did, Redner fought back. He publicly stated that the dancers would continue to offer lap dances and hung signs from the Mons Venus taunting Greco- “Dicky Greco the New Morality God,” “Hey Greco. Censor This,” “Hey Mayor. Come in and Enforce Your Ordinance,” “Mayor Greco and His Looney Tune Police Dept. are a Joke.” He stood in front of Mons Venus, hordes of press from around the country filming and snapping pictures, and gave fiery speeches about how he would not allow Greco and City Council to regulate morality and trample on his First Amendment rights. “I'm not going to stop anything,” he told Tampa's Fox News. “I'm not going to stop anything until the mayor comes in and shoots me.” “He even put the phone numbers for city councilmen on his signs outside his club,” said the anonymous City Hall insider. “And people would drive by and see it and call. We'd leave the office in the evening and by the time we went to work in the morning our voice mail was full...Some people left real nasty messages… We were even getting calls from all over the country. I remember getting one from Arizona from a woman asking why we were banning lap dances. 26


It was absolutely crazy.” Redner filed suit against the city, stating that one of the reasons behind the ordinancethat lap dances promote sexually transmitted diseases- could not be proven. Redner also pledged to bail out any dancer that was arrested and said that if the city filed charges against the dancers he would counter sue for violation of their First Amendment rights. The press continued to rally behind Redner. “Mayor Dick Greco and the Tampa City Council look ridiculous for wasting so much time, and so many city resources, in their crusade to ban lap dancing,” editorialized the St. Petersburg Times on December 4, 1999. “Did I miss something here?” wondered The Tampa Tribune's Dan Ruth in a column he wrote on January 19, 2001. “Have I suddenly awakened to find myself living in Amish country with John Ashcroft as the mayor?” “Joe is a smart man,” said Greco. “He made it seem like the city was waging a war on him and only him… he knew if he fought it, he would get more free press, which meant more people would go to his club.” Despite Redner being a thorn in the city's side, the police did not bother the Mons Venus for six months after the ordinance was passed. At a political function in July 2000, Redner and Greco crossed paths for the first time since the ordinance was passed. Greco tried to shake Redner's hand. Redner refused to do so, telling the mayor that they were not friends, they were enemies. “And he told me, 'Well, then let's go to war,'” said Redner. Greco denied ever saying that. A week after their encounter at the church, the Mons Venus was raided for the first time. Greco denied to the press that the raid had anything to do with his meeting with Redner, but was actually planned for a month. Raids the size of the one on Mons Venus aren't planned in a week, he explained, but actually take months to put together. Police raided five clubs over a two day period, arresting 46 women and 33 men, all charged with breaking the six-foot ordinance. Over the next few months, raids were a regular occurrence.

Redner continued to openly allow lap dances, and began employing the same method to keep dancers on stage as he used decades ago- one set of dancers would be arrested, the next set would take the stage. “The six foot law wasn't doing anything but putting innocent people in jail temporarily. At one point I saw that 135 dancers were arrested for violating that stupid law,” said Redner. “Each hearing would take half a day to a day, and if any were granted a jury trial, they would take even longer. The prosecutors offered a deal- $200 in fines and six months probation and blah, blah, blah, blah and they wouldn't put anyone in jail… I said we want to try every case. On top of that, I demanded a speedy trial for every one of them, which meant they had 90 days to try each case or had to throw them out. There was no way they were going to be able to do that, especially when the judge had his normal case load to handle, including a ton of DUIs. So the prosecution gave up. They let the dancers plead no contest, pay no fine or court costs, withheld adjudication and gave the dancers no probation. So basically they were treated like jaywalkers.” In August 2001, the ordinance took a major legal hit when Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Elvin Martinez signed an order declaring the ordinance unconstitutional, saying it was too broad and allowed selective enforcement and that lap dancing was not a risk to public health or safety. "Statutes or ordinances cannot be so overbroad that they prohibit constitutionally protected conduct as well as unprotected conduct," wrote Martinez. "They also cannot be so overbroad they make common conduct criminal and provide the police with unfettered discretion to arrest." “The judge also found practical problems with the ordinance, 'considering the realities of movement' inside a strip club. For example, someone could be guilty for passing by an unclothed person on the way to the restroom. Furthermore, the city failed to prove that the ordinance 'furthers a substantial government interest,' reported the St. Petersburg Times on August 2, 2001. Following Martinez's ruling, the six-foot ordinance faded away. It was never removed from the books as law, but it was never enforced again. The legacy of the six-foot rule, though, will perhaps never fade away. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010


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by Rodney Kite-Powell

Tampa's African American Baseball Teams

While most people recognize the names Tampa Smokers, Tampa Tarpons, and of course, Tampa Bay Rays, few can recall the names of Tampa's professional and semi-professional African American

teams. Those teams, including the Tampa Colored Giants, the Tampa Black Smokers, the Pepsi Cola Giants, and the Tampa Rockets, were vital to the area's black population because they provided an outlet that did not exist in the segregated baseball organizations of the first half of the 20th century.


Like the Tampa Smokers, these teams served as part of a de facto minor league system that fed talent to the African American big league teams. Many of Tampa's black baseball players made the best of their opportunity, with some, such as Raydell “Lefty Bo” Maddix, Clifford “Quack” Brown, Bob “Peach Head” Mitchell, and Walter “Dirk” Gibbons, moving from the local teams to the Negro Baseball League. While none reached the level of recognition achieved by Al Lopez and Wade Boggs, Tampa's African American players did not have the same opportunities either. Who knows how many amazing ball players would have come out of the Scrub or East Tampa had segregation not been so entrenched. What follows is a brief history of those teams and some of the players, managers and owners who made up Tampa's African American baseball teams. Modern Tampa is the offspring of two great forces- the railroad and the cigar industry. Both industries arrived in the sleepy village of Tampa in the mid-1880s, but people had lived in Tampa since the 1820s. Tampanians discovered baseball in the late 1870s, when Thomas Crichton organized a local team to take on teams from other Florida towns.



7-Up Giants, 1941.



Pepsi Cola Giants, circa 1950s.



Crichton's team consisted only of white players, but by 1895 Tampa fielded a team in the newly formed “colored state baseball organization.” Information about this early team is scarce, but there are some newspaper accounts from the turn of the 20th century of Tampa teams traveling to Ocala, Palatka, Jacksonville, and other Florida cities to play. While individual teams, and their games, were segregated, often black teams and white teams would play on the same day at the same ball fields. Details about teams and players from this era are difficult to uncover, even in the best of circumstances. One of the few references is to a team called the Tampa Colored Giants, who played in the years leading up to World War I. “Giants” was a common team name, owing to the popularity of the New York Giants of Major League Baseball and their black counterparts, the Cuban Giants.

keen rivalry. The Pepsi Cola Giants did not make it through the entire 1946 season as members of the FSNBL. For unknown reasons, though likely financial in nature, the Giants decided to go on their own as a barnstorming team, traveling throughout the state, and the South, to play against any team willing to face them. The Tampa Rockets, owned by local merchant Albert Williams, took the Giants place among FSNBL teams. Williams, who was the manager of Wells Pharmacy on Nebraska Avenue and Kay Street, used the drug store as the Rockets' business address. The team carried on the success started by the Giants in 1946, with a winning percentage consistently over .500. The Rockets' success continued into 1947, when Williams sold half of his interest in the team to newspaper publisher C.

With the integration of most minor league teams by 1953, the need for African American-only teams began to wane. Though their necessity faded, their legacy lives on. Floridian John “Buck” O'Neil, one of the most famous members of the old Negro American League, played for another one of Tampa's teams, the Tampa Black Smokers, in 1933. O'Neil eventually moved up the ranks of professional baseball and onto the roster of the Kansas City Monarchs, the premier team of the Negro American League. Not much more is known about the Black Smokers, and by 1941 America's attention had turned to much more ominous things. World War II had an immediate and lasting impact on Florida. For baseball, that meant the disbanding, or severe handicapping, of most semi-pro and professional teams. Tampa's Intersocial League, consisting of players who were members of the city's mutual aid and social societies, struggled greatly. As far as can be determined, Tampa's African American teams ceased play altogether. In early 1945, with peace in Europe and the Pacific close at hand, organizers began the difficult task of gathering support for another state-wide African American baseball league. The Florida State Negro Baseball League (FSNBL), began play in the spring of 1945. The Tampa American All Stars played a thirty-six game schedule against the St. Petersburg Peters Palace Stars, the Bradenton Nine Devils, and five other teams from Orlando, Daytona Beach, Bartow, Lakeland, and West Palm Beach. Other leagues were formed during the mid- to late-1940s, but the best teams played in the Florida State Negro Baseball League, which generally consisted of eight to ten teams (the number varied from year to year). Tampa's representative in the league also varied from year to year. Following the 1945 season, the American All Stars dropped out and the Tampa Pepsi Cola Giants came in to replace them. Across the bay in St. Petersburg, businessman Jack Peters changed the name of his club to the St. Petersburg Pelicans. The Pelicans and the assorted Tampa teams always carried on a

Blythe Andrews, owner of the Florida Sentinel Bulletin. That year was also significant because it was the year that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Though he was followed soon after by Larry Doby (the first African American to play in the American League), the need for African American teams continued. Significantly, there were more black baseball teams in Tampa between 1947 and 1953 than in the years before. The Pepsi Cola Giants and Tampa Rockets were joined by the Tampa All Stars, the Tampa Grandstanders, the Tampa Athletics, and the Tampa Cubans. The teams played at several different ball parks around the city. While most teams played at Legion Field, located on the corner of Buffalo Avenue (now Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard) and 22nd Street, other games were played in Port Tampa City and even at old Plant Field at the University of Tampa. Perhaps the biggest game played by a Tampa team during this era was the contest between the Tampa Rockets and the Ashville (North Carolina) Blues at Yankee Stadium. The game was the prelude to a Negro League game, and it had to be cut down to seven innings so the main event could take place. Though they lost 2-1, Rockets players were thrilled to have played at such an iconic stadium. With the desegregation of Major League Baseball came the eventual trickle down effect of the integration of minor league and semi-pro teams. The two main “white” minor leagues in Florida, the Florida International League and the Florida Baseball League, began to discuss the inclusion of some Florida State Negro Baseball League teams in the spring of 1952- an indication of the slow pace of integration. This would become a moot point when most Florida International League teams, including the Tampa Smokers, began signing African American players that same year. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010


Tampa Rockets, circa 1947.

Jet magazine followed these developments with interest, pointing out that the Smokers manager in 1953, Ben Chapman, was the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1947- a team that was unrelenting in its taunting of Robinson during his first year with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Chapman's attitude had changed by '53, perhaps in part because of his precipitous drop from the big leagues to the Class B minors in a few short years. With the integration of most minor league teams by 1953, the need for African American-only teams began to wane. Though their necessity faded, their legacy lives on. The story of Tampa’s, and the nation’s, African American baseball teams is one of perseverance, pride, and ultimately, respect. The Tampa Bay History Center is excited to showcase that story in the form of a traveling exhibit from the Negro League Baseball Museum. Shades of Greatness is the first-ever collaborative professional art exhibition inspired by the Negro baseball leagues. Raymond Doswell, curator and education director for the Negro League Baseball Museum (NLBM), wanted to offer a new interpretation of the story of the Negro leagues, one that differed from the painted portraiture that dominated earlier Negro leagues art. The NLBM brought together twenty-seven artists to develop a new understanding of this fascinating subject. “We wanted to bring non-baseball fans into the history [of the Negro leagues] by issuing a fine art exhibit,” Doswell said. “Those who

are interested in art and culture will see this art, and those who are baseball fans will get a deeper understanding when they see this exhibit. We wanted to move visitors beyond what they would see in a typical sports art collection, like giant baseball cards. We wanted them to see something original and create conversation about the Negro leagues.” The artists created works likely to do that. The pieces are in mixed media, from cubist paintings of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and James “Cool Papa” Bell to bronze sculptures of batters' hands, among them Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe. Some works focus on individuals, like Jackie Robinson or Effa Manley, the owner of the Newark Eagles. Others are symbolic, with generic figures representing the many Negro leaguers and their experiences. All of the pieces in the exhibition shed light upon an oft-overlooked portion of baseball history, and in a manner that is anything but routine. “The results were very gratifying and I think the artists got what we wanted them to do, which was to explore,” Doswell said. “I'm impressed by the maturity and quality of each piece. It allows people to reflect and think beyond.” Shades of Greatness will be on display at the Tampa Bay History Center from January 26 through April 4, 2010. The exhibit is included in regular admission to the Museum. The exhibit will also include objects and photos of Florida's Negro league teams and players.

For more information about this exhibit visit 34


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An Ybor City

Love Affair To



Previous page, l-r seated: Rose Cantrell, Alicia Vallina. Standing: Peter Giovenco, Hortensia Giovenco, Geraldo Vallina, Leroy Cantrell. Below: Sam Rotolo and Hortensia.

Be Remembered By Sylvia Cantrell Albritton, Ed.D. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010


When I think of a beautiful love affair between a man and a the best there was. He took pain-staking time with each project, woman, I think of my aunt and uncle's love story. What makes this making it perfect. It was more important to him to deliver as close couple so special or so different from anyone else? The answer to to a new pair of shoes to his customers than worry about how long this question is not an easy one because it is never just one thing it took him to do it or whether his time was cost effective. It was that sets it apart from the rest, but rather a combination of giving never about the money. He was also a good student of history and more than taking, considering each day a blessing, and greeting would talk with anyone about any subject when a customer or each day with a positive attitude. neighbor crossed his shop's threshold. Toward the end of his My aunt and uncle were the most dedicated individuals to one career, I often suspected that there was more conversation than another that I have ever met. He called her Mimi and she called actual business to tend to, but perhaps that is what made him an him Pe, and they existed in a simple and pure life in the heart of icon in the community. He was a fixture, a caricature, a piece of Ybor City. These two were inseparable except for daytime working history that would make his town, his culture and his love of country hours. She lovingly fixed and come alive. And perhaps there packed his lunch each morning, were those who came to just partake and delighted in preparing a huge in a cup of coffee and a chat meal when he returned in the making his business a 60-yearevening just for him. In his eyes, his old hidden treasure on wife was the most beautiful woman Nebraska Avenue and him a in the world, and to her, he was timeless voice of what was such a certainly her Prince Charming. vital part of our past. Mimi's real name was These two people were truly Hortensia Vallina. She was raised in love, and they set the perfect with her sister, my mother, by a example of how a husband and hard-working father and mother wife define partnership, comwho welcomed many relatives to panionship, loyalty, trust and a live with them over the years. At lifetime of commitment. And one point, her grandparents on yet, their meeting was not the my grandmother's side, an uncle perfect Cinderella story. Their and a sister and her daughter all love grew from tragedy that resided in the same residence. would change their lives and This might have been where the affect them in very different seed was planted to make my aunt, ways. who my sister and I always called Uncle Peter was right when “Thete�, one of the most caring he said that my aunt was beautiand giving individuals I would ful. I always like to say that she come to know in my life. was beautiful inside and out. As Thete knew no strangers, and a young woman, she would be she absolutely adored children- all named the Queen of the Latin Hortensia Vallina, Miss Latin America, 1940. children! It was a shame that she Carnival- Miss Latin America in had no children of her own, but 1940. She would represent she vicariously adopted all of her nephews and nieces and loved Tampa in cities throughout Florida and even traveled to Cuba to them all. I know because I was her goddaughter, and I will always meet with ambassadors and Cuban leaders including President think of her as my second mother. She was always there to give Fulgencio Batista. advice, and she was always actively involved in all my adventures as Hortensia later married the love of her life, Sam Rotolo. I grew up. She was there when I shopped for my first prom dress, Within their first year of marriage, they were both thrilled to and she was there when I gave birth to my first children. She saw discover that she was expecting a baby. Soon, Sam was called to me take my first steps and speak my first word, and she was there duty. It was the beginning of the U.S. involvement in World War on my wedding day. She loved my children as if they were her own II. Within a month, my aunt would answer the door and receive grandchildren, and I feel so blessed to have had Thete in my life. that dreaded letter of condolence from a government carrier in Uncle Peter was hard working. His work ethic was unparalleled. military uniform. She collapsed, lost the baby, and the shock nearly He was a shoemaker or cobbler, and he took great pride in being made her lose her mind. 38


For three years, she would go to doctors to help her with the nightmares that would plague her. Later, she would avoid sleep altogether making her despondent and ill. She had difficulty coping with Sam's death, and then she was told that she would never be able to have any more children. This lovely young woman was becoming a recluse. One evening, she was visited by a good friend of Sam's who had just returned from the war. He did not have a car so he walked from West Tampa to Ybor City to pay his respects. It was one of the first times that she agreed to have visitors in a long time. Sam's friend asked if he could visit from time to time, and when she agreed, he spent the next three years walking from his home in West Tampa to Ybor City every day to visit her. They would sit on the front porch of my grandparents' home- and my grandparents were always present for these visits as was the custom of respect for this young widow. These two young people shared a sorrow over the loss of Sam, and they helped each other cope with this tremendous loss. Their friendship grew into a sweet love story that would eventually bring Peter to ask for my aunt's hand in marriage. This handsome, soft spoken gentleman was Peter Giovenco. His Italian heritage made him the absolute gentleman that he was. When my grandmother told him that they could not have children, this news did not faze him. He just said that they would have children in their lives and love them, and they certainly did love all the children in their lives. Hortense and Peter Giovenco lived simply, yet their lives were full of love for one another, for their families and for the children they adopted in mind and spirit. The respect that they showed to one another, their affection for one another and their giving spirit will always make them the perfect couple in my mind. They shared a lifetime of happiness and were at peace with each other and the world around them. Sam was never forgotten. Up until the time that my aunt was too ill to go to the cemetery to take flowers, they regularly visited his grave next to my grandparents' plot. Hortense died of cancer in 1986. Peter never left her side. Although it was very difficult for him to live without his Mimi, he continued to work every day. Perhaps it was his way of coping with his tremendous loss or perhaps it was his terrific work ethic that would keep him going. He was 83 years old when he was robbed in his shoe shop. He was pistol whipped so severely that brain damage left him unable to stand, feed himself or even consistently know his family. His neighbors in the row of shops on Nebraska Avenue found it unimaginable that a violent act would put an end to the stories this gentle man shared with so many for so long. His attackers were never brought to justice, and Peter lived the next three years in a nursing home until his death. This couple made a difference in the lives they touched. They set the example for respect and commitment. These two good people shared something very special, and this Ybor City love affair they had is one that I will always remember. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010


in my hand because for a poet, for a novelist, for a playwright, the adage that Terence- the ancient Roman playwright- once made is as real now as it was when he said it: "I am human and let nothing human be alien to me." Consequently, what that means to a poet is that wherever you take a him or her, a poet is literally drowning in a sea of possible themes because every person, every object, every sound, every smell and every taste has a story to tell.

Slightly over one dozen young hipsters sit in the front of the cafe, waiting to entertain the crowd. Dressed in brightly colored robes, their hair twisted into braids, knotted into dreadlocks or shaven into Mohawks, tattoos covering their skin, and their faces displaying an assortment of beard and sideburn styles, these immensely talented individuals take turns stepping onto center stage to share their verbal art with those in attendance. But like a record screeching to a halt, the room goes silent when he walks in. He doesn't belong here, they think. He is not a real poet. His graying beard, head bald from age and not from shears, golden spectacles and stiff button-down shirt is all these hipsters need to see to pass judgment- he is a corporate poet. As Tampa's official poet laureate, he is now part of the establishment, but one of a true poet's jobs is to shake up the establishment, not join it. Despite their reservations, they allow this "corporate poet" to take his turn on center stage. But, by the time his first line is recited, a wave of "don't-we-feel-stupid-for-thinking-that-way" looks spreads across the room. The poet has a booming voice, reminiscent of a Greek god speaking to his loyal servants on Earth, yet is smooth like a blues saxophone. His eyes are filled with fire, allowing even the deaf to know that he is speaking with passion. And his hands wave about like the conductor of a symphony orchestra. But, most of all, his words, oh, his words, are beautifully sewn together, flow like a river and scream to everyone to sit on the edge of their chairs so they may get closer to him, so that his words can drench them with inspiration. As he performs his art, as he paints pictures with his words, the room of one-time naysayers can't take their eyes or ears off him. He is not a corporate poet. He is a poet's poet- through and through. He was born a poet. He has lived a poet's life. And he will one day die a poet. He is James Tokley, one of Tampa's greatest writers. Recently the 61-year-old poet was kind enough to share his thoughts on his art with Cigar City Magazine. CCM: You've been writing poems all your life. How does one continue to stay inspired after all these years? JT: One must work in the early years to stay inspired, but then you realize that inspiration is not something you seek, for inspiration is everywhere a poet looks. It's almost like being born again. They say being born again is the constant awareness of God in your life. Inspiration, literary inspiration, is the constant awareness of the muse in the world. I always say that if I were put in prison, God forbid, and for whatever reason I found myself in solitary confinement, I wouldn't break, as long as they gave me a piece of paper and a pencil. And when they opened the door I would probably have 100 different poems about the lines 40


CCM: What does it take to be a good poet? JT: A sharp eye; a great wit; a willingness to feel, to scream, to laugh, to be as human as human can be yet to go beyond that; and to understand the great power of metaphor and analogy. For a poet, metaphor is as much a part of their apparel as are wings for a crow. CCM: Why is poetry important to society? JT: Because without poets we cannot see our inner selves. A society that has no poets, a society that does not understand poetry, is a society that will not last. Every great society has had great poets. When I became the poet laureate of Tampa, a great overriding thing happened. The City of Tampa looked into the future and said, "This is what I want to be." Mayor Iorio has said on and off that she wants the City of Tampa to be known as a city of the arts. Politicians, business people, often misunderstand art. They believe it is cute to look at and provocative to talk about, but that it doesn't add anything great to society. They misunderstand. Art is systematic and representative of what we are, who we are, where we are, where we are going, what we shall become and what we want to be. A city without poetry is a city without philosophy. A city without philosophy is only a place full of cinderblocks, not a place that inspires greatness. CCM: What is the state of the arts scene in Tampa now? JT: When I came to Tampa in 1978, to my knowledge, Tampa had two or three knots of poets. We used to meet at a Mexican restaurant to read our poetry. Tampa, to me, at that point hadn't really taken poetry seriously. Poetry was stillborn. Thanks to people like Otis Anthony and a host of others, we set about doing something that is still unfolding. Now, wherever I go, I see poets. Poets are everywhere. They congregate in cafes and bars and theaters and classrooms and they share their art with everyone they see. Now I see something akin to a wonderful society wherein every man and woman is a poet. Poetry is slowly, painfully, moving into the presence of people's understanding. And I think I might have a little bit to do with that. CCM: What do you still dream of accomplishing? JT: I made a list just the other day of things I still need to do. I have a love affair with the Florida Orchestra. The impact of having recited a poem as they performed will always thrust me forward. I would like to do, before I die, at least two or three more pieces with them. I would like to do a piece on outer space, on the majesty of space travel, on what it means for a speck of dust to claim Orion. My father shared with me, before he died, his life story and I would like to write an epic poem about him entitled "The Seven Great Adventures of Maggie Brown's Boy." I am currently recording an audio book I wrote entitled "Purl" and hopefully it will be out by February. If the audio book does well, I have two other books I did not write that I would like to record. And I would like to do a musical based on a Tampa theme. But most of all, I want to continue to be inspired and to inspire. I have heard people say that all poets do is write. Well, isn't that enough?

On November 20th, several lucky readers enjoyed exclusive, behind-thescenes access to Tampa’s cigar industry with their Passport to Cigar City™. The journey began with steaming hot café con leche in the garden at the Ybor City State Museum. After a tour of the museum grounds, the tour headed to Jose Marti Park– a little piece of Cuba located in Ybor Cityand the old V.M. Ybor cigar factory, Tampa’s first brick cigar factory. Then it was on to Tampa Sweethearts Cigar Company for a private tour conducted by Arturo Fuente III. After a no-picturesallowed tour of the underground Fuente humidor, everyone was ready for a traditional Ybor City lunch at thehistoric Centro Asturiano Social Club, a turn-of-the-century mutual aid society. Then it was on to the J.C. Newman Cigar Company, the only factory in Tampa still producing cigars. Led by owner Eric Newman, Passport holders learned first-hand about the history of the Newman Family before touring the production floor. The Newman’s graciously concluded the tour with J.C. Newman goodie bags. Then it was on to West Tampa and the home of the Oliva Tobacco Company, one of the world’s largest tobacco importers. With Trey Oliva as their guide, the group wandered through the Oliva storage facility where bales upon bales of the world’s best tobacco were stacked from the floor to the ceiling. To top it all off, Oliva concluded his tour in the board room of his corporate headquarters with complimentary Cuban coffee and a couple of premium maduro cigars. If you missed this tour, don’t worry, others are in the works. Or, if you’re interested in setting up a tour, give us a call at (813) 373-9988 or email us at Check out more events at

Once again, we partnered with our good friends, Tampa Sweethearts Cigar Company, to host “Light Up The Night”, our annual, un-official kick off party for Tampa’s Cigar Heritage Festival. Formerly known as Cigar and Stars, this year we chose a new name and a new location for our biggest event of the year. The brand new Tampa Firefighters Museum in the heart of downtown Tampa was the setting as over 200 guests danced to live music, sipped rum, drank beer and, of course, enjoyed premium cigars provided by Fuente, Ashton & Cuesta Rey Cigars. Special emcee for the evening, Jack Harris kept things lively, sharing stories and jokes and introducing the evening's special guests, Carlito Fuente of Arturo Fuente Cigars and Glynn Loope, Executive Director of Cigar Rights of America. Proceeds for the event benefited the Tampa Firefighters Museum and the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, which funds educational programs for disadvantaged children in the Dominican Republic.

To see more pictures of our events, visit and click on our Facebook page!

Shrimp Criollo This shrimp variation adds sweet notes of fried plantains and hot paprika.

Ingredients 1 ripe plantain

3/4 cup Spanish onion, julienned

1 cup tomatoes, 1/2” dice

Vegetable oil for frying

1 whole bay leaf

1 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

32 shrimp, peeled with tail on

3/4 cup potatoes, 1/2” dice and pre-blanched

4 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Columbia Seasoning

3/4 cup green pepper, julienned

2 teaspoons picante (hot) paprika

1 1/2 cups dry vermouth 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Preparation To prepare plantain, slice diagonally about 1/2 inch thick. Fry in vegetable oil over medium heat, turning, to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towel until ready to use. Heat olive oil in sauté pan, add garlic, peppers, onions, and bay leaf. Cook until garlic is golden brown. Add shrimp and Columbia Seasoning, sauté for 30 seconds. Add paprika, tomatoes, potatoes, and 1 cup fried plantains; sauté to thoroughly heat. Deglaze the pan with vermouth; do not reduce, but allow to heat thoroughly. Garnish with parsley. Serves 4. For more information about the historic Columbia Restaurant, visit





Dear Mama, Over the holidays my brother dared me to stick 10 Gingerbread men in my mouth all at once. I wanted to ask you your thoughts on this and can it be done. -Gingerbread Mouth Dear Gingerbread Mouth, I knew it was to good to be true! My vacation is over- especially when I get asked a stupid question like this. I don't know how many gingerbread men you can stick in your mouth but you can try sticking about 10 in your “traseros” as far as I'm concerned. -Mama Dear Mama, I will be turning 18 and want to learn about voting since it will be my first time. Do you have any advice? -1st Time Voter Dear 1st Time Voter, Are you for real? Estúpido, you mean to tell me you're asking someone from Florida how to vote! Don't vote, please. You scare me! -Mama Dear Mama, My husband is always complaining about working so hard. How do I get him off the couch to mow the lawn? -Frustrated Wife Dear Frustrated Wife, Why can't you mow the lawn? You can certainly get off your “culo gordo” and cut the grass while he's at work.

Dear Mama, Now that you're in Cigar City Magazine and are somewhat a role model, don't you think you should stop using foul language? -Nice Language Dear Nice Language, HELL NO! -Mama



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