TABLE OF CONTENTS FEATURES
18 Who is Al Fox 30 Cracker Mob
LISA M. FIGUEREDO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF AND FOUNDER
10 10 12 16 34 36 38
This Month in History
The Libation Lounge
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Interview: Cigar City Mafia’s, Scott Deitche
Cigar City Playground SCOTT DEITCHE WRITER
Check out our upcoming events at www.cigarcitymagazine.com/events
MARK DENOTE WRITER
ART & PHOTOGRAPHY CONTRIBUTORS HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY THE FLORIDA STATE ARCHIVES USF DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS TAMPA BAY TIMES • TAMPA TRIBUNE
ON THE COVER al Fox
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IN THE MONTHâ€™S OF APRIL & MAY April 7, 1818 General Andrew Jackson captured St. Marks, Florida, from the Seminole Indians. April 13, 1904 In Pensacola, Fl., an explosion on the US battleship Missouri killed 29 men and injured 5 men, of whom 2 died later. April 30, 1996 In Fort Myers, Florida, members of a teen militia called the Lords of Chaos slew high-school band director Mark Schwebes. They had begun a crime spree on Apr 13 with acts of arson and vandalism. Arrested were Kevin Foster,18, Derek Shields, 18, Peter Magnotti, 17, Christopher Black, 18, Christopher Burnett, 17, and Thomas Tarrone, 16. May 1, 1562 The 1st French colonists in the US, a 5-vessel Huguenot expedition led by Jean Ribault (1520-1565), landed in Florida. He continued north and established a colony named Charlesfort at Parris Island, SC. May 14, 1949 President Truman signed a bill establishing a rocket test range at Cape Canaveral. May 28, 1993 A jury in Orlando, Florida, acquitted Miami police officer William Lozano of manslaughter in the 1989 shooting death of a black motorcyclist and the resulting crash-caused death of the cyclist's passenger. Lozano had been convicted in an earlier trial, but that verdict was overturned.
Congratulations Janet Gomez Fayetteville, North Carolina who guessed last issue's Lost Landmark! The Lost Landmark in the February/March 2012 issue was the Bank of Sulphur Springs, 1921.
Email your answer and your name to: email@example.com by May 1, 2012.
Saison: A Beer For All Seasons By now the few chilly days of Florida’s winter have passed into memory and the blazing sun is strengthening his hold on the thermometer. Floridians know this above all else: Florida heats up quickly. as a matter of serendipity, the weather can aid in beer choice, and the hot months are no exception. those early spring months when the mercury rises and the coats go into hibernation, a versatile beer is called for- the thomas Moore of the beer world, a beer for all seasons: the saison. Saison (literally “season” in French) is a traditional Belgian table
beer, also called a farmhouse ale. the Belgian farmer would brew this beer at the beginning of the warm season, the end of good brewing weather. the saison was originally brewed to last into the warm weather and would help nourish farm hands, yet not incapacitate them so they could not work. the idea for these beers was then taken from Belgium and spread throughout the world by beer enthusiasts like Michael Jackson (the beer writer, not the singer). now a beer once only made in a French-speaking region of Belgium is now made locally across the United States, including several Bay area breweries.
Examples of locally available saisons include: Brasserie DuPont Vieille Provision: also called Saison DuPont, this one is the saison that all other saisons are measured against. Saison DuPont is produced in Belgium and is widely available throughout tampa and Florida. this one pours very hazy through the addition of bottle-conditioning yeast and has distinct pepper and rustic notes imparted from the yeast. DuPont is dry by wine standards, and will embrace both the Florida heat and a hearty thai meal in the same breath. Cigar City Table Saison: this saison is the lightest mentioned here at 4% and manifests its complexity in a veil of simplicity. this light-colored saison started as a pilot series beer from Cigar City and ultimately worked its way into the regular lineup. this beer gives off some light floral and citric notes in the aroma and is light enough to compliment any number of foods from a simple chips and salsa to a hearty guacamole to a spicy Cajun dish; table saison is a light and delectable beer that can hold its own. this is one of those beers that would be great to have on a deserted island, since it would match with most seafood and quench thirst during hot days.
Saint Somewhere Saison Athene: tarpon Springs’s Saint Somewhere Brewing’s head brewer Bob Sylvester specializes in traditional farmhouse-style fermentation to craft his signature saisons. Sylvester then opens his tanks to the air for four to five days to allow the yeasts present in the air into his beer, thus making every batch a little bit different from the last, and each beer includes a microscopic bit of tarpon Springs. every brewer encourages people to drink local, for Saint Somewhere it is a reality in every bottle. While bottles of Saison athene have plenty of carbonation, they also contain fresh rosemary, black pepper, and chamomile. Saison athene is a hearty saison at 7.5% alcohol, yet it will still delicately balance itself against an aged gouda or bean soup. Ommegang Hennepin: another standard of the saison category, this one is produced in Cooperstown new york and is slightly hoppier than some of its Belgian cousins. this one has some nice citric notes and still shows some pepper and coriander character in the palate. this one is the heaviest of the saisons mentioned here at 7.7% alcohol, yet will still match up well with some panko tofu or grilled fish.
All Things Orange and Bitter it’s easy to dismiss bitter spirits. i have found people who would happily drink the most bitter of iPas, but put a bitter cocktail in front of them and they’ll give it a pass after a miniscule sip. it’s a shame, because bitter spirits are essential to so many great cocktails. Bitters can be aperitifs or digestifs, and are found in a wide variety of styles from Jägermeister to the French Suze (finally available in the US) to even an artichoke-based spirit, Cynar, which is on my list of spirits to try. But orange bitter liqueurs are what this piece is about. and that means aperol and Campari, two of the most common orange bitter italian liquors. Campari is produced in italy, using a secret recipe of herbs, fruits, and liquor. aperol is also produced in italy, by the Campari company. it’s interesting to note that the gruppo Campari company is now one of the largest producers of spirits in the world, and owns such brands as Cinzano, Cabo Wabo tequila (Sammy Hagar’s brand), and the all-american Wild turkey (distilled in Kentucky, not Milan).
Campari is most often imbibed as an aperitif. it’s an excellent summer season drink, whether on the rocks, or with soda water. But perhaps Campari’s greatest strength is in mixed drinks. Campari is the essential ingredient in one of my top 5 favorite cocktails, the negroni. a simple drink, the negroni is equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth.
Negroni: 1 oz. Campari 1 oz. Gin 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth Orange peel/slice Mix first three ingredients in shaker with ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain into glass with ice. Garnish with orange peel/slice.
On the type of gin, i usually stick with the basics- Bombay Sapphire and tanqueray. But i’ve also used Hendricks, Corsair (and excellent floral gin from Corsair distillery in nashville), and Maxim’s, a flavorful French gin). if you’re on a budget new amsterdam makes a very nice dry gin for under $20. the easiest way to smooth over the bitterness of a negroni is to replace Campari with aperol. as a liqueur, aperol is “sweeter” than Campari, though it still retains a slight bitter orange bite. While it has roughly the same sugar content as Campari, aperol is about half the alcohol content.
We’ll be discussing bourbon in an upcoming column but for this one let me suggest some local whiskeys and bourbon, like Palm ridge and Bear gully Single Barrel reserve (from Winter Park). and you can ever go wrong with Bulleit or eagle rare, two of the better mid-priced single barrel bourbons. and speaking of Florida whiskeys, i’ll leave you with a little cocktail of my own.
there’s a great recipe for what’s called an Unusual negroni, in the book Boozehound by Jason Wilson (a must have for liquor enthusiasts). the Unusual negroni has a brighter flavor, but you can still taste the bitter notes. the recipe is from Hendrick’s gin and replaces Campari with aperol and interestingly replaces sweet vermouth with Lillet, a fortified wine.
Unusual Negroni: 1 oz. Aperol 1 oz. Hendrick’s gin 1 oz. Lillet Blanc Orange peel Mix first three ingredients in shaker with ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain into glass with ice. Garnish with orange peel twist. recipe from Boozehound, adapted from recipe by charlotte Voisey of Hendrick’s gin. Since discovering Lillet, i’ve incorporated it into other cocktails, where sweet vermouth was called for. it has a unique flavor and pairs well with the aperol. and yes, you use it in place of sweet vermouth for the regular negroni.
Deep South Red: 1 ½ oz. Bear Gully Florida corn whiskey (or other craft moonshine) 1 oz. Campari 1 oz. Dry Vermouth Dash of orange bitters Orange slice Mix ingredients in shaker with ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain into glass with ice. Garnish with orange slice. So give another look at Campari and aperol, especially as the days get longer. you’ll find an interesting addition to your home bar, or a new drink to try at your local lounge.
Boulevardier: 1 ½ oz bourbon or Florida whiskey 1 oz. Campari 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth Orange peel Mix first three ingredients in shaker with ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain into glass with ice. Garnish with orange peel twist.
For more articles written by Scott Deitche, check out www.CigarCityMagazine.com
Fox formed the alliance for responsible Cuba Policy Foundation in 1998 with its purpose being to help educate U.S. citizens on the truth about Cuba.
U.S. CitizenS Were aLLOWeD tO traVeL tO taLiBan-COntrOLLeD aFgHaniStan, one of the most oppressive governments in the history of the world. U.S.
CitizenS Can traVeL tO iran anD SaUDi araBia, currently two of the most oppressive nations in the world.
yet CUBa iS OFF LiMitS BeCaUSe tHe U.S. government says we cannot and should not support an oppressive government.
it iS a DOUBLe StanDarD, argUeS FOx. “the last time i saw Fidel Castro was november 2005 and it was also my last,” said al Fox stoically, taking a break from his story so he could take a sip of his wine at ybor City’s Columbia restaurant and pick a piece of lint off his white guayabera. after dropping that bombshell of a remark, he sat quietly for a few moments. Such a break in the conversation is not abnormal. Many people would do the same, allowing the shock of their statement to linger, as though Hollywood music should be playing in the background to denote the importance of the coming story, so that those listening would creep to the edges of their seats, waiting for the rest of the tale. that is not why al Fox took a break, however. there was nothing arrogant about it. He was not taking a break for effect. He took a sip of his wine because he was thirsty. He cleaned his shirt because he wanted it clean. He took a break accidentally, as though he forgot how important his story is. after 81 trips to Cuba, nine meetings with Fidel Castro and 13 years of preaching about the importance of ending the Cuban embargo, it seems that al Fox may be getting bored with rehashing the same stories over and over again. When he began his crusade to end the Cuban embargo, he thought he would be victorious within a year or two. the never-ending battle may finally be taking its toll on him. “it hasn’t worked out the way i thought it would,” he said, changing the course of the conversation mid-story, abandoning his Fidel Castro anecdote as though he never started it. “i thought i would take people to Cuba, they would see the truth and then return to the U.S. and tell people what they saw and how the embargo is not working. i thought all i needed to do was show people the truth.” Fox formed the alliance for responsible Cuba Policy Foundation in 1998 with its purpose being to help educate U.S. citizens on the truth about Cuba. the best way to do that, explained Fox, is to allow them to see Cuba for themselves. the alliance helps U.S. citizens leap the numerous hurdles the U.S. government tosses in citizens’ way when attempting to go to Cuba. While it is illegal to visit the Communist nation,
there are ways for the everyday man and woman to go, such as via humanitarian, religious, people-to-people or journalistic visas. But the miles of paperwork can seem longer than the distance between Florida and Cuba, turning most off. Fox’ alliance is willing to do the legwork for you, without charge–except for the cost of the trip–and all Fox wants in exchange is for the returning traveler to talk publicly about their experience because “the government cannot deny the truth forever,” he said. Unfortunately, most people are afraid to talk, or maybe they are just lazy or lied to Fox so they could get into Cuba. the reason does not really matter. all that matters to Fox is that his plan is not working as quickly as he thought it would. He admitted that the alliance is making strides. He said the majority of the tampa City Council, Hillsborough County Commission, tampa aviation authority and tampa Port authority now take the alliance’s position on the Cuban embargo, which was not the case just a few years ago, citing City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern as a city leader he personally took to Cuba to see the truth. What is the truth? according to Fox, it is that our policy toward Cuba is “ridiculous.” U.S. citizens were allowed to travel to taliban-controlled afghanistan, one of the most oppressive governments in the history of the world. U.S. citizens can travel to iran and Saudi arabia, currently two of the most oppressive nations in the world. yet Cuba is off limits because the U.S. government says we cannot and should not support an oppressive government. it is a double standard, argues Fox. Fox said all that one needs to do is visit Cuba for a few days and talk to its citizens. they agree that their form of government is not perfect, but they support it, just like the United States is not perfect. they know if they turned on the Castros, the embargo would be lifted and their lives could perhaps be easier, but they refuse to do so. they will not be told by the United States how to run their country. the embargo has not worked, plain and simple; it has only fueled the Cuban people’s fire to rebel against what the U.S. wants. Fox hoped that this would be one of the truths shared by those he took to Cuba. aPriL/May
“i don’t want to help the people of Cuba. at the end of the day, the only people i truly care about are the people of the United States.” When he takes people to Cuba, he said many expect to see an chance. But on that day in november 2005, Fox said Castro offered oppressive government with a police presence on every corner and him a possible way to pull off a long shot victory. giant statues of Fidel Castro staring ominously down upon them “Say whatever you want about me,” is what Fox said Castro told wherever they go. What they find are happy, educated and healthy him, insinuating that perhaps Fox changing course and telling the Cuban citizens. What they find is that police are rarely seen except for public what they want to hear–that Castro is the devil–could swing when performing the same duties as U.S. officers, the military is more votes his way. nowhere to be found, and that there is actually a law against citizens “i understand,” Castro told Fox. worshipping living leaders with public art, unlike in other oppressive “i think about that a lot,” said Fox. “Why would a man tell me to governments such as iraq when it was under Suddam Hussein’s rule. go out and trash him so i could win an election?” “But that has not happened,” he admitted. “they all see these it is stories such as these, where Fox portrays Castro as a friend truths and tell me they are in my corner, but when they return they willing to sacrifice his good name to help him win an election, that give in to pressure and allow the Cuban hardliners to squeeze them has empowered Fox’ critics, providing them with fodder with which so they never speak of their trip again. to call him a “traitor”, “communist” and a “Cuban spy.” “i am not going to sit here and Fox seems to have little tell you that the Cuban form of concern that people think government is perfect. What i am he is a traitor. He believes telling you is that there are far that telling people they more oppressive governments in cannot travel to Cuba is this world and we are allowed to un-american. travel to them. in China, the gov“a traitor?” he laughed. ernment will break down a door “i am an american. We in a home and if they find a cannot tell the world that woman eight months pregnant we are the freest, most who did not get permission from democratic society on the the government to have a child, planet and have a hypocritthey will strap her down and abort Al receives congratulations from Coretta Scott King as a newly sworn in U.S Commissioner of the ical policy toward Cuba. the child. to me, that is a very seri- Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission (Rayburn House Office Building, US. House of Many countries in the Representatives, Washington, D.C. in 1991). ous human rights violation, yet we world believe we are have diplomatic relations with them and not Cuba. phony. they say we do not really believe in democracy. i have heard and then, as quickly as he veered away from his story about the last this first hand.” time he met with Fidel Castro, he just as quickly returned, as though in fact, he said that his detractors are not the only ones who his sidebar rant had never occurred. misunderstand him. He said his supporters do as well. “So the last time i saw Castro was november 2005,” he reiterated. “My motivation has nothing to do with helping Cubans like “it was also only the second time i had ever heard him speak english. everybody thinks,” he said, explaining that the money tampa’s i introduced him to a three-star lieutenant general from Central airport could make off travel to Cuba and the money the port Command here in tampa, Michael DeLong. it was fascinating to could make off trade would provide the city with a windfall of watch the two of them talk about troop movements and military strat- riches. rather, his main reason for his fight is because of his belief egy. When the meeting was over—five hours later—we were walking that the embargo and travel restriction is un-democratic and hurts out of the room and he put his arm around me and said, ‘i want to the United States’ image. “i don’t want to help the people of wish you good luck in your campaign for U.S. Congress.’” Cuba. at the end of the day, the only motivation i truly care about Fox, at the time, was involved in the Democratic Primary for U.S. are the people of the United States.” Congress against such political bigwigs as current Hillsborough this statement is surely a shock even to Fox’ most ardent supporters. County Commissioner and then-former State Senator Les Miller and When posed the question, “Who is al Fox?” La Gaceta Publisher current Congresswoman and then-former County Commissioner Patrick Manteiga and former tampa Mayor Dick greco both Kathy Castor. Outside of those educated on the Cuban embargo answered by saying that Fox is a man who wants to help the people of debate, Fox was a political unknown in Florida and he stood little Cuba. it seems that Fox is correct, no one truly understands him. 20
“in a strange way, i am a product of the policy. at that point in time the only thing i knew about Fidel Castro was that he was 35 feet tall, had horns, breathed fire and raped 10-year-old girls,” he said. “and that perception was OK with me because i was not going to visit Fidel Castro or support his government. So who is al Fox? that has been a question posed by everybody since he founded the alliance in 1998. He does not make any money through the trips, as an FBi investigation into his taxes proved. He does not even pay himself a salary through the alliance. So who is he? Why does he care? Why does he continue to fight a fight that may never be won? “it’s the Spanish, Cuban and italian in me,” he laughed. “i’m just stubborn i guess. you tell me no and i say i will get a yes. i’m just your typical ybor City guy i guess. We’re all stubborn.” While Fox made that statement in jest, ironically that could be tHe answer to “Who is al Fox?” at the end of the day, al Fox may just be a stubborn man with a cause. take this into consideration–al Fox was born on april 20, 1944, a time in ybor City ripe with revolutionary activity, yet he never gave politics a second thought as a child or teenager. in 1955, Fidel Castro visited ybor City and founded a branch of his revolutionary army, the 26th of July Movement. Local papers were filled with accounts of the then revolutionary looking to overthrow Cuban President Fulgencio Batista being in tampa. the adults surrounding Fox in ybor City were surely discussing Castro. Fox and Castro may have even crossed paths, yet Fox was oblivious to Castro’s presence. nor did Fox have any idea who Castro was. it would have made sense if he grew into an adult consumed with Cuba because he became enthralled with it at the age of 11, met Castro in ybor City, and followed the situation between the U.S. and Cuba ever since. But that is not the case at all. “i’m a little bit embarrassed to admit i did not know anything about a revolution or government back then,” said Fox. “i couldn’t even have named a senator or anything like that.” Perhaps Fox became enthralled with the Cuba issue during his forty-one-year career in Washington D.C. that included time as a senior congressional aid, director of legislative affairs for allied Chemical, and later, head of his own lobbying firm, riley & Fox. Perhaps he overheard the debate in the halls of the nation’s Capital. Perhaps some anti-embargo activists got hold of him early, and after decades of preaching to him about why it needed to he lifted, be finally caved and saw their point. But that is not what happened. He had some foreign affairs experience, such as lobbying for the South african government to end apartheid, but the issue of Cuba rarely came before him. He said he was ignorant on the issue. then what exactly 22
happened? Why, in 1998, did he suddenly care so much about the issue that he founded an alliance dedicated to lifting the embargo? the U.S. government told him “no.” Stubbornness, plain and simple. His mother was raised in tampa and was of Spanish descent, but was born in Cuba. Fox’ grandmother was an opera star performing in Cuba at the time of Fox’ mother’s birth. His grandmother and mother left Cuba a few months later, settled in tampa and never returned to the island nation. When Fox’ mother’s 80th birthday approached, he thought a great present would be to bring his mom to Cuba so she could see the home in which she was born and walk in the theatre in which her mother performed. it seemed like a great idea. the U.S. government said such a present was illegal. He was not allowed to go to Cuba. “in a strange way, i am a product of the policy. at that point in time the only thing i knew about Fidel Castro was that he was 35 feet tall, had horns, breathed fire and raped 10-year-old girls,” he said. “and that perception was OK with me because i was not going to visit Fidel Castro or support his government. i just wanted to take my mother to visit the country of her birth. and i was told by my government–the greatest democracy since adam and eve–that i could not go. and when i asked why, they told me because Fidel Castro is bad. i didn’t understand. So were countless other leaders in the world, yet we were allowed to go to those countries. Why was Cuba different?” if the U.S. government had allowed Fox and his mother to go, he said he probably would have returned to the U.S. and never thought about the United States’ policy toward Cuba. But when the U.S. government said no, he grew intrigued. How could a democratic nation deny him such an opportunity, he thought? What is really going on in Cuba, he pondered. if this nation is such a threat to our national security, he questioned, and they are only located 90 miles off our coast, why hasn’t our government done more to squash that threat militarily? We will send our troops to the other side of the world to do battle with those who threaten our freedom, he rationalized, but we won’t send them 90 miles? What is the U.S. government hiding, he wondered. it did not add up. Fox said he does not believe Castro’s decision was correct, but does not understand how hijacking the notion of democracy in the United States is the proper response.
Al Fox, left, meets with Fidel Castro and Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation members Dennis DeConcini and Steven Ellman.
“this issue is also not about votes,” said Fox. “it is about money. the perception is there are 900,000 Cuban americans in Miami-Dade County and you had better do what they want or they will vote you out. the reality is that out of that 900,000, only about 30 percent are registered voters. But what the group has is money. this issue is about political money.” Fox explained that in exchange for campaign contributions from these anti-Castro Cuban americans in Miami, candidates are told to mimic their views on Castro. Fox said that is why despite Barack Obama saying during the 2008 presidential election he would talk with Castro; he has yet to act on his word. after the election, gloria estefan held a fundraiser for Obama at her house and raised an estimated $2.5 million for his campaign. estefan’s father was the personal bodyguard for Batista’s wife. However, Fox will admit that much of this can be dismissed as speculation. What he says proves his point is a fact he learned following his denied Cuban trip –Cubans are the only immigrants who are PaiD to illegally come to the United States. “every Cuban who enters the U.S. illegally gets $300 a month, food stamps and full healthcare benefits,” said Fox. “How many americans know that? talk about a waste of taxpayer money. they get this for 10 months and at the end of 10 months if they don’t have a job, they can apply for an extension.”
“every Cuban who enters the U.S. illegally gets $300 a month, food stamps and full healthcare benefits,” said Fox. “How many americans know that? talk about a waste of taxpayer money. they get this for 10 months and at the end of 10 months if they don’t have a job, they can apply for an extension.”
“Meetings with Fidel are like the senior prom,” he continued, “it is definitely something that is great to do once but you don’t want to do it every Friday night. you sit around a table and he starts talking and he will talk for five or six hours without stopping.” Fox said that the reason why Cubans get such treatment while other immigrants do not is because Cuban americans have the money to influence the lawmakers. if they pass laws beneficial to Cubans, they get money for their campaigns. the more he learned, the more he was determined to see Cuba for himself. He began to realize that perhaps the notion of Cuba as an oppressive police state was a lie as well. So he went to work on obtaining a travel visa to Cuba. it was a lot of paperwork and there were a lot of hoops to jump through, but he was willing to do whatever it took to get there. Stubbornness. His first trip to Cuba was in July 1998. He was part of a group that included former arizona Senator Dennis DeConcini. they leased a Learjet and flew directly to Cuba from Dulles international airport in Virginia. and when they landed, Fox said all that went through his mind was, “What the hell am i doing.” then, within an hour of landing, he found himself asking, “Where are all the people starving in the street? Where is the police presence? Where are the concentration camps? Why does everyone look so happy?” When he returned to the United States and told people about what he saw, he was criticized, told that he had allowed the Cuban government to pull the wool over his eyes by only permitting him to see what they wanted him to see. He thought maybe they were right. the trip did have a strict itinerary, he thought. He woke up when he was told to wake. He ate when he was told to eat. He met with government leaders at specific places and times. every second of his trip was accounted for. Determined to learn the truth, he returned to Cuba a few months later, this time without an itinerary. He would jump in a cab and tell the driver to turn right, then left, then right and so on, leading the cab driver on a wild ride just to see if the driver would stop, turn to him and tell him they could not go in that direction. He would walk out of his hotel at off hours, stroll through the neighborhoods and talk to whomever he pleased. Whatever he wanted to do, he could do. it was then that Fox realized the level of lies that had been perpetrated upon the american public. While the Cuban government was a controlled society as a communist nation, its citizens were not stuck in a living hell, as americans are led to believe. He wanted to tell the United States the truth. in november 1998, he established the alliance for responsible Cuba Policy Foundation to work toward that end. Backed by a 15person board of directors that included former members of 24
Congress and top minds in the fields of law and banking, including tampa philanthropist, David a. Straz Jr., and prominent businessman John Macdonald, the objective was to remove the embargo and establish full trade relations with Cuba by educating the public about what Cuba is really like. the best way to do that, explained Fox, is by allowing them to see the truth firsthand. Over the next few years, Fox took numerous civic, business and elected leaders from throughout the United States to Cuba, hoping that exposing such prominent men and women to the truths he witnessed could help bring down the curtain hiding the Wizard of Oz. it was in 2000, on another trip to Cuba with Senator DeConcini, he met Fidel Castro for the first time. “you never schedule a meeting with Fidel Castro,” explained Fox. “you arrive in the country, you meet with a variety of people and you say you request if at all possible a meeting with the president. the first time i made the request i got the meeting. the word came back that he would meet with the entire delegation, not just the senator. “i have been blessed with meeting nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, Prince Charles and every U.S. president since Kennedy and i can honestly say that Fidel Castro has one of the keenest analytical minds. He will sit in a chair for five hours and talk extemporaneously about salmon fishing in the idaho river, name five people executed in texas, and variety of other things and somehow string them all together into one fluent conversation. “Meetings with Fidel are like the senior prom,” he continued, “it is definitely something that is great to do once but you don’t want to do it every Friday night. you sit around a table and he starts talking and he will talk for five or six hours without stopping.” Fox’ best known five-hour meeting with Fidel Castro took place in July 2002 when he took a tampa delegation to Cuba that included then-Mayor Dick greco. Fox doesn’t care to discuss the controversy that bringing the mayor of tampa to meet with a communist dictator elicited. instead, he only discusses what could have been. twenty-four leaders from the city’s civic, business, medical and political communities were chosen for this historic trip. among those who went included: Sandy MacKinnon, the then-tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce chairperson; rhea Law, head of Fowler White Boggs, Patrick Manteiga, editor and publisher of the La Gaceta Newspaper, Monsignor Lawrence Higgins, one of greco’s oldest and dearest friends and his spiritual advisor; and Dr. Linda McClintock, who was more than greco’s wife, but also a respected medical authority in tampa. they met with Cuban
“i DiD nOt COMe Here FOr tHe SaMe reaSOnS PreViOUS DeLegatiOnS HaVe COMe,” SaiD greCO in SPaniSH, bypassing the translator and speaking directly to Castro. “I DID NOT COmE TO TALk TRADE wITH yOU. i didn’t come here to condemn you because i’m not a judgmental person. i came here because when i was mayor the first time around i SaW PeOPLe SUFFer WHO eSCaPeD CUBa tO COMe tO aMeriCa.
THESE PEOPLE HATE yOU. they talked of the beauty of the island, about what they missed about it and how hard it is to know they will probably never see it again, but that they hated you so much that they don’t regret leaving. SO I CAmE HERE TO SEE THE ISLAND FOR mySELF, TO GET TO kNOw yOU AND TO TRy TO UNDERSTAND yOU AND TO TELL yOU A FEw THINGS.” leaders from various professions to learn how different components of the government were run–the minister of foreign investment and economic cooperation, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, the president of the national assembly, the chief of staff, and others. they were taken on tours of schools and hospitals. any question they had about a specific aspect of the Cuban government was answered. they were allowed to freely tour the nation, no travel restrictions in place. and then, on their final day in Cuba, they met Fidel Castro. they were taken to an office building in Havana for a lunch meeting. a dozen Cuban leaders, many of whom the delegation had already met, entered the room and took their seats. and then, Fidel Castro entered with an interpreter by his side. the interpreter told the tampa delegates they could ask Castro anything they wished. if they couldn’t speak Spanish, they could address the interpreter in english and he would then translate their statement or question to Castro in Spanish. He then introduced each delegate by name and profession to Castro. Once everyone took their seats, Castro broke the ice, asking the tampa delegation through the translator about their experiences in Cuba over the past four days, and they all made small talk for about half an hour or so. then, greco took the meeting over. “i did not come here for the same reasons previous delegations have come,” said greco in Spanish, bypassing the translator and speaking directly to Castro. “i did not come to talk trade with you. i didn’t come here to condemn you, because i’m not a judgmental person. i came here because when i was mayor the first time around i saw people suffer who escaped Cuba to come to america. these people hate you. they talked of the beauty of the island, about what they missed about it and how hard it is to know they will probably never see it again, but that they hated you so much that they don’t regret leaving. So i came here to see 26
the island for myself, to get to know you and to try to understand you and to tell you a few things.” “What did you want to tell me?” asked Castro, speaking directly to greco in Spanish. greco took a deep breath and said his peace. “We need to find a way to come together a little more than we are,” said greco very matter-of-factly. For the next five hours, while there were dozens of people in the room, greco and Castro dominated the conversation. they spoke about tampa and Cuba’s historic ties and about the revolution. Castro explained that he would never reinstate casinos in Cuba, no matter the tourist money they would bring, because they once destroyed the country. they spoke of Cuba’s high literacy rate, 98 percent, and how ironic it was that Cuba had a stellar education system considering the citizens had few opportunities. and greco explained that while many of the Cubans he had met in his lifetime in tampa hated Castro, thought he was the devil himself because of his communist ties, that Castro, and not anyone else, could make the final chapter of his life a positive one if he chose to do so if he did what he knew was right and embraced a form of democracy. “you could be on the cover of Time Magazine and you could win a nobel Peace Prize,” greco told Castro. “and you could decide–not the United States–that communism is dead. this act will show the world that you love your people enough to sacrifice yourself. you could be a hero.” Castro smiled, sighed, and replied, “i didn’t know mayors could be philosophers.” When the meeting was complete, Castro bid the delegation goodbye and told them that this was the best meeting he’d ever had with a U.S. delegation, and that never before had he spoken so little and listened so much. He then allowed them to grab their cameras and take photos.
as the delegation waited for an elevator outside the conference Fox sees that trip as his lost opportunity to fulfill his mission. He room, Castro pulled greco aside and asked him to please one day has trudged on since, bringing countless more delegations to Cuba, come back. He told greco he didn’t know why, but he just felt that hoping for a repeat of that greco-Castro meeting with another U.S. if greco comes back that perhaps the two of them could find a way leader, but none ever connected with anyone in Cuba as greco did. to bring their two nations together. it seemed that Fox’ dream had Making it even harder is the fact that raul Castro is not as giving become a reality. He was about to be part of the end of the Cuban with his time as his brother was. While Fidel would meet with whoembargo and he did so simply by showing U.S. leaders the truth. ever asked for his time, Fox said raul won’t meet with anyone. Castro and greco then hugged, and when they pulled apart Fox moved back to tampa in 2005 so he could run for Congress. Castro saluted greco–a true sign of respect. in turn, greco He based his whole campaign around ending the Cuban embargo. answered the salute with his own sign of respect. He asked He said he thought he could win but did not expect to. He hoped Monsignor Higgins to bless Castro. Monsignor Higgins placed his to use his campaign as a platform to educate people about the truth hand on Castro’s forehead and said a prayer for the dictator as the about Cuba. in a way, he said he succeeded. While Congresswoman delegation watched in awe, aware that they were witnessing a historic Castor was against his views in 2006, today she is in favor of lifting moment. the travel ban but still supports the embar“there was a connection there and trust go. Fox gives her enormous credit for movthat was bonded after five hours together,” ing in the right direction. said Monsignor Laurence Higgins. “and “She now says she wants tampa to be everyone in that room saw it.” the gateway to Cuba,” said Fox. “that is “that was Dick greco’s finest hour of what i said in 2006 during the election.” public service,” said Fox. “the exchange that is a small victory, he said. it will between he and Fidel Castro was a historic take more than one Congressperson and event. it was the first time i had ever heard the host of tampa leaders who now see Castro speak english. i think that says it all. things his way to change the Unites States’ “the Cuban government, for a good six policy. a groundswell of U.S. citizens to eight months, asked when greco was demanding that the U.S. government end coming back and said that Castro wanted the embargo is the only way change will to see him again. But greco was told by the occur. For that to happen, U.S. citizens Bush family not to return, so he did not. i need to open their eyes and ears to the truly believe that if Dick greco had foltruth about Cuba and the only way to do lowed up on that trip, within 24 months that is to go to Cuba and see the truth for Albert Fox, Jr. the embargo would have been lifted. He themselves. truly made an impact and developed a relationship with three or “i am not asking you to believe me,” said Fox. “i am just asking four of the highest officials in the Cuban government, including that you do not blindly believe my opposition. go to Cuba and see Fidel Castro, who told me, ‘albert, if President Bush had more the truth for yourself and draw your own conclusion. i know if you friends like Dick greco, our cultures would not have any problems.’ go you will see the truth. then all i want is for you to return and tell i think about those words a lot. it’s unfortunate because sometimes others about it.” you only get one bite of the apple, one chance to make history. i had But thus far, that has not worked. People go to Cuba, see the a vision on that flight back from Cuba that within a year Dick greco truth, and then clam up. So why keep on trying? What continues to would be the first United States ambassador to Cuba in over 40 drive al Fox? years. and that didn’t happen and not a week goes by that it doesn’t “i made the commitment to making a change in the policy and i bother me.” don’t think i can stop until i succeed,” he said. “i don’t like to be When told about Fox’ assessment, greco said that he stated to told no and i don’t like to fail.” Castro and every leader that he met that he was not in Cuba to disif you need more proof, he took his mother to Cuba in 2003 and cuss the embargo or future trade with tampa. He told them that he she met Fidel Castro. He was told he could not take her to Cuba. was friends with the Bush family and would not be part of any neg- He took her. ative conversation about them. He said he was only in Cuba to see He has fought for 14 years and he said he will fight until the day what Cuba was really like. He did, however, admit that the Bush he dies if needed. family did request that he never return to Cuba and that part of him Who is al Fox? He is the man who wants to end the Cuban embargo, whether wonders what would have happened if he had disobeyed his friend you like it or not. and president and met with Castro again. 28
CRAC MOB By Scott M. Deitche Harlan alexander Blackburn died on October 21, 1998 of respiratory failure at a prison hospital in Minnesota. He was 79 years old, and serving a 24-Â˝ year sentence for dealing drugs out of a trailer park in Longwood. it was an unglamorous end to a colorful life. For over 40 years, even when he was in prison, Blackburn was the boss of a loosely knit crew of gamblers, moonshiners, drug dealers, and thieves called the cracker mob. they operated across Central Florida from Polk County across to Volusia, from Okeechobee County all the way up into South georgia. But the mob that Blackburn ran had its roots in the early decades of the 20th century, in the sawdust joints and brothels that dotted the rural landscape of backwater Florida. From the turn of the 20th century, illegal gambling was already commonplace across Florida, buoyed by lax law enforcement in the smaller towns. 30
While gambling operators started coalescing into more organized groups, and began to forge ties with organized crime elements in tampa, it was the passage of the Volstead act in 1919 that gave the fledgling underworld in Central Florida a huge financial boost. Moonshine stills, which were already in operation, flourished. Most of Central Florida at that time was sparsely developed so still operations were easy to hide. With tampa serving as the port of entry for much of the raw materials necessary for the distillation process (sugar cane and molasses from Cuba), and farms providing grains and corn, moon shining became a huge part of the underground economy of Central Florida by the mid-1920s. and with the illicit alcohol production came a wave of more upscale establishments to serve up liquor and gambling to the populace.
two bolita tickets in his pocket. interestingly, his body was discovered just two weeks after mobster Mario Perla was gunned down on 15th Street in ybor City. a number of Paramount Club regulars were held for questioning, including ed Milam, rhodes Boynton, and tony Martinez, who was based out of tampa. all the men were released and the murder, like many other gangland killings at that time, went unsolved. the Paramount Club closed down, but the illegal operations continued. the cracker mob rose from the ashes of the Paramount Club with gangland figures spreading out across Orange, Seminole, and Osceola Counties. Left: Harlan Blackburn, boss of the cracker mob. Above: Moonshine stills in Riverview, 1925. ed Milam moved to the Flamingo Cafe in Orlando opened in 1923, during the height Orlando after the Paramount Club closed, and became a well-estabof Prohibition. it was located in unincorporated Orange County and lished bolita operator. But he got a little too big and successful. occasionally patrolled by the Sheriff’s department. after the Volstead about 4:30 in the afternoon on Monday, May 11, 1953, Milam act was repealed, the club maintained its status as a top-flight place received a call at his home. He told his wife he was going out and for nighttime entertainment. this was helped by the back room, would be home in two hours. Milam drove over to the Chapman where patrons were graced with roulette wheels and card games. Fruit Company in Orlando. He got out of his car and got into a dark One of the most notorious clubs in Central Florida was the blue 1950 Ford with a couple of other men and drove off. that was Paramount Club, located on tampa road, about three miles west of the last time anyone saw Milam. Six days later, on the morning of Lakeland. the Paramount was a gathering place for some of Central May 17th, an army sergeant and his wife were collecting swamp cabFlorida’s most notorious gangsters like ed Milam and the club’s bage in reedy Creek swamp, about ten miles south of Kissimmee. owner rhodes Boynton. they both operated sizable bolita and bookmaking operations throughout the rural counties. Charlie Wall, the For more information on the Mob, visit CigarCityMagazine.com gangland boss of tampa at the time, was also a regular at the Paramount, and cemented tampa underworld ties with the “crackers” that would continue for decades to come. they came upon Milam’s body in a ditch. He had been shot three One of the bolita peddlers that frequented the Paramount was times in the chest, and his face was torn up. Police later determined Henry Hull. On the night of October 26, 1939, Hull walked out of that the body was killed elsewhere and dumped in the swamp. the Paramount with $560–$300 for winners on his bolita tickets, and it’s not known who killed Milam, but it’s pretty clear who ordered $200 profit. the next morning a truck driver passing through the hit. By the time of Milam’s death, the head of the cracker mob’s zephyrhills noticed a burning car off the road. it was Hull’s. then operations was Harlan Blackburn. and in the wake of Milam’s on Sunday, October 29th, two fishermen came across Hull’s body in demise, Blackburn’s star in the underworld was clearly on the rise… the Hillsborough river, near temple terrace. Hull was killed by three bullet shots to the back. His killer bound the body in wire, Look for part 2 in the next issue of Cigar City Magazine attached some heavy weights, and dumped him in the river. Hull had
His name has become as synonymous with the tampa mafia as Santo trafficante and Charlie Wall. Scott Deitche first burst upon the mafia scene in 2004 with his debut book, “Cigar City Mafia,” and has since become the go-to-guy for everything related to tampa’s underworld history and has spread his wings to author books about the history of the underworld in other cities. He has published a total of seven books on the mafia and his latest, “rogue Mobster: the Untold Story of Mark Silverman and the new england Mafia,” was released on March 20, 2012. His mafia tours of ybor City always sell out, he is becoming a regular part of mafia documentaries, the Las Vegas Mafia Museum has asked for his assistance in curating their exhibits and he has written for several publications, including this one. Oh, and by the way, all this mafia stuff is just his side job. He is actually an environmental scientist by day. Somehow, Scott Deitche found time to answer a few questions from Cigar City Magazine. CCM: So how exactly did an environmental scientist turn into a mafia expert? Deitche: i’ve always been interested in the topic of organized crime. i grew up in new Jersey, where it is a popular topic. and i watched all the popular movies back then that had to do with organized crime. then in the mid-90s, i started going online and started 34
talking to a mafia researcher who sent me some information about the Kefauver Hearings and that started getting the ball rolling and started my research craze. the next thing i knew i had a book, “Cigar City Mafia,” and people were buying it. CCM: People did more than just buy it. Those into Tampa’s organized crime history seem to treat it with unbelievable reverence. Did the overwhelmingly positive reaction shock you? Deitche: Oh yeah. i was not expecting much of a reaction. i consider myself pretty lucky. i published it while Sopranos was still the big rage. i think people would have liked my book anyway, but when it came out mafia was one of the most popular topics in the country and my book kind of got caught up in it. CCM: Was there ever a point in which you were worried about the wrong type of reaction, such as someone you wrote about not liking what you said? Deitche: not really. a couple family members of people i mentioned weren’t too thrilled with what i wrote, but i never felt in danger. i never got any real flack, at least not to my face. it was mostly people telling me that certain things didn’t exactly happen how i wrote. CCM: How does your wife feel about it? Was she ever afraid? Deitche: a little, but we have a friend in law enforcement who told her that most of what i write about is historical and public record. i try not to write anything that can be traced back to one source. CCM: How do you keep finding sources? Do they come to you or do you seek them out? Deitche: Both really. i’ve had quite a few people over the years who heard of me and want me to write about them. Most of it has never gone anywhere; either they weren’t big enough or their stories had been written to death. CCM: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you when someone found out who you were? Deitche: it’s funny. i recently had to meet with Mayor Bob Buckhorn for my day job. My boss brought up the book to Mayor Buckhorn and we spent as much time talking about the book as the planned topic.
Cynthia Fuente, Arturo Fuente Cigar Co., Dee Aguasvibas, of Fusion Cigar Lounge and Lisa Figueredo, of Cigar City Magazine.
Co. uro Fuente Cigar Liana Fuente of Art
Kinney of Tom Ufer & Mike Mc . . Newman Cigar Co Arturo Fuente & J.C
Cynthia Fuente of Arturo Fuente Cigar Co., and Friends.
The gang with Brian Willingham from The Stogie Show.
Isabel, Pedro, Tom, Steve and Patti.
Dee Aguasvibas, of Fusion Cigar Lounge and Gorgon & Patti Smith of Edward’s Pipe & Tobacco and Havana Nights Cigar Lounge.
Oscar Sanabria of Davidoff of Geneva and Gordon Smith of Edward’s Pipe & Tobacco and Havana Nights Cigar Lounge.
Liana & Cynth ia Fuente, Artur o Fuente Ciga with Dee Agua r Co svibas, of Fusio n Cigar Lounge . .
Lisa Figueredo, of Cigar City Magazine with Liana Fuente of Arturo Fuente Cigar Co.
For more photos on this event and other events, visit CigarCityMagazine.com and look for our Facebook page! 34 Cigar City Magazine
MAMA KNOWS GOT A QUESTION FOR MAMA? EMAIL HER AT: INFO@CIGARCITYMAGAZINE.COM
Dear Mama, I just wanted to say the Cigars and Stars event was a blast with the exception of the crazy drunk lady in the parking garage. She held us up for 45 minutes. We tried to reason with her and even offered to pay for her parking just to get her out from blocking us in. But, I guess you can’t reason with a crazy drunk! I’m curious Mama, what would you have done? -Stuck in a Garage Dear Stuck in a Garage, You CAN reason with a crazy drunk lady! This is how. All you have to do is get out of the car and slap that crazy drunk lady up side the head. Then you take a big ole truck, like the one I drive and push the damn car out into the street. Then take the crazy drunk lady and stick her back into the car. Call the POPO and have them arrest her for drunk driving. Sounds like the crazy drunk lady needs some time in the tank to dry out! -Mama Dear Mama, I’m at my wit’s end with my neighbor’s dog. It barks 24/7 and I can’t take it. I have asked my neighbor to put the dog in the house or confine it to the other side of the house but he refuses. I feel like giving that dog the “hotdog” treatment! -Can’t Take The Barking Dear Can’t Take The Barking, It’s a dog! That’s what dogs do. If you don’t like it shut your windows or move! The “hotdog” treatment? Have you lost your mind? If you were my dog, I'd shave your butt and teach you to walk backwards. -Mama Dear Mama, I was walking by a cigar shop the other day and I had to cross the street from the heavy smoke. It was horrible. Should people be allowed to smoke outside these shops? -Can’t Stand The Smoke Dear Can’t Stand The Smoke, Obviously not only are you blind but also you’re an idiot! Do you not see what’s hanging from my mouth? I'd like to see things from your point of view but I can't seem to get my head that far up my ass. -Mama 38