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CONTENTS SUMMER 2020
FEATURES 2020 PEACOCK BALL HONOREE 16 | LET’S JUST ASK JACK There’s so much we wouldn’t have known about our college and our community without historian Jack Lane, who candidly reflects on his life and career. By Randy Noles 24 | MY TURBULENT, TERRIFYING (BUT TERRIFIC) LIFE AS A HEEL A Winter Park actor’s stint as wrestling’s “Evil Genius of the South” taught lasting lessons inside and outside the squared circle. By Tom Nowicki, illustrations by John Nadeau IN MEMORIAM 38 | PETER A. HANSEN: BOUND FOR GLORY All aboard for a tribute to the Winter Park resident whose stories and films made him the country’s premier railroading expert. By Randy Noles 43 | THE INFLUENTIALS Who makes a difference in Winter Park? Let’s welcome the Class of 2020. By the Editors, photography by Rafael Tongol
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THE OTHER INFLUENTIAL 72 | EXPLAINING THE EDITOR Usually, Randy Noles writes about other people. But the partners at Winter Park Publishing wanted to share the story of the man behind the byline — which isn’t as easy as it may sound. By Greg Dawson 82 | FINDING SUNSHINE In the uncertain summer of 2020, it’s time to be grateful and hopeful — and to make masks a fashion accessory. Photography by Rafael Tongol, styling by Marianne Ilunga, makeup and hair by Elsie Knab
DEPARTMENTS DINING 90 | KEEP YOUR SPIRITS UP During the great shutdown, Winter Park restaurants offered sustenance that should be shaken, not stirred. Customers appreciated togo happy hours during unhappy times. By Rona Gindin, photography by Rafael Tongol
IN EVERY ISSUE 8 | FIRST WORD 12 | COVER ARTIST 94 | EVENTS 102 | OUR TOWN 104 | THE POEM
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its twin towers tumbling. The following day, headquarters scheduled an urgent conference call for the chain’s publishers nationwide — I assumed to brainstorm ways in which we could use our WELCOME platforms to do something constructive in the aftermath. Instead, we were ordered to print small American flags on BACK our covers for the remainder of the year. The real purpose of W I N T E R PA R K the confab was to roll out a program called Pledge to America, INTRODUCING THE in which we would sell advertising in batches because, well, if W E LCO M E B AC K PAC K you didn’t advertise, then the terrorists would win. L I M I T E D -T I M E O F F E R S SPECIAL DISCOUNTS The corporate art department was ready with collateral SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES, material drenched in red, white and blue ink and touting H AV E A D R I N K O N U S special rates for new annual contracts. Far from losing business, perhaps we could make money on this national tragedy. Every publisher got a quota — W E LCO M E B AC K PAC K and we were told to get our salespeople on the streets So, polybagged with this issue of Winter Park Magazine while the rubble was still smoking. is Welcome Back Winter Park, which I prefer to call the Welcome Back Winter Park features Tasteless? Disgusting? Of course. But the depth of the Welcome Back Pack. It’s a 40-page special publication in numerous special reopening offers from scheme’s depravity only sunk in later, after the initial numbwhich the business and arts communities have rolled out local businesses. ness wore off. It was, at least, a learning moment for me. their collective red carpet (which has, of course, been deepI recalled it vividly recently, when the pandemic (and the cleaned) and invited us to check out what they have to offer. response to it) began to wreak havoc. We’ve taken a hit, too. Advertising is where virtually 100 percent of our As businesses went dark, the question we asked ourselves wasn’t, “How can revenue is derived. Businesses that are closed obviously don’t need to adverwe make money on this?” The question was, “How can we invest to help our tise — so, like our longtime supporters, we’ve struggled to stay afloat during community?” If that seems obvious for any decent corporate citizen, then you this scary and surreal interlude. weren’t working where I was working in 2001. Still, we offered space in Welcome Back Winter Park free of charge. Printing and mailing 15,000 copies of a 40-page magazine is not inexpensive — but SOME NEW RULES the cost, really, is nothing more than we owe the business owners who make But I digress. I’m writing this in early June, and you’re likely reading it it possible for us to do what we do. in early July. We’ve seen how quickly situations can change. But as of now, When considering how we could best help our fellow small businesses many Welcome Back Winter Park participants are open limited hours. Some (and larger ones, too), we identified the one thing we do more effectively ask that you wear masks, while others don’t. Restaurants, by in large, are than anyone else. That’s getting content into the hands of locals — who adhering to social distancing by offering fewer tables and more outdoor trust Winter Park Magazine and appreciate getting it delivered to their mailseating. boxes. (There’s an online version, too, at welcomeback.winterpark.com.) Whatever the rules are later in the summer, we know Winter Parkers will Thus was born the Welcome Back Winter Park, which offered us an opporfollow them with their usual combination of grace and good humor — rectunity to support those who have supported us. And it offered participants ognizing that such rules are meant to ensure safety. an opportunity to announce that they’re still here and more than ready to In some less-enlightened parts of the country, we’ve seen reports of cusresume being a part of our lives. tomers berating and even assaulting employees who attempt to communiMany Welcome Back Winter Park participants are touting special reopening cate these policies to angry dullards who are determined to make political offers. But whether you take advantage of the deals or not, we hope you’ll take statements by flaunting them. During difficult times, people often behave in the publication and go through it page by page — then make it a point to inspiring ways — but less often, they behave in appalling ways. visit the stores, restaurants and arts venues between its covers. Better yet, make Thanks, Winter Park, for always being inspiring. Thanks to the business a purchase whether you need anything or not. (After all this time at home, community for hanging in there (and especially the restaurants, which though, we’re pretty sure you must have a significant shopping list.) found new ways to feed us). And, most of all, welcome back. elcome back! After a spring of hunkering down during the worst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many cities — including Winter Park — are gradually resuming commerce. Although “the new normal” is a work in progress (and because there’s no cure or vaccine, the coronavirus could still upend recovery plans), we’ve got to get back to work as quickly and safely as possible. Nobody argues with that. Winter Park, in particular, is renowned for its vibrant retail, dining and cultural offerings. These businesses and institutions give the city its unique ambiance and power its economy. And they’re as eager to see us again as we are to see them.
B R O U G H T TO YO U B Y
A N D O U R PA RT N E R S
IN THIS TOGETHER Some of you have heard me tell about the time I was publisher of a different local magazine, which was part of a national chain that also owned other magazines, newspapers and had investments in a variety of businesses unrelated to publishing. I was in the office on 9/11. The editor had a television set, so we all watched in horror as the jets slammed into the World Trade Center and sent
8 WIN T E R P A R K M A G A ZI N E | SUM M ER 2020
Randy Noles CEO/Editor/Publisher email@example.com
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RANDY NOLES | Editor and Publisher THERESA SWANSON | Group Publisher/Director of Sales JODI HELLER | Director of Administration KATHY BYRD | Associate Publisher/Senior Account Executive DENA BUONICONTI | Associate Publisher/Account Executive CAROLYN EDMUNDS | Art Director MYRON CARDEN | Distribution Manager RAFAEL TONGOL | Photographer JOHN NADEAU | Illustrator RONA GINDIN | Dining Editor MARIANNE ILUNGA | Fashion Editor HARRY WESSEL | Contributing Editor BILLY COLLINS, GREG DAWSON, MICHAEL MCLEOD, TOM NOWICKI | Contributing Writers
WINTER PARK PUBLISHING COMPANY LLC RANDY NOLES | Chief Executive Officer ALLAN E. KEEN | Co-Chairman, Board of Managers JANE HAMES | Co-Chairman, Board of Managers THERESA SWANSON | Vice Chairman, Board of Managers MICHAEL OKATY, ESQ. | General Counsel, Foley & Lardner LLP
COMMUNITY PARTNERS Larry and Joanne Adams; The Albertson Company, Ltd.; Richard O. Baldwin Jr.; Jim and Diana Barnes; Brad Blum; Ken and Ruth Bradley; John and Dede Caron; Bruce Douglas; Steve Goldman; Hal George; Michael Gonick; Micky Grindstaff; Sharon and Marc Hagle; Larry and Jane Hames; Eric and Diane Holm; Garry and Isis Jones; Allan E. and Linda S. Keen; Knob Hill Group (Rick and Trish Walsh, Jim and Beth DeSimone, Chris Schmidt); FAN Fund; Kevin and Jacqueline Maddron; Drew and Paula Madsen; Kenneth J. Meister; Ann Hicks Murrah; Jack Myers; Michael P. O’Donnell; Nicole and Mike Okaty; Bill and Jody Orosz; Martin and Ellen Prague; Serge and Kerri Rivera; Jon C. and Theresa Swanson; Sam and Heather Stark; Randall B. Robertson; George Sprinkel; Philip Tiedtke; Roger K. Thompson; Ed Timberlake; Harold and Libby Ward; Warren “Chip” Weston; Tom and Penny Yochum; and Victor and Jackie A. Zollo.
Copyright 2020 by Winter Park Publishing Company LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without written permission of the copyright holder. Winter Park Magazine is published four times yearly by Winter Park Publishing Company LLC, 201 West Canton Avenue, Suite 125B, Winter Park, Florida 32789.
FOR GENERAL INFORMATION, CALL: 407-647-0225 For advertising information, call: Kathy Byrd, 407-399-7111; Theresa Swanson, 407-448-8414; or Dena Buoniconti, 407-832-9542 Like us on Facebook or visit us online at winterparkmag.com
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Saluting Winter Park’s First Responders and Frontline Workers SUPPORTING THE GREATER GOOD BY DOING GOOD. Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation is deeply rooted in Winter Park. Our cornerstone work is a commitment to supporting those in need for almost 50 years. Our Good Works can be seen at AdventHealth Winter Park and The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center. We work with Second Harvest Food Bank, Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Services to nourish those in need. We are grateful for our City of Winter Park Police, Firefighters and EMTs who are keeping us safe. First Responders and Frontline Workers Make Good Happen.
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SUMMERTIME FOR ‘GARDENIA GIRL’ BILL FARNSWORTH’S CONTEMPLATIVE PAINTING CAPTURES THE MOMENT’S MOOD.
Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, he spent most of his life s Winter Parkers venture back into the world in New England, painting landscapes of rural areas while — cautiously, after the pandemic-induced shutsupporting his family with his growing illustration career. down — they’ll encounter gorgeous summer Farnsworth is a Fellow in the American Society of Madays that offer no hint of the scary spring in rine Artists and a Signature Member of the Oil Painters of which COVID-19 was (and, at this writing, still is) on a America and the American Impressionist Society. worldwide rampage. His paintings have appeared in many shows across the Such days make us wonder how a nasty virus that was apU.S. and can be found in numerous museums and private parently spawned by bats in Wuhan, China, could touch a collections. He has earned awards of excellence from the community half a world away; a community so lovely and so Oil Painters of America’s national and regional shows and replete with flowery enclaves such as the Central Park Rose. took Best in Show honors at the Punta Gorda Visual Arts In fact, the city’s summer reemergence reminded us of Center’s 10th Biennial National Show. “Gardenia Girl,” painted by Bill Farnsworth in 2011 for the Fine Art Views wrote of Farnsworth’s paintings: “Sensitive Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens’ annual WinBill Farnsworth’s paintings appear and full of human emotion, the heartfelt work of Farnster Park Paint-Out. in numerous museums and private worth takes us to inner depths.” The Venice (Florida)-based The work captured both the beauty of the season and, collections across the country. artist says: “My goal with my work is to paint what I love with the presence of the lone figure, a sense of quiet conand convey it honestly so the viewer can share that feeling.” templation that we believed was appropriate for the recent His work is represented by the Hughes Gallery, Dabbert Gallery, Tree’s ordeal’s aftermath. Place, Reinert Fine Art, Mary Williams Fine Art, Gallery 330, Patricia HutSo, while we prefer to use newer works on our covers, we tracked down ton Galleries and Gingerbread Square Gallery. “Gardenia Girl” and asked Farnsworth if we could resurrect it nearly a decade For more of Farnsworth’s artwork and how it may be purchased, check later to represent new hope and new beginnings in the summer of 2020. out his website, billfarnsworth.com. A 1980 graduate of the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, — Randy Noles Farnsworth, 62, has spent more than 34 years as an illustrator and fine artist.
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2020 PEACOCK BALL HONOREE
There’s so much we wouldn’t have known about our college and our community without the 2020 Peacock Ball honoree. By Randy Noles
ack C. Lane began his academic career at Rollins College nearly 57 years ago as a specialist in military history. “Most military history is written by people with a very patriotic view toward the military, so I thought there needed to be another perspective,” he says. Lane’s dissertation and his scholarship have included explorations of American foreign policy. And he would later write several well-regarded books on military topics, including Chasing Geronimo: The Journal of Leonard Wood, May–September 1885 (1970) and Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood (1978). Both books have been reprinted several times. Wood (1860–1927) was certainly a compelling subject. In 1885, he was an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army and was stationed with the 4th Cavalry at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He participated in the last campaign against Geronimo in 1886, and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1888. Alongside Teddy Roosevelt, Wood commanded the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War. Later, he became Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Military Governor of Cuba and Governor General of the Philippines. He was a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1920. But Lane’s interest in military matters began to wane. Even more fascinating — if, thankfully, not nearly as bloody — was Winter Park and Rollins College. When the late Thaddeus Seymour was appointed president of the college in 1979, he named Lane “college historian” and asked him to begin
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writing a centennial history to be published in 1985. “So, I started getting into educational history, higher education,” says Lane, a native of Texas with a master’s degree from Emory University and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. Both advanced degrees are in American history. “I wanted to see where Rollins fit in all of that,” he says. “I saw some opportunities there, so I wrote about it. And then just became interested generally in American cultural history and so sort of drifted away from military history.” Winter Parkers from that time forward have been the beneficiaries of what Lane describes as his scholarly “short attention span.” His account of the college’s history, as it happened, was completed in 1985 but, due to budgetary constraints, wasn’t published until 2017. President Grant Cornwell, who was hired in 2015, read the languishing manuscript — which Lane had posted online — and knew it had to see the light of day. Better late than never. Rollins College Centennial History: A Story of Perseverance, 1885–1985 was no dry academic tome. Instead it was filled with eccentric characters, near-disasters, daring innovations and heady achievements. And the crackling story was told with the combination of a storyteller’s zeal and a historian’s rigor. Chapter headers offer confirmation that Lane was granted carte blanche to tell the roller-coaster tale like it really was: “The Struggle for Survival,”
PHOTO BY MITCHELL LANE THOMAS
Jack Lane, this year’s Peacock Ball honoree, is a legendary history professor at Rollins College and the foremost expert on the college’s rich history. He is shown here on campus, in front of the breezeway connecting the Knowles Memorial Chapel and the Annie Russell Theatre.
S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
PHOTOS FROM THE ROLLINS COLLEGE DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
Lane, a meticulous researcher, has always been first and foremost a teacher. During his career at Rollins, he was recognized with the Arthur Vining Davis Fellowship Award in 1972, the Alexander Weddell Professor of the America’s Chair in 1978 and the William Blackman Medal in 1997. At its 2006 commencement exercises, the college awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
As I look back, it seems I’ve lived my life in two separate worlds — the first an impoverished world rooted in 19th-century agrarian values, religiously and socially very conservative; the second an urban, academic world, socially and ideologically liberal.
“The Search for Stability” and “The College in Crisis,” to name just a few. Frequently, money — or a lack thereof — was the problem. Other times, imperious administrators and peculiar professors wreaked havoc. (See the chapters on President Paul Wagner, the “boy wonder” who was fired and refused to leave, and Professor John Rice, the iconoclast who enraged the community with his atheism and arrogance.) In 1991, Lane and Rollins English professor Maurice “Socky” O’Sullivan compiled a collection of Florida writing ranging from folk tales and Spanish myths to Florida-related work by such writers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, John James Audubon, Zora Neale Hurston, Zane Grey, Wallace Stevens, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Jose Yglesias and Harry Crews. Visions of Par-
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adise: From 1530 to the Present (Pineapple Press) won the Florida Historical Society’s Tebeau Award as the year’s best book on Florida history. In addition, Lane’s stories for scholarly journals and consumer publications such as Winter Park Magazine revealed — and continue to reveal — even more previously untold stories about the community’s past. In 2005, he wrote a corporate history of Winter Park Memorial Hospital, now AdventHealth Winter Park. During his career at Rollins, Lane was recognized with several prestigious honors, including the Arthur Vining Davis Fellowship Award in 1972, the Alexander Weddell Professor of the America’s Chair in 1978 and the William Blackman Medal in 1997. At its 2006 commencement exercises, Rollins awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. In recent years, Lane — who retired from the college in 1999 and granted professor emeritus status — has conducted historical tours of the campus, assisted as guest lecturer in several classes, and served on the boards of Casa Feliz and the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College. He has also been a member of exhibition committees for the Winter Park Historical Society. He and his wife, Janne, even live in a designated historic district, College Quarter, in a home that’s listed on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places. Says Susan Skolfield, executive director of the Winter Park History Museum: “No one has done more to connect the histories of town and gown in Winter Park than Rollins’ favorite historian. Through his writings, lectures and advocacy, Jack has not only been a beloved instructor for Rollins students,
but for every Winter Park resident as well. We are delighted to honor him at this year’s Peacock Ball.” Winter Park Magazine recently sat down with Lane for a conversation, portions of which follow.
You were the first in your family to attend college. What was it like growing up, and what motivated you to become a Ph.D. and then a professor?
I grew up in rural Texas about 15 miles from Austin in a small town called Elgin. I was born in the depths of the Great Depression. My father was a truck driver for a local brick company and, as I remember, we lived pretty much paycheck to paycheck. We were poor but not destitute. I was the second one in my large extended family to graduate from high school. College was completely beyond my expectations, nor was I encouraged to go. As I look back, it seems I’ve lived my life in two separate worlds — the first an impoverished world rooted in 19th-century agrarian values, religiously and socially very conservative; the second an urban, academic world, socially and ideologically liberal. On my many return visits to my family’s world, I felt as if I had entered a foreign country. After high school, during the Korean War era, I spent three years in the Army Airborne Division. After discharge, with the help of the G.I. Bill, I entered college (at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta). An American history class led me to dream of being a college professor. Before that moment, such a possibility had never entered my mind. Later, with the support of my soulmate and wife, Janne, I achieved that unlikely goal. How I got to Rollins is another story.
Were you always interested in history? Can you point to a specific time or incident that convinced you that you wanted to be a historian? If you hadn’t been a historian, what field might you have pursued?
I was an indifferent student in high school, interested more in sports than academics, but I did enjoy my history courses. As mentioned, I purposely chose an American history course as my first class in college and that set me on my career course. I had two dreams when I graduated from high school — one was to be a musician, but with my family’s economic situation, that remained only a dream. The other was to play professional baseball. I did play for a semi-pro team for a year while at the same time working in Austin. And in the spring of 1951, I was asked to try out for the University of Texas baseball team. But the Korean War intervened and that never happened. The one thing that never entered my mind in those years was a career as a college professor. I didn’t even know what a Ph.D. was.
What brought you to Winter Park and Rollins College?
That’s a long story, but here’s a brief version. After receiving a doctorate (from the University of Georgia) in the spring of 1963, I had offers from three big universities, and wasn’t particularly satisfied with any — but by May, the schools wanted an answer. Just as I was ready to decide, the department head told me that someone had called him about an opening at a small college in Winter Park, Florida. Where the heck was Winter Park, Florida? It was hard to find it on a map. I had never heard of Rollins or even been to Florida, but it sounded like what I wanted — a small liberal-arts college. I called, they invited me down, I saw the college and town and fell in love with both. They offered me the position and I accepted. We’ve never left.
There was a kind of lazy acceptance of the world as it was. I had come from the turmoil and excitement of the early civil rights movement in Atlanta and Athens, Georgia, to a place that seemed totally indifferent to what was happening in the rest of country. I experienced a kind of culture shock.
What were Rollins and Winter Park like when you came, and how have they changed?
As I began to research the college’s history, I realized that I had arrived at the end of one era and the beginning of another. I was fortunate enough to experience both. The first I would characterize as the New England patrician era. The college community was infused with a certain kind of gentility led by independently wealthy New Englanders. There was a sense of elegant leisure and gracefulness. And the town exhibited the same behavior. There was a kind of lazy acceptance of the world as it was. I had come from the turmoil and excitement of the early civil rights movement in Atlanta and Athens, Georgia, to a place that seemed totally indifferent to what was happening in the rest of country. I experienced a kind of culture shock. Then, suddenly, that changed. Older faculty retired, new faculty arrived and so did the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement and the youth movement. Rollins and Winter Park finally joined the world — and everything changed.
What do you think is the single most important event in the history of Rollins, and why? How about for Winter Park?
Well, that’s a hard question to answer. There are so many turning points in both their histories. The Hamilton Holt era (Holt was president of the college from 1925-49) clearly was a transformative time in the college’s history, when it began to shift — in its mission, in its academics and even in its architecture — from a New England-based college to a Florida-based college. Still, for a while it retained a New England patrician culture. As I later realized, the McKean presidency (Hugh McKean was president of the college from 1951-69) was essentially an extension of the Holt era. In the 1960s and 1970s, that patrician culture encountered the modern world and it began to crumble. Then, between 1969 and 2004, two dynamic presidents — Thaddeus Seymour and Rita Bornstein — took the college to a whole new level, where it remains today. Winter Park went through a similar transformation. It went from a small, intimate service town to one dominated by businesses catering to tourists. The only evidence of that former town today is Miller’s Hardware. Miller’s remains an icon of days long past. In Winter Park, we’ve lived through two eras that I call BD (Before Disney) and AD (After Disney). Enough said. Well, perhaps one more comment — I’m personally not nostalgic about some aspects of the little village I found in 1963, where they wouldn’t allow children to live in the apartments we wanted to rent. Whatever the town’s charm — and it was very charming — I would not prefer to live in a world of old wealth somnolence. S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
I’m personally not nostalgic about some aspects of the little village I found in 1963, where they wouldn’t allow children to live in the apartments we wanted to rent. Whatever the town’s charm — and it was very charming — I would not prefer to live in a world of old wealth somnolence.
Who would you rank as the top five most important figures in Rollins’ history, and briefly why?
Well, at the top of the list would be the obvious one, Hamilton Holt. He’s such an iconic figure — not only at Rollins but in the larger community — that it’s difficult to come up with new accolades to express his impact. Under Holt’s leadership, Rollins was transformed, both educationally and physically. He established its identity as a proponent of innovative, experimental teaching and learning. His leadership made it a nationally recognized institution of higher education. Moreover, he transformed the campus with more than 30 buildings constructed in the Mediterranean Revival architectural style. That’s one reason that Rollins is routinely recognized as having the nation’s most beautiful campus. Then there are two presidents at the turn of the century who would make my list. One was the almost-regal George Morgan Ward (president from 1896–1902, and acting president on two subsequent occasions), who gave the college stability and daringly abandoned the classical curriculum. Then there was William Freemont Blackman (president from 1903– 1915), who brought the college back to its liberal education roots when it was drifting toward vocational or professional education. By the way, seven decades later, President Seymour did the same thing. Also, I’d include the Blackman family, including President Blackman’s wife, Lucy, and their three children. They were by far away the most delightful and entertaining presidential family. The chapter on Blackman in my centennial history book was fun to write. Prophetically, I was presented the Blackman Medal at my retirement. Still, I think the unsung heroes have been the generations of trustees, faculty and students — particularly those who stuck with the college in times of serious adversity. They never lost the faith when many wanted to throw in the towel. I spend some time revealing their tireless efforts.
You were originally interested in military history, but much of your scholarship is on the history of Rollins. In fact, the only authoritative history of Rollins is your book. Did you feel a sense of mission to document the history of the institution?
Well, to answer that question is to reveal one of my character flaws — but I’ll answer anyway. I have a very short attention span when it comes to scholarship. I drifted in my scholarly publications from military history to the history of American foreign policy to the history of education to Florida history and finally to the history of Rollins. As you can see, with age my perspectives got narrower and narrower. And yes, I felt the college had given me so much that I owed it something in return, and the “authoritative history” as you call it was my contribution. But more than that, I realized that the college was losing its institutional memory, and that was very dangerous — and it’s even more dangerous today. Because the college is in this COVID-19 era, it should be reminded that the
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subtitle of my history is “A Story of Perseverance.” This current threat is by no means the first test of resilience the college has faced. Some tests, in fact, have been far more serious. Yet, it’s still here and thriving.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly challenged Rollins and all colleges. But you say the institution has overcome more serious threats. What were they?
I chose the theme of “perseverance” because there were so many periods when it seemed the college wouldn’t survive. But the struggles gave it strength to weather storms of adversity at times when countless other colleges facing similar problems went under. But to answer your question about a specific period: I would say the immediate years after World War I. The conflict had almost denuded the college of its male students and depleted its finances. It emerged from the war deeply in debt. Many wanted to give up the struggle as a lost cause. That’s when Hamilton Holt came to the rescue — the college’s knight in shining armor, if you will.
What facet of the college’s history surprised you the most?
Well, there was very little that I did know of Rollins’ past, so I found many surprises. Part of my reluctance at first to undertake writing the book was the idea of doing an institutional history — that it would be dull. But was I wrong. Not only was it not dull, but as I began to dig into the material in the archives, I quickly found the story fascinating. What human drama here! A group of intrepid Congregationalists (Rollins was founded by the Florida Congregational Association and members of the First Congregational Church of Winter Park) had either the audacity or the foolhardiness to start a college in the Florida wilderness, in a village that had only about 150 souls. What’s more, they installed a course of study that required extensive preparation in classical languages and literature. For heaven’s sake, there weren’t even any secondary schools in Florida at that time. How the college survived — through epidemics, freezes, internal conflicts and exhausted finances — was a story that captivated my interest from the very beginning. It involved heroic effort on the part of many individuals. And then I found that the college’s history was populated by engaging and brilliant personalities — some of whom did the college no favors, and others of whom were instrumental in pulling the institution through its adversities.
Did writing the book give you a greater appreciation for Rollins? In what way?
Oh my, yes. For so many reasons. Because I knew so little of the college’s past, I had countless “ah ha” moments during my research. I realized that many of the things we were doing academically had been passed down to us from previous generations of leaders. For example, from my earliest days at Rollins, I sensed that I was expected to be innovative in my teaching, to experiment with new ideas and to create innovative educational programs. These were time-honored Rollins traditions — but I didn’t know that at the time. Also, I was surprised to learn how long Rollins had been so renowned. It had, all along, attracted brilliant professors and highly regarded figures. I made two major discoveries in this realm. First, I learned that Zora Neale Hurston was deeply connected to the college, and that two Rollins professors had jump-started her fabulous career. Second, I learned that Rollins was the seedbed for the founding of Black Mountain College, probably the nation’s most celebrated experimental in-
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Lane wrote several well-regarded books on military topics, including Chasing Geronimo: The Journal of Leonard Wood, May–September 1885 (1970) and Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood (1978). Visions of Paradise: From 1530 to the Present won the Florida Historical Society’s Tebeau Award as the year’s best book on Florida history. Rollins College Centennial History: A Story of Perseverance, 1885–1985 is filled with eccentric characters, near-disasters, daring innovations and heady achievements.
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As I had been reminding my history students, ignorance of our past can be seriously damaging. For a college, that can mean dangerously wandering into ways that seriously impair its historic mission.
stitution. Former Rollins professors started the school in North Carolina. Let me just add here what I see as an important insight that came to me as I researched the college’s past. As I mentioned earlier, the college community was in danger of losing its institutional memory. I had that fact reinforced to me time and time again. As I had been reminding my history students, ignorance of our past can be seriously damaging. For a college, that can mean dangerously wandering into ways that seriously impair its historic mission. Forgive me if I include a quote from President Cornwall’s forward to the book: “In this time of rapidly shifting changes, one that requires (re) envisioning the role of liberal education in a global context, it is critical that present and future Rollins generations embrace the distinctive character that previous generations strove to build.” My hope was that Rollins College Centennial History provided assurance that we will never forget this college’s past — and particularly how previous generations doggedly kept alive the commitment to liberal education. That’s one of the meanings of the motto, “Fiat Lux.”
What accomplishments, personally and professionally, are you most proud of?
My first published book was the most exciting thing that happened to me professionally. Did you realize that only about 1 percent of professors ever get a book published? But then — and this one may surprise you — I consider my most enduring accomplishment academically has been to create the Summer Teaching/ Learning Workshop for the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS). The ACS, of which Rollins is a proud member, is composed of the best liberal-arts colleges in the South. I created and guided a group of facilitators and participants through several summer workshops until it was well established. This year will be the 30th year the ACS will offer the Summer Workshop, now headquartered at Sewanee College (near Chattanooga, Tennessee). Professionally, nothing has given me more satisfaction than to see one of my creations help so many young faculty.
What’s one thing most people would be surprised to learn about you? You mentioned earlier wanting to have been a musician, for example.
Well, let’s see — for those who don’t know much about my background, they’d probably be surprised to know that during my early 20s I sang the third part and played drums and vibes with a professional jazz vocal quartet called The Tradewinds. We made several recordings, of which I have one. If I may be a bit indecorous (or am I already guilty of that?) I will say that we were very good, and with a little more time may have gone to the top. But a key member was married and had to leave the road. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have met Janne, wouldn’t have had this beautiful family and wouldn’t have had a career as professor of American history at a wonderful college in a great town. As they say, a lot of life depends on luck and I’ve been very lucky.
Join the community for the Winter Park History Museum’s 2020 Peacock Ball, honoring Rollins College Professor of History Emeritus Jack C. Lane. WHEN: Saturday, November 14 WHERE: The Rice Family Pavilion at Rollins College TIME: TBA TO ATTEND: For information about tickets and sponsorships, call the history museum at 407.647.2330 or email email@example.com.
PA S T P E A C O C K B A L L H O N O R E E S 2019 Joy Wallace Dickinson “Florida Flashbacks” Columnist, the Orlando Sentinel 2018 Randy Noles Editor and Publisher, Winter Park Magazine 2017 Rita Bornstein President Emerita, Rollins College 2016 Saluting Life in Winter Park During World War II 2015 Debbie Komanski Executive Director, Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens 2014 James Gamble Rogers II and John “Jack” H. Rogers Architects 2013 Alfond Inn Opening 2012 125th Anniversary of Winter Park 2011 Winter Park Community Center Opening 2010 Hugh and Jeannette McKean Founders, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art 2009 Kenneth Murrah and Harold Ward Attorneys and Civic Leaders 2008 Rose Bynum, Eleanor Fisher, Eula Jenkins and Peggy Strong West Side Community Leaders 2007 Thaddeus and Polly Seymour President and First Lady, Rollins College (1978–90)
S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
nt, terrify e l u b r u t i ng y M t terrific) life a sa (bu
A Winter Park actor’s stint as wrestling’s ‘Evil Genius of the South’ taught lasting lessons inside and outside the squared circle.
★ By Tom Nowicki Illustrations by John Nadeau
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Nowicki, as the pompous Sir Rupert Birkin (later the equally pompous Lord Larry Oliver), gleefully enraged wrestling fans by hurling insults and interfering with matches. S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
PHOTO BY RAFAEL TONGOL
he stadium lights had a hypnotic effect. As we stepped into the ring, the canvas floor glowed as blue as a TV screen, and the ropes around it might have been the gorged arteries of some man-eating plant. The announcer introduced us: first, my charge, Mike Masters, challenger for the Southern Junior Heavyweight belt, and then me, his manager, Sir Rupert Birkin. The fans welcomed us with lusty boos and insults. I was momentarily stunned: No one out there could possibly know Sir Rupert. I’d barely made up the name in time to get it in the program. I began to wonder what I’d gotten myself into.
Hot-dog wrappers and ice cubes began to sail into the ring. I looked out over hundreds of faces eagerly expecting the worst of us, and an uncanny excitement began to capture me. I walked to the ropes, pointed at some raving stranger and shouted, “Shut up!” The boos grew more passionate and someone else shouted back, “You stink, Rupert!” and a Coke cup hit my shoulder. It was 1986 and I was 30 years old, going on 12. I knew this was going to be fun. I was having my muffler fixed when I read the ad: “WRESTLERS! WRESTLERS! Be a pro,” it shouted, then almost disappeared, like a shadowy figure that whispers, “Hey, mister, over here,” then ducks into some dark doorway. I read it again. There existed, it appeared, an institution of higher education known as the Central Florida School of Wrestling. In an instant, my desultory Saturday blues were swept away. As a kid, I had been fascinated by wrestling, amazed by its athletes and pleasantly appalled by its theatrical license. My brother and I played Jack Brisco and The Great Malenko in the yard until I impaled him on a sprinkler. But never once did it cross our minds that wrestlers went to school. I suppose we thought the promoters found new talent by bailing it out of jail. Old daydreams began to stir. When I confided this new inspiration to family and friends, the response was a near-unanimous sneer. One or two worried about my health, primarily physical. Only my mother was unconcerned: She understood me to say I was going to “resting” school, which she thought redundant in my case but at least indicated I wanted to do something well.
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Nowicki, a Winter Park-based actor who most recently appeared in the critically acclaimed AMC TV series Lodge 49, says his stint as a bad-guy wrestling manager taught him “to find the juiciness in playing bad.”
The idea became irresistible. I called the school and said I was a writer. I wanted to attend sessions and find out what a man might have to go through to enter the squared circle.
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
“Do you know about my Italian friend?” Rocky Montana asked. The wrestlers in the ring disentangled themselves, and one of them, a new student (me), looked up at him and shrugged. “You know what La Scalla is?” he continued. “It’s a famous opera house in Italy. One day, this American opera singer goes there to sing. After he’s done, the audience starts shouting ‘Again! Again!’ So he comes back out, sings it again and they’re shouting at him.”
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Then Rocky made his point: “Seven times this happens, until the signer finally says, ‘Look, thanks very much, but I’m a little tired and I really gotta go.’ At which point, this little Italian guy way up in the balcony leans over and yells, ‘You’re gonna do it again until you get it right!’” Rocky was the trainer at the Central Florida School of Wrestling, and that story could have been his school’s fight song — or its aria. Struggling there on my back, trying to squirm my way out of a head-scissors, I began to understand viscerally that there was no trick. Professional wrestling is an art, at least down there at the level of the mat. And there is a distinct order to the mayhem that occurs in the ring. Each hold and its reversal is as precise as a dance step — a thing of beauty if you know it well, an impossibility if you don’t. Never before had I felt the weight of my ignorance so literally; no matter what I tried, those legs stayed locked around me like whale jaws. I had been shown how to break the hold, but I couldn’t do it right and couldn’t coordinate my moves. I considered tickling the man. “Try it again, girls,” Rocky ordered, and we did. Twenty or 30 times. So, is wrestling fake, or what? By now, everyone knows that wrestling is “sports entertainment” in which the outcomes are predetermined. But back then, there was still a pretense that chaos in ring — and outside it — was entirely spontaneous. I wasn’t entirely sure myself. “What’s a fake? “ Rocky asked rhetorically, in response to my timidly posed question during my first day at the gym. “A fake is something you don’t see. In wrestling, we make you see what you believe.” Continued Rocky: “If somebody comes in here and asks, ‘Is wrestling fake?’ I tell them, ‘Let’s get in the ring and see how much of it is fake.’ But if you ask some legitimate question, like, ‘How much of it is showmanship?’ that’s another story. This ain’t no trick. This is hard work.” Wrestling is a kind of heavyweight ballet. Maybe two dozen basic holds, throws and reverses make up the essential tools of ringwork from which hundreds of variations and combinations are possible. To survive, let alone succeed, a wrestler must master of most of these possibilities and be able to improvise the rest. To be a good wrestler takes years of training — practicing holds and breaking them until each is simple, seamless and effective. But the word “ballet” can be misleading. Wrestling is indeed like dance in the sense that it’s two (or more) people using movement to entertain. Although who’ll ultimately win is known by the combatants, the matches are more akin to jazz improvisations.
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The boos grew more passionate and someone else shouted back, “You stink, Rupert!” and a Coke cup hit my shoulder. It was 1986 and I was 30 years old, going on 12. I knew this was going to be fun.
A working wrestler (or “worker”) will have six or seven matches a week, each in a different city against a different opponent. Even if they wanted to rehearse, there’d be no time. Each wrestler works his own instrument against the other as the crowd lays down the beat. At Rocky’s gym, in a warehouse in Pine Hills, we were taught that it wasn’t enough just to step into the ring. “Walk around, check for any weak spots, check the ropes, let the crowd know you’re there,” Rocky explained, which seemed easy enough. “No, no, no, you’re too tight!” he shouted. “You gotta look comfortable in there. Loosen up! Well, don’t sashay! You’re a wrestler. Strut a little!” When I had finally put acceptable purpose in my stride, Rocky grunted me out of the ring and brought me over to Topper, an accomplished alumnus who was about my height, but twice as massive. “Take him through the lock-up,” Rocky said. I took a deep breath. There were no formal classes at the Central Florida School of Wrestling — no lectures and few moments when everyone’s attention was focused on the same thing. There was one ring, a punching bag, a couple of barbells and plenty of floor space where students could pair off to work on holds. Most of the teaching was done by experienced students, while Rocky stood by the door or sat on the ring apron, watching. He interrupted only when things provoked his displeasure — which is not to say infrequently.
LEARNING THE ROPES
Rocky Montana’s 35 years in wrestling, like everything else about the sport, were shrouded
in mystery. He said he was trained by the legendary Antonino Rocca, “Argentina Rocky,” back in Brooklyn in the early ’50s, along with another legend, Bruno Sammartino. After that, he said, he wrestled all over the world, alone and with his brother, Lenny, who together were called The Medics and The Assassins — two tag teams that had earned a place in wrestling infamy. Rocky showed us trophy belts that proclaimed him a seven-time Georgia State Champion and an International Heavyweight Champion. He claimed that he had worked against such luminaries as Dory Funk, Dusty Rhodes and Andre the Giant. There is, of course, no wrestling hall of records to verify any of this. But watching Rocky in his rare moments in the ring washed away any doubts about his ability. From an unlikely-looking collection of 55-yearold arms and legs issued moments of transcendent athletic grace that could come only with years of experience doing it with — and as — the best. Fortunately, Rocky was occupied while Topper patiently taught me the lock-up, a basic opening move in which the wrestlers meet in the center of the ring and lock arms at the neck and shoulders. From there, he showed me the upper wristlock and how to reverse it into the hammerlock, and how to reverse the hammerlock back into the upper wristlock. This is the first combination taught to a wrestler, and it introduces much more than the moves themselves. The contact, and the effort to apply the holds correctly, felt invigorating. But the obvious power behind Topper’s moves was an unsettling new sensation — and he wasn’t even trying. It was like the first time you touch a loaded gun; invariably, you imagine what it’s like to have one pointed at you. I’ve never been a quick study, and that day I was particularly slow. “Step out, go under,” Topper called. “That’s it, pivot, Whoa! Whoa! Easy!” Each placement of the hands, the length of each step and the timing of each pivot is critical. And even though I could understand each separately, I couldn’t harmonize them. My gracelessness caused Topper a little suffering and “stretched” him, as they say in the ring. But he was remarkably easy, or “light,” on me. Wrestling is a balancing act between danger and spectacle. Every hold is legitimate and can be disabling. But it’s a working-class sport: If a man doesn’t wrestle, he doesn’t get paid. So, a wrestler who is “light,” who can control his man without hurting him so badly that he can’t make his next match, is admired. One who is “heavy,” a “crowbar,” is a real menace. In those
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awkward first few hours, there was no tool sold at Sears crude enough to compare with me. Rocky saw it immediately. “Relax,” he admonished. “You’re stiff as a board. You get tight, nobody can work with you. Look at your elbows — they’re still sticking out like wings. Relax your shoulders.” Relaxing was about the last skill I expected would be handy to a wrestler. But watching the better students in the ring proved the truth of it. A relaxed athlete can adapt to any situation — but the tight ones lose concentration when something goes wrong. While a student learned the fundamentals, Rocky tested him — there were, perhaps unsurprisingly, no women in the class — for the fortitude that can’t be read in a person’s physique. “To be a professional wrestler, a man’s gotta have it in his head and in his heart,” Rocky said. “If he don’t, what’s the point of my training him, taking his money? If he can’t take me shouting at him, what’s he gonna do in front of a crowd? He’d go nuts.”
“THE FANS’LL KILL YOU”
During my first few weeks, I constantly expected Rocky to conclude that even for a writer, I was a hopeless wrestler. I fell into the habit of apologizing whenever I missed a move and thought I hurt my partner. Rocky was unimpressed: “You can’t worry about hurting a guy a little. What are you gonna do, stop the match to apologize? You ain’t gonna have to worry about that other guy. The fans’ll kill you.” The people I trained with were not, as one might have expected, mutants or marginal personalities. They were, by in large, serious athletes. There was a fireman and an executive chef, a male stripper and a probation officer, a couple of truck drivers, a lineman for a utilities company and a Marine sergeant. And they all shared a passionate hunger to fulfill a dream. They didn’t talk much about the sacrifices, but they were considerable. There were the long hours in the gym; for beginners, at least two days and two nights a week. And there were the injuries, which were undeniably real. The elbow, knees and forehead of any wrestler become veritable gardens of scar tissue. Shoulder separations and broken legs are common. “Taking a bump” is the euphemism for the crash landing you endure when a wrestler throws you through the air. The floor of a ring is usually plywood or aluminum with a thin layer of canvas-covered padding. Colliding with it is probably the quintessential wrestling experience: exhilarating and unkind, a matter of graceful technique or a painful lack of it. Taking a bump properly comes down, again,
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While he made no claims to it, Rocky built character as well as wrestlers. To him, those who worked out at his gym were family. (At least two over the years became his adopted sons.) Rocky’s lesson was the honor of hard work well done.
to relaxing. “That first bump is always the worst,” Rocky chuckled. “It’s all in the mind. It hurts a lot more to think about than to do.” The point is more than just knowing how to fall — it’s also learning how to fly. When a wrestler feels a throw coming, he must launch himself into the air so that he retains control of how and where he hits. And these flights can begin from some rather dramatic heights and radical relationships to gravity. Bumps separate the men from the wrestlers. One evening I was in the ring with Terry, who stood 6-foot-6. He whipped me into the ropes and as I bounced back toward him, I saw that he was positioned to administer a body slam. Before I could point out that I hadn’t yet been trained for that, he scooped me up over his shoulder, inverted and unloaded me like a sack of grain. It seemed like an eternity before I hit the canvas.
The notion that pain ends when the spirit leaves the body was the only confirmation I had that I was still alive. That, and the sounds of merriment from outside the ring. But before I could make notes for self-improvement, Terry pulled me up by the hair and hoisted me for another slam. This went on for a while. I took a variety of bumps and even found, much to my surprise, that I had begun to enjoy them. Rocky was right: After the initial shock, the thrill takes over from the fear. Good thing, too. Because of my size, which is laughable by wrestling standards, as soon as I was taking bumps, my usefulness at the gym grew geometrically. Students who needed to practice throws sought me out, since my comparatively light weight made it easier to work on the mechanics. And a few of these bumps became the stuff of legend. One pair of legs accustomed to dealing with 250-pound wrestlers nearly launched the 165 pounds of me into the trophy collection on top of the office. This move came to be known among my cohort as “the journalist.” Of course, it wasn’t all blood and sweat on the mat. On occasion, Rocky would bring us home with him after a workout to watch tapes of exceptional matches. We would arrive with the intention of studying the tapes with dinner (which Rocky’s wife, Johnnie, would improvise for us with saintly forbearance) and normally not leave until well after even the family dogs were snoring. While he made no claims to it, Rocky built character as well as wrestlers. To him, those who worked out at his gym were family. (At least two over the years became his adopted sons.) Rocky’s lesson was the honor of hard work well done. The tapes were dissected move by move. Key moments were replayed again and again, slower and slower. “Did you see that? What did he do?” Rocky asked until someone answered.
MAYHEM AND MELODRAMA
Wrestling, along with everything else, is melodrama, the modern morality play — particularly modern since good and evil have nothing to do with the outcome. The fans have always appreciated wrestling as much on an emotional as an athletic level. For the sake of the fans, wrestlers work “in character,” which gives the sport its larger-than-life quality. It’s a simple matter of adding showmanship, making the match easy to understand for everyone in the arena, all the way up to the last fan in general admission. “Showmanship came into wrestling 40 years ago,” Rocky explained. “Until then, college wrestlers would turn pro, add a few punches and do
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basically what they did in school. People got bored. Then along came this out-of-work actor who calls himself Gorgeous George and everything changes. All of a sudden, what he says and does is just as important as how he wrestles.” There are no cheerleaders in wrestling; it’s up to the grapplers to rile up the crowds. Like Gorgeous George and the colorful characters who followed, we worked constantly at “selling” the spectators, getting them involved in the match by sharing it with them — facially and vocally. A lack of expression is a serious flaw. “My god! You’re laying it into the man — look like you mean it,” Rocky would demand. “And you, you’re in trouble. Why are you hiding your face? Let’s see it!” Lee Strasberg would be impressed by the attention paid to shedding inhibitions. A wrestler chooses his competitive persona based on what works for him. But there are more than just moves and tactics to consider — there’s also the question of how he relates to the crowds. A brawler, a bad guy, a “heel,” must be able to rile them. The heel is always the visiting team, the hated rival, and must revel in it. A good guy, or “babyface,” need only do well at being liked. Finally, I asked Rocky for a chance to practice what I had learned in a real match — to feel what it was like to work in front of a volatile crowd. He was sympathetic, but my size and inexperience were problems. He suggested instead that I work as a manager. Mike Masters had a match forthcoming with Bo Brandon for the Dixie Wrestling Alliance Junior Heavyweight Championship. Mike was looking for a woman, a valet, but couldn’t find one with the enthusiasm to train. I signed my waiver, then Mike and I got down to work. Because a manager’s purpose is to manipulate the match, using anything from psychological mischief to outright interference, he must train first as a wrestler simply to know when and what to do. Performed well, the role inflames crowds with the constant promise of misconduct. But a manager must be prepared to pay a price to an enraged adversary. The offer to manage had, in itself, been a surprise, but even more so was the thrill I got from my training as a very bad character. Because a manager’s main function is tipping the scales, he almost always works with a heel — a babyface would have little use for him. Secrets of working up the crowd’s venom were revealed to me, and I took unalloyed pleasure in practicing them. I imagined with pure delight the hatred of hundreds (well, sometimes dozens), all at my command. I did have one asset to bring into the ring.
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ROAR OF THE CROWD
Many’s the time on a set (and not a few times in my relationships) that I’ve hit a tricky patch and wondered, “What Would Lord Larry do?” He has never failed to respond — and I have the scars to prove it. I learned that being able to take a bump can be what saves you anywhere in life.
I, like Gorgeous George, had worked as a professional actor before I started wrestling. This wouldn’t be the first time I’d been paid to make a crowd angry. I was warned that the more effective I was, the more hated I would be. And that the biggest risks in wrestling, by far, occur where the managers roam away from the mat. Wrestlers, by and large, at least retain a basic respect for one another’s lives — but that’s not always true of the patrons. “Worry about the fans,” Rocky warned, time and time again. “The fans will hurt you worse than any worker.” He told stories about a manager working outside the ring who accidentally fell over on his back into the crowd, which surrounded him and began kicking and punching him until he was dragged back to the safety of the ring — by his opponent. The night before the match, I lay awake in bed reviewing what Mike and I had planned, working up new and colorful insults to yell at the fans. I practiced my diatribes over and over again under my breath until my mouth watered. I couldn’t sleep. I wondered what my mother would think, or if she’d even show up. I thought about all those nuns who gave me B-pluses in conduct in grammar school.
The dressing room before the match was a kind of temple of doom. We were segregated by ethical disposition — the babies in a real locker room and the heels in a maintenance closet. Ordinary-looking men entered the room and transformed themselves into horrifying visions of ill will. I shook hands with workers who introduced themselves as “The Bulldog” and “Cousin Leroy,” wary of revealing any more. When Brandon, our opponent for the evening, finally entered the ring, the crowd was ready for him. During the shakedown, I antagonized him, he took a swipe at me and Mike clobbered him. The match was underway. I found myself fascinated by the crowd. They were like a living Edvard Munch painting, cursing Mike’s every move. I returned their curses, which only made them holler louder and drew me to them like a magnet. The referee happily accommodated the other portion of my job by coming over to order me back to my corner, which allowed me the chance to argue the rules and left Mike effectively alone with Bo. The ref ignored my taunts and accusations. But I could always draw his attention by heading for the fans. I decided to get to know them better. It was a good match, with quick moves and some big bumps on both sides. The upper hand passed back and forth and the crowd’s emotions went with it. I was down by the front row exchanging insults with a man who seemed ready to pull off his jacket and take on both of us. Suddenly, something in the ring caught my attention. I looked up just in time to see Brandon pull Mike down and apply the dreaded figure-four leglock. Shades of my youth! And more importantly, my cue. A man in a figure four is helpless by himself. It’s a “submission” hold, which means there’s no way out except surrender. Or interference from a third party. I began screaming at the referee to break the hold, claiming it had been taken illegally, but he declined, claiming that he hadn’t seen it. Mike was thrashing wildly on the mat, refusing to give, but unable to dislodge the champion. I looked around for help. Usually, several members of the heel fraternity will be watching another’s match, ready to assist a fellow despot in distress. But none was coming. There wasn’t any choice — not that I preferred one. I jumped up onto the ring apron. As I stepped through the ropes, I heard the crowd scream at Brandon to watch out and felt sheer excitement surge through my body in anticipation of what was to come.
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I landed on my nose in a plate of jalapeños and bean dip, while the rest of me skidded into the laps of two squealing older sisters, who fell backward out of their chairs, dousing us all in cola and ice. I remember the hungry, furious faces of the crowd closing over me like a pack of wolves approaching an injured elk.
I snuck behind the referee and laid a few good boots into Bo’s shoulder, breaking the hold. The mob went berserk. I paused at the ropes to snarl at them, but couldn’t even hear my own voice. It felt wonderful. Meanwhile, Mike and Bo were rolling around the ring, appearing to be dazed and in agony. The crowd was frantic, pleading desperately with Brandon to get to his feet. Both men were grabbing for the ropes, trying to pull themselves up, but it appeared that Mike would make it first and go for the pin. The crowd sensed a gross miscarriage of justice coming, and its cries reached a hot peak. And then, just as all seemed lost for the good guys, the referee pointed at me and declared a disqualification. The cries turned jubilant — and it was my turn for shock and fury. The hold was illegal, I shrieked, and it was my right to break it if the referee wouldn’t. I became the victim of injustice. The insults and threats inspired me, as I turned from the crowd to the ref and back again to the crowd. I was so busy emoting, I almost forgot that the hard fist of True Justice was bound to fall. And it did. In an instant Brandon was on me. I rolled out of the ring, but Brandon stayed on my heels and the crowd chased along with him, lusting after my blood. He caught me by the arm, threw me down and then dragged me up for a body slam. The noise from the stands rose as I did — and erupted into cheers when I hit the ground. It had been a good match. The work was good, and the crowd had dug it. I was filling my car up at a service station after the
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match when Rocky pulled in. I was nervous about what he thought of my inaugural public brawl. “Not bad, babe,” he said, and paused. “Listen, we gotta talk.” “What about?” “How far you want to go with this?” “The story?” “Wrestling!” “I’m having a great time. I like it. Why?” “The guys wanna know. They like you as a manager.” I don’t know how long I stood there with the pump in my hand after Rocky drove off. Later, he made me an offer I didn’t refuse: I became his newest “son” and prepared for world domination — of the Dixie Wrestling Alliance.
AN EVIL GENIUS
I practically moved into Rocky’s gym, muscled up and studied the Big Book of Villainy cover-to-cover. “Sir Rupert Birkin,” after some thought, was reborn as “Lord Larry Oliver, Evil Genius of the South,” a six-time world light-heavyweight champion who hailed from the Falkland Islands and had returned from retirement (or was it deportation?) to foster a stable of sweat-stained young barbarians eager to Fight the Bad Fight. We wrestled in shopping centers, junior-high gyms, double-A ballparks and country-western bars across Florida. Lord Larry and his boys became the DWA’s main storyline — and I frequently found myself on the card in the main event, tag-teaming with one of my lads to steal a belt or inflame a grudge. We were the ones to hate: I had a potted plant
thrown at my head, many a beer flung in my face and was nearly strangled by a fan who rushed the ring and lassoed my neck with her purse strap. I was having a blast. Then a funny thing happened: a couple of years or so into this adventure, my legit acting career began to revive. I don’t know if Lord Larry’s escapades had helped me to find a new level of creative freedom, but producers became interested in me again and I started to get offers. I split my time between the ring and the stage for a while until a series of unfunny trips to the ER made me consider real retirement for the Evil Genius. Lord Larry worked his last match on a warm spring evening in 1987, four years after I’d wandered into Rocky’s gym. I was doing a play in Sarasota and our performance week ended with a Sunday matinee. My drive back to Winter Park would take me, more or less, past the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, where the guys were wrestling that night. So, I dropped in. I met Rocky by the dressing rooms, and he had an idea: Lord Larry should crash the Battle Royale (a match in which the ring is initially filled with wrestlers until all but one has been tossed out). He had a new kid he liked, and figured a steady hand would be helpful getting him through his first big win. I found a seat in the stands, and when one of the babies “spotted” me the insults flew — and the game was on. Rocky wanted me keep the kid busy for a while until there were just three of us left, then let him toss me over the top rope (and out of the match) so
that the newcomer could duke it out for the victory. But Rocky’s plan, as always, came with a few wrinkles. A born innovator, he had long wondered: If dinner theaters made money, why couldn’t dinner-wrestling boost his bottom line? That night he was going to find out — and had ordered the ring to be surrounded by cafeteria tables. For a premium, a few hungry fans could get ringside seats and a choice of burgers, hot dogs or nachos plus a large soda. But the folks who set up the arena had put the tables right up next to the ring, as you would for a boxing match, instead of right inside the first row of bleachers, as is best when bodies will be flying around. Also, the kid — though undeniably talented, huge and scary-looking — was utterly green and had never been in front of a crowd as big and raucous as this one. There’s a way to throw a man over a rope: Pick him up, invert him for a body slam, carry him to the side and let him set a hand on the top rope; then give his legs a light shove and let him pivot over and down to the floor, where he’ll hopefully land on his feet. A variation, but not a good one, is to simply fling your opponent out of the ring — especially
appealing if there are tables covered with mustard and Pepsi cups. That’s what happened to me. I landed on my nose in a plate of jalapeños and bean dip, while the rest of me skidded into the laps of two squealing older sisters, who fell backward out of their chairs, dousing us all in cola and ice. I remember the hungry, furious faces of the crowd closing over me like a pack of wolves approaching an injured elk. No one really knows what became of Lord Larry after that fateful match in Kissimmee. Some claim that he never made it out of the arena, while others insist that he’s raising thoroughbreds on his family estate near the Drake Passage. Grainy photos have turned up of someone resembling him at Putin’s dacha during the Winter Olympics and climbing out of a Bentley at Spago with Lindsay Lohan (neither of them are wearing underwear). Well, none of that is true. I know. Lord Larry has been with me the whole time. The truth is that the life of an unrepentant scoundrel is buckets of fun. Also, chicks really do dig bad boys — even ones who are just pretending. I stayed pretty lucky with the acting thing, working in a bunch of films and television shows, more
often than not as the villain. Rocky and Lord Larry had taught me to find the juiciness in playing bad, to crave leaning out over the edge, and I guess it showed. Many’s the time on a set (and not a few times in my relationships) that I’ve hit a tricky patch and wondered, “What Would Lord Larry do?” He has never failed to respond — and I have the scars to prove it. I learned that being able to take a bump can be what saves you anywhere in life. Rocky passed away about a year after the Silver Spurs show, and the DWA passed with him. I hear him in my thoughts from time to time, often when I’m working, and it’s still a bit of a shock that one of my dearest and most important mentors was a busted up old ex-gangster from Staten Island. But there you have it. I don’t think Rocky created Lord Larry as much as he found him hiding within me and turned him loose — which means I probably owe him my career and most of the good times that have come with it. Between Rocky and Lord Larry, I have the world’s weirdest guardian angels. What I wouldn’t give for a chance for the three of us to pull on the tights and do somebody wrong one more time.
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John Nadeau, 50, began his career as an illustrator in the late 1980s as a penciller for Wolverine, a comic book featuring the ill-tempered Marvel Comics mutant superhero who was infused with adamantium (a fictional metal alloy) that made him virtually indestructible. (Hugh Jackman played the character in a string of hit Marvel movies.) He later moved to rival DC Comics to draw the iconic Green Lantern series. His work for Oregonbased independent publisher Dark Horse Comics included stints as a penciller and cover painter for Aliens — based on the sci-fi horror films. Nadeau also drew various Star Wars titles including X-Wing: Rogue Squadron and comics featuring assassin Boba Fett (a Star Wars character) in titles as Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction. Recently, Nadeau has cowritten (with author Dan Jolley) the series Murder Society for the Dark Horse anthology Dark Horse Presents. He also works as a commercial artist and architectural renderer for various clients in Central Florida and around the world, including the Walt Disney Company, HHCP Architects, GoConvergence, Simiosys, OBM International, Resorts World Sentosa and others. In 2018 he began doing paintings in oil for The Art of Disney galleries. Nadeau was born in Syracuse, New York, but spent most of his life in Central Florida. He’s a graduate of Winter Park High School, Valencia Community College and the University of Central Florida. He’s currently writing and drawing his own science fiction graphic novel, Vector. The first issue was released last November.
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Peter and Bonnie Hansen moved to Winter Park in 2016 and immediately became involved in civic life. In 2017, Peter scripted a PBS documentary on railroading that was filmed partially in Mead Botanical Garden, where Bonnie, a preservationist, became a volunteer.
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Peter A. Hansen had a thing about trains. He edited the scholarly and definitive Railroad History magazine and appeared in live performances and nationally broadcast documentaries about railroads. In 2017, he traced the colorful history of passenger service to Florida in an hourlong documentary he scripted called Selling Sunshine: The Florida Trains. The film, hosted by actor Michael Gross (Family Ties), aired nationally on PBS after debuting before a packed house at Mead Botanical Garden — which was the setting for several interviews. Hansen died recently at his home after a three-month battle with brain cancer. He was 62. He and his wife, Bonnie, a preservationist, had moved from Sacramento to Winter Park in 2016, buying a beautiful historic home in a quiet neighborhood near Lake Killarney.
A “Pete was the foremost railroad historian of his era,” says Bonnie, who collaborated with her husband on many of his railroading projects. “His research was a mile wide and a mile deep.” Hansen’s knowledge of train mechanics — the literal nuts and bolts — was without peer. But he also delved into railroading as social history, researching the displacement of Native Americans as tracks expanded west and the discriminatory practices of railroad companies during the Jim Crow era. “Pete always said too much railroad history was triumphal,” adds Bonnie. “And much of it really was glorious. But he realized that the subject was more textured. He never sanitized his work and told human stories.” The Hansens met at Eastern University in Philadelphia — his degree was in history, hers was in Spanish. In Sacramento, Peter had directed an expansion of the California State Railroad Museum, while Bonnie had coordinated restoration of the once-neglected grounds of the circa-1870s Governor’s Mansion. Hansen’s death is being keenly felt by railroad historians across the country. Robert Holzweiss, president of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, which publishes Railroad History, remembers “the depth and breadth of [Hansen’s] knowledge” and his engaging writing. Robert S. McGonigal, editor of Classic Trains magazine, notes that “without Pete’s contributions, our understanding of railroad history would be far less complete.” Hansen’s articles also appeared in Trains magazine — frequently as cover stories that encompassed topics ranging from the true story of Casey Jones to the history of coal as locomotive fuel. “Pete was an amazing journalist and we’re fortunate that he was
beguiled by railroading,” says Trains Editor Jim Wrinn. “Pete’s understanding of the big picture as well as his attention to detail made him one of the top practitioners of his craft.” But he was more than a leading railroading journalist. Over the years, Hansen consulted for several important museums and institutions, among them the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, the Nevada State Railroad Museum and Kansas City Union Station. He was on the roster of experts for the Smithsonian Journeys travel program and helped lead the restoration of a Jim Crow-era Southern Railway coach at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. At the time of his death, Hansen was working on a two-volume history of railroading in Missouri, which will be published by the University of Indiana Press. He had previously taped interviews for an upcoming PBS documentary on the Pullman Company, and was preparing to research Winter Park’s train stations. Earlier this year the couple had become involved in Preservation Winter Park, a nonprofit that advocates for the protection of historic homes. Bonnie, who hopes to donate her husband’s voluminous railroading history archives to Rollins College or the Winter Park Public Library, is thankful that fellow train aficionados from around the country had an opportunity to call their friend and colleague to say their final goodbyes. “Pete kept his ability to communicate until near the end,” she says. “He had decided against an operation that would have prolonged his life by just a few months. So those conversations meant a lot.” In his final hours, when Hansen was no longer able to hold conversations, she played railroad songs for him, including “City of New Orleans” and, appropriately, “Bound for Glory.” — Randy Noles S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
All aboard! The sleek and streamlined Orange Blossom Special was among the now-iconic passenger trains that sped snowbirds to the Sunshine State in grand style.
Editor’s note: Selling Sunshine: The Florida Trains is available on Amazon in DVD format. Following is a condensed version of a story about the film that appeared in Winter Park Magazine in 2017. Johnny Cash was renowned for his train songs. In “Come Along and Ride this Train,” he rhapsodized about seeing the country via rail, which is how most long-distance travelers saw it in the 19th century. But if the Man in Black had been thinking of Florida, he might have substituted “swampland, sandbars, cypress hammocks” for “rivers, levees, plains.” Railroads, after all, transformed Florida from an inhospitable and sparsely populated frontier outpost into a magnet for tourists and settlers. The promise of Florida as a carefree subtropical paradise where fortunes could be amassed overnight proved hollow to many. Others — particularly railroad titans Henry M. Flagler (1830–1913) and Henry B. Plant (1819–1899) — expanded their already formidable fortunes. Winter Park resident Peter Hansen traces the colorful history of passenger service to the Sunshine State in an hourlong documentary he scripted called Selling Sunshine: The Florida Trains. The film, produced by Kalmbach Publishing, is hosted by actor Michael Gross — you’ll remember him as Steven Keaton on the 1980s NBC sitcom Family Ties — who ambles amiably through modern and historic settings while describing the ways in which railroads turned the nation’s isolated southernmost frontier into an accessible vacation playground. “Modern Florida is unimaginable without the railroads,” says Hansen, 60, who also writes and lectures about the social importance of transportation systems. “There wasn’t a reason for anyone to come here. It wasn’t on its way to anywhere. The railroads changed all that.” Selling Sunshine begins with vintage newsreel footage of an early 20th-century New York snowstorm. That chilling visual certainly illustrates why Florida was
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such an enticing destination during the winter months. Getting there, however, was the challenge — until a pair of self-made tycoons decided to conquer this vast untamed expanse using steam and steel. Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway, as its name indicates, concentrated primarily on the state’s east coast, laying track between Jacksonville and Miami and building magnificent resort hotels — such as The Breakers in Palm Beach — to which wealthy Northerners fled when the mercury dropped back home. The Plant Line (later the Atlantic Coast Line), which had its hub in Sanford, did the same throughout the central part of the state and along the west coast. In fact, Winter Park’s Seminole Hotel — which burned to the ground in 1902 — was developed by Plant. Plant’s most enduring brick-and-mortar legacy is the former Tampa Bay Hotel, a Moorish revival masterpiece that now anchors the campus of the University of Tampa and houses the Henry B. Plant Museum. By 1930, Florida boasted 6,000 miles of track. While there were many railroads, eventually the Atlantic Coast Line, the Florida East Coast Railway and the Seaboard Air Line became the state’s big three. Now-iconic trains such as the Florida Special and the Orange Blossom Special earned places in railroading lore. In addition to exploring the contributions of Flagler and Plant, Selling Sunshine reviews advances in railroad technology, among them the advent of diesel streamliners such as the Orange Blossom Special. The film also rather wistfully recalls the luxury of traveling in Pullman cars, with their posh appointments and lavish service. Selling Sunshine, much like the trains it highlights, barrels along at a lively clip, with more than 20 interviews and a trove of archival photographs and footage. The genial Gross taped his engaging narration in front of a green screen at a Colorado studio. That’s how he appears to pop up in an array of picturesque locations, including Mead Botanical Garden and Central Park in downtown Winter Park. Also used as settings for Gross’ segments are Flagler College in St. Augustine — the centerpiece of which was once Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel — as well as the Henry B. Plant Museum and the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center in Jacksonville. The convention center is apt since it incorporates what had been Jacksonville’s Union Station, built in 1919. The complex was, for a time, the largest railroad station in the South, handling as many as 142 trains and 20,000 passengers a day in the 1920s. By then, train travel to Florida had become democratized. No longer a haven
only for the wealthy, the state was attracting hordes of middle-class tourists. The ensuing land boom soon fizzled — but even a disastrous economic downturn didn’t tarnish Florida’s sheen for very long. Selling Sunshine isn’t focused entirely on railroading’s glory days, however. Also analyzed is the industry’s precipitous decline, its complicity with Jim Crow laws, its ongoing battles with unions and regulators, and its near collapse in the late 1960s. Passenger service was salvaged when the federal government formed Amtrak in 1971. The film offers a hopeful glimpse of the future with a nod to commuter-rail services such as SunRail, which links Orlando and DeBary, and Tri-Rail, which links Miami and Palm Beach. Several locals have notched screen time in Selling Sunshine. Among them is Paul Butler, who taught mineral science at Imperial College and the University of Oxford before retiring to Winter Park in 2009. Butler, in a segment entitled “Jurassic Florida,” talks about the effort required to get to the state — and to traverse its length — prior to the railroads. Intrepid visitors from the Northeast sailed to Jacksonville and boarded sternwheelers, which for weeks trudged south along the St. Johns River. “Florida was a very wild place,” says Butler, who notes that passengers often passed the time by randomly shooting wildlife. “They’d shoot anything that moved. It was a slaughter of the innocents, as they say.” Butler, who recently wrote a book about Theodore Luqueer Mead, the namesake of Mead Botanical Garden, later discusses the state’s nascent citrus industry, and the importance of trains in getting the fruit to far-flung markets before it spoiled. Winter Park Magazine editor and publisher Randy Noles also appears, discussing the history of the song “Orange Blossom Special,” about which he wrote two books: Orange Blossom Boys and Fiddler’s Curse. Selling Sunshine likewise features interviews with academicians, curators and railroad historians. You’ll get a chuckle from the anecdotes of former “hostesses,” who enlivened the Florida Special with onboard fashion shows staged to promote
Atlantic Coast Line advertisements from the early 20th century enticed Northeasterners with images of well-heeled passengers and tropical vistas.
Miami’s department stores. The glamour and romance of railroad travel — which Selling Sunshine so effectively celebrates — may never return. But Hansen believes the future of railroading is bright. Flying, he notes, is more hassle-filled than ever. And roads are choked by the sheer volume of vehicles. That’s why commuter trains and interstate trains connecting major cities will become increasingly important, Hansen says. “There are almost 500 communities in this country with no other form of public transportation,” he adds. “So railroads still matter.”
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INFLUENTIALS THE E X T R AO R DIN A RY CLA S S O F 2 0 2 0 I NCLUDE S O RG A N IZE RS, E N T R E P RE N E UR S, I CONS AND E V E N A T V S TA R . LE T ’ S M E E T T H E M . By the Editors Photographs by Rafael Tongol
T’S TIME AGAIN TO RECOGNIZE WINTER PARK MAGazine’s Most Influential People. The program, in its sixth year, recognizes those who — sometimes quietly — make a difference through their professions, their volunteerism, their philanthropy, their talents or their community engagement. The selectees are presented in the summer issue and celebrated at a big event at the Alfond Inn, postponed to September 30 this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the people who have already been Influentials. The Classes of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and 2019 included: Roy Alan and Heather Alexander, Richard O. “Rick” Baldwin, Jim Barnes, Dan Bellows, Anna Bond, Rita Bornstein, Jill Hamilton Buss, Jeffrey Blydenburgh, Daniel Butts, Sid Cash, Charles Clayton III, Billy Collins, Grant and Peg Cornwell, Linda Costa, Julian Chambliss, Patrick Chapin, Carolyn Cooper, Deborah Crown, Jere F. Daniels Jr., Mary Daniels, Robynn Demar, Mary Demetree, Betsy Gardner Eckbert, Jeff Eisenbarth, Dykes Everett and Andrea Massey-Farrell. Also: Carolyn Fennell, Meg Fitzgerald, Sue Foreman, Scot and Christine Madrid French, Shawn Garvey, Hal George, John Gill, Alan Ginsburg, Steve Goldman, Sarah Grafton, Elizabeth “Betsy” Gwinn, Ralph V. “Terry” Hadley III, Jane Hames, Ena Heller, Debra Hendrickson, Catherine Hinman, Eric and Diane Holm, Herb Holm (deceased), Charlene Hotaling, and Jon and Betsy Hughes.
Also: Susan Johnson, Gary I. and Isis Jones, Phil Kean, Allan Keen, Linda Keen, Tom Klusman, Randy Knight, Debbie Komanski, Linda Kulmann, Cindy Bowman LaFronz, Jack C. Lane, Steve Leary, Fairolyn Livingston, John and Rita Lowndes, Lawrence Lyman, Lambrine Macejewski, Paula Madsen, Jesse Martinez, Brandon McGlammery, Genean Hawkins McKinnon, Joanne McMahon, Micki Meyer, Johnny Miller, Anne Mooney and Ronnie Moore. Also: Patty Maddox, Elizabeth Tiedtke Mukherjee, Stephanie Murphey, Tony and Sonja Nicholson, David Odahowski, Betsy Rogers Owens, James and Julie Petrakis, Jana Ricci, John Rife, John Rivers, Randall B. Robertson, Laurence J. “Larry” Ruggiero, Greg Seidel, Peter Schreyer, Polly Seymour, Thaddeus Seymour (deceased) and Shawn Shaffer. Also: John and Gail Sinclair, Sarah Sprinkel, Susan Skolfield, Sam Stark, Chuck and Margery Pabst Steinmetz, Bronce Stephenson, Dori Stone, Matthew Swope, Bill Walker, Fr. Richard Walsh, Jennifer Wandersleben, Harold A. Ward III, Debbie Watson, Todd Weaver, Bill Weir, Chip Weston, Pete Weldon, Cynthia Wood and Becky Wilson. On the following pages, please meet the Class of 2020 — which is every bit as deep and impressive as previous classes, and includes some people you may not know as well as some longtime community icons. They come from all walks of life but share a love for Winter Park — and a desire to make it even better.
S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Justin Birmele Chief Executive Officer, AdventHealth Winter Park
THE CARE CONNECTOR
OR JUSTIN BIRMELE, WHO BECAME CEO OF AdventHealth Winter Park in January, healthcare isn’t a job, but a calling. On his journey into the local hospital’s executive suite, Birmele listened to God and channeled his parents — both of whom are nurses. When Birmele was 9 years old, they moved to Orlando to work for Florida Hospital, the Altamonte Springs faith-based nonprofit that was rebranded as AdventHealth in 2018. “My pathway has literally been in the footsteps of my parents,” says Birmele, who has spent more than 20 years in healthcare — from his first job in high school as a file clerk in a doctor’s office to managing more than 1,300 employees and 300 physicians — “everyday superheroes,” he calls them — in Winter Park. Birmele was born in Kettering, Ohio, in the same hospital his parents served as operating room and emergency room nurses. His father’s contract with the U.S. Army took the family to Germany. Then, seeking a warmer climate, they relocated to Orlando, where Birmele graduated from Forest Lake Academy, a Seventh-Day Adventist high school. He later attended Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, where he earned a degree in psychology. He also holds a master’s degree in healthcare administration from Webster University, and recently completed AdventHealth’s inaugural (and selective) Executive Leadership Program. In the community, the genial Birmele — who’s hard to miss at a towering 6-foot-5-inches — volunteers for numerous good causes and serves on the boards of Seniors First Inc., the Oviedo-Winter Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife, Lindsey, a licensed mental health counselor, have a 2-year-old daughter. Birmele took charge at AdventHealth Winter Park — where he was previously COO — during a period of robust growth. He oversaw projects that included completion last year of the Nicholson Pavilion, an $85 million expansion encompassing 140 private rooms. A new 27,000-square-foot emergency room facility now under construction will open in 2021. Birmele — like many Influentials — is a graduate of Leadership Winter Park, a program of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. But his values were shaped largely by his parents: “They taught me to do more than expected in caring for others.”
W H AT H E S AYS :
“To help me find the energy [for my responsibilities] I make morning devotion and prayer a priority. My faith is the foundation of my wellbeing — and I find that time alone with God really jumpstarts my day in a very positive direction.”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“A smart administrator who really cares for people … the embodiment of AdventHealth’s values … a family man and a community leader … Justin lives his faith.”
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Michael Carolan Shareholder, chair of the Real Estate Department, Winderweedle, Haines, Ward & Woodman
THE FORWARD THINKER
HEY SAY TIMING IS EVERYTHING. MICHAEL Carolan began his career in real estate law at Winderweedle, Haines, Ward & Woodman in 2008, just as the economy tanked and the Great Recession took hold. In 2020, he began his term as chair of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce just as the COVID-19 pandemic caused closures and quarantines. “I seem to start when things are cratering,” he says, ruefully. But Carolan, who exudes a calm demeanor and boasts a background in finance, is just the kind of person you want on your side during troubled times. Through the chamber, he’s working to ensure that a shaken business community survives, revives and once again thrives. A graduate of Duke University — the alma mater of both his parents — Carolan’s undergraduate degree is in economics. He worked at PCE Investment Bankers in Winter Park as a financial analyst for two-and-a-half years before he decided to attend the Fredric G. Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, from which he graduated cum laude in 2007. At Winderweedle — which was founded in 1931 — Carolan joined a respected team that included both his father, Rusty, and his future wife, Nikki. Carolan currently chairs the venerable firm’s real estate department and represents lenders and borrowers in a wide range of commercial financial transactions. He and Nikki married in 2012 and have two children, ages 6 and 3. Carolan’s energy and relative youth make him an ideal fit at the chamber, which in recent years has strengthened its advocacy effort and bolstered its value for members beyond its signature social events. Appointed to the chamber board in 2016, Carolan served as treasurer for two years — earning Chairman of the Year honors in 2017 — before becoming chair elect. He wants more Winter Parkers in his age group to become involved in the community — and to vote in city elections in comparable percentages to those of their elders. At 6-foot-5, Carolan, a Florida Super Lawyers “Rising Star” (2019 and 2020), already stands out in a crowd — and will no doubt stand out as a community leader in years to come.
W H AT H E S AYS :
“I like to think I’m a good listener and try to understand the interests and intents of different parties, and use that to find common ground and build from there. I also maintain a pretty even keel in high stress situations, and people seem drawn to that.”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“Mike is a natural leader who inspires confidence because of both his savvy and his personality … Winter Park’s future is in good hands with people like Mike … a great representative for the chamber.” S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Judy Charuhas Executive Director and Co-Founder, WinterParkLostPets.com
THE PET DETECTIVE
UDY CHARUHAS REMEMBERS WHEN ARLO, HER little border terrier, went missing. “He got out through the gate,” she says, reliving the terror she felt. “We found him a block away on a porch, having snacks with somebody.” Most lost-pet stories don’t end so quickly. That’s why, more than a decade ago, Charuhas created WinterParkLostPets.com with Shelley Heistand, a realtor with Coldwell Banker on Park Avenue. Since then, the nonprofit website has helped find and reunite more than 2,000 lost pets — from dogs and cats to ferrets and parrots — with their eternally grateful people. On the resource-packed WPLP site are photos of pets lost, found and reunited — including most recently Mosely the chihuahua, Leia the tabby, Armani the Persian, Soggy the lab mix, Pebbles the dachshund and Tony the cockatiel. Before WPLP, the standard method for finding a lost pet was to tape a note and a grainy photo to a power pole. “Shelley would also often get calls when dogs got out because she was a Realtor out in the community,” says Charuhas. The two neighbors discussed the problem and came up with the idea for a website where frantic owners could post information. (The service was soon expanded to include email alerts and notices sent to followers on social media.) Heistand told Charuhas: “If you find someone to do it, I’ll pay for it.” Heistand remains sponsor of the website while Charuhas is WPLP’s public face and self-described “Energizer Bunny.” She handles postings, coordinates events, and — as a mental health therapist honored for her work with Pulse victims and survivors — provides pet loss grief counseling. WPLP, which serves the Winter Park-College Park area and sponsors free microchipping and pet safety education programs, runs on an annual budget of $5,000 (in a good year) and relies solely on donations. Gifts are especially welcome this year since the group’s annual fundraiser, “The Running of the Chihuahuas,” fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. Donations can be made through the Winter Park Lost Pets Foundation, a registered nonprofit. Charuhas and her husband, Patrick, relocated to Winter Park from Chicago in 1983, and share their home with canine companions Lily, Olive and Sparky.
W H AT S H E S AYS :
“Of course, the pets themselves don’t have words. We must be their voice. We must speak on their behalf and tell the community, ‘I am lost. Help me get home.’”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“I get weepy, in a good way, when I look at the website … Judy and Shelley have one of the best feel-good stories in Winter Park … the world is a better place because people do things like this.”
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S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Chris Cortez Co-Founder, President and CEO, Blue Bamboo Center for the Performing Arts
THE MUSIC MAN
UITARIST CHRIS CORTEZ PENNED A SONG IN the late 1980s about a man with no arms, whom he saw painting with his feet. “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it,” goes the chorus. Cortez, cofounder, president and CEO of Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts, lives those words. He has persevered along the long and winding road of a musical career, no matter the odds or obstacles. At his funky nonprofit concert hall, which opened in 2016, he has united Central Florida’s vast reserve of musical talent with appreciative audiences. Four years into the venture, he’s producing up to 300 shows annually — in every genre imaginable — that collectively gross about $300,000 between ticket sales and sponsorships. “It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding,” says Cortez, a Cincinnati native who moved to Orlando at age 2 with his family, including his mother, Virginia “Ginny” Cortez, a founding member of what is now the Orlando Repertory Theater. His father, Joe, a Martin Marietta technical writer, gave the talented 9-year-old a $13 guitar and (perhaps inadvertently) launched the career of a jazz player, pop vocalist, record producer and entertainment empresario. After graduation from Edgewater High School, Cortez played with various Top 40 bands and performed at Walt Disney World, including a regular gig with Kids of the Kingdom. He also played guitar with a jazz fusion group called, prophetically, Blue Bamboo. The combo, which was the house band at a downtown Orlando nightclub called Daisy’s Basement, allowed Cortez to polish his artistry. In 1986, however, he left Central Florida for almost 30 years, during which time he played in house bands, directed music at a casino and produced more than 30 CDs — including six of his own. He met Melody, his wife and partner in Blue Bamboo, in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2015, at a career crossroads in Houston, the couple saw opportunity in the form of a 6,000-square-foot yellow warehouse on Kentucky Avenue. Music now is a mission; thanks to a $10,000 grant from the City of Winter Park, Blue Bamboo presents at least 25 free concerts yearly and others that raise money for local charities.
W H AT H E S AYS :
“I begin with ‘it’s possible’ and everything else is logistics.”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“Before Blue Bamboo, there were really no comparable venues here … Chris and Melody spotlight great talent, both familiar and unfamiliar … every sophisticated city needs a place like this.”
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Integrity, compassion, perseverance: three words that best describe
Kris Miller’s leadership skills. She leads by example, gives the best and expects the best, even in arduous times. She displays compassion when necessary yet stands strong. Through her perseverance and dedication, The Gardens at DePugh has won accreditation by the Joint Commission — the nation’s oldest and largest healthcare accrediting organization — and was named one of only a handful of Governor’s Gold Seal healthcare facilities. It’s also five-star rated by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That means The Gardens at DePugh is one of the best skilled-nursing centers in Florida — and it’s right here in the heart of Winter Park.
The Winter Park Chamber Congratulates 2 Of Its Leaders Who Are
Mike Carolan Winderweedle, Haines, Ward & Woodman
Paul Twyford The Winter Park Distilling Company S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
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Bill and Allen Finfrock President (Bill Finfrock) and CEO (Allen Finfrock), Finfrock Industries
THE CONCRETE IDEALISTS
ILL FINFROCK (PRESIDENT) AND ALLEN FINFROCK (CEO) ARE the third generation of family members to lead Finfrock Industries, a fast-growing design-build company founded by their grandfather, Robert J.D. Finfrock, who moved to Winter Park 75 years ago and began developing concrete products — just roof and floor tiles at first — for residential and commercial construction. Soon the company expanded into other concrete products and building components. Robert D. Finfrock (Bill and Allen’s father), a structural engineer, became an innovator in the design and construction of prestressed concrete buildings. Today, with more than 700 employees, Finfrock ranks No. 1 on the Orlando Business Journal’s list of the region’s largest general contractors, and No. 9 on the publication’s list of largest privately held companies. But while its corporate offices — along with its fabrication and assembly plants — are located in Apopka, the company’s owners are dyed-in-the-wool Winter Parkers. Bill (the older brother by a year) and Allen both attended Winter Park High School before completing civil engineering degrees from Vanderbilt University and then, in 1997, simultaneously earning MBAs from the Crummer School of Business at Rollins College. (Their dad is also a WPHS, Vandy and Crummer alum.) Under the brothers’ leadership, Finfrock has more than quadrupled in size over the past three years with projects that include hotels, student housing and luxury multifamily residential properties. And the company’s parking garages — five of which are in Winter Park — can be found all over the U.S. In 2017, Finfrock built its largest parking garage in a single phase (3,000-plus spaces at the Walt Disney World Resort), followed by its largest hotel (2,800 rooms at Universal Orlando Resort). However, the most high-profile Finfrock project locally has been Juno, a seven-story, 268-unit luxury multifamily housing complex at Ravaudage, the 73-acre mixed-use development by Sydgan Corporation at Lee Road and U.S. Highway 1792. Finfrock is also seeking to build a new boutique hotel on West Morse Boulevard, consideration of which was postponed by the city as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bill is a past chair of Habitat for Humanity for Seminole County and Greater Apopka, and the AdventHealth Cancer Institute Board. Allen has been a leader in industry-related organizations, while both are graduates of Leadership Orlando. In construction circles, Finfrock is known for its patented DualDeck floor and ceiling assembly, in which two layers of prefabricated concrete are separated by a truss system with a building’s mechanical systems located in between.
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“I think back to the ’70s and ’80s in Winter Park, and it had great charm but was starting to look a little threadbare. You have to reinvest in a city to keep it economically viable.” (Bill Finfrock) Winter Park offers a great quality of life, including walkability and amenities such as the canals. But a city needs to continually replenish itself.” (Allen Finfrock)
W H AT OT H E R S S AY:
“Concrete doesn’t sound exciting — but these guys have revolutionized the commercial construction industry … brilliant engineers and businesspeople whose work is top quality … they want to see Winter Park thrive, and their projects reflect that.” S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Larry Hames President, Laurence C. Hames Esq.
THE CALM COUNSELOR
HEN ORLANDO MAYOR BUDDY DYER PROclaimed “Larry Hames Day” in November of last year, it was because the longtime Winter Park attorney had stepped in as interim CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Florida when the previous CEO resigned after just nine months on the job. During what might otherwise have been a tumultuous time for the organization — which has more than 2,000 employees across six counties — Hames’ impeccable reputation and Zen-like calm reassured supporters that all would be well. While the recognition by Dyer was appreciated, Hames — a lawyer for more than 40 years and president of Laurence C. Hames Esq. since 2009 — has always quietly performed his civic duties without any expectation of accolades. After graduation from Emory University in Atlanta, Hames attended the Frederic G. Levin School of Law at the University of Florida and earned both a J.D. and an LL.M. (an advanced legal degree in taxation) before beginning an eight-year stint heading the tax practice group at Lowndes, Doster, Kantor & Reed. Despite a busy career, Hames has chaired the board of the Goodwill Industries of Central Florida Foundation and the related GoodSource Staffing Services, a temporary jobs agency that helps hard-to-place job seekers build solid work records. He’s also a member of the Family Board at AdventHealth Winter Park and a past board member of the Heart of the City Foundation — which supports ministries of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando — and the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools. In addition, Hames headed the Glenridge Middle School PTA (his kids were students) and was a founding board member of the Millennium Rowing Association, a nonprofit organization that helps support the Winter Park High School crew team. Hames is today chairman of the board of supervisors for the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the governing entity for land that encompasses Walt Disney World. He and his wife, Jane, a public relations entrepreneur (and a past Influential), have three accomplished daughters. Hames’ late father, Clifford, will be remembered by most Central Floridians as vice chairman of the board for SunBank and an organizer of the Winter Park Health Foundation in 1994. Says Hames: “I think he’d be proud of how his children and grandchildren are stepping up.”
W H AT H E S AYS :
“My personal style is based on a calm and studied approach to everything. Some — like my wife, occasionally — may find this frustrating because of its measured pace. But I find that it works well because it generally makes others calm, too.”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“Larry is not one to seek the spotlight, but he sees what needs to be done and does it … every day ought to be Larry Hames Day.”
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Frank Hamner Founder, Frank A. Hamner P.A.
T H E A R D E N T A DVO C AT E
TTORNEY FRANK HAMNER HAS A NAVAL OFficer’s spirit and an Alabama woodcutter’s work ethic. Hamner maintains a legal practice specializing in construction litigation. But it’s his work as general counsel for such high-profile clients as the Holler and Demetree families — both of whom have extensive commercial real estate holdings — that often places him front and center during development disputes in sharply divided Winter Park. The hard-charging litigator, employed at GrayRobinson for almost a decade before opening his own practice, grew up in Fayette, Alabama, the adopted son of a pulpwood cutter and a garment-factory worker. He joined the U.S. Navy after high school and within two years was tapped for an engineering scholarship that landed him at Auburn University, where he majored in electrical engineering. After graduation, Hamner returned to the Navy as a surface warfare commander on carriers and destroyers, serving two tours in the Gulf War. Hamner left active duty in 1992 to attend the Fredric G. Levin School of law at the University of Florida and married Lauren Frey, daughter of late U.S. Representative Lou Frey. The couple, who met at Auburn, have three children, ages 18 to 23. (Hamner also has two grown children from a previous marriage.) Apart from his legal practice, Hamner has served such organizations as the March of Dimes, the Central Florida Zoo, Junior Achievement of Central Florida and, of course, UCF’s Lou Frey Institute of Government and Politics. In 2012, representing the Winter Park YMCA, Hamner helped achieve city and community consensus regarding a controversial YMCA expansion proposal. This year, Hamner advocated for the Orange Avenue Overlay, a zoning ordinance that would have provided a foundation for cohesively redeveloping the slapdash thoroughfare. Two Hamner clients, Demetree Holdings and Holler Properties, are among the three largest landowners (along with the city) in the 75 acres that were impacted. The overlay plan was initially approved — but then abruptly rescinded by a newly elected city commission. Demetree Holdings had, at press time, filed suit against the city, although Hamner is not the attorney of record. The genial but no-nonsense attorney has a lighter side: For the past decade, he has emceed Mead Botanical Garden’s annual Great Duck Derby, calling the races and sharing “the best duck jokes ever.”
W H AT H E S AYS :
“My thing is not development. My thing is positive change. If you don’t grow or change, you stagnate.”
W H AT OT H E R S S AY:
“Frank is a standup guy who cares deeply about the community … a straight shooter … as an attorney he’s a fighter, but in person he’s as down-to-earth as you could meet.”
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Let’s start healing AdventHealth Winter Park connects you to the expertise that keeps you feeling your best — including advanced surgical services — conveniently located in your neighborhood. Plus, we’re home to a team of highly skilled specialists in cardiology, oncology, obstetrics, gynecology, urology, orthopedics, ENT, and gastroenterology. And, during these challenging times, we’re taking every measure to keep you and your family safe when you’re here.
200 North Lakemont Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32792
Whitney Laney Realtor, Fannie Hillman + Associates
T H E G O O D S A M A R I TA N
HITNEY LANEY DIDN’T SET OUT TO BE AN exemplar of the maxim that “virtue is its own reward.” It just happened that way. Laney, a realtor with Fannie Hillman + Associates, has served as emcee for events sponsored by local chapters of the American Cancer Society, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Children’s Home Society of Florida. Earlier this year, she co-chaired (with Sarah Grafton, a past Influential) “A Pair to Remember,” a fashion show at the Mall at Millenia Mall to raise funds for Easterseals Florida. And from 2008 to 2011, she was event coordinator for the “Baby DJ” Christmas toy drive at WXXL-FM (FM106), where she was an on-air personality. In memory of a friend who took his own life, in 2011 Laney founded the Donald L. DeVane Foundation to raise funds for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. And she has made multiple life-affirming mission trips to the Philippines to work with the Bob (father of Tim) Tebow Evangelistic Association. Lifting up others began early for Laney: “When I was really little, I remember going with my mom to Harbor House [for women and children fleeing abusive domestic situations]. We hung out in the cafeteria, talked to them and served them food. I realized then how fortunate I was.” Since then, every time Laney has seen an opportunity to lend her head, heart and hands to help people in need, she has seized it. When Hurricane Dorian shattered the Bahamas in 2019, Laney coordinated a grassroots relief effort that included Air Unlimited, a local aircraft charter company, and hurried to the devastated Caribbean nation to personally deliver food and medical supplies. “I saw things and heard stories you can only know if you were there,” she says. “I always cry when I talk about it.” Laney, previously an on-air personality at WPOZ-FM (better known as Z88.3), is also a dynamic public speaker who tackles such topics as self-esteem and bullying. In addition, she’s a member of the Winter Park Public Library board of directors. For all her far-flung contributions, Laney says her most rewarding adventure has been raising her two children: Barron, 7, and Hensley, 5.
W H AT S H E S AYS :
“I don’t take anything for granted. I learned very young to be grateful for every blessing and to understand the fragility of life and circumstance.”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“Whitney is a force of nature … she lives her faith through her actions … she’s absolutely selfless … Whitney doesn’t only send thoughts and prayers — she sends herself and her positive energy.”
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Chevalier Lovett Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Organize Florida
T H E O P E R AT I C AC T I V I S T
HEVALIER LOVETT LEARNED EARLY THE IMportance of preparation for crises. “They teach you in school the need to be prepared, and I realized we were not having those conversations at home.” So, he took matters in his own hands. “I planned an evacuation route from our house in case of fire.” Fire marshal Chevalier was 6 years old. His next project: “I made workout plans and a health and fitness plan for my sister, my mother and me, and gave them report cards on how they did.” That launched Lovett on a journey of good works that have encompassed everything from the YMCA (a past membership and program director in Winter Park and Jacksonville) to Opera Orlando (a board member and performer as a lyric baritone) to the United Negro College Fund (a marketing and social media committee member). He sits on half a dozen other boards, mentors young people through Valencia Promise, a program that helps prepare high-schoolers for college, and is worship/music director at First United Methodist Church of Winter Park. All this is in addition to Lovett’s day job as senior vice president and managing director of Orlando-based Organize Florida, an influential social justice nonprofit with branch offices in Kissimmee and Tampa. Chevalier — “Chev” to his friends — was named for French singer-actor Maurice Chevalier, a favorite of his grandmother. That’s apt for a classically trained pianist and vocalist who has appeared in musicals, operas and in 2018 directed and accompanied the Jones High School Concert Choir in a performance at Carnegie Hall. Lovett’s heart, though, is in Winter Park, where he grew up on the west side in a house built by Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park-Maitland. “I was ‘voluntold’ by my mom, Valerie, to help build it,” says Lovett, a voracious reader and a 2018 graduate of Leadership Winter Park, a program of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. “I said to my mom recently, ‘You’re very close to the mortgage being paid off — let me help take care of it.’ She said, ‘I’m going to hang up now and cry.’ It was my way of paying it forward.”
W H AT H E S AYS :
“My mother said, ‘For you to get the future I want for you, you’ll have to fight for it, work for it and build toward it.’”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“Being around Chev, I’m reassured about the country’s future … an outstanding and talented young man … tackles everything with youthful enthusiasm.”
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Thank You for Making a Difference. What makes our city so distinctive? Is it the beautiful lakes, lush parks, welcoming neighborhoods, vibrant businesses and world-class cultural attractions? Of course. But it’s more than that. It’s also the people who make this gem of a community unlike any other. Caring people. Talented people. Involved people. People who want the very best for the community in which they live and raise their families. To Winter Park’s Most Influential People, we say thank you for all you do. Winter Park wouldn’t be the same without you.
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Alex Martins CEO, Orlando Magic
THE HOOPS HONCHO
T’S HARD TO IMAGINE ORLANDO WITHOUT THE sports-business-philanthropic enterprise that is the NBA’s Orlando Magic. And it’s just as hard to imagine the Magic without Alex Martins. In 1989, when General Manager Pat Williams sought a public relations director for the fledging franchise, he was turned down by his first seven choices before Martins, a Villanova University grad and a twentysomething assistant sports information director at Georgetown University, took the job. The ambitious young workhorse — as he was aptly described by Williams — stayed until 1998, before accepting executive marketing positions with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and serving as tournament director for the Tavistock Cup, a PGA-sanctioned event held at Orlando’s Lake Nona and Iselworth country clubs. In 2005, Martins returned to the Magic and was named president and COO before becoming CEO in 2010. Martins notes that he and Charles Barkley joined the NBA on the same day in 1984 — Barkley as a rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers, Martins as an assistant in the team’s PR department. But unlike his outspoken friend, Martins believes that “it’s the responsibility not only of athletes but teams to be role models. Sports have an incredible platform to impact society beyond just playing games.” Martins, certainly, has walked the walk. His fingerprints can be found on virtually every major local civic project and philanthropic effort over the past 30 years — including the opening of the Amway Center in 2010 and the development of the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, which has distributed some $25 million to local nonprofits. He is vice chair of the University of Central Florida board of trustees, and has served on a host of commissions dealing with issues ranging from homelessness to economic development. Martins learned a lot about leadership from his late boss, Magic owner Richard DeVos, who “treated every usher, every ticket taker, every employee like they were the most important person in the room.” Martins and his wife, Juliet — with their two daughters in tow — moved from Windermere to Winter Park in 2007. Says Martins: “We fell in love with the feel of the entire community.”
W H AT H E S AYS :
“True leadership is leading by example. Don’t expect or require anyone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“Professional sports is pretty cutthroat, but Alex is such a genuinely nice and compassionate man … whether the Magic win or lose, they’re a credit to the community and to the culture of corporate citizenship created by the DeVos family and Alex.”
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Marc Middleton Founder and CEO, Growing Bolder LLC/Bolder Media Group
T H E AG E I S M AV E N G E R
ARC MIDDLETON, FORMER ANCHOR AT WESH-Channel 2, hasn’t appeared on a local newscast for 14 years. After a 16-year run at the local NBC affiliate, he walked away from his high-profile job only to become even more recognizable as founder of a burgeoning multimedia empire focused on providing hope and inspiration for the 50-plus crowd. Bolder Media Group, based in Winter Park, produces the Growing Bolder television show, which can be seen on more than 300 PBS stations nationwide, and publishes Growing Bolder Magazine, a hefty quarterly filled with stories of ordinary people living extraordinary lives. There’s also a syndicated Growing Bolder radio show. More recently, Middleton has written a provocative book, Growing Bolder: Defy the Cult of Youth, Live with Passion and Purpose. And in partnership with Florida Blue, the state’s leading insurer, his company has launched a membership organization that includes access to the online Growing Bolder Portal and its videos, documentaries, newsletters and special offers. Now Bolder Media has debuted a traveling live event, Growing Bolder: Launchpad to What’s Next, which Middleton describes as “a three-ring circus of innovation and motivation.” An Ohio native, Middleton attended FSU on a swimming scholarship. He had been a sportscaster in Savannah and Phoenix before being hired in 1988 by WESH, where he became a community institution along with colleagues Bill Shafer and the late Wendy Chioji. (He also met his future wife, Jill Kalstrom, who was a producer at the station.) But the upbeat Middleton became increasingly disenchanted with local news, where the philosophy seemed to be “if it bleeds it leads.” In 2006 he resigned, assembled backers who shared his vision and started Bolder Media. He was soon joined by Shafer, his on-air sidekick, and Chioji, who became a roving correspondent. Practicing what he preaches, in 2010 Middleton resumed competitive swimming after a 37-year layoff and subsequently helped set six relay world records. In 2014, he traveled to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro along with Chioji (then battling cancer for a third time) and other survivors of the disease along with their families. The resulting documentary, Conquering Kilimanjaro, aired nationally on the RLTV network.
W H AT H E S AYS :
“The key to living a happy and engaged life is simply to pursue your passions. That’s what keeps people alive, and that’s a powerful message for people of any age.”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“An inspirational figure who has identified a market eager to hear his message … a crusader who’s effective because of sincerity and great communication skills … Marc has made a difference in more lives than he’ll ever know.” S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Kristine Miller Executive Director, The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center
THE GUARDIAN ANGEL
RISTINE MILLER BRINGS A HEART FOR HELPing and a head for systems to her job as executive director and administrator at The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center. Since taking the helm at the historic (and cozy) 40-bed facility three years ago, Miller — usually called Kris — has had a major impact. In December, DePugh won accreditation by the Joint Commission — the nation’s oldest and largest healthcare accrediting organization — and was named one of the state’s few Governor’s Gold Seal healthcare facilities. It’s also five-star rated by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Miller grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, where her father was a nuclear engineer and her mother was a social worker. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a mathematics and political science degree, Miller didn’t initially envision a career in nursing home management. That was the province of her husband, Kevin, who ran a facility in rural Western Maryland, where the couple began raising their three children, now ages 13 to 24. Miller, who earned an MBA from Frostburg State University, ultimately accepted a management position at Oakland Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, a 120-bed facility near their home, where she spent seven years and says she “loved every minute.” Later, she worked in human resources and organizational development for Beitzel Corporation, a diversified contractor, and its subsidiary Pillar Innovations, a manufacturer of machinery. When Kevin Miller (who has since begun a career in real estate) took a job at Westminster Towers in Orlando, he hired away DePugh’s administrator. Kris Miller, though, was a perfect fit for the small nonprofit, which opened in 1956 as an outgrowth of charitable work by legendary west side advocate Mary Lee DePugh. Miller, during her stint, has been a hands-on manager who emphasizes a family work culture. For example, her new employee bonus program, giving back a percent of operational profits, has helped reduce turnover by one-third. When families suddenly need a nursing home, Miller notes, few have a plan. She adds: “Not only are we here, but we do a really good job at what we do.”
W H AT S H E S AYS :
“I want The Gardens to become an integral part of the community, a resource for families in planning for the future needs of the elderly and an example of the excellent care that can be received here in Winter Park.”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“Kris gracefully and forcefully deals with adversity, graciously passes kudos along when she could have retained them herself, and deals understandingly with families experiencing great emotional distress and sadness.”
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TO WINTER PARK’S MOST INFLUENTIAL:
Congratulations & Thank You! Since 1989, The Mayflower has been woven into the very fabric of Winter Park, with a synergy that has flourished through strategic partnerships, civic involvement and philanthropy. Our staff and residents actively support worthwhile causes that preserve the city’s history, character, environment and business climate. Simply put, we are part of Winter Park . . . and it is part of us. So it is with great pride that we salute Winter Park Magazine’s 2020 Most Influential People. With vision, creativity, dedication and hard work, you continue to enrich and advance our hometown – bringing new ideas and perspectives that build on a legacy of success. Your leadership makes a difference – not only for the community at large, but for each of us as individuals. Whether we live here, work here, or just visit here, we’re all better . . . because of you.
Proud Co-sponsor of Winter Park Magazine’s Reception Saluting Winter Park’s Most Influential People at The Alfond Inn
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Jim and Alexis Pugh Philanthropists
T H E P OW E R H O U S E PAT RO N S
URSTING WITH STARRY IMAGERY AND WITH 32 COLORFUL backlit abstracts embedded in the ceiling, the intimate Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a jewel box of a venue — hosting everything from stand-up comedians to operatic productions. In fact, the Pughs have the distinction of being the only Influentials to be photographed at a place named in their honor. That’s only fitting, since they donated millions of dollars of their own money and helped to raise millions more over the course of a decade to turn the longstanding dream of a world-class, multitheater complex into a reality. The $600 million project, financed through a combination of public and private funds, will be completed later this year with the opening of Steinmetz Hall, named for another pair of Winter Parkers (and past Influentials) Chuck and Margery Pabst Steinmetz. Jim Pugh, founding chair of the arts center’s board of directors and the project’s leading light for 18 years, is now chairman emeritus of the company he founded, Epoch Properties, which is one of the largest developers of upscale multifamily projects in the U.S. (He also owns Barnies Coffee & Tea Co., with a flagship café on Park Avenue.) Born in Winter Haven — his father was a carpenter, his mother a citrus canning plant worker — Pugh worked three jobs to pay tuition at the University of Florida, from which he earned a degree in construction management before becoming an Army Ranger. As a businessperson, Pugh has for decades been a civic force through his service on countless nonprofit boards, among them the Holocaust Resource & Education Center. He recently spearheaded a fundraising drive for the center, which plans to build an expanded museum in downtown Orlando. In 2018, Pugh was named a member of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans alongside a who’s who of luminaries who’ve made a difference through altruism and philanthropy. The Pughs, who married in 1987, pursue their individual philanthropic interests. Alexis Pugh, who has a journalism degree from West Virginia University and spent 35 years as an advertising and public relations executive, is a member of the boards of the Bok Tower Gardens National Historic Landmark in Lake Wales, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College and Harbor House of Central Florida — a domestic violence shelter. She’s also an active supporter of her alma mater, serving on the WVU Foundation Board and recently helping to fund the College of Media’s Alexis and Jim Pugh Media Innovation Lab.
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“Winter Park is an ideal place to live. The people here are special and care about the community; there’s a lot of great work and volunteerism going on.” (Jim Pugh) “I love the beauty of the town. I love the brick streets and the ability to walk downtown from our home. Park Avenue is a treasure, but it’s sad to see so many empty storefronts right now.” (Alexis Pugh)
W H AT OT H E R S S AY:
“I’m not sure who else would have had the tenaciousness and stature to lead the Dr. Phillips Center to completion … the Pughs are best known for the arts center, but have made a difference in so many ways … Jim’s biography is a classic American success story — and it’s even better because he and Alexis pay it forward.” S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Jason Siegel President and CEO, Greater Orlando Sports Commission
THE GOOD SPORT
F ORLANDO WINS ITS BID TO BE A HOST CITY FOR the 2026 FIFA World Cup under the leadership of Jason Siegel, president and CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission (GO Sports), you can thank the college professor who scheduled Siegel’s organic chemistry lab at 7 a.m. The crack-of-dawn class for premed students persuaded the Binghamton (New York) University undergrad to drop plans to become a doctor and switch to economics — setting him on a path to becoming a sports impresario. Medicine’s loss has been Orlando’s great fortune. Since arriving in 2011 as managing partner of the revived Orlando Solar Bears hockey franchise, Siegel — a Philadelphia native who had been an executive at minor-league hockey franchises in New Jersey and Texas — created plenty of excitement around the Solar Bears, which topped the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) in attendance during his tenure. As head of GO Sports since 2016, Siegel has helped lasso some 200 elite events — including WrestleMania 33 (2017), first- and second-round games in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament (2017), the MLS All-Star Game (2019) and the NFL Pro Bowl (2017-2020). The NCAA also brought its Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships to Central Florida in 2019 and was set to return in 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic prompted cancellation. The virus also scuttled the 2020 Monster Jam World Finals XXI — but the Special Olympics USA Games are coming in 2022 and many more big events are in the pipeline. In fact, GO Sports during Siegel’s tenure has generated more than $500 million in economic impact for the community, which is running out of awards to bestow upon him — Orlando Business Journal CEO of the Year (2017), Orlando Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful (2019) and I4 Business’ Leader of the Year in Sports Tourism (2019) have been among the kudos. Siegel’s impact extends beyond arenas and playing fields to the wider community, where he and his wife, Sarah Grafton (a past Influential), serve on a variety of philanthropic organizations and are active supporters of the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens and the Winter Park History Museum — for whom they have charmed supporters as emcees of the organization’s annual Peacock Ball.
W H AT H E S AYS :
“Good is not good enough when better is expected.”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“Jason is a relationship builder … he’s one of the most respected people in our industry and a strong advocate for Winter Park … there’s tremendous competition for these big events — not many people could have been as successful as Jason at landing them.”
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Paul Twyford Co-founder and President, Winter Park Distilling Company
THE FREE SPIRIT
AUL TWYFORD SAYS HE WAS NEVER A RAHrah, school-spirit type at Winter Park High School: “I wasn’t in any clubs; I wasn’t the student council guy.” Thirty years later he is, arguably, the city’s leading “spirits” guy — in bottle and soul — as co-founder of Winter Park Distilling Company, the first (legal) distillery in Central Florida. Starting the business in 2010 with childhood friend Andrew Asher thrust Twyford into the limelight and transformed the avowed nonjoiner into a community butterfly. “I didn’t really have that high on my list of goals,” says Twyford, who now holds leadership positions with the Winter Park History Museum, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and his alma mater, Rollins College, where he’s on the advisory board of the undergraduate department of business. “It’s a measure of giving back to a community that embraced a lot of things I’ve tried to do,” he says. But when Twyford completed his economics degree, his first inclination was to head for Wall Street. “I had friends who went that route,” he says. “But I’m sort of a nonconformist who doesn’t color inside the lines.” Career lightning struck on a vacation out west. “I expected to see some beautiful wineries and craft breweries,” he recalls. “Then I stumbled upon some craft distilleries. I thought, ‘Why don’t we have any of these in Florida?’” Twyford went to Asher, an attorney, with the idea of making bourbon, whiskey, vodka and rum in Central Florida. “Andrew said it would be easier to go into the uranium enrichment business,” he laughs. Nevertheless, they persisted — and in 2010 opened for business in a small Winter Park warehouse. Soon, they were selling award-winning spirits around the world. In 2015, the distillery moved to a gentrifying commercial stretch of North Orange Avenue, in the former State Auto Body building. Twyford, Asher and his wife, Francesca, then opened The Bear and Peacock Brewery next door. The “brewstillery” began a retail sales operation and became a visitor destination, often drawing 200 people a week for tours. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company began making hand sanitizer and donating much of it to nonprofits and first responders.
W H AT H E S AYS :
“I try to be a positive guy who lifts up the people around me. I think people who know me know I’m a straight shooter, and they appreciate that honesty.”
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“Paul is indicative of the eclectic entrepreneurs who’ve been successful in Winter Park … interesting, funny and committed to his craft and to the community.”
68 W I N T E R P A R K M A G AZI N E | SUM M ER 2020
Winter Park Magazine would like to thank the sponsors of this year’s MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE RECEPTION. H O S T E D B Y:
P R E S E N T E D BY:
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Congratulations Class XXX for your recent completion of Leadership Winter Park
We are thrilled to share that Leadership Winter Park Class XXXI is scheduled as planned for the fall. With some adaptations, we will be able to hold an in-person orientation retreat and live monthly sessions. Leadership Winter Park aims to develop informed, engaged citizens who will become community change-makers. LWP is a great opportunity to learn more about the Winter Park community, establish strong relationships across multiple industries and enhance your leadership skills. We believe now more than ever, leaders are needed to help move Winter Park through the recovery phase. Applications for Class XXXI are being accepted through July 17 at winterpark.org/about-leadership. The program runs from August 2020 – May 2021.
S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INTER PARK MAGAZ IN E
LADDENINGLIGHT, THE WINTER PARK nonprofit that explores the connection between art and spirituality, is illuminating more and more corners of the city, guided by its imaginative founding director, Randall B. Robertson. Last fall, in partnership with the Bach Festival Society, it presented Voices of Light, in which Carl Theodor Dreyer’s celebrated silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc was accompanied by a haunting Richard Einhorn oratorio, performed by members of the Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra and conducted by its artistic director, John V. Sinclair. Both performances at Rollins College sold out. Then, in January, GladdeningLight hosted the biggest annual symposium since its 2011 launch. About 700 people came to All Saints Episcopal Church for a weekend of discussion, art, music and inspiration anchored by lecturer and author Father Richard Rohr. “GladdeningLight is a brand that people are now trusting,” says Robertson, a former sports-marketing entrepreneur. “We’re going to continue to strive to do things that nobody else is doing.” Expect more collaboration with other Winter Park institutions, Robertson says, starting with a move of the annual symposium to Rollins, which will provide space in exchange for free admission to those with a Rollins ID. “All Saints was a lovely partner, but we’ve outgrown them,” he says. Robertson, 62, has a gift for bringing together artists and thinkers who create the kind of shared experiences that are transformative for individuals. Voices of Light audience members used words like “deeply moving” and “spellbinding” to describe their experience. Robertson, who just completed his 12th year of leading discussions about character and philosophy with inmates at Tomoka State Prison in Daytona Beach, says he wants GladdeningLight programs to help people reach their highest potential. “The power of this material goes to your heart and your mind.”
Heupel (left) and White (right)
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Danny White Vice President and Director of Athletics, University of Central Florida
Josh Heupel Head Football Coach, University of Central Florida
THE KNIGHT SHIFT
S POINT MEN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA’S surging football program, Danny White, athletic director, and Josh Heupel, head coach, have become BMOC — Big Men On Campus. And off campus, too, in Winter Park, where both live with growing families that have taken root and blossomed like azaleas. When courted by UCF — White in 2015 and Heupel (who was hired by White) in 2017 — they knew the Golden Knights as a program on the rise. They were enticed by state-of-the-start athletic facilities at UCF and the region’s stature as a tourist-entertainment mecca — big plusses for recruiting. The surprise bonus, they agree, was Winter Park, which neither had ever explored during previous trips to Central Florida. There are, of course, many family-oriented neighborhoods in east Orlando. So why did White and Heupel choose the City of Culture and Heritage, which sits nine miles from UCF as the crow flies? There were the usual reasons: beautiful homes, brick streets, massive oaks and a tight-knit sense of community. But faith played a major role, too. “Our search for Catholic schools started our direction toward Winter Park,” says White. He and his wife, Shawn, settled on St. Margaret Mary for their four children. Heupel and his wife, Dawn, were also seeking a Catholic education for their two children, who joined the White siblings at the highly regarded parochial school. White was athletic director at the University of New York at Buffalo when UCF came calling. “I told the kids we’re moving next door to Mickey Mouse — not a hard sell,” he laughs. Heupel, who spent most of his coaching career as an assistant under Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, relocated from Missouri, where he had spent a season as quarterback coach for the Tigers at Mizzou. “The community has been fantastic,” he says. “Our kids absolutely love what they’re involved in.” The high-profile commuters have been impressed by the support of their neighbors for the Knights football program, which famously proclaimed itself national champion after a 12-0 season in 2019. But UCF is more than a football school. In 2018-19, both the men’s and women’s basketball squads merited NCAA Championship invitations — with Johnny Dawkins’ men’s team nearly upsetting top-seeded Duke in the second round. CBS Sports ranked the Knights’ 2018-19 across-the-board athletic performance 17th best in the country.
W H AT T H E Y S AY:
“I tell [my kids] every day they have a country club existence. It’s such a wonderful community.” (White) “One summer day our players finished working out at 11:15, and by 12:15 my kids were in the water taking surfing lessons.” (Heupel)
W H AT OT H E R S S AY:
“Danny and Josh are first and foremost tremendously family centered … both are quality people in every way … anybody who knows the history of UCF athletics should really appreciate how far they’ve brought it to national prominence.” S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Even at age 4, Randy Noles was not especially gregarious.
Explaining the Editor USUAL LY, R A N DY N O LE S W R IT E S A B O U T OTHE R PEO P LE. B UT T H E PA RT N E RS AT WI NTE R PARK P UB LIS H IN G WA N T E D TO S H A R E THE STORY OF T H E M A N B E H IN D T H E BY LIN E — WHI CH I SN’ T A S E A SY A S IT M AY SO U N D.
By Greg Dawson
llan Keen remembers when he broke the exciting news to Randy Noles over the phone that the unassuming editor and publisher had been chosen for one of Winter Park’s highest community honors — a place on Winter Park Magazine’s 2020 list of “Most Influential People.” Keen, chairman and owner of The Keewin Real Property Company, is also co-chair of the board of managers of Winter Park Publishing Company LLC, the 44-member community consortium that owns the magazine’s parent company. The board had discussed the matter — Noles, also a board member and the company’s COO — wasn’t in on the discussion because Keen says the group knew what the reluctant honoree’s response would be. “He didn’t say much — Randy’s not a big over-communicator,” says Keen, a master of deal making (and, apparently, of understatement). “The best description I can give of his reaction was a grouse or grumble. I got the vibe that he was thinking, ‘Oh, crap.’” Susan Skolfield, Winter Park History Museum executive director, was greeted with similar enthusiasm when she invited Noles for coffee at Panera on Park Avenue to inform him that the museum wanted to honor him at its 2018 Peacock Ball, a flossy annual fundraiser to be held at the Interlachen Country Club. “I didn’t give him any heads-up on the reason for meeting,” Skolfield recalls. “When I told him, he kind of put his head down. We needed his permission to go forward, so I said, ‘Are you willing to accept?’ It took a few seconds for him to look up and say OK.” Noles had been honored in 2017 by the Friends of Mead Botanical Garden with a large reception, prior to which the group had hung a banner at the park’s entryway reading, “Thank You, Randy Noles.” Later in the evening, organizers had — much to Noles’ surprise — unveiled a park bench affixed with a plaque that read, “An Extraordinary Writer & Friend of the Garden: Randy Noles, Winter Park Magazine.” Says Noles: “I still sit on that bench nearly every weekend and get goosebumps when I see my name in bronze. And the Peacock Ball was unforgettable and truly humbling. But how do you react to things like that? I’m just not very good with emotional responses.” S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
INDIANA JONES WITH A LIBRARY CARD
Noles feels awkward in moments when he is thrust from the shadows, where like a mushroom he thrives, into the glare of look-at-me notoriety. Call it poetic justice, or his own Dr. Frankenstein moment. In starting the magazine’s “Most Influential” feature in 2015 — the same year he was the catalyst for establishing a long overdue Winter Park Hall of Fame — Noles created yet another reason for Winter Parkers to turn the spotlight back on him. Since taking the helm in 2012 as editor, publisher and in-house archaeologist at Winter Park Magazine, Noles — Indiana Jones with a library card instead of a whip — has celebrated the city’s quirky vibe and explored the forgotten catacombs of its rich history to unearth, illuminate and rekindle interest in the community’s ancient (by Florida standards) progenitors. “I continually came across these extraordinary characters in Winter Park history that nobody remembers anymore,” he says. “It seems like everyone should know them. It isn’t by accident that Winter Park looks and feels like Winter Park. It’s the result of careful planning over many generations. I think newcomers and longtime residents need an appreciation of that fact.” Joy Wallace Dickinson, author and longtime chronicler of local lore for the Orlando Sentinel, agrees and approves. “Winter Park’s character is deeply entwined with its history, and Randy appreciates that,” says Dickinson, a 2019 Peacock Ball honoree. “He knows the value of good storytelling backed by facts.” Noles “has created something special in Winter Park with the magazine,” says Betsy Rogers Owens, former executive director of the Friends of Casa Feliz and granddaughter of legendary Winter Park architect James Gamble Rogers II. His revelatory excavations of the past revealed a yawning void, which Owens describes as “a need we didn’t know we had.” The need was for a storyteller, a bard, to celebrate and preserve the rich arabesque of the city’s heritage through fresh storytelling. Winter Park without a storyteller? Imagine Hawaii without a James Michener. Chicago without a Studs Terkel. Eatonville without a Zora Neale Hurston. The void has been filled. It’s now impossible to imagine Winter Park without Randy Noles. Equally clear is the consensus that Noles is undeniably among the Most Influential People in town — “probably the biggest unsung hero in Winter Park,” says Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Betsy Gardner Eckbert — and past due for his close-up on the list. Noles, though, has stoutly thwarted the effort. “I’ve been trying for three years,” says Peg Cornwell, wife of Rollins College President Grant Cornwell. “The first time he said, ‘You can nominate me, but I’m going to take my name off the list. It’s a
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Noles enjoys relaxing — on the rare occasions when he feels relaxation is appropriate — on a bench named in his honor at Mead Botanical Garden.
PHOTO BY RAFAEL TONGOL
S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
T HE NEED WAS FO R A S TORY T ELL ER , A B ARD, TO C E L EBR AT E A ND PRES ERVE T HE R ICH AR ABESQU E OF THE C I T Y ’ S H ER ITAGE T HROUGH F R E S H STO RY T ELL ING. WINTER PA R K W IT H O UT A STORYTELLER? I M AG INE H AWA II WITHOUT A JAMES M I C HEN ER . CH ICAGO WITHOU T A S T U DS T ERKEL. EATONVILLE W I T H OUT A ZO RA NEALE HU RS TON.
conflict of interest.’ We had the same conversation the next year. I didn’t bother having the conversation this year. I wrote to Allan: ‘We’ve just got to do this. It isn’t only about Randy. It’s about preserving Winter Park history.’” Noles was chagrined but gracefully submitted to his fate when Keen told him that resistance was futile. He would be on the list this year. “I was, uh, you know, flattered,” Noles says in a soft, uninflected voice not built for registering extremes. “I appreciated that they felt that way. I just wanted everybody to know that it’s something [the board] independently did and I didn’t insist on it.” Not “insist on it?” Tolerated it, barely. In addition to his aversion to the spotlight, Noles thought it would look untoward for his own name to appear on a list for which he takes nominations but has the final say. Keen, then, came up with the idea of recognizing Noles separately, apart from other honorees, as “The Other Influential.” The mandate, Noles says, marked the first and only time any investor had ever insisted that a specific story be run in Winter Park Magazine.
IN A WORD, HOW ABOUT ‘STEADFAST?’
By whatever name, it was time for the storyteller’s story to be told and for light to be shed on the man behind the bylines — like the wizard behind the curtain in Oz. Except this wizard is real. There is, however, no curtain. Just a small downtown office near the train tracks at the corner of Canton and New York avenues. The modest surroundings — fronted by a Zen garden and crammed with publishing detritus and workspace for a staff of four — belie the stylish, sophisticated and expansive magazine that the wizard and his small team conjures up. I was asked to write the story explaining Randy, although I had only known of him through our mutual friends in the tight-knit world of
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publishing. We didn’t connect in person until about nine months ago, when I began writing for the magazine. There were few obvious clues beyond his resumé. Randy’s emails are Calvin Coolidge-concise. In person, he’s friendly but inscrutably sphinxlike. As Grant Cornwell puts it, “He’s very comfortable with silence.” I liked Randy. I just didn’t feel as though I really knew Randy. So, I lined up interviews with more than a dozen people who do know him — at least to the extent possible — and asked that before being interviewed, each send one word that best described my reluctant subject. And they did, fleshing out my surface impressions. Those words included dedicated, taciturn, thorough, deliberate, trustworthy, incisive and multitalented. Humble and storyteller both got two votes. Actor Tom Nowicki, Randy’s best friend since high school, was torn. “I’m struggling with a single word to describe him because it’s his complexity that marks him,” Nowicki said in an email. “I may have to go with ‘irreducible,’ though that may make Randy think I think he’s fat. So let’s not go with irreducible.” When we talked a few days later, Nowicki had his word. “It may disappoint him, but I would say ‘steadfast.’ In all our years of being here in Winter Park, Randy has held things together for so many of our friends. He’s kept the spirit of Winter Park alive in us.” Noles and Nowicki met in 10th grade at Winter Park High School, in an American Literature class. “We were standing by a bulletin board where a copy of the school’s alma mater was tacked up,” Nowicki recalls. “We began singing it together in this false operatic tone. It made the teacher and the kids laugh. That was the beginning of our friendship.” To more recent acquaintances, the idea of his bursting into spontaneous song seems most unRandy-like. “I was very involved in drama and the thespian troupe,” says Noles, who along with Nowicki had fallen under the spell of the school’s legendary drama teacher, the late Ann Derflinger. “I did a lot of plays and thought I wanted to act,” he continues. “I had a group of misfit friends who couldn’t be pigeonholed into any of the typical high school categories. There were about a half-dozen of us, and we gravitated toward theater and journalism and artistic pursuits of one kind or another.” A lover of hillbilly music, Noles organized high school field trips to rough-and-tumble venues in Sanford and Lakeland, where he and his longhaired friends from the big city got strange looks — and sometimes outright threats — from patrons who assumed that the hippies had come to only mock performances while burning their draft cards. But they kept coming back until they were regarded as regulars. “At the Lake Monroe Inn in Sanford, the house band would always play ‘Fol-
Noles has written three books: two of them concerning the bizarre backstory of the fiddle tune “Orange Blossom Special” and one about the surprisingly colorful history of adult education at Rollins College.
som Prison Blues’ as soon as we came through the door,” Noles recalls. “I think a lot of the middle-aged men were also happy that our girlfriends would dance with them.” And then there was the most radically unRandy-like thing of all: Pigface, Beanface and Nowicki — which Noles describes as “a folk, rock, country, punk trio,” with Nowicki and Chris McGuire, now a Tallahassee attorney, on acoustic guitar and Noles handling lead vocals. For no particular reason, Noles was Pigface. “We had one or two gigs where we played at open-mic nights,” he says. “We did all original material. It was creative but absurd. There were a lot of open mouths in the audience. ‘What are they doing? Did they just say what I think they said?’” Thinking back on the high school version of Randy, Nowicki says, “He had other weird personalities hiding behind that mask — fun weird, not dangerous weird.” Perhaps “irreducible” is right after all.
WINTER PARK’S BUDDING BIOGRAPHER
Noles was born in 1955 in Tuscaloosa, where his parents were students at the University of Alabama. His father, Randy Sr., studied advertising, while his mother, Joyce, was a vocal performance major. When he was a toddler the family moved to Florence, in northwest Alabama, where Randy Sr. was advertising manager for the Florence Times Tri-Cities Daily. “I had a Leave It to Beaver suburban upbringing,” says Noles. “Nothing about the turmoil going on in places like Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma was on my radar in Florence.” In 1967, the company — part of the Worrell Newspaper chain — acquired the Winter Park Sun Herald, a weekly, and dispatched the elder Noles to be publisher. Winter Park gained not just a new publisher but its future biographer. Twelve-year-old Randy Jr. hit the ground running — and learning. The Sun Herald — including its editorial and business offices and monolithic printing presses — took up nearly an entire block on the south end of Park Avenue. So, Randy Jr. spent much of his childhood roaming Winter Park’s shopping district. He recalls being thrown out of Irvine’s Sundries numerous times for reading comic books without paying, and to this day can’t pass a magazine rack without hearing Wally Irvine’s admonishment: “This is no library, kid.” In those days, he recalls, the pace of the now-bustling business district was languid, and most stores closed in
the summertime. But the youngster loved hanging around the newspaper and watching community members come and go — delivering news items, scrutinizing advertising copy and jawboning about the issues of the day. Elderly subscribers would demand to know why their newspapers hadn’t arrived in the mail. “I could see that what my dad did was an important part of people’s lives,” says Noles. And not just to wealthy retirees with too much time on their hands. Rollins President Hugh McKean often stopped by to deliver columns he had written. The genteel McKean, Noles recalls, provided quite a contrast with his dad, a Deep South raconteur reminiscent of a somewhat more polished Andy Griffith. But the two got along famously. “I had chores to do around the office,” Noles says. “Mostly I would sweep up and stuff. But it gave me a taste for the business and a taste particularly for community journalism.” Noles Sr. later left the Sun Herald and started a commercial newspaper printing business — but the allure of community newspapering stuck with Noles Jr. At Florida Technological University (the University of Central Florida since 1978), Noles studied journalism and was managing editor of the weekly campus newspaper, the Future. In that capacity he met a student government leader named Rick Walsh, who was destined for a storied career in business. Walsh, who retired in 2006 as director of corporate affairs at Darden Restaurants, remains a major player in philanthropy and venture capital projects.
A mutual appreciation society was formed. “Both of us tried to have the highest integrity,” says Walsh, whom the Future endorsed when he successfully ran for student body president in 1975. Their paths would intersect decades later with important consequences for Winter Park. Adds Noles: “Rick and I both took what we did very seriously.” Since carrying a full class load and running the Future newsroom still left Noles antsy, he worked weekends as a caricature artist at such attractions as Circus World and Cypress Gardens. Somehow, he also found time to freelance for the Oviedo Outlook, a small weekly newspaper serving what was then a rural farming community of about 1,200 residents. Its forlorn two-block downtown district consisted of several Depression-era buildings and a citrus packing plant. When the Outlook’s husband-and-wife owner/operators grew weary, Noles and two friends bought the business with a $40,000 loan arranged by community bigwigs who thought the city — which was too puny to attract much interest from the Orlando Sentinel — should have its own newspaper to promote civic unity and keep an eye on local government. “We had to do everything,” Noles says. “Sell advertising, do layouts, cover city council meetings and high school sports, and even refill news racks and collect change. I realized I couldn’t do that and still be in school.” Noles left FTU several credits short of a degree — at least the formal kind on sheepskin. “I always say about my years at the Outlook that I got the equivalent of a Ph.D. and MBA. None of us had
ever run a business. We were thrown in the deep end and had to either learn to swim or sink.” Noles and friends later started an Outlook in Winter Park, which won numerous awards for editorial excellence and, ironically, ran the faltering Sun Herald out of business. Then, after selling both weeklies to a national company in 1980, he took a five-year detour from publishing and its relentless deadlines and moved into the more button-down world of corporate communications. He first joined Philip Crosby Associates, a quality-management consulting company then in its infancy. Noles idolized Crosby, an internationally known business guru, but reluctantly took his leave when it appeared that PCA would become a casualty of the recession of 1982. “Phil was offering employees company stock in lieu of salaries to stay,” Noles recalls, ruefully. “Of course, the business came roaring back the following year and a lot of people who hung in there became millionaires. I still get a knot in my stomach thinking about that. I learned that sometimes you have to take risks and have faith.” Making the decision even more lamentable, a multimedia educational product that Noles had helped to develop ultimately powered the company’s comeback and drove its worldwide growth for years to come. Noles, though, had chosen a more modest — but seemingly less precarious — paycheck at the Home Builders Association of Mid-Florida (now the Greater Orlando Builders Association). He had also married Sally McArthur, an attorney, and the couple later had two sons, Cody and Luke, now in their 20s. S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
“All that time away from business, I missed being connected to the community in the way an editor should be,” Noles says. “Magazines seemed like the way to go. The deadlines weren’t as frequent and you could do longer, more significant stories than most newspapers wanted.”
ONCE A PUBLISHER, ALWAYS A PUBLISHER
Noles found his way back to journalism in 1985 and spent the next 18 years with various Florida magazines — including two separate stints as publisher of Orlando Magazine. The first time, he was assistant publisher under Ed Prizer, a larger-thanlife figure who had been a fighter pilot in World War II before returning stateside and spending more than a decade with the Associated Press in New York. “Damon Runyon couldn’t have written a character more colorful than Ed,” says Noles, who displays a framed photograph of his friend and mentor on his office wall. “I became the son he never had. I was Ed’s mini-me — except I couldn’t match him martini for martini when we took ad agency people to lunch. I still miss him every day.” Noles’ second tour of duty at Orlando Magazine was marred by what an Orlando Sentinel reporter later described as “angry confrontations” between Noles and the CEO of a Pittsburgh-based company that had bought the magazine and mandated that every issue contain 70 percent paid advertising. After all, nobody was paying for all those stories — so what was the point in running them? “This guy had spent his career supervising sales operations for phone directories,” recalls Noles. “I tried to explain — perhaps not in a polite way — that a city magazine wasn’t a telephone directory. Readers and advertisers expected content. He just didn’t get it.” Staffers who witnessed (or overheard) the clashes were quickly disabused of the notion that Noles never loses his temper. Just tell him that his words don’t matter and watch what happens. “Randy stood up for himself,” says Theresa Swanson, who was an Orlando Magazine account executive at the time. “The other publishers in the group got pushed around.” Swanson, now a partner and director of sales at Winter Park Publishing, has worked with Noles for more than 30 years. “He fired me twice,” she says. “But every time he did, I took something positive away — mostly about the importance of having convictions and sticking to them. Which probably is why he fired me in the first place. But we’ve always ended up working together again because our skills complement one another’s.” Fortunately, Noles found a corporate home — and a kindred spirit in magazine entrepreneur Dan Denton — at Gulfshore Media, a Sarasota-based company that published Sarasota Magazine and Gulfshore Life in Naples among at least a dozen
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[NOLE S ] RECAL L S BE I N G THROWN OU T OF I RVI N E ’ S S UN D RI E S NU ME ROUS TI M E S F OR RE AD I N G COMI C BOOK S WI THOUT PAY I N G, AND TO THI S DAY CAN ’ T PAS S A MAG AZ I N E RACK WI THOUT HEAR I N G WAL LY I RVI N E ’ S AD MO N I S HM E N T: “ THI S I S N O LIB RARY, K I D.” I N THOS E DAYS, HE RECA L L S, THE PACE OF THE N OWB U S TL I N G BUS I N E S S D I S TRI CT WAS LAN G UI D, AN D M OS T S TORE S CLOS E D I N THE S UM M E RTI M E.
other titles. In addition to becoming COO of Gulfshore Media, Noles started an Orlando outpost — Florida Home Media — that published Florida Homebuyer magazines in Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville as well as a city magazine called Orlando Home & Leisure, later Orlando Life. Denton says he hired Noles after meeting him at a City and Regional Magazine Association conference in San Diego. “He was kind of lurking outside the gathering, not talking to anybody,” says Denton, himself an introvert who was educated at Yale and started Sarasota Magazine in his parents’ garage. The unorthodox entrepreneurs somehow fell into a conversation. Denton, whose magazines were regarded as among the best of their genre in the Southeast, quickly came to feel as though he had met his doppelgänger. “Randy was kind of like me in that he started as a writer and editor and drifted into doing everything else,” Denton recalls. “I thought, ‘He’s got my same skill set, only better.’” They resolved to find a way to work together. Denton — a Florida Magazine Association Hall of Famer — was amazed to find that Noles could identify a niche, conceptualize a publication, calculate a budget, produce sales materials, then sit down one night and write the final product cover to cover by himself — sometimes using pen names culled from Johnny Cash songs. Although the two considered themselves to be close friends as well as business associates, they rarely socialized outside work. That’s in part because they were similarly solitary souls. Mostly, though, they were simply too consumed by business — their deceptively laid-back personalities notwithstanding — to have time for more conventional hobnobbing.
“I still don’t have leisure time like most people think of leisure time,” Noles says. “I don’t golf and I don’t boat and I don’t fish. I work a lot, I read a lot — mostly American history. I feel like if I’m not doing something that’s helping me to become a smarter person, it’s a waste of time.” The only purely recreational activity Noles enjoys is basketball. At least once weekly, he and two longtime friends who’ve played together for more than three decades meet at the Winter Park Recreation Center, where they try to defy their respective ages by competing against twentysomething gym rats. “I’m big, but I’m slow,” says Noles, who at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds says he tries to compensate for sluggish reflexes, failing eyesight and diminished jumping ability with sheer bulk. “We’re good enough to beat most people our age, but nobody our age plays basketball,” he adds. “Occasionally, though, we’ll catch kids by surprise with defense and passing, and win some games that we shouldn’t. But it doesn’t matter. What we’re really fighting is our own mortality.”
TIME WAITS ON NO ONE
Generally, whenever a window of potential leisure opens, Noles slams it shut. While working with Denton during Gulfshore Media’s headiest growth period, he managed to write two well-received nonfiction books: Orange Blossom Boys (Centerstream, 2002) and a revised and updated version called Fiddler’s Curse (Centerstream, 2007). Both were about the classic fiddle song “Orange Blossom Special” and the bizarre characters — Chubby Wise and Ervin T. Rouse — who took credit for writing it. “I guess you could say that Chubby and Ervin became an obsession,” says Noles. “Truth really is stranger than fiction much of the time.” Noles’ books solved a mystery — the song’s sole author, he determined, was Rouse alone, regardless of what Wise later claimed. Fiddler’s Curse was later adapted by a Boston-based filmmaker as a documentary that debuted at the Nashville Film Festival and aired on PBS and the Ovation cable network. Also as a result of Noles’ work, commissioners in Craven County, North Carolina, erected a highway marker near the obscure (and likely insane) Rouse’s birthplace and invited Noles to be the guest of honor at the unveiling ceremony. “Of the non-magazine things I’ve done, maybe I’m proudest of those books,” says Noles. “They dealt with a totally unexplored topic and brought validation and recognition to Ervin, who would otherwise have been entirely forgotten in music history.” The books — which remain in print and continue to sell, albeit modestly — are often cited by “real musicologists” as being definitive, a fact
When he was the Peacock Ball honoree in 2018, Noles recited a poem he had written for the occasion that was packed with pithy (but affectionate) insider jokes about Winter Park’s foibles.
that Noles finds gratifying. On a related topic, he also has an encyclopedic knowledge about the career of Johnny Cash, and is regarded in fan circles as being among an elite cadre of scholars on the significance of the Man in Black. “Cash has been my favorite singer since 1969,” says Noles. “I went through times when that wasn’t cool to admit. But his late-career comeback among hipsters made me feel, for once, ahead of my time.” More recently, after his daily gauntlet of magazine chores, Noles attended night classes full time at Rollins to earn a Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) degree that he sought for no reason — such as career advancement — other than his allergy to downtime and his insatiable curiosity about nearly everything. “I had to jump through some hoops to get in since I hadn’t finished my undergraduate degree,” Noles says. “Rollins gave me a chance. I didn’t want to disappoint anybody who had stuck their neck out for me by not doing well.” Not only was his later-in-life academic foray not a disappointment, he powered through the rigorous program and earned straight A’s in the process, often turning in novella-length papers that flouted prescribed word counts. “I don’t like to half-ass anything,” says Noles. “Randy is the original lifelong learner,” notes Grant Cornwell. “His pathway through the [MLS] program was purposefully leisurely — not so much in pursuit of a degree as a hunger for more liberal learning.” Noles expanded his master’s thesis into a book, Rollins After Dark: The Hamilton Holt School’s Nontraditional Journeys, which was published by the college in 2019. Cornwell, a veteran of countless media interviews as an administrator before coming to Winter Park in 2015, had his guard up when Noles first came calling in his official capacity as a journalist. “I was just getting to know the college and the community, so I was a little cautious — I had no basis to trust him as a journalist,” recalls Cornwell. “But he was so understated, his questions so thoughtful, he listened so quietly, it ended up being a great interview. We spent quite a bit of time talking about the salience, the persistent relevance of a liberal education. He’s a very smart man, a deep thinker — not a man of many words.” Spoken words, that is. On the page, in print, Noles is loquacious and wildly prolific. You can’t shut him up. In any given issue of Winter Park Magazine, he has more than half the bylined articles, plus stories “By
the Editors” (mostly Noles). His invisible editing hand shapes other stories. One thing he almost never does is write about himself — a prerogative commonly exercised by editors in the first pages of a magazine. “Sure, I do an editor’s note for Winter Park Magazine,” Noles says. “But it’s never particularly personal. I have more trouble writing that, which is like 500 words, than I do writing a 5,000-word piece on something else.” Noles also rarely expresses opinions in print, although he isn’t shy about doing so in person or on social media. “I have a point of view, but it feels pretentious writing about it,” he says. “I guess I’d make a lousy columnist.” Says Betsy Rogers Owens: “Randy strikes me as somebody who is very intellectually honest. I don’t think he can be counted on to toe the line. Winter Park divides up pretty neatly pro- and anti-growth. I’ve seen him take positions on both sides. He has a moral and journalistic compass that sides with the truth.”
A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS
Noles became Winter Park Magazine editor and publisher in 2012 when Florida Home Media bought the magazine from its founders, Walsh and business partner Jim DeSimone. “I told Dan that I thought there was more potential in Winter Park Magazine than in Orlando Life,” he says. “Really, it just seemed like an ideal job for me. I had to figure out how to make it
work financially for the company. Dan trusted me to do that.” Walsh became an admirer of Noles’ imprint: “He’s not only maintained the quality of the magazine, he’s enhanced it — especially on historical content.” In 2017, Denton decided to retire and proceeded to sell the myriad pieces of Gulfshore Media to national chains. But he held off on Winter Park Magazine, for which Noles had been promised the right of first refusal if the day ever came. And Noles knew that the day would come. Indeed, he feared that the day would come. He
THE ONLY PURELY RECREATIONAL ACTIVITY NOLES ENJOYS IS BASKETBALL. AT LEAST ONCE WEEKLY, HE AND TWO LONGTIME FRIENDS WHO’VE PLAYED TOGETHER FOR MORE THAN THREE DECADES MEET AT THE WINTER PARK RECREATION CENTER, WHERE THEY TRY TO DEFY THEIR RESPECTIVE AGES BY COMPETING AGAINST TWENTYSOMETHING GYM RATS. S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
had seen what chain ownership could do to local magazines — milk them and flip them — and he did not want to see that happen to Winter Park Magazine. But Denton had gotten top dollar for his operations in Sarasota and Naples and was ready to make a move. The first thing Noles did was go to Keen and Walsh — “two of the smartest businesspeople I know,” says Noles — and ask them how a deal might be structured. “I had some money to invest, but not nearly enough,” he recalls. “I also knew people loved the magazine, and had a notion that buying it could become a sort of community effort.” At Orchid Thai on a napkin, the trio drew up a plan. Then they carefully compiled a list of potential participants — a who’s who of community movers and shakers — and fired off emails. “We wanted people that we admired personally,” says Noles. “We also wanted people who cared about the community and understood what we were all about.” The invites — which included no stated agenda but promised that “an opportunity” would be presented — went out on a Thursday. The following Tuesday, some 40 people gathered to hear the details in a conference room at Walsh’s office building on North Orange Avenue. Among the intrigued who showed up was Hal George, founder of Parkland Homes and a Realtor at Premier Sotheby’s. “I was an English major, but I’ve been around the block a few times,” George says. “When Allan Keen calls, there’s usually something going on.” Noles briefly addressed the group. “We laid out the fact the magazine was for sale and there was a very good chance that it would be sold to an outsider who’d change it or diminish it,” he says. “We thought it was in the community’s best interest to keep it locally owned. And we asked who wanted to be involved.” The response reminded Noles of the final scene in the Frank Capra film It’s a Wonderful Life, when the whole town pitches in to help George Bailey cover an accidental shortfall at the Bailey Building and Loan. “There were very few questions asked, and people just started reaching for their checkbooks,” says Noles. “Really, I get the shivers just telling it.” The group raised $500,000 — enough to buy the company and have some working capital left over. The average increment was about $10,000, says Keen, who’s more accustomed to brokering real estate deals valued in the tens of millions of dollars. “I honestly believe no one, or very few, looked on it as a financial investment that was going to pay anything,” George says. “We felt strongly that it was the right thing to do for the community, and that Randy was the right guy to be doing it.”
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THE R E S PON S E RE M I N D E D N OL E S
NOLE S. “ RE AL LY, I G E T THE
so while I was fascinated by the news side, I also knew how the bills were paid,” he says. When his dad was in the printing business, Noles recalls, some of his biggest clients were national religious denominations. Yet, when Watermark — the region’s first newspaper aimed at an LGBTQ audience — couldn’t find a printer, it was Noles Sr. who stepped up and all but insisted that the job be brought to him. “My dad was a businessperson, not a crusader,” Noles says. “But he was all about doing the right thing. Most businesspeople I know are like that, to a greater or lesser degree. They want to do what’s right for the communities where they’ve become successful. Plus, if they’ve made a lot of money then they’re obviously a lot smarter than I am. I’ve got a lot I can learn.”
S HIVE RS J US T TE L L I N G I T.”
HOW TO STAY SPECIAL
OF TH E F I N AL SCE N E I N THE F RAN K CAP RA F I L M IT ’ S A W OND E R FU L L IFE, WHE N THE WHOL E TOWN P ITCH E S I N TO HE L P G EORG E B AILE Y COVE R AN ACCI D E N TAL S HORTFAL L AT THE B AI L E Y B U ILD I N G AN D LOAN . “ THE RE WE RE VERY F E W QUE S TI ON S AS K E D, AN D P EOP L E J US T S TARTE D RE ACHI N G FOR THE I R CHECK BOOK S,” S AYS
Denton, who had been in the magazine business for 40 years, was dumbstruck that Noles was able to pull together such a deal in less than a week. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says. “He just pulled it out of his hat. It blows my mind. For me, it was the happiest conclusion to my career that I could imagine.” Noles credits the savvy of Keen and Walsh — but says it didn’t hurt that the magazine was beloved enough that people were willing to make a somewhat risky investment in keeping it unchanged. Few had been aware that the company they were about to buy published titles other than Winter Park Magazine. Florida Home Media promptly became Winter Park Publishing Company, with a portfolio that included Florida Homebuyer Orlando, ArtsLife and Broadway at the Dr. Phillips Center in addition to the flagship city magazine. Noles and Denton say it’s the only case they’re aware of in which a magazine changed hands as the result of a grass-roots community effort. But given the predominance of business interests among the new “community partners,” there was inevitable pushback from skeptics. Chatter on social media indicated that Winter Park Magazine — the publication so many people avidly read and displayed on their coffee tables — had now become a tool to promote development. “That was just ignorance,” says Noles. “We publish the names of all our investors in the masthead. Those who bothered to read the whole list would have also found artists, preservationists and people from the worlds of art and culture. Some people who agree on little else agreed on doing this.” Noles traces his lack of cynicism — some might call it a surfeit of trust — in businesspeople to his dad, who died in 2009. “He had an advertising background, not an editorial background,
Thorough, deliberate, taciturn, humble Randy Noles — happiest in a tortoise-like shell of anonymity — is the least peacocky person imaginable. So there was rich irony in the spectacle of his being feted at the glittery Peacock Ball. I asked Susan Skolfield, who cajoled him into accepting the honor, if he’d had a good time. “He seemed very relaxed,” she says. “But Randy is hard to read on that. To me, he always seems relaxed.” Yes, Randy confirmed to me, he was relaxed. (And let the record show he rocked a peacock tie.) “I had a great time. It’s probably the nicest event in Winter Park. In a lot of towns, the premier social event is not about the local historical society. That alone demonstrates what’s important to people here.” Noles’ acceptance speech was a poem he wrote for the occasion called “A Central Park History Lesson.” It was loaded with pithy inside jokes and references to Winter Park, most fathomable only to denizens. Two stanzas, at least, made clear the meeting of hearts and minds between an extraordinary community and its reclusive, enigmatic … irreducible bard. Oh, we’ve had our disagreements, our arguments honed, Over tree preservation and the way lots are zoned. And sometimes on Facebook we make ourselves weary, debunking the latest conspiracy theory. But if there’s one thing on which we all can agree, There’s no place on Earth where we’d rather be. How to stay special? It’s really no mystery. We’ll be fine, just as long as we honor our history.
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SUNSHINE IN THE UNCERTAIN SUMMER OF 2020, IT’S TIME TO BE GRATEFUL AND HOPEFUL. AND TO MAKE MASKS A FASHION ACCESSORY. Usually, Winter Park Magazine’s fashion features are shot outdoors or, when we move indoors, it’s in a recognizable Winter Park location. This year, we resorted to a studio where we could operate in a controlled setting and take appropriate safety measures due to COVID-19. (Plus, most places where we normally shoot were closed.) But, like everyone else, we made the best of it and assembled some beautiful ensembles from local shops that allowed us to use their merchandise even as their outlets were temporarily closed. Our gratitude to the stalwart team who pulled it all together under unprecedented circumstances. Now, with reopening cautiously underway, let’s all look forward to a summer of renewal, recovery and rediscovery of the unique boutiques that have kept our city looking good through wars, depressions, recessions and pandemics.
PHOTOGRAPHY: RAFAEL TONGOL STYLING: MARIANNE ILUNGA MAKEUP/HAIR: ELSIE KNAB MODEL: KENNEDY VALDES LOCATION: SAWTOOTH STUDIOS
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Kennedy wears a multicolor tweed jacket ($78) by Vilagallo and from The Grove in Winter Park. Her orange belted jumpsuit ($435) by Black Halo and her Fendi-inspired face mask ($45) by Sojar are both from Tuni on Park Avenue. Her cowhide orange and yellow cuff ($58 each) are by Parker Hyde, and her black leather statement necklace ($198) are by Walker Lyne. Both are from Arabella on Morse. She carries a rainbow star purse tote ($195) by Tiana from The Grove in Winter Park.
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Kennedy wears a green twobutton jacket ($468) and green matching shorts ($228), both by Trina Turk. Her gold-tone ring (right hand, $38) and set of gold-tone rings (left hand, $32) are by Jemara. Her bedazzled gold-tone ring (left hand, $34) is by Five And Two, while her Louis Vuitton goldtone lock necklace ($285) is by PAH and her gold-tone choker ($32) is by Jemara. All items are from Tuni on Park Avenue. Her print face mask ($24.99) is by Miami-based graphic artist and fashion stylist Siege Fajardo from siegeINK Fashion Cure. It is available online from shop.siegeink.com.
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Kennedy wears a multicolor light knit cardigan ($368) with multicolor light knit wide-leg pants ($278) and a matching light knit tank ($138), all by Valerie Khalfon. She also wears a woven belt ($98) by My Beachside and gold-tone cuffs with python overlays ($110 to $275), both by Taylor and Tessier. Her lucite link bracelet ($150) is by Gold and Honey, while her gold-tone hoops with coin details ($80) are by Sheila Fajl. All items are from The Grove in Winter Park. The skateboard is the stylistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own. W INTE R 2 0 2 0 W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Kennedy wears a multicolor stripe A-line dress ($328) by Marie Oliver from The Grove in Winter Park. Her double-leaf statement earrings ($58) by Treasures and her iridescent sandals ($125) by Dolce Vita are both from Tuni on Park Avenue. The hat is the stylistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
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Kennedy wears a neon-green button-down blouse ($260) by Amanda Uprichard and highwaist denim pants ($218) by AGOLDE, both from Tuni on Park Avenue. She also wears an off-white tweed Confetti detail jacket ($468) by Vilagallo and from The Grove Winter Park. Her hot pink cowhide clutch ($148) is by Parker Hyde, while her orange fan earrings ($38) are by Caroline Hill. Both are from Arabella on Morse.
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An emblem of the times, during the spring and summer of 2020, has become a face mask. Kennedy wears a print face mask designed by Miamibased graphic artist and fashion stylist Siege Fajardo from his siegeINK Fashion Cure line. Fajardo’s masks, which were originally made specifically for Winter Park Magazine’s summer fashion shoot, come in several designs and may be ordered online at shop.siegeink.com.
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New Standard sent its creations home mostly complete and accompanied by instructions on how to accomplish the finishing touches. The Pistachio Old Fashioned craft cocktail consisted of Old Forester Kentucky Bourbon infused with pistachio and served with The Bitter Truth aromatic bitters and orange.
KEEP YOUR SPIRITS UP During the great shutdown, Winter Park restaurants offered sustenance that should be shaken, not stirred. Customers appreciated to-go happy hours during unhappy times. BY RONA GINDIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAFAEL TONGOL
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attled but resolute, dozens of Winter Park restaurants remained afloat during the recent shutdown season by offering individual and family-style meals packed for in-store pickup, curbside pickup and home delivery (thank you, from all of us). Several, though, went a step further: They added spirited beverages to accompany those appetizers, sandwiches and entrées. Thanks to temporary new regulations, permission was granted to nestle martinis and Manhattans into our take-home bags. Some restaurateurs took the remote bartender role quite seriously. Many others sold wine bottles at steep discounts. So let’s hear a hearty amen for those who aided us in taking the edge off when we most needed a good numbing. Here we feature four local eateries that went gung-ho with bagged-up boozy drinkables. Some should be at least partly reopened for dine-in service by the time you read this issue of Winter Park Magazine. We’re kind of hoping they keep up the gin-as-a-tonic, grab-and-go option even after the world returns to something approximating normal. At this writing, however, COVID-19 restrictions were just being relaxed and considerable uncertainty remained. In other words, the cocktails (and menu items) described here may or may not still be available. Whatever the case, we wanted to salute local restaurants for service above and beyond the call of duty. We picked four — in part because of their creativity with takeout libations — but there were dozens upon dozens of others. I hope you’ll return to patronize as many of them as possible once you can dine out safely. They were there for us — let’s be there for them. DEXTER’S NEW STANDARD 1035 North Orlando Avenue, Winter Park 407.316.2278 newstandardwp.com The staff of Dexter’s New Standard was ready and set to go as soon as the state gave to-go cocktails the green light. This Orlando Avenue restaurant already made its craft cocktails in batches. “The problem with craft cocktails is that it often takes 20 minutes to make a drink, and nobody likes to wait that long,” says Erin Allport, director of operations at the eatery, which opened last October and during normal times offers live music daily. “It’s actually quite frustrating.” Her team’s solution was to produce several creative martinis by the batch and have bartenders add a couple of final ingredients in the glass. “Then boom! The drinks were out to guests,” Allport says.
Such a process was made to order, if you will, for the new mode of operation required by the pandemic. It likewise didn’t hurt that the New Standard’s chefs already produced key cocktail ingredients. The culinary team was accustomed to heating bourbon and pistachios together at a very low temperature, sous vide-style, for the Pistachio Old Fashioned, and to making a variety of syrups as well as the house sour mix. When word got out that restaurants might be allowed to bottle up beverages traditionally served in clever glassware, Allport rushed to a College Park store that caters to home brewers, where she knew she’d find empty bottles for sale. She snapped them up like you and I filled our carts with hand sanitizer at Publix. Ultimately, the New Standard sent its creations home mostly complete and accompanied by instructions — printed in Prohibition-style type — on how to accomplish the finishing touches. The Tonic Blossom ($10), for instance, arrived as a mix of Cathead honeysuckle vodka, Chareau aloe liqueur and Jack Rudy elderflower tonic. Soda water can’t be added until the last minute, so a can of Q club soda came separately. Because the Pistachio Old Fashioned (1 liter, priced at $65, makes 10-plus drinks) doesn’t age well when bitters are added to the bourbon mix early, the restaurant sent this key ingredient on the side. The Skinny Margarita, as it turned out, was the biggest seller, perhaps because it was priced at $25 for 25.5 ounces. (That’s the equivalent of four or five drinks, depending upon the size of the glass). The restaurant also added several flavored margaritas, which customers ordered on weekends to sip on a boat or by a pool. (Some people, obviously, endured the lockdown better than others.) By law, guests must buy food with the fun stuff. So the New Standard offered a market menu that included not only meals but also pimento cheese, French onion dip, house-made crackers and desserts. That was in addition to togo menu staples plus daily family-style specials. All wine bottles were half price — which likely won’t be the new standard by the time this crisis has receded. But it was appreciated while it lasted. REEL FISH COASTAL KITCHEN + BAR 1234 North Orange Avenue, Winter Park 407.543.3474 reeflishcoastal.com Since it opened three years ago, Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar has drawn diners with its
At Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar, the two-quart servings of sangria quickly became must-have to-go items. The Reel Red sangria was made with Stillhouse Spiced Cherry Whiskey along with red wine, lemons, limes, oranges and apples. The same fruit with white wine and Stillhouse Peach Tea Whiskey made the Sunset Sangria a standout.
house-made oyster crackers (pop ’em and grin), its fanciful fish specialties and its old-time platters of battered and fried Gulf oysters or wildcaught Florida shrimp. But sangria? Not the first menu item that comes to mind. Yet during the prolonged time of shuttering (and shuddering), two-quart servings of sangria — red or white — quickly became must-have togo items at $18.
“They sold consistently well,” says proprietor Fred Thimm, who found that mostly couples, rather than families or groups, were the biggest buyers. What’s not to like, really? The Reel Red sangria was made with Stillhouse Spiced Cherry Whiskey along with red wine, lemons, limes, oranges and apples. The same fruit with white wine and Stillhouse Peach Tea Whiskey made the Sunset Sangria a standout. S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
DINING store route with bleach and toilet paper, but we didn’t,” Thimm says. “We just did what we know how to do — cook for people, package it and deliver it using our own drivers via Uber Eats. That way, we were able to keep as many staff members employed as possible.” COCINA 214 151 East Welbourne Avenue, Winter Park 407.790.7997 cocina214.com
For its takeout customers, Cocina 214 packaged happy hour priced, ready-made cocktail kits with instructions. The TexMex restaurant is known for its margaritas, so a popular choice was the frozen El Diablo, made with Sauza silver tequila swirled with sangria.
A third beverage was also popular for the graband-go crowd: The Seaside Margarita was essentially tequila that had lingered for a bit with pineapple, brown sugar and house-made sweet-and-sour mix before being served with a grilled pineapple wedge. These refreshing beverages — along with bottled wine at 30 percent off — left the premises accompanied by full seafood meals. The restaurant offered a rather extensive takeout menu and
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often promoted specials. “Everyone wants a deal,” notes Thimm, who singled out the popularity of a date night meal for two. At $39, it included fried green tomatoes or a fried clam strip basket with either a boiled or pecan-crusted rainbow trout entrée. To finish, there was a dessert of coconut cake or carrot cake. “Some restaurants focused on Blue Apron-type meals to cook at home, or they went the grocery
Groups of merrymakers dine at Cocina 214 as much for the margaritas as for the quesadillas — so this bastion of Tex-Mex cuisine included tequila-laced concoctions from the earliest days of the stay-at-home spell. Better still, libations were offered at happy hour prices — $5 for a single drink, $20 for a quart and $70 for a gallon. “The quart sold best,” says Lambrine Macejewski, partner, co-founder and business manager of the eatery just off Park Avenue. “It was great for two people who want two drinks each.” As for the food, this was no time to get esoteric. So Macejewski chose only the restaurant’s top sellers for home consumption. That meant salsaaccented suppers could be had with a dizzying array of margarita choices. While some restaurants relied upon cocktail kits with instructions packaged separately, Macejewski sealed ready-made drinks into a container, put a sticker on the jar and sent it out the door. “The kits sound cute and they’re successful for some restaurants,” she says. “But to me, they just seem like more work for customers.” Even with a limited staff, Cocina 214 served up additional liquid mood enhancers. The curbside cocktail menu listed single-, quart- and gallon-sized portions of chef-made red sangria as well as 15 wines and 11 bottled beers. The Justin cabernet sauvignon sold so well that the restaurant ordered new cases every week. Although Cocina 214’s food menu was smaller than usual, the resourceful Macejewski and her stalwart team added family-style meals to the mix. “Our guests are feeding their families daily, often including kids home from college,” she says. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we make it easier for them?’” Enter the family dinner options, priced at $50 each and feeding up to six. Choices included beef, chicken or veggie tacos with four toppings, and combo meals such as the Tex-Mex Fave (with quesadillas and fajitas) and the Gringo Tex-Mex Mix (with fajitas and housemade chicken fingers — a favorite of the younger set). All meals came with chips and salsa. All the better to accompany the margaritas.
LUMA ON PARK 290 South Park Avenue, Winter Park 407.599.4111 lumaonpark.com Just as no food is as simple as it looks at Luma on Park — arguably Winter Park’s cheffiest restaurant — the same is true of its deceptively complex cocktails. The herbs and fruits in most of the sleek and stylish eatery’s specialty creations are raised on regional farms. A so-called simple syrup may have been infused by the bartenders with rosemary or lavender. And the shrubs — generally used as sweet-yetacidic mix-ins — are concocted with care, in small batches, adding unseen yet appreciated depth to the drinks in which they’re an ingredient. Luma chose five very different drink options to package for take-home consumption. Each arrived in well-sealed 16-ounce mason jars, which were meant to be taken home, shaken with ice and poured into a drinking vessel of your choice. Prices ranged from $22 to $38. Prime your patio for this cocktail hour. Consider the Tequila Pine, which included pineapple and habanero peppers infused over a three-day period with a high-quality silver tequila. Or the Strawberry Fields, made with basiland strawberry-infused vodka and triple sec. And let’s not forget the blood orange margaritas with a chili-lime rim, produced in conjunction with local citrus producer Natalie’s. Or the Boulevardier, which combined Mitchter’s Straight Rye, Campari and sweet vermouth Longtime Luma fans were no doubt comforted that takeout options included the White Linen, a signature drink from the restaurant’s early days a decade and a half ago. Four draft beers and two bottled ones completed the to-go beverage menu — well, along with discounted wines. Every bottle in the 7,000-bottle vino inventory was offered at half price, creating a significant opportunity for oenophiles. Like the cocktail menu, Luma’s food offerings were paired down significantly. Gone were the fanciful presentations topped with perfectly positioned microgreens and other such frills. They were replaced by a variety of meals designed for the road. “We chose foods that travel well,” says Tim Noelke, operations partner of Park Lights Hospitality Group, owner of Luma, Prato and Luke’s in Maitland. Salads, pizzas and a burger — albeit a relatively fancy burger with Dijonnaise rosemary fries — were available. Also offered were $50 family-style meals, which included a protein and three sides and could feed
Luma on Park’s takeout drink options came in well-sealed, 16-ounce mason jars. They were meant to be shaken, not stirred, with ice and then poured into a drinking vessel of your choice. The Tequila Pine included pineapple and habanero peppers infused over a three-day period with a high-quality silver tequila.
three or four people. The meats, such as 72-hour short ribs, were ready to eat. Roasted carrots and snap peas with mint and pistachio or potato purée with truffle oil and chives arrived piping hot. A handful of wines were available at $10 a bottle. Prepare-at-home kits were another top pick. A Bolognese option, at $45, included house-made rigatoni pasta that needed a quick boil and a ragu sauce to be heated and added along with salad and
the makings of garlic bread. Steaks and other meats were offered for cooking at home. Full yet? You get the idea. In summary, whether you imbibed on Pistachio Old Fashioneds, fruity margaritas or spiked sangrias on your living room sofa, I’ll wager those liquid indulgences were a tonic eagerly welcomed during these unprecedented times. They sure were at my house. S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
EVENTS ART, HISTORY, ENTERTAINMENT AND MORE
SAFETY FIRST FOR OPERA ORLANDO AFTER AN ONLINE INTERLUDE, LIVE SHOWS ARE SET TO RESUME IN NOVEMBER
Opera Orlando’s MainStage series will feature (left to right) Die Fledermaus: The Revenge of the Bat, Hansel & Gretel and Carmen in various venues at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The opera’s executive director, Gabriel Preisser (facing page, left), appears as Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, while his brother Grant Preisser (facing page, right), the company’s artistic director, helms this delightfully bawdy spectacle accompanied by musicians from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.
Opera is not a grass-roots, lemonade-stand sort of enterprise. With its acrobatic musical scores, thoroughbred performers and lavish production requirements, it’s a notoriously high-maintenance art form. As the 18th-century French dramatist Molière put it: “Of all the noises known to man, opera is the most expensive.” But it’s also arguably the most fun, with its overthe-top characters and often melodramatic plotlines. That’s especially true of Opera Orlando, which wrings every note of humor, pathos and drama out of its Opera on the MainStage productions, held at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The 2020-21 season — the company’s fifth — promises to be particularly memorable, in part for reasons having nothing to do with music. Like most performing arts groups, the opera has had to think outside the proverbial box when considering how to reach its audience during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why some opera offerings — primarily those planned for the summer and early fall — have been moved online. Hopefully, says executive director Gabriel Preisser, his performers will be singing for live audiences when it’s time for the MainStage series to begin in November. “We’ve had to rethink some things,” says Preisser,
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a Grammy-winning baritone whose extensive resumé includes more than 40 operatic and musical theater roles. “But I feel good moving forward.” Here’s what will be different this year. The Opera on Park series, which is usually held at the University Club in Winter Park, will now be streamed live on Facebook. Although anyone will be able to watch, the opera is asking for donations of $30 for each individual show or $75 for the three-show series. Performances are slated for successive Sundays — August 23 and 30 and September 6 — at 2 p.m. Obviously, it will no longer be necessary for the participating artists, who hail from far-flung locations across the U.S., to travel to Winter Park. Next year, Preisser expects to return the series to the University Club. Presumably, during the pandemic many music lovers have become somewhat accustomed to watching their favorite performers deliver online concerts. In any case, Opera Orlando is offering an impressive lineup for the virtual Opera on Park. Featured on August 23 is tenor Carlos Enrique Santelli — a graduate of Orlando’s Freedom High School — and his wife, mezzo soprano Ashley Dixon, both of whom are 2018 winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Santelli is an in-demand guest artist with operas and choral organizations across the U.S., while Dixon is in her second year as a San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow and most recently appeared in the company’s operatic adaptation of the beloved Frank Capra film It’s a Wonderful Life. Tenor Nathan Granner and his wife, soprano Jamie Chamberlain, both from Los Angeles, follow on August 30. The San Francisco Chronicle recently described Granner’s singing as possessing a “sinewy, ringing tone; splendidly flexible,” while Chamberlain, a frequent performer with the Los Angeles Opera, has been praised for her “shimmering tones” and “star struck vulnerability” by Opera News. Wrapping up the series on September 6 is bassbaritone Gregg Baker, who made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1985 as Crown — a role he has reprised many times — in a landmark production of George Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess. Baker has performed with operas and orchestras around the world and appears on cast recordings of Carmen Jones and Sweeney Todd. Baker, Granner and Santelli will return later in the season — this time in person — for MainStage productions of Die Fledermaus: The Revenge of the Bat (Santelli) and Carmen (Baker and Granner). Another major change is to the opera’s annual fundraising gala, held at the Alfond Inn. Originally, the pandemic forced postponement of the event from May to October. Now, though, the black-tie gathering — meant to celebrate Opera Orlando’s anniversary — will also move online and be held on Sunday, September 20, at 2 p.m.
IN BRIEF WHAT: Opera on the MainStage WHEN: Die Fledermaus: The Revenge of the Bat (Friday, October 30 and Sunday, November 1); Hansel & Gretel (Friday, Saturday and Sunday, December 18, 19 and 20); Carmen (Friday, March 26, and Sunday, March 27, 2021) WHERE: The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (the Walt Disney Theater, the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater and Steinmetz Hall) NOTES: Opera Orlando’s usual Opera on Park, held at Winter Park’s University Club, is moving online, as is its annual gala, previously scheduled for May and then October at the Alfond Inn. FOR MORE: Visit operaorlando.org for information about the online events. For tickets to the MainStage series, visit drphillipscenter. org. Individual tickets are available, but season packages offer the best value.
It’s a Grand Night for Singing, as the event was dubbed, would have been a grand night indeed, with dining, dancing and hobknobbing with renowned artists from the world of opera. But the virtual version will still be packed with performances, surprise guests and even de rigueur fundraising activities such as a silent auction. Best of all, guys, you don’t have to wear a tux. Tickets — which, in this case, means access to a link — will be $100. And if you bought tickets to any Opera on Park shows, whatever you previously spent will be applied toward a gala admission. You can make all the arrangements through the opera’s website, operaorlando.org. Next May, Preisser says, the opera expects to resume its traditional gala — tuxedos and all — and to belatedly pay tribute to philanthropists and patrons of the arts Mary and Frank J Doherty, who were scheduled to be this year’s honorees. Some degree of normalcy should return when the MainStage season opens with Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus: The Revenge of the Bat. The famous farce swoops into the Dr. Phillips Center’s Walt Disney Theater on Friday, October 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, November 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $19. Sung in English, Die Fledermaus “is a party not to be missed,” says Preisser, who also appears as Eisenstein, the less-than-faithful husband of the captivating Rosalinda, sung by Abigail Rethwisch in her debut with the company. Die Fledermaus, which follows an escalating series
of misadventures resulting from a drunken practical joke, was considered scandalous when it debuted in 1874 and remains delightfully naughty today. Grant Preisser, the opera’s artistic director (and Gabriel Preisser’s brother) helms the bawdy spectacle, with accompaniment by musicians from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Argentinian-born maestro Jorge Parodi. Following Die Fledermaus is a season add-on, Hansel & Gretel, Engelbert Humperdinck’s 1891 adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about two lost siblings who encounter a cannibalistic “nibbling witch” who lives in a house made of gingerbread, licorice, cake and many other sweet treats. Sung in English and reduced to a kid-friendly 75 minutes, Hansel & Gretel is slated for four shows — staged in the round — at the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, December 18, 19 and 20. The shows are at 7:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets start at $39. Grant Preisser again directs, with musicians from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra providing accompaniment and members of the Opera Orlando Youth Company playing gingerbread children brought back to life when the evil witch is outsmarted. The MainStage season will conclude with Georges Bizet’s Carmen — which will mark Opera Orlando’s first performance in the newly completed Steinmetz Hall — on Friday, March 26, and Sunday, March 28, 2021. The Friday show is at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday show is at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $19.
Sung in French with Creole-infused French dialogue and English supertitles, Carmen is presented in partnership with the Greater Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Orlando. Although originally written in 1874, this version of the frequently adapted opera is set in Haiti in the politically turbulent 1960s. Making their Opera Orlando debuts, maestro Kelly Kuo, artistic director of the Oregon Mozart Players, conducts musicians from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, while Sara E. Widzer, a faculty member at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Los Angeles, directs the production. Carmen is played by mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter, described as “radiant” by The New York Times and as “a mesmerizing Carmen” by Opera News. Members of the Opera Orlando Chorus and Youth Company round out the cast. Also look for more details to come about the Opera on the Town series, and special workshop performances of Opera Orlando’s first commissioned work, The Secret River, based on the book by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. For Opera on the MainStage, save $15 with a two-show season package of Die Fledermaus: The Revenge of the Bat and Carmen. The package also means 20 percent off when you add Hansel & Gretel. For all three shows, that’s a savings of up to $30. For more information about all the opera’s activities, visit operaorlando.org or call 407.512.1900. Visit drphillipscenter.org for Opera on the MainStage tickets. S U MME R 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
NOTE: Due to COVID-19 prevention efforts, venues may be closed or offering limited hours. Also, events are subject to cancellation and attendance capacities may be reduced. The dates and times in these listings are those of normal operation, and will likely still be different by the time this issue of Winter Park Magazine reaches homes. Some, in fact, had not yet reopened at press time, although they were planning to do so in the coming weeks. So please use the contact information provided and check in advance before making your plans. We also encourage you to anticipate that masks may be required, as well as observance of social distancing protocols.
Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. This lakeside museum, open since 1961, is dedicated to preserving works of the famed Czech sculptor for whom it was both home and studio for more than a decade. The museum offers tours of Polasek’s home Tuesdays through Saturdays. And it offers tours of the adjacent Capen-Showalter House three times weekly: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:30 a.m., and Saturdays at 10:15 a.m. Built in 1885, the Capen-Showalter House was saved from demolition several years ago and floated across Lake Osceola to its current location on the Polasek’s grounds. The museum’s summer exhibition is The Puerto Rican Artist Collective, Keepers of Heritage: Evolving Identities, which includes paintings, mixed media and sculpture by artists honoring their cultural roots as members of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $3 for students and free for children. 633 Osceola Avenue, Winter Park. 407-647-6294. polasek.org. Art & History Museums — Maitland. The Maitland Art Center, one of five museums that anchor the city’s Cultural Corridor, was founded as an art colony in 1937 by visionary artist and architect J. André Smith. The center, located at 231 West Packwood Avenue, Maitland, is Central Florida’s only National Historic Landmark and one of the few surviving examples of Mayan Revival architecture in the Southeast. Admission to the art center’s galleries is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students (ages 5 to 17) and free for children age 4 and under. Maitland residents receive a $1 discount. The Cultural Corridor also includes the Maitland Historical Museum and Telephone Museum at 221 West Packwood Avenue, and the Waterhouse Residence Museum and Carpentry Shop Museum, both built in the 1880s and located at 820 Lake Lily Drive. Current exhibitions at the art center and history museum, respectively, are Building Maitland (through August 16), which examines the architectural evolution that the city has undergone in the last century. Open-
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ing August 14 at the art museum is a collection of abstract and experimental works by Orlando artist Cicero Greathouse. Then on August 28 Growing Up Maitland debuts, which explores how the city has changed for young people over the past century. 407-539-2181. artandhistory.org. Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. With more than 19,000 square feet of gallery and public space, the Morse houses the world’s most important collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany creations, including jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass and an entire chapel interior originally designed and built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The museum’s latest exhibition is Portraits of Americans from the Morse Collection, featuring works by John Singer Sargent, Charles Hawthorne, Cecilia Beaux and others. As photography made romanticized depictions of well-known figures obsolete, these artists guided portraiture into the 20th century with compelling works that captured not only the physical likeness of their subjects, but their innate character as well. Continuing through September is a major exhibition, Earth into Art — The Flowering of American Art Pottery. The displayed objects, which date from the 1870s to the early 1900s, are drawn from the museum’s collection of American art pottery — one of the largest such collections in the U.S. Also on view is Iridescence — A Celebration, which runs through September 2021. The dazzling display features works in enamel, pottery and art glass that replicate the shimmering optical effects previously only found in nature. Regular admission to the museum is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $1 for students and free for children younger than age 12. 445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park. 407-645-5311. morsemuseum.org. Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Located on the campus of Rollins College, the Cornell houses one of the oldest and most eclectic collections of fine art in Florida. Continuing through September 6 are: African Apparel: Threaded Transformations Across the 20th Century, a celebration of the artistry, diversity and symbolism of the continent’s garments; Multiple Voices/Multiple Stories, which features an array of portraits that ask the viewer to consider the relationship between subject and artist; 2020: Action, Freedom, Patriotism, which contrasts Norman Rockwell’s original Four Freedoms with contemporary interpretations of those themes; and The Place as Metaphor: Collection Conversations, an examination of the multiple meanings of place through diverse representations across time and region. Two new exhibits debut September 18: E Pluribus Unum, featuring works by contemporary painter Marcus Jansen, who seeks to document the human condition critically, socially and politically; and What Women Want, a collection of self-portraits by female artists who seek to construct new definitions of women in society. Both run through January 3, 2021. Finally,
continuing through December 31 is Ruptures and Remnants: Selections from the Permanent Collection, which offers material manifestations, from antiquity to the present day, of ruptures ranging from personal crises to nation-state upheavals. Opening on January 15, 2021 is Rania Matar: On Either Side of the Window, Portraits During COVID-19, which features images of individuals in quarantines caused by the pandemic. Guided tours take place at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays at the nearby Alfond Inn, where a selection of more than 400 works in the museum’s Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art are on view. Happy Hour tours of the Alfond Collection are also conducted on the first Wednesday of most months at 5:30 p.m. If you prefer historic works, Throwback Thursday tours are offered at the museum from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of most months. Admission is free, courtesy of PNC Financial Services Group. 1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park. 407-646-2526. rollins.edu/cfam. Crealdé School of Art. Established in 1975, this not-for-profit arts organization on Winter Park’s east side offers year-round visual-arts classes for all ages, taught by more than 40 working artists. Visitors may take a self-guided tour through its lakeside sculpture garden, which includes approximately 60 three-dimensional pieces of contemporary outdoor art and educational panels that describe the diversity of expressive styles and durable media. Current exhibits are Emerge (through August 1), in which members of the Crealdé Fellowship Program display their talents; and the 39th Annual Juried Student Exhibition (through September 5). Admission to the school’s galleries is free, although there are fees for art classes. 600 Saint Andrews Boulevard, Winter Park. 407671-1886. crealde.org. Hannibal Square Heritage Center. Established in 2007 by the Crealdé School of Art in partnership with residents of Hannibal Square and the City of Winter Park, the center celebrates the city’s historically African-American west side with archival photographs, original artwork and oral histories from longtime residents that are collectively known as the Heritage Collection. Also ongoing is the Hannibal Square Timeline, which documents significant local and national events in African-American history since the Emancipation Proclamation. The center also offers a walking tour of Hannibal Square, Now and Then, with Fairolyn Livingston, chief historian. The tour, offered on the third Saturday of each month from 10 to 11:30 a.m., requires reservations; the cost is $10, or $5 for those with student IDs. Historic sites include the Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, the Welbourne Avenue Nursery & Kindergarten and the Masonic Lodge, all built in the 1920s. 642 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. 407-539-2680. hannibalsquareheritagecenter.org.
EVENTS PERFORMING ARTS
Annie Russell Theatre. “The Annie,” in continuous operation at Rollins College since 1932, will kick off its 2020-21 season this September. Titles have yet to be announced. Curtain time for the shows are 8 p.m., 4 p.m. or 2 p.m., depending upon the day of the week. Individual tickets are $20. 1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park. 407-646-2145. rollins.edu/annie-russell-theatre. Winter Park Playhouse. Winter Park’s only professional, nonprofit theater opens its 2020-21 mainstage season with Book of Merman, which runs October 1 through 25. Direct from a successful off-Broadway run, the show is a clever and heartfelt farce about two Mormon missionaries who happen to pay a call on the legendary Ethel Merman. Up next, from November 12 through December 10 is Christmas My Way: A Sinatra Holiday Bash, a musical that combines Rat Pack classics and holiday favorites. The rest of the season includes A Grand Night for Singing (January 22 through February 20, 2021), Respect: A Musical Journey of Women (March 19 through April 24, 2021), Five Course Love (May 14 through June 13, 2021), and Crazy for Gershwin (July 30 through August 22, 2021). Performances are Thursdays through Sundays, with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets range in price from $20 for students to $45 for evening shows. Meanwhile, the theater’s Spotlight Cabaret Series will feature soloist crooner Kevin Kelly on October 21 and 22, as well as Noel Marie Matson (April 21 and 22, 2021) and Dustin and Courtney Cunningham (date to be determined). General admission is $20 plus a one-drink minimum (with $10 standing-room-only tickets available once general seating is sold out). 711 Orange Avenue, Winter Park. 407-645-0145. winterparkplayhouse.org.
Earth Day in the Park. This free (and slightly belated) event in Hannibal Square’s Shady Park, slated for September 12 at 10 a.m., features a kids’ zone with games, tie-dye T-shirts, do-it-yourself art with help from Crealdé School of Art staffers, a “quick draw” art competition organized by the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, live music, yoga for children and adults (bring a mat), and composting and recycling education. Of course, there’ll be food and beverage vendors. Certified arborists from Winter Park’s Urban Forestry Division will also give away young trees in one-gallon containers for city residents to plant at home. The fun starts at 10 a.m. Pennsylvania Avenue at New England Avenue. 407-599-3364. cityofwinterpark.org.
Enzian. This cozy, nonprofit alternative cinema offers a plethora of film series. Tickets are usually
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$12 for regular admission; $10 for matinees, students, seniors and military (with ID); and $9.50 for Enzian Film Society members. Children under age 12 are admitted free to Peanut Butter Matinee Family Films, shown the fourth Sunday of each month at noon. Other series include Saturday Matinee Classics (the second Saturday of each month at noon), Cult Classics (the second and last Tuesday of each month at 9:30 p.m.), and Midnight Movies (every Saturday night). FilmSlam, which spotlights Florida-made short films, takes place most months on the first or second Sunday at 1 p.m.; the next scheduled date is August 9. At press time, however, Enzian was only offering access to streaming films, which range in price from $5.99 to $12, as plans were being formulated to reopen. 1300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland. 407-629-0054 (information line), 407-629-1088 (theater offices). enzian.org. Popcorn Flicks in the Park. The City of Winter Park and the Enzian collaborate to offer classic, family-friendly films free in Central Park on Park Avenue. These outdoor screenings are typically held on the second Thursday of each month and start at 8 p.m. At press time, it had not been determined when this series would resume. When it does, don’t forget to pack a picnic and blankets or chairs. 407-629-1088. enzian.org.
Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum. This stunningly restored Spanish farmhouse-style home, designed by acclaimed architect James Gamble Rogers II, is now a community center and museum. Free open houses are hosted by docents on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Also, live music is featured in the large downstairs parlor most Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. 656 North Park Avenue (adjacent to the Winter Park Golf Course), Winter Park. 407-628-8200. casafeliz.us. Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida. The center is dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice, with the goal of developing a moral and just community through educational and cultural programs. It houses permanent and temporary exhibitions, archives and a research library. The museum’s ongoing exhibition, Tribute to the Holocaust, is a presentation of artifacts, videos, text, photographs and other works of art. Admission to the center is free. 851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland. 407-628-0555. holocaustedu.org. Winter Park History Museum. Travel back in time to the city’s earliest days with ongoing displays that include artifacts dating from its beginnings as a New England-style resort in the 1880s. The freshly refurbished museum will soon debut a new exhibition, Rollins College: The First 50 Years, which will feature vintage photos of campus life, a re-created dorm
room and other collegiate memorabilia. The date for the new exhibition had not been determined at press time, but in the meantime Wish You Were Here: The Hotels and Motels of Winter Park, had been extended. Admission is free. 200 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-2330. wphistory.org. Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts. Eatonville is strongly associated with Harlem Renaissance writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, who lived there as a girl and recorded her childhood memories in her classic autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. The museum that bears her name provides information about the historic city, sponsors exhibitions featuring the works of African-American artists and is an integral part of the annual, weeklong Zora! Festival each January. Admission is free, though group tours require a reservation and are charged a fee. 227 East Kennedy Boulevard, Eatonville. 407647-3188. zoranealehurstonmuseum.com.
University Club of Winter Park. Nestled among the oaks and palms at the north end of Park Avenue’s downtown shopping district — a block beyond Casa Feliz — is another historic James Gamble Rogers II building, this one home to the University Club of Winter Park. Members are dedicated to the enjoyment of intellectual activities and socializing with one another. The club’s various activities, including lectures, are open to the public, although nonmembers are asked to make a $5 donation each time they attend. (Some events include a buffet lunch for an added fee.) A full schedule of events and speakers is available online. 841 North Park Avenue. 407-6446149. uclubwp.org.
Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts. This eclectic venue is part concert hall, part recording studio and part art gallery. It offers live performances most evenings, with an emphasis on jazz, classical and world music — although theater, dance and spoken-word presentations are sometimes on the schedule. Admission generally ranges from free to $25. 1905 Kentucky Avenue, Winter Park. 407-636-9951. bluebambooartcenter.com. Central Florida Folk. This Winter Park-based notfor-profit is dedicated to promoting and preserving live folk music, primarily through concerts usually held on the last Sunday of each month (unless a holiday intervenes). The group’s primary venue is the Winter Park Public Library, 460 East New England Avenue. Upcoming acts include “trop rock” pioneer Del Suggs (August 30) and acoustic Americana duo The Sandspurs (September 27). Performances start at 2 p.m. A donation of $15 for nonmembers is suggested. 407-679-6426. cffolk.org.
TIFFANY at the Know Where to Go for Great Care in Winter Park
s residents of Winter Park and surrounding neighborhoods, we are fortunate to have so many convenient places where we can get the care we need from providers we trust. Keep in mind that every one of AdventHealth’s doctors’ offices, Centra Care urgent care locations and ERs are taking extraordinary precautions to keep you safe when you visit — from temperature checks and mask use to frequent sanitizing, social distancing and more. Primary Care Providers for You “If you’ve put off seeing your primary care physician, now is the time to go,” says Melissa Morello, M.D., a family medicine physician at the Center for Health and Wellbeing. “Primary care doctors help you avoid preventable illnesses and can provide treatment for health issues before they become serious,” adds Dr. Morelllo. They also keep you up to date on your regular health screenings, which are so important.” To make an appointment with a primary care provider in Winter Park, call 407.599.6111 or visit WinterParkPrimaryCareDocs.com.
MORSE The Morse Museum houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including his chapel interior from the 1893 Chicago world’s fair and art objects from his Long Island estate, Laurelton Hall.
follow us on 445 north park avenue winter park, florida 32789 (407) 645-5311 morsemuseum.org
Emergency Care Near You When an emergency arises, it can be hard to think clearly. Thankfully, AdventHealth Winter Park has a dedicated team of ER physicians and other experts available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are well-equipped to handle all kinds of emergencies — from chest pain and strokes to seizures, bleeding, broken bones and more. Urgent Care for the Whole Family “AdventHealth Centra Care locations are a convenient, affordable alternative to the emergency room for non-life-threatening medical situations,” notes Dr. Morello. “With extended hours seven days a week, Centra Care can treat everything from sore throats to upset stomachs and allergic reactions to injuries needing X-ray or stitches and much more.” Winter Park has two traditional Centra Cares, as well as a Centra Care Kids that’s staffed with a board-certified pediatrician. Walk-ins are welcome or make your reservation at CentraCare.org. Visit AdventHealthWinterPark.com for more information about AdventHealth’s Care Network in Winter Park.
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EVENTS Music at the Casa. The Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum presents acoustic performances on most Sunday afternoons from noon to 3 p.m. in the museum’s cozy main parlor. Past selections include opera, jazz guitar and flamenco dancers. A $5 donation is suggested. 656 North Park Avenue (adjacent to the Winter Park Golf Course), Winter Park. 407-6288200. casafeliz.us. Opera on Park. The first official performances of Opera Orlando’s 2020-21 season are its three-part Opera on Park series, which takes place at the University Club of Winter Park, 841 North Park Avenue. The artists and dates or the series, which is usually held in August and September, had not been announced at presstime. Tickets are $30 each or $75 for all three recitals, which will take place at 2 p.m. 407.512.1900. operaorlando.org. Performing Arts of Maitland. This not-for-profit group works with the City of Maitland and other organizations to promote performances for and by local musicians. It supports various groups, including the Maitland Symphony Orchestra, Maitland Market Music, the Maitland Stage Band and the Baroque Chamber Orchestra. A full schedule of events is available online. 407-339-5984, ext. 219. pamaitland.org.
Maitland Farmers’ Market. This year-round, openair market — held each Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — features fresh produce, seafood, breads and cheeses as well as plants, all-natural skin-care products and live music by Performing Arts of Maitland. The setting on Lake Lily boasts a boardwalk, jogging trails, a playground and picnic areas. 701 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland. itsmymaitland.com. Winter Park Farmers’ Market. The region’s busiest and arguably most popular farmers’ market is held every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Central Park West Meadow in downtown Winter Park. The open-air market offers baked goods, produce, plants, honey, cheese, meat, flowers, crafts and other specialty items. After shopping, make a morning of it with a stroll along nearby Park Avenue. Dogs are welcome to bring their people. 200 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. cityofwinterpark.org.
Florida Writers Association. Join fellow scribes for lectures by guest speakers and discussions led by local authors. The Orlando/Winter Park-Area Chapter meets on the first Wednesday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The next scheduled event is slated for September 7 at the University Club of Winter Park, 841 North Park Avenue, Winter Park. Another chapter, the Maitland Writers Group, meets on the
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second Thursday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The next scheduled event is slated for September 10 at the Maitland Public Library, 501 South Maitland Avenue, Maitland. floridawriters.net. Orlando Writers Critique Group. Writers gather under the guidance of author and writing coach Rik Feeney to review and critique their current works on the third Tuesday of every month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Winter Park Public Library. The next scheduled event is September 15. 460 East New England Avenue, Winter Park. usabookcoach@gmail. com, wppl.org. Storytellers of Central Florida. Experienced and fledgling storytellers gather to share stories and practice their craft on the first Tuesday of each month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Winter Park Public Library. The next scheduled event is September 1. Meetings are hosted by professional storyteller Madeline Pots. 460 East New England Avenue, Winter Park. 321439-6020, email@example.com, wppl.org. Wednesday Open Words. One of the area’s longest-running open-mic poetry nights happens every Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Austin’s Coffee, 929 West Fairbanks Avenue, Winter Park. 407-975-3364. austinscoffee.com. Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts. This group offers various free programs that attract writers of all stripes. Short Attention Span Storytelling Hour, a literary open-mic night, meets on the second Wednesday of most months at 7 p.m. at Stardust Video & Coffee (1842 Winter Park Road). It’s for authors, poets, filmmakers, comedians, musicians, bloggers and others. The next scheduled event is September 9. Orlando WordLab, a workshop that challenges writers to experiment with new techniques or methods, meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the Winter Park Public Library (460 East New England Avenue, Winter Park). The next scheduled event is September 23. stardustvideoandcoffee.wordpress.com, wppl.org, meetup.com/writers-of-central-florida-or-thereabouts.
BUSINESS NOTE: Many Winter Park Chamber of Commerce events went virtual over the summer. The following events are still scheduled, according to the chamber’s calendar of events, but may go online depending upon the COVID-19 situation. Good Morning Winter Park. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, these monthly gatherings attract business- and civic-minded locals who enjoy coffee and conversation about community issues. Scheduled for the second Friday of most months, the next scheduled events are August 7,
September 4, October 2, November 6 and December 11. Networking begins at 8 a.m. followed by a 45-minute program at 8:30 a.m. Admission, which includes a complimentary continental breakfast, is free. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-8281. winterpark. org/good-morning-winter-park. Winter Park Professional Women. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, these gatherings — held on the first Monday of most months from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — feature guest speakers and provide networking opportunities for women business owners. Topics revolve around leadership development, business growth and local initiatives of special interest to women. The next scheduled events are August 3, September 14, October 5 and November 2. Tickets, which include lunch, are $25 for chamber members and $50 for nonmembers. Reservations are required. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-8281. winterpark. org/winter-park-professional-women. Hot Seat Academy. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, this quarterly business-oriented series puts local executives in the spotlight as they offer advice and discuss entrepreneurism, leadership and sales-and-marketing techniques. The next scheduled gathering is August 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; check the chamber website for information about the featured speaker. Tickets are $15 for members, $30 for nonmembers. Reservations are required. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-8281. winterpark.org/hot-seat-academy.
Keep Winter Park Beautiful. Volunteers who help the City of Winter Park collect litter around lakes Killarney, Bell and Wilderness on September 5 receive breakfast, a T-shirt, a snack and bottled water. Litter grabbers, safety vests, gloves and garbage bags are also provided. Kayakers and paddle boarders are welcome to participate; everyone is asked to bring a reusable water bottle. The 8 a.m. assembly point is 1050 West Morse Boulevard. 407-599-3364. cityofwinterpark.eventbrite.com. Run for the Trees: Jeannette Genius McKean Memorial 5K. This popular foot race, rescheduled for August 29, begins at 7:30 a.m. at Ward Park, 250 Perth Lane. But the last mile and the finish are through the privately owned Genius Preserve, which is open to the public only for this annual event. Shuttle buses return runners to the starting line and parking lot; all finishers receive a young tree to plant. Registration, which ranges from $33 to $40 per person, is limited to 1,800 people. Proceeds support the Winter Park Tree Replacement Fund. 407-896-1160. trackshack.com.
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OUR TOWN | BY MICHAEL MCLEOD
THE POET VERSUS THE PANDEMIC
When classes reconvene at Rollins College in a few weeks, Poetry 101 with Billy Collins won’t be on the schedule. It’s not as though it ever really was, strictly speaking. The relationship between the college and the former two-term U.S. poet laureate was never that cut and dried. Dubbed by The New York Times as the most popular poet in the country and inducted four years ago into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters alongside the likes of Joan Didion and Kurt Vonnegut, Collins has probably done more to engage people with poetry than any other American scholar-practitioner in recent memory. He’s a 79-year-old native New Yorker with a deadpan delivery, a passion for jazz and a flair for unpacking everyday moments by pairing shrewd humor with habitual wonderment. A reviewer once complimented Collins for “putting the fun in profundity,” a turn of phrase that will serve as the blurb on his 13th book of poems, Whale Day, to be published in September. Soon after moving to Central Florida 12 years ago, Collins was appointed senior distinguished fellow at the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College, which brought luminaries such as Maya Angelou, Ken Burns, Gloria Steinem, Jane Goodall, Garrison Keillor, Itzhak Perlman and Sir Paul McCartney to campus for lectures. Having the likeable Collins in residence to recruit fellow creatives and make regular appearances himself was something of a coup for a small liberal arts college. Yet, however prestigious its speakers or distinguished its fellow, the Institute was a financial drain, even after it began charging admission in 2016. When belt-tightening became a priority — as it did five years ago, when President Lewis Duncan resigned — Collins was told that his contract wouldn’t be renewed. After a quiet community protest, he was rehired by incoming President Grant Cornwell, only to be let
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go again more recently when the Institute itself was disbanded as part of a college-wide response to the financial hit expected from the COVID-19 pandemic. The same fate befell Winter with the Writers, an annual event that brought nationally recognized authors to campus to tutor students and present readings. Administrators also made a sweeping reduction of salaries and benefits and reduced the college workforce by 8 percent, so the programs and the poet aren’t the only budgetary casualties — just the most visible ones outside campus. Though he deserves better treatment, Collins, an international figure whose books are always New York Times bestsellers, will survive the financial blow. The loss is all ours. It’s sad to witness the disappearance of initiatives so intertwined with the heart and soul of Rollins — past, present and future. The lectures echoed the legendary Animated Magazine, which ran from the 1920s through the 1960s and brought the likes of Edward R. Murrow, James Cagney, Mary McLeod Bethune and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to Winter Park. Apart from that, such programs served the present by showcasing world-changing role models who underscored the college’s mission: to imbue the students of today with a sense of global citizenship for tomorrow. There are glimmers of hope. Gail Sinclair, the Institute’s outgoing executive director, suggests that the community itself might bring back the lecture series. A Rollins writing class based on a downsized version of Winter with the Writers has been approved. And six days a week at 5:30 p.m., Collins sits down at a desk in the office of his home in a lakeside Winter Park neighborhood near the campus, with a shifting sheaf of papers and a pile of weather-beaten poetry books in front of him. For the next 20 minutes or so, via Facebook, he conducts what feels like a late-night talk show with a
literary flair. His wife, Suzannah, suggested the idea of a happy-hour poetry reading for his fans. There’s always a theme — haiku one day, poetry about travel another. More than one broadcast has been devoted to verse related to jazz, complete with mood music from Collins’ own extensive collection. Sometimes he reads his own works, sometimes those of his contemporaries. Meanwhile comments from his growing band of listeners scroll by, attesting to the poet’s global reach — here a hello from Ida Valley, New Zealand, there a quip from West Cork, Ireland, just beneath a question from Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Collins sees the virtual appearances as a counterpoint to a politicized, hall-of-mirrors modern-world reality — “this massive grid of interconnected voices and tweets and lies.” By contrast, he says, a poem represents something honest, concrete — “a world sovereign unto itself. It’s just you and me here.” Just you and Billy and Poetry 101. At least that much hasn’t changed.
Michael McLeod, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a contributing writer for Winter Park Magazine and an adjunct instructor in the English department at Rollins College.
PHOTO BY RAFAEL TONGOL
Billy Collins, a former two-term U.S. poet laureate, reads his work (plus the work of others) and stays connected to his fans worldwide every day at 5:30 p.m. via Facebook. Prior to pandemic-related cost cutting, Collins was affiliated with the now-discontinued Winter Park Institute at Rollins College, for which he gave an annual reading and helped secure celebrity speakers. His new book, Whale Day, is due in September.
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THE POEM | BILLY COLLINS
oming in two stanzas of equal length, this is a “hinge poem,” which traditionally invites comparisons and contrasts between the stanzas. Here, stanza one is a long invocation to an omnibus of readers. Not fussy about who will listen to his summons, the poet throws a wide net. He includes readers whose level of concentration ranges from casual browsing to studious notetaking. Having caught their attention, one hopes, the poem then glides into stanza two, which introduces a poet clearly haunted by his need for readers, to whom he appeals by presenting himself as a desperate seeker, looking for them everywhere. Such an infirmity is common to poets the world over, but usually not so publicly expressed.
PHOTO BY SUZANNAH GILMAN
Billy Collins, a former two-term U.S. poet laureate (2000–03), is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. “Reader” appeared in Aimless Love and other Poems (Random House, 2013).
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READER Looker, gazer, skimmer, skipper, thumb-licking page turner, peruser, you getting your print-fix for the day, pencil-chewer, note taker, marginalianist with your checks and X’s first-timer or revisiter, browser, speedster, English major, flight-ready girl, melancholy boy, invisible companion, thief, blind date, perfect stranger — that’s me rushing to the window to see if it’s you passing under the shade trees with a baby carriage or a dog on a leash, me picking up the phone to imagine your unimaginable number, me standing by a map of the world wondering where you are — alone on a bench in a train station or falling asleep, the book sliding to the floor.
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T H E
M A Y F L O W E R
W I N T E R
P A R K
THE RIGHT DECISION
“The Winter Park location, the community’s reputation and time-tested record, the quality of operations, its management and staff – all made The Mayflower an easy choice.” – Harold and Libby Ward
For more than three decades, The Mayflower has been regarded as one of the area’s premier senior living communities – offering a safe, peaceful environment with luxury amenities, outstanding service, and the assurance of long-term care. Here, residents like Harold and Libby Ward find stability, predictability and peace of mind, knowing they’ve made the best decision for themselves and for their children. If you’re considering a Life Plan Community, now is the time! Take control of your future . . . by planning for it today.
1 62 0 M A Y F L O W E R C O U R T
WINTER PARK, FL 32792
THEMAYFLOWER.COM 88141 PRAD WPM 7/1/2020