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Tampa and what's real



The Daily Show called Tampa "hot" and "horrible." A Daily Beast headline yesterday went with "seedy." More simplistic descriptors to come. In the Beast piece, though, I underlined one paragraph in particular:

For all its open piety, Tampa’s past contains an equal penchant for depravity. In his new book, The Dark Side of Sunshine, to be published the day Romney delivers his acceptance speech, local journalist Paul Guzzo documents a rogues’ gallery of serial killers, gangsters, and practitioners of the bolita, as Tampa’s illegal numbers racket was known.

Which made me think of Scott Deitche's book, Cigar City Mafia: A Complete History of the Tampa Underworld, published in 2004. In it he wrote:

By the 1920s, Tampa was starting to come into its own as a city. Nowhere was that more evident than in Ybor City, where gambling houses lined Seventh Avenue. Many were swank speakeasies complete with lavish décor, live bands, and free-flowing liquor. Although much of the local populace who bet on bolita did their business out of dingy storefronts, those who could afford to went to places like the El Dorado, Serafin’s, Pote’s, and the Lincoln Club. These garish nightclubs were the places to be seen; consequently, they generated millions for the underworld.

Now heading into the convention there's the predictable fixation on the strip clubs. Vanity Fair called the article last month in the New York Times an expose. EXPOSE? Everybody knows there are strip clubs in Tampa. The 10 Most Sordid Sentences in the Times Piece? Since when does Vanity Fair have such a bunch of prudes on staff? So there are strip clubs. It's one of the things -- ONE of the things -- that makes Tampa Tampa. My biggest issue here, though, is that people -- the aforementioned Scott excluded -- so often say these things as if they're putdowns. No. The city's history of vice and sin is part of what makes it real. Also: It's a hotbed of professional wrestling. It's the birthplace of death metal. Bro Bowl anybody? That's organic matter. Like I wrote earlier this month in the Times: Tampa is more interesting than people think. It feels fake only if you don't know where to look.

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 4:41pm]


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