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Floridian Archives

  1. The second coming of Billy the Kid (w/ video)

    Human Interest

    TARPON SPRINGS —

    Guy on the phone says to "Google 'Billy the Kid' Emerson. He's old now, but he was really famous once. He lives here." // So I Google. An African-American piano player born in Tarpon Springs, Emerson ended up at Sun Records in Memphis. Elvis recorded one of his songs. // Talk to Billy the …

    Billy Emerson holds a picture of himself he said was made on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, when he was 15.
  2. The rocky history of kids' play

    Human Interest

    When Ben Montgomery proposed writing a defense of Tampa's Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, I didn't expect that it would launch me on a meandering tour of the playgrounds of my youth. Turns out that the hilly and somewhat scruffy park across from downtown was designed by the same landscape architect who transformed the …

  3. Revive, don't raze, Tampa's Riverfront Park

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — This past Christmas we bought for my middle child something called a Spooner Board, which is marketed as a toy for gifted children but is really just a sort of a curved plastic skateboard without wheels. She dragged it to the front yard and tried to scoot around, and was bored in about two …

     Handoutphoto
  4. Tumbleweaves: Stray hair woven into fabric of city life

    Human Interest

    Mark Spence was watching the storm approach when he saw it crawling along 57th Street S.

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  5. The ride never ends, it just gets wet for a bit

    Human Interest

    A reporter driving home from work in a thunderstorm passes four motorcyclists huddled under a highway overpass. She wonders what they're doing out in this weather, so she pulls over. The short answer? They're debating — risk, freedom and the best place for dinner. The usual.

  6. Dispatches from Next Door: Burn survivor's words are the balm that soothe

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — “Joe Versaggi," he said, lightly bumping fists with the young man in the hospital bed. "Burn survivor."

    Joe Versaggi, 71, has always loved to fly. He was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and flew on hundreds of death-defying missions that he survived. But eight years ago, the Cessna a friend was flying crashed and left Joe with burns covering 35 percent of his body. He now volunteers at Tampa General Hospital, where he splits his time between driving the courtesy shuttle and talking to the survivors in the burn unit.
  7. For coffee shop owner, every day is a clean start (w/ video)

    Human Interest

    GULFPORT — At 5:30 a.m. Teddy Kehoe opens the door to his dark shop, and the smell of bleach from last night's scrubbing nudges him awake. He pulls the chain on a coffee-cup sign in the window. Steam blinks from the cup.

    Teddy Kehoe, 52, owner of the Gulfport Grind, opened the coffee shop after three years of fruitlessly trying to find a job.
  1. For ex-con, there's no glamor in straight life, but it still beats prison

    Human Interest

    A knock on the motel door at 6:30 a.m. wakes Tony Ferrentino. He lifts his 315-pound body a few steps to the door, where a Louisville Slugger leans by the window. His arms are tattooed from wrist to shoulder with dapper mobsters and sprawling, cat-eyed women flashing those parts typically left to the imagination. A …

    Tony Ferrentino in his room in the Bayway Inn, a motel owned by his cousin. Ferrentino is a lifelong criminal, who after spending 28 years of his life behind bars, is trying to remain straight. “Inside I got two dogs fighting all the time.” CHERIE DIEZ    |   Times
  2. For dancer, fairy tale breakthrough masks pain of coming of age

    Human Interest

    By John Pendygraft

    Times Staff Writer

    TAMPA — The dancer spends every day in pain and doesn't dare show it. She knows not to drop her head or grimace when the instructor is looking. Moping, complaining or being injury-prone gives a dancer a fatal reputation. Six hours of daily training is the norm, and …

    Hannah Stanford, 15, poses at the Straz Center, where she attends the Next Generation Ballet school. Stanford will attend the Royal Ballet School in London this fall.
  3. What makes a middle-aged man want to take a one-way trip to Mars?

    Human Interest

    TEMPLE TERRACE

    Hampton Black plans his mission to Mars from a 6- by 10-foot office. Inside this windowless capsule, there's just enough room for a desk, a computer, a water heater and a corkboard, w

    here he tacks important papers.

    Former NASA engineer Hampton Black, right, wants to be one of four people picked by the Mars One project to go to Mars and never return. Girlfriend Ann Marie Slavik, left, would be left behind. While she wants him to pursue his dreams, she's saddened knowing it would mean the end of their relationship. [MELISSA LYTTLE   |   Times]
  4. Meet our version of Captain Citrus

    Consumer

    Marvel is getting $1 million to remake Captain Citrus for the Florida Citrus Board. But when it comes to what Floridians need in a citrus superhero, we think we know better. Scroll down to see what Times artist Don Morris and Floridian editor Bill Duryea have come up with.

  5. A history of a war is a history of a man

    Human Interest

    In 1943, the Army tried to turn an American lit expert into a mechanic. It took Bill Sutton's superiors most of the next two years to figure out he was no mechanic. In early 1945, the Army got smart and sent the bespectacled 29-year-old Ph.D. to France to be a military historian.

  1. Theo Wujcik's last painting had a loving steward

    Human Interest

    "I could be your painting assistant," I offered, convinced it was a good idea.

    Theo hesitated. And I knew why.

    Painters Theo Wujcik, left, and Peg Trezevant became friends during the first painting class she took with him in 1994 at the University of South Florida.
  2. Serial killer cats, rat defenders and other hot-button issues

    Human Interest

    A word of advice to any cash-strapped editors out there. (Sorry, delete cash-strapped; redundant.) Don't waste money on reader surveys. If you want to know who your audience is, or if you have an audience at all, just run a piece about cats. Get a seemingly gentle soul like Jeff Klinkenberg to write something …

  3. My dad had an artist's soul, but a temper that left many scars

    Human Interest

    I grabbed my dad by the swim trunks. He plunged into the Atlantic Ocean and began breaststroking along the beach with me in tow. When the bubbles cleared, I saw all kinds of fish through my mask.

  4. Starting over meant erasing his face tattoos the hard way

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER

    The man with the ominous tattoos perched on a metal box in a dusty welding booth, sparks spraying on his jeans and white T-shirt as he ground down another mistake.

    The scars left behind where a state of Florida tattoo used to be on Eriks Mackus' face. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times]