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Crazy summer of swimsuits and lawsuits

Tourists staying at the TradeWinds Resort in St. Pete Beach celebrated the Fourth of July with a “Terry Cloth Tribute” by laying out about 1,000 red, white and blue beach towels to create a 13-star flag mosaic.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Tourists staying at the TradeWinds Resort in St. Pete Beach celebrated the Fourth of July with a “Terry Cloth Tribute” by laying out about 1,000 red, white and blue beach towels to create a 13-star flag mosaic.

Here it is, summer in Florida, languid and damp and hotter than a steering wheel in a car baking in a parking lot. Truly, it is an amazing phenomenon.

Because the heat changes us. Summer in Florida, beach season, vacation time, and suddenly even the most modest among us, the ones who lament the demise of the necktie and the flourishing of the flip-flop, are stripping down to next to nothing to parade the white sands along the warm gulf.

I mean, what a parade we make, large and small, skinny and not-so-much, old and young, bear-pelted and freshly waxed, beautiful and, well, interesting. Sitting there in your beach chair, you can see a son growing a pot belly identical to his father's, a daughter beside the mother she will surely become. You witness fish-belly white, sun-seared pink and nut brown, all gloriously contained (or not) in swimsuits and trunks, in shy, skirted one-pieces and knee-length shorts and skimpy bikinis that could fit nicely in a shot glass.

And Speedos. Few things get beach banter going like a guy going by in a Speedo.

Just ask Beach Bob, habitue of the shores a few counties to our south, he of the headlines, the misguided jokes on Leno and Saturday Night Live and, maybe, the lawsuit.

At 62, retired court reporter Robert Hezzelwood planned to spend much of his time on that fine sand, in his lounge chair, accompanied by sun and friends and good conversation and bad jokes and maybe a book. If it's not raining, that's where you find him, in his Speedo.

(For the record, he was a swim trunks kind of guy but got briefer, if you will, after a good sale and a realization of how quickly a Speedo dries. "I just tried it one day and went down to the beach and nobody went, 'AAAH!' " he says.)

Trouble started a couple of years ago when a Lee County sheriff's deputy issued him a trespass warning, claiming Beach Bob's suit exposed, um, let's just say a little much. "Never return to Bonita Beach Main Access," the notice read.

Now, Beach Bob may seem a laid-back guy, but he says he was unjustly and unfairly accused. He fought back, spent money on a lawyer, argued issues of jurisdiction, even had fellow beachgoers testify on his behalf. Eventually, a judge threw out the trespass warning.

But of course, a story like this had to get blown up (or dumbed down), and soon a Florida man in a skimpy suit had been carted off in handcuffs, which did not happen to Beach Bob. Even Jay Leno quipped that you know you're unattractive when people see you in a Speedo and call 911.

Beach Bob tried patiently to explain the bigger issues he saw, like the responsibility of police, to radio shock jocks and such. They came up with funny names for his Speedo.

Recently, he filed notice of intent to sue. He says he is less interested in money than justice.

And so it goes, the infinite variety of things that can happen when you are lucky enough to find yourself in our sunny, sticky, wacky state. Should you find yourself watching the parade this weekend, know Beach Bob is probably out there, too, and it is summer in Florida.

Crazy summer of swimsuits and lawsuits 07/04/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 11, 2008 5:17pm]
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