EAST LAKE — Nothing like having a hungry 8-foot, 8-inch alligator in the kitchen to make you an instant celebrity.
But unlike the gator, which went to a slaughterhouse in rural Pasco County after its capture, homeowner Sandra Frosti found herself whisked away for a free whirlwind tour of New York City.
Within hours of the gator's intrusion on April 21, Frosti and her teenaged grandson Christopher were picked up at her East Lake Woodlands home by a limo and flown to New York courtesy of the Today Show.
The two stayed on the 15th floor of the luxurious Jumeirah Essex House hotel across from Central Park and ate outrageously priced pastrami and corned beef sandwiches at the Carnegie Deli.
Having grown up in Connecticut, Frosti had been to Manhattan before. But this was all new for Christopher.
In order to give him an unforgettable experience, she traded visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art — a favorite destination — for a trip to the John Lennon memorial in Central Park called Strawberry Fields. They also went to a famous comic book store, which, Frosti said, looked like any other comic book store to her.
When it was time to do the Today Show, Frosti, 69, wasn't nervous, even though it was her first time on live TV.
"I don't let things like that bother me," she said, "just like the gator."
She wore a T-shirt and slacks.
She said friends have since called from across the United States asking, "Why were you dressed like that?"
But on the morning of the gator's capture, she had been besieged by journalists and had packed hastily.
There had been no time to shop for new clothes.
There had been no time for anything.
Meeting Meredith Vieira, who interviewed Frosti, was especially fun.
"Meredith was as friendly and as nice as could be," said Frosti, who works for a title insurance company in Dunedin.
After doing the Today Show, Frosti appeared on Fox & Friends, Inside Edition and two live English shows broadcast from the BBC studios in New York City.
Because of the time difference, she had to be on the set at 2 a.m. to tell her story to British audiences.
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After leaving home on a Tuesday, Frosti returned Thursday to reunite with Poe, her cat. She had been really worried about his mental state.
Officials said the alligator may have been hunting Poe when it broke into her home, punching through a screen on the back porch and crawling through an open sliding glass door.
She said Poe is fine now, albeit still a little anxious. He sticks very close to home these days and is always at her feet.
And wouldn't you know it, a few days later there was yet another alligator in Frosti's condo.
But to her relief, this one was plastic and put there by friends playing a joke on her.
Eileen Schulte can be reached
or (727) 445-4153.