Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Allen Sferios

Dry cleaner Allen Sferios left a mark on local theater

Times Staff Writer

ST. PETE BEACH — In dozens of local theater productions, Allen Sferios paced the stage with the assurance of the seasoned professional actor, grapefruit-sized biceps flexing with every inward gesture.

At Gulf Beach Cleaners, the business his family had owned since 1937, Mr. Sferios moved with the same authority. He rewove holes in clothing, removed spots and scrubbed the floors on his hands and knees.

In either arena, Mr. Sferios regarded no detail as unimportant. That relentlessness and talent led to accomplishment.

"I liken his temperament to that of a Brando type — the fierce acting, the powerful enunciation and mixing seriousness with humor," said former New York Times editor Michael Sisak, a longtime friend.

As a young man, Mr. Sferios acted in off-Broadway productions and for television shows, including Naked City and The Defenders.

Nearly every weekday, he tooled down Gulf Boulevard to the Pelican Diner, the front license plate reading "PHOOEY."

He had his own stool, second from the entrance.

He continued his theater work, acting and directing in dozens of local productions, particularly with what is now known as St. Petersburg City Theatre. Even in community theater, Mr. Sferios expected total commitment, and reacted viscerally when he did not get it.

"He could throw a chair across a room," said Corinne Broskette, the executive director of Venue Theatre and Actors Studio. "But those of us who knew him knew it was just because he was frustrated."

Mr. Sferios was born in Warren, Ohio, to Greek immigrants. He later used his knowledge of Greek as an Army translator at the Pentagon. After performing on stage at what is now St. Petersburg College, he moved to New York, where he lifted weights and studied under legendary drama teacher Uta Hagen. In the 1960s, he auditioned for the role in The Graduate that launched Dustin Hoffman's career.

"He said, 'I was better than him, but damn it, he knew more people,' " recalled Manny Sferios, his son.

Mr. Sferios married Elizabeth, a ballet dancer, and moved to St. Pete Beach in 1964. He took over the cleaning business that had been run by his brother, former St. Pete Beach vice mayor Emanuel Sferios.

He maintained bonds of loyalty for decades, doing the dry cleaning for St. Petersburg City Theatre and military personnel for free.

That generosity extended to actors who needed a place to stay and dozens of stray cats, all of whom were welcomed in or outside his St. Pete Beach home.

Mr. Sferios stopped his theater work only in the last couple of years, as his cognition and motor skills declined due to Lewy body disease. He died April 20 under hospice care. Mr. Sferios was 74.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.


Allen Sferios

Born: Dec. 3, 1937

Died: April 20, 2012

Survivors: Son, Manny Sferios; daughter, Stathia Sferios.

Dry cleaner Allen Sferios left a mark on local theater 04/26/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 26, 2012 10:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries


    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  2. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week


    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]
  3. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91


    LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was …

    In this Sept. 2, 1990, file photo, entertainer Jerry Lewis makes his opening remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon fundraiser in Los Angeles. Lewis, the comedian whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died according to his publicist. [Associated Press]
  4. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years


    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501
  5. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike


    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.