Joe Redner, from politics to pot

Published November 26 2016

Joe Redner is mad.

I have written this before, so it is not exactly news. Tampa's strip club king and best-known political provocateur is often mad, railing about politics local and global, about elected officials he calls corrupt and rules he sees as just plain stupid.

At this moment, Redner is talking about the stunning election that has made reality TV star and business mogul Donald Trump this country's president-elect — "The epitome of people I've been fighting all my life!" Redner says — a development that moved him to tears.

Actually, there are a few people who sound a little miffed at Redner at the moment. They see him as a spoiler no-party candidate who stubbornly refused to get out of the race that just landed Republican Dana Young in the Florida Senate.

Redner has no love lost for Young, who may well have benefited from a Republican committee smear campaign against her Democratic opponent, Bob Buesing. Redner refers to Young with what is clearly the worst name he can think of, which, for a guy in the strip club business, is saying something.

"A politician," he calls her, the word dripping contempt.

So why didn't he get out of the race for the possibility of electing someone whose ideals are surely more akin to his own?

Redner says he considered dropping out but ultimately decided against it.

"Number one, he wasn't going to beat her anyway," Redner says. And the 9.48 percent of the vote he got "came out about evenly on both sides," he says.

With six political races already under his belt, this was hardly his first political rodeo. Redner — who once regularly posted insults on the marquee of his famous Mons Venus club taunting the public officials who pushed for a lap-dancing ban — at one point looked pretty close to getting on the Tampa City Council himself.

And what fun that would have been, a hard-talking, beholden-to-no-one guy in the mix.

But then Redner offered free entry to the Mons with an "I voted" sticker. And, well, that was that.

So, no, rarely a dull moment with Joe, arrested dozens of times in the name of the 1st Amendment, declaring himself gay in order to have standing in a gay rights issue, that sort of thing. What could be next, you ask?

The answer may or may not surprise you.

Redner is awaiting zoning rules for medical marijuana in Hillsborough County. In fact, the self-made millionaire has already set aside money for that purpose. Redner plans to either be growing and selling or, alternately, going to court to sue over growing and selling — suing being something with which he's had some success over the years.

"I have designs, I've set aside money, I'm all ready to go," he said.

And maybe not for the reasons you might assume:

"I had stage 4 lung cancer and I did edible marijuana," Redner says. "I know it made life livable."

Will Joe Redner rise up to run for office yet again?

He is 76. He does not sound especially daunted. If he feels good enough and he sees a place for himself, he says.

And maybe if the world makes him mad enough again.

Sue Carlton can be reached at carlton@tampabay.com.

Advertisement