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Column: Tampa and the birth of the cool

Manhattan borough president and candidate for comptroller Scott Stringer and actress Lena Dunham attend a fundraiser last week. Dunham, creator of HBO’s Girls, took a swipe at Tampa.

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Manhattan borough president and candidate for comptroller Scott Stringer and actress Lena Dunham attend a fundraiser last week. Dunham, creator of HBO’s Girls, took a swipe at Tampa.

Lena Dunham, the 27-year-old creator of the HBO show Girls, is one of the most relevant, talented voices of Generation Y. But the envelope-pushing wunderkind this week resorted to the lazy cliche of using Tampa as a punch line. How very un-Brooklyn.

Dunham delivered the blow Tuesday night during a keynote address at a fundraiser for Scott Stringer, who is running against former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer to become New York City comptroller. She said recent college graduates are "struggling to find jobs and pay the rent and if they struggle for too long, they're leaving New York" for other cities, "even Tampa …

"We can't have our generation's Patti Smith moving to Tampa. That's going to seriously f--k our s--t up."

Never mind that the original Patti Smith actually recorded her most enduring hit (Because the Night) after a memorable visit to the Cigar City; that second part of Dunham's quote is worth a linger. Does she mean New York City, the Mecca of the Creative World, should fear losing its future legends to Tampa? Does she really think the impact would be so profound that Tampa could "f--k up" New York's "s--t"?

Even our most passionate local culture creators hadn't dreamed that big. Because they've been too busy making our own kind of cool.

Take 34-year-old chef Ferrell Alvarez. He couldn't afford to move to New York, he said, "so in turn, I embraced Tampa and found the best that it had to offer." After sharpening his craft at some of the city's top restaurants, including Mise en Place and Cafe Dufrain, he is ready to open a place of his own. Before the end of the year, his farm-to-table restaurant Rooster and the Till will take its place on the exploding culinary corridor of Seminole Heights, which just a few years ago was known more for its car lots and cheap motels.

His restaurant partner? Ty Rodriguez, the executive director of the two-year-old Gasparilla Music Festival, which this year sold out Curtis Hixon Park at 10,000 capacity. The Tampa Bay Times review this year: Packed but not crowded, clean but not corporate, urbane but not exclusive, affordable yet it doesn't feel cheap. "We don't know what we did right," Rodriguez said. "The 23-to-34 age gap is what everyone wants, and it's what we had."

Diana Moore, a rapper who goes by Dynasty, was nobody until she moved from New York to Tampa. Now, her repertoire includes an international tour and work with Brooklyn's legendary DJ Premier, who Rolling Stone said was arguably hip-hop's greatest producer of all time.

"Everybody wants to be a star in New York," Moore said. "It's a little bit oversaturated. I moved down here really just to kind of get away from the city and the weather. … I kind of laid low, started the open mics, started making a name. … Tampa put me on its shoulders."

Jeremy Gloff, a 38-year-old singer, songwriter and performance artist, was born in New York but chose to make Tampa his home. This year, he celebrates his 20th anniversary of making music.

"We have a great airport," he said. "It's easy to travel all across the United States …

"I was going to move to New York. I was going to move to Portland. But I realized I'm doing something pretty cool," he said. "There's a lot of freaks here. Like, Portland and New York are manufactured weird. People in Tampa are sincerely, genuinely weird ...

"It's almost against the grain to say how much you love Tampa."

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@tampabay.com.

Column: Tampa and the birth of the cool 08/09/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 9, 2013 4:47pm]

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