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Friends to hold fundraiser Friday for local music business owner

Occupational therapist Arne Victorine walks with Rob Matson on Tuesday as Matson increases the distance he walks as part of his rehabilitation treatment at the Palms of Pasadena Hospital. A fundraiser is set for Friday to help Matson with his medical bills.


Occupational therapist Arne Victorine walks with Rob Matson on Tuesday as Matson increases the distance he walks as part of his rehabilitation treatment at the Palms of Pasadena Hospital. A fundraiser is set for Friday to help Matson with his medical bills.

He's a big man with a big heart and a gentle smile.

For years, the Lakewood High School graduate has worked in the local music business, most recently as co-owner of Total Production Services, which provides instruments, lighting and equipment for entertainers and concerts.

"He's always been here for all of us," is a sentiment echoed by friends and associates on a Facebook page created for him.

Since May 12, Coquina Key resident Rob Matson, 47, has been fighting for his life in hospitals in St. Petersburg and South Pasadena.

And while Matson has been fighting, his many friends are rallying to help raise money for him and his family.

Doctors initially told his wife of 26 years that he had a 20 percent chance of survival. But they underestimated him.

Reached Tuesday while undergoing rehab at Palms of Pasadena Hospital, Matson said he had a bleeding ulcer and esophagus — for starters.

"His kidneys were shutting down because of the fluids and his heart was stressed because of his weight," said his wife, Kathy, adding that he has been hospitalized for 62 days so far.

Several infections followed, which kept him off his feet so long he's had to undergo physical therapy. He is finally showing signs of progress.

Meanwhile, Matson's friends are preparing for a fundraiser for him from 6 p.m. to midnight Friday at Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill, 1320 Central Ave.

The first planning meeting drew several police officers, a firefighter, an accountant, a lawyer and his wife and promises of support from Tampa to Clearwater to St. Petersburg. They include Sarasota Slim, Mark Ferguson of Ferg's, Crowley's Downtown Grill and Bar, Bringe Music Center, Jannus Live and the State Theater.

The fundraiser, which includes a silent auction and raffle, will cost $20 per person, which includes food and drinks. In addition, Ferg's will donate 10 percent of other customers' bills to the cause.

"That's what has been so amazing; everyone loves Rob," said Connie Wise, an event organizer and family friend. "The outpouring of support and caring for him has been overwhelming. I've never seen anything like it.

"If I had one-tenth of the support and love that he has, I'd be truly blessed," said Wise, a self-employed sales rep.

• • •

When Ferg's signed up to participate in a ticket stub promotion for the Tampa Bay Rays' 2010 season, it didn't anticipate the problems that would follow.

The concept is simple: Present a ticket stub during normal business hours and get a free draft, well or soft drink.

But many of the people who are cashing in on the promotion aren't necessarily Rays fans.

Ferg's staff has discovered that many baseball fans discard or drop their ticket stubs in the parking lots surrounding Tropicana Field on their way to their cars.

That opens the door for countless opportunists who scoop up the stubs by the handful.

"Any time you offer something like that, people are going to abuse it," said Peter Hodgdon, general manager at Ferg's.

With the hope that the Rays will play deep into the postseason, the promotion doesn't expire until Oct. 31. So the booze could keep flowing well into autumn.

Has Ferg's come up with a solution?

"All we can do is judge it on a per-person basis," said Hodgdon. "We just have to make sure people are being fair about it."

• • •

A grass roots movement is afoot to try to get an Apple Store in the near-empty BayWalk entertainment complex.

It started with St. Petersburg resident Hal Freedman, who thinks a burgeoning cultural center like St. Petersburg has the kind of creative, intelligent people that Apple serves.

Freedman said he first mentioned the idea to Greg McNutt of Ciminelli Real Estate Services, BayWalk's property manager, during a monthly wine and music series at the complex last month.

Since then, the idea has gotten some local traction. "I think it's a great idea, and I told Hal (Freedman) that I would tell the mayor (Bill Foster), who thought it was good idea," said City Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran.

"Now I just want to get a little more detail. What do we do next? How do we take this to the next level? If we can lead the charge to do that, I think it would be fantastic."

Freedman said he has a contact at Apple who said if there's enough demand, corporate officials would consider putting a store here.

So what about the folks at BayWalk?

"We have already made an approach to them (Apple) — back in 2009," said McNutt. "It was universally agreed (by BayWalk's owner and managers) that Apple would be a tenant that would be perfect for downtown St. Petersburg."

"We've made no announcement of a store in that location," said Amy Barney, an Apple spokeswoman.

In a letter to Apple he's drafting, Freedman touts the 600-member St. Petersburg Creative Network group and the city's arts and cultural center, including "an incredible amount of arts stuff going on here, which makes this a natural market for them."

"I just don't understand why they're not here," he said.

• • •

On Monday, the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association and the Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge at 540 First St. SE in St. Petersburg entered into a joint venture that could be a win-win, especially for its patrons.

The TBJA group usually meets the first Monday of each month at Chappy's Louisiana Kitchen at 247 Central Ave. But in recent months, its draw has outgrown that space.

"It was a good run. We helped them (Chappy's) and they helped us. But the last time, we had a problem getting people in there," said TBJA president Bette Gregg.

Steve Westphal, the Hangar's proprietor, "was nice enough to let us try out" the restaurant. "Last night he was tickled pink. We had an excellent crowd. I don't think Steve will kick us out. He was real thrilled with the crowd."

Both parties seem to agree on that point.

"They packed the house," said Westphal, who also owns Parkshore Grille and 400 Beach Drive Seafood and Tap House. "We looked at each other and said it doesn't get any better than this."

He said the crowd Monday night represents the market he's looking for. "I may be offering it (music) every night. The only thing that's preventing it is the amount of banquets we are booking," he said.

"I'm from this area and I'm just trying to recreate that old Ten Beach Drive vibe."

For those who missed it, the next TBJA jam session at the Hangar will be Aug. 2.

Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at sgadsden@sptimes. com or at (727) 893-8874.

Friends to hold fundraiser Friday for local music business owner 07/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 6:44pm]
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