This year, Gasparilla organizers picked the right man for the job when they reached out to actor, author and radio and Extra host Mario Lopez to be one of the grand marshals for the annual Pirate Fest's parade.
While on the red carpet of the Golden Globes earlier this month, the man who became famous as A.C. Slater on Saved by the Bell took more than several tequila shots with some of the biggest stars in the world — transforming the stuffy step-and-repeat into an outdoor party.
"We were there for about five hours. Everybody, Channing Tatum, Kevin Spacey and Emily Blunt was doing shots with us," Lopez laughed. "My gosh, I lost count."
It wouldn't be a Gasparilla Pirate Festival without copious amounts of booze and merriment, making a grand marshal who can hold his drink and still interview celebrities worth his weight in beads.
Lopez, 41, called to talk about his Gasparilla game plan, adult beverage preferences and ties to the Tampa Bay area. Here are eight reasons why he's a perfect match for our hometown shenanigans this weekend:
1 He thinks pirates are awesome. "I love the whole pirate theme — anything that gets the food and drinks flowing, it's my kind of party."
2 Lopez isn't new to the Tampa Bay area. "I've done some stuff for HSN and have been there quite a bit for that, actually. It's also a really important affiliate for my radio show and Extra. It's a big market for us. My favorite place is Bern's Steak House. I love everything about it. A friend introduced me to it."
3 He likes the hard stuff. When pressed about his favorite adult beverage, Lopez said, "You can't go wrong with a good tequila, maybe a little bourbon, too."
4 He isn't above wearing something ridiculous to promote a good time. For the Golden Globes, Lopez had his body painted gold on Extra. "I think we are going to incorporate (Gasparilla) into my show, Extra. Perhaps. We haven't gotten it worked out yet."
5 He knows what it's like to be drunk on the job and hung over the next day. About his shots on the Golden Globes red carpet, Lopez said: "Originally, we were supposed to drink a toast with George and Amal Clooney but he had a big speech to make and couldn't drink. (Clooney got the Cecil B. Demille Lifetime Achievement Award.) Then it turned into shots. It was tough. Oh yeah. When I was talking to Bill Murray, they all were so cool and down to earth that they took mercy on me."
6 This isn't his first big parade rodeo. "I've been the grand marshal for a bunch of parades before. I've also been to Mardi Gras."
7 It will, however, be his first Gasparilla. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm really excited because I've never seen it. I've been there right before and right after, but never on the day of the parade. Any opportunity to meet good people and be in a great city celebrating is awesome to me."
8 Even if he's a big deal, he understands that Gasparilla is about the fans. "I think I'll just make it about the people. It's their day to have fun. I'll just stay out of the way. They've got a schedule for me that is action-packed. We will be in Tampa through the weekend."