12/06/08 Bizarre News
TREASURE ISLAND — Michael Hilla was fuming when the city took away the benches and picnic tables on Sunset Beach about two months ago.
An admitted beach bum, Hilla was convinced that the amenities were removed to discourage people, especially the homeless, from having a place to rest and enjoy the beach.
"We almost considered marching on City Hall," said Hilla, 63, of Madeira Beach. "I've been coming to this beach since 1963, and I can tell you that everyone used those benches and tables. We were all mad when they took them; it was definitely wrong for the city to do that," he said....
Since the 1940s, diners at Woody's Waterfront Cafe and Beach Bar., a small seaside restaurant in St. Pete Beach, have enjoyed fresh seafood while taking in the relaxing sights and sounds of the gulf. While loyal Woody's customers still flock to the restaurant daily to enjoy blackened fish sandwiches and the scent of the sea, there may now be a sour hint of strife in the air as well.
According to papers filed in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, David George and Marlene George, the husband-and-wife co-owners of the establishment, are involved in a bitter divorce that has taken a toll on the restaurant. Allegations of public drunkenness and verbal abuse on restaurant premises have been leveled in the dispute, and now both parties are battling for control of the business. David George, 61, and Marlene George, 65, have been married since 1972 and have owned Woody's since 1989. ...
11/29/08 Human Interest
Kymberly Hill-William stood shivering near a bench in Williams Park just before dawn one brisk morning last week. Barely strong enough to stand, she leaned over a shopping cart containing all her worldly possessions. Her head was hung low, her eyes glazed over. Her face was blank, emotionless.
The 50-year-old epileptic said she gave birth to her first son when was 15. "Ever since then, I've had to grow up hard and fast, and I never stopped getting old," she said, exhausted from spending a cold night sleeping outside City Hall. ...
Casey Turner watched as two buckets of fresh pond water — full of writhing bloodworms, mosquito larvae, water bugs and other aquatic wildlife — were heaved into the center of his fifth-grade classroom on a recent Wednesday.
The 10- and 11-year-olds were mesmerized when that biological soup was then poured onto the floor in the center of the class, releasing an army of pond insects and crustaceans. Turner, a teacher at James B. Sanderlin Elementary School, was wringing his hands: "This is the part when I worry about my classroom having an 'Eau de Pond' fragrance for the next couple of months," he said....
11/18/08 Real Estate
Cocoanut Grove, a once-thriving shopping center on Fourth Street N, now resembles a ghost town.
Just two years ago, the strip mall's spaces were packed with tenants including a Greek restaurant, a kitchen remodeling center, a golf store and a home mortgage company. Now all that's left is an empty parking lot and "We Have Moved" signs on storefront windows.
Some of the businesses that once called Cocoanut Grove home say they were essentially forced out of the location by the company that manages the site. ...
11/18/08 Human Interest
Don't expect to find Gilbert "Gil" Fortune, 85, or his wife Mary Fortune, 75, content playing bingo or catching the early bird special.
Instead, they can be found soaring 4,000 feet over Tampa Bay during their free time. Gil, a licensed pilot, typically flies Mary to Fort Lauderdale to visit family or to Savannah, Ga., for recreation. When they're not in the air, they're cruising around Tampa Bay in their sailboat or vacationing around the Southeast. ...
St. Pete Beach's hotel industry has suffered in the wake of the nation's recent economic troubles. Several resorts are reporting lower occupancy rates and decreasing profits compared to last year's peak season. One resort said business is down 30 percent since last year, with another lamenting that 2008 brought the slowest Labor Day in more than 20 years.
According to some hoteliers, the annual influx of "snowbirds" — Northerners who flock to Florida for the late fall and winter — has ebbed as well....
11/01/08 Real Estate
ST. PETERSBURG — The city is again trying to attract a restaurant to the second floor of Albert Whitted Airport's main terminal.
The city spent two years negotiating with the owner of a steakhouse chain to put a restaurant in the new $4-million terminal, but talks fell through in September. Some city officials and those involved with airport operations decried the failure at the time....
If you think John McCain might have a problem winning Florida on Tuesday, consider this — he's losing older, wealthier white men to Barack Obama.
At least that's the finding in one poll.
For the past 20 years, Pedro's Tonsorial Parlor, a men's barbershop in downtown St. Petersburg, has set up a makeshift ballot box for a mock poll during presidential elections and for some state balloting. ...
11/01/08 Human Interest
Throughout the 2008 baseball season, Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill has been packed with Rayhawks, Rays cowbells, Rays attire and even Rays-themed tattoos.
Even though the team's magical season came to a disappointing end last week, diehard fans will flood into Ferg's on Wednesday night to salute their 2008 team one last time.
"I think Rays fans feel very blessed. Coming into this season, we were just hoping to finish with a .500 record. We never imagined we'd be in the World Series," said Ferg's owner Mark Ferguson....
10/28/08 Bizarre News
ST. PETERSBURG — Have you been in touch with your guardian angels lately? If not, there will be a seminar in St. Petersburg this weekend that says it can teach you how to connect with them.
Didn't know you had guardian angels? According to one believer, we all do.
"Everyone has a team of about three to five — sometimes more — guardian angels who direct us in life," said Kathleen Ellis, who is in charge of running the class. "Our seminar is going to teach people how to communicate with those angels."...
10/25/08 Human Interest
Local historian Robin Gonzalez possesses the very first menu of the very first dinner ever served at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort — on New Year's Eve of 1925.
Those first guests had a fairly mundane dinner: Olives, salted nuts, gumbo passe and "stringless beans" were among the selections.
The artifact is the only one remaining, Gonzalez says, and you'll never guess where she found it....
10/21/08 Human Interest
Sandra Serrano was contemplating a radical change in hair color Tuesday — from dark brown to bright blue.
At least the switch would go along with her outfit. She was already wearing a Rays shirt, a team hat and bright blue lipstick. "Why not get the hair blue, too?" she asked. "I have to admit, I'm thinking about it."
Serrano would likely be taking her 8-year-old son to Legends Hair Studio in south St. Petersburg later Tuesday to have his hair buzzed into a Rayhawk. ...
10/21/08 Bizarre News
Contrary to earlier reports, Fall is getting a facelift. Fall, the statue, that is.
As Snell Isle residents were mourning what was believed to be the theft of a prized historic statue, Jerry Karlik was laughing hysterically.
"When I read the article in the paper about the statue being robbed, I just started cracking up," he said, chuckling. "I was looking at the statue sitting right here in my shop!"...
The wait is finally over.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a national chain of hamburger, hot dog and french fry restaurants, opened its new location at Progress Energy Tower on First Avenue N.
The chain doesn't call itself a health food store, and for good reason. But the food is all fresh, the fries are homemade and the meat is never frozen.
"Everything here is prime quality," said Les Pentz, manager of the fourth chain site established in Pinellas County. "We cut the fries ourselves right here in the store, and our buns have a five-day shelf life."...