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A new year marks a new challenge

On this first day of 1999, Weekend is devoted to taking a look back _ and peeking at what lies ahead. So, it seems a perfect opportunity to do the same thing myself.

Today marks my last issue as editor of Weekend, a job that began with the start of the magazine 11-plus years and some 580 editions ago. In recent months, I've been gearing up for a challenge that is both new and very familiar to me: writing for the St. Petersburg Times.

Some readers may remember that's what I used to do around here, as a sports writer covering the Bucs and Rowdies and many things in between from 1978-1987. Now, I look forward to working as a feature writer in the department I have been part of since then, the Floridian. It's truly going to be fun crafting stories again regularly, on an array of topics.

Of course, it won't be easy topping the rewards of the past decade-and-change as Entertainment Editor, shaping arts and entertainment coverage in Weekend, for the daily entertainment page and in the Floridian. It has been especially good to see how the personality of Tampa Bay has blossomed in this span: You need only thumb through a few early issues of Weekend to see how far we've come in the realm of concert venues, restaurants, nightlife and quality events.

In this issue of lists, I have a few nominations of sorts myself:

Most cooperative cover subject: St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie "The Wizard" Smith, who took more then two hours out of his busy day to pose as a wizard with a crystal ball for our spring training issue in March 1989. Not many millionaire, out-of-town athletes would ever dream of doing that.

Least cooperative cover subject: Cardinals first baseman Bob Horner, who gave us about five minutes to photograph him swinging at a grapefruit for our Grapefruit League issue in March '90. Hardly said a word and didn't bother to smile for the shot.

Most relaxed cover subject: The old gent who posed as Santa on the beach in '87 holding a copy of Weekend with himself on the cover. If you looked closely, his eyes were shut. He was fast asleep.

Biggest favor by a cover subject: Tonight show host Jay Leno, Weekend's original cover guy, who readily agreed to pose with the first issue for our 10th anniversary shot in 1997.

Biggest cover subject: Asia the elephant from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus last week, wearing a Santa hat created specially by the circus for the shot.

I pass the reins to the capable hands of the Times' State Editor, Charlotte Sutton. All in all, it has been a blast.

Have a good Weekend.

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