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Funny laundry, wrestling support

When a wife does laundry, Thomas Brown says, she handles her husband's underwear as if she were handling a nuclear experiment.

That's until she turns that favorite pair of well-worn briefs into a dust rag. The husband, of course, fails to realize his boxers are covered with furniture polish and ends up at work one day "smelling all lemony."

Brown, a Tampa native, makes his living as a stand-up comedian, spinning his observations about everyday life. He has become quite a success as a regular performer for Carnival Cruise Lines, has toured with headliner Jeff Foxworthy and is close to landing an appearance on BET's Comic View.

Greater success, however, may come after his next performance. Brown and several other up-and-coming comedians will compete next Monday at the Improv in Ybor City for a chance to display their talents at the prestigious "Just for Laughs" comedy festival in Montreal.

Also known as the Montreal Comedy Festival, the event attracts industry executives and has helped launch the careers of such stars as Tim Allen, Brett Butler, Ray Romano and Jerry Seinfeld.

Brown, who earned the most votes in an AOL Best Cruise Line Comedian poll last year, said he won't be nervous about what could be the first step toward a major breakthrough.

"I'm going to look at it as any other night," Brown said Tuesday after returning from his latest cruise ship gig. "I'm going to just be myself because I don't think I can be funny trying to be like someone else."

Mr. and Mrs. Howard Frankland and Mr. and Mrs. Terry "Hulk" Hogan are hosting a fundraiser Thursday for County Commission candidate Brian Blair at the Franklands' South Tampa home.

So what's the hook for Hogan?

Blair is a former WWF wrestler who spent most of his youth in Tampa. Now that he's challenging for the District 1 countywide seat, it only makes sense for him to turn to the popular Hogan for a little help. Blair, who also is a former owner of three Gold's Gyms, hopes to gain a "man of the people" label through his wrestling connections.

Hey, it worked for Jesse Ventura.

HARTline executive Ed Crawford also is vying for the seat, but the real heavyweight in this three-way battle royale is 120-pound incumbent Pat Frank. (Yes, I was bold enough to ask Chairman Frank how much she weighs.)

Frank's hybrid approach of being conservative on fiscal issues but supportive of social programs has helped the Democrat earn bipartisan support, though some Democrats might argue she has been too conservative on spending.

The challenge for Crawford, who will face Frank in a Democratic primary, and Blair, the only Republican in the race, is a steep one. But both men say they are ready.

Let the bout begin.

Kudos to 10-year-old Morgan Cheek, a Lee Academy for the Gifted student who has been named a finalist in the National Storytelling Youth Olympics to be held April 4-7 in Fresno, Calif.

Cheek, who is also familiar to some folks for performing the national anthem at local sporting events, first displayed her ability to weave a tale at last year's annual county storytelling festival. This year's daylong festival will be held April 13 at Hillsborough High beginning at 9:30 a.m.

"Fly Me to the Moon' continually replays in my mind these days, and it has little to do with my affection for Frank Sinatra and everything to do with my 5-month-old daughter.

You see, everyone in my house has their own way of calming Madelyn.

My wife just speaks to her in some kind of melodic voice that sends the baby into a peaceful trance. I think all mothers instill this hypnotic influence over their daughters so at a later age they actually want to go on 12-hour shopping sprees.

In an effort to maintain a degree of good taste, I won't tell you exactly how my two boys calm Madelyn. All I can say is it involves placing their hand under their arm and flapping wildly to create a fairly common but rather rude sound.

Hey, it works.

Me? Well, at the end of the day I like to put on the Frank Sinatra CD and watch her cruise into slumber. I've experimented with Sam Cooke and some old Al Green, but Teddy Pendergrass scares her.

Sinatra's The Very Good Years never fails. I start with track five, The Way You Look Tonight, and by the time I get to track 11, You're Under My Skin, she's sleeping like well, a baby.

That's all I'm saying. Shhh.

_ Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or