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New TV voice; in defense of 'burbs

Gary Dourdan, star of the top-rated TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, has handled a number of interviews, but until he appeared on The Tavis Smiley Show, I don't think anyone had asked the African-American actor why he cut his dreadlocks.

The question sounds innocuous, but it led to an interesting discussion about typecasting and how Dourdan's decision was in part an attempt to broaden the kind of roles being offered.

This is the kind of unique insight Smiley is delivering with his new PBS show, which airs every weekday at 11:30 p.m. on WUSF-Ch. 16. The former Black Entertainment Television commentator blends politics and entertainment. Since the show debuted Jan. 5, guests have included Jesse Jackson, Magic Johnson, Carol Mosley Braun and rapper Master P.

But don't think it's all black or all liberal. Guests have included Newt Gingrich and singer Mandy Moore.

"When PBS let us know it would be available, I thought it was a great idea because it was a voice we don't have on the air," said WUSF general manager JoAnn Urofsky. "It's an interesting voice that's different than anything in this market."

A cement mixer truck was spinning down Interstate 4 Thursday, adorned with a Bucs logo. Could there be a better symbol of the team's topsy-turvy season?

So there's a new Channelside residential project going up called Grand Central at Kennedy, and after seeing a billboard for the project, I can only ask one question: Why the hate?

You see, the Web site for this "urban neighborhood" is I live in the suburbs and, quite frankly, I'm getting tired of people who revel over their supposed superior life in the city.

They want me to think my house has no character, but hey, I pick oranges in my back yard, I ride my bike without fear of getting smacked by a dump truck, and I have good neighbors. Sure, I can reach out my bathroom window and hand the neighbor a towel while he's in the shower, but isn't that character?

They imply my suburb is filled with chain restaurants, but we have some locally owned places, and we support them. I bet if the Old Meeting House or Palio's was in Seffner, it would still be open.

Urbanites brag about the fresh Cuban bread and cafe con leche, but if those treats are so cherished, how come there's one Starbucks for every three people in Tampa?

Hey Grand Central, sell your fancy homes, but lose the antisuburbanism.

Seen on a bumper sticker in my normally child-friendly neighborhood: "If I wanted to hear the pitter-patter of little feet, I would put shoes on my dog."

Kudos to Times advertising executive Kathy Clark, who has parlayed an impromptu singing performance into a role in the Spanish Lyric Theatre's production of Copacabana. The show debuts Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center's Ferguson Hall, with Clark in the chorus line.

It all started last October when Clark attended the Leadership Tampa Class of 2003 fundraiser for the Mayor's Beautification Program that was held aboard the Yacht StarShip. When the band launched into I Will Survive, Clark jumped on stage and commandeered the mike. One of the band's members was so impressed, he suggested she audition for the Spanish Lyric Theatre.

Now Clark is singing and dancing on stage for the first time in her life. It could be a new career, but if not, perhaps she can sing her sales pitch.

That's all I'm saying.

_ Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or