Alan Bridges' 19th-floor GrandView penthouse looks every bit the pad of a bachelor known for A-list parties. His magazine-worthy spreads of food, drink and big-boy toys are famous among those lucky enough to snag an invite.
"He's got the kind of personality that makes this kind of place dynamic," says Kellie Newsome, Bridges' girlfriend. "You walk in and you're happy. You never feel intimidated or out of place. Everyone wants to be here."
At noon on a Saturday, he's eating scrambled eggs and bacon on the balcony, sipping a mimosa, wrapped in cinematic skyline.
Though he's got company, from friends and business associates to his Aunt Robin Beavers, he's all good manners and charm, offering a tour of the penthouse and a story to go with everything.
Bridges _ a well-known member of the local charity 13 Ugly Men _ bought the 4,000-square-foot penthouse shortly before 9/11. The attacks gave other investors cold feet, but not Bridges. He had been living in Apollo Beach when he visited a friend staying in a suite high atop the Wyndham Harbour Island.
The view was spectacular.
Bridges knew he could top it.
On the 19th floor, Bridges reigns king of his world.
His story is part modern day fairy tale, part lesson in hard work: At 41, he owns Allpoints Equipment, a company that buys shelves and racks from stores throughout the United States and Canada and resells to retailers.
He grew up in Baltimore, the son of a National Security Agency worker. He arrived in Florida in 1992 with $500 in his pocket. Two days later the transmission on his car went.
"Aamco took $495 of it," he recalls, laughing.
Armed with business acumen and math skills, and a vow never to settle for second place, he forged ahead. "I thought anything was possible," he says. "All I've ever excelled at was numbers."
Crunching numbers is his thing. He has a side business in real estate investment. He also has first refusal on several yet-to-be-built penthouses in the downtown/Channelside area.
For his own penthouse, he hired interior designer Jose Bello to create the fabulous faux painting of an El-train station in Bridges' private elevator lobby. The cherry and brushed steel kitchen that seats 17 is equipped for the professional chef who often cooks for Bridges' parties. The granite-topped kitchen bar stretches 32 feet, perfect for serving meals to large groups.
What else could a bachelor want in his kitchen?
Well, put it this way: A peek in the spartan Sub Zero fridge _ stocked with little but olives and bottled water _ reveals a certain truth.
"It's a man's playground," Bridges says.
Meaning it's the other stuff in the kitchen that's important: the built-in, two-zone wine cooler, built-in beer keg, the warming drawer, the GE Profile Avantium mother-of-all microwaves, the freezer drawer that holds nothing but chilled, frosty beer mugs.
"Everyone always ends up in the kitchen anyway," he explains, opening cabinets that reveal a liquor collection so well stocked that he can prepare any drink on the planet, or at least anything you can order from a Tampa bar stool.
He specializes in green apple martinis.
Name something else.
No problem, he says. He's got the goods to stir one up.
His goal if he ever sells the place _ and that's a big if _ is to appeal to "a 28-year-old professional athlete" with bucks to spend.
"Even if someone were to offer to buy this place today, I'm not sure I'd take it because there's nothing better right now."
He can build higher and better, for sure, he says. He's dreaming about something with an upstairs and down, more suited for family life. He's got two stockings hung for his girlfriend Kellie's little boys. She decorated the tree, too, and gets sentimental when she talks about him.
He raves about her and calls her "nurturing."
Is the bachelor softening?
"Well, anyway," he says, changing the subject.
For today, the bachelor pad is still a bachelor pad.
Now for the quick tour:
His 22-foot-long barroom shuffleboard table is so massive it had to be lowered from the roof and eased in on scaffolding.
There's a custom, sandblasted granite-topped poker table with cubbyholes for chips and drinks; a pool table that readily converts to pingpong. The Playboy pinball machine is signed by 25 Playmates, from a 50th anniversary party at Hugh Hefner's California mansion.
Then there's the Italian motor yacht moored in a special slip below, a 52-foot Azimuth with three bedrooms and two baths.
The one-bedroom (does a bachelor need more?) corner apartment features 13 TVs, touch-pad controls that allow him to set mood lighting, switch on MTV or close the shades at whim.
The bedroom is black all the way down to the leather sleigh bed.
He's got an in-house dry-cleaning center, tanning salon and his own dojo workout room, a testament to his 22 years of serious martial arts training.
And the view?
Pure, sweet, mesmerizing, wind-in-your hair beauty:
Imagine 300-degrees of skyline _ bay, channel, Davis Islands, Port of Tampa, downtown, Bayshore Boulevard.
Every morning. Every night.
When you're brushing your teeth or walking around eating a burrito.
"Everything I buy always faces the sunset," he says.
The St. Pete Times Forum is so close he draped a "Go Lightning" banner across his balcony railings during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
On New Year's Eve, he planned to watch fireworks from the balcony with a couple of close friends.
Bridges points to a barge below where the fireworks will be launched.
From his perch high in the sky, he will almost be able to touch the confetti of light and color.
"I always look forward to coming home," Bridges says. "As far as I'm concerned, this is the best place in Tampa to live."