1. Arts & Entertainment

Dispatches From Next Door: Cast off, she finds peace

With a tumultuous life full of drinking, drugging and fighting, one of the last female crabbers and longline fishers left in Madeira Beach, the only peace “Hollywood” Kim Imhoff finds is at sea, where she knows no one can hurt her.
Published Nov. 22, 2013

MADEIRA BEACH — She cracks open the first can of Busch at 6:22 a.m. "Ching ching," she says, holding it up to her roommate. "To a good day, a good trip." She has endured five days on land and off the water. Too long. She needs to go. The sun has just risen as she climbs onto her purple Schwinn Ranger and rides south. Down Gulf Boulevard, down to the docks. "Hey, baby," she hoots at a friend. He hollers back. Here, everyone knows "Hollywood" Kim Imhoff. Here, she doesn't walk, she struts. Kim can fish and fight and spit as well as any man on any boat, and she knows it and so do they. Kim is 44, a sinewy 145 pounds of bones and bungee cords wrapped in a hide of sun-broiled leather. Not long ago, two drug addicts attacked her outside a gas station. They knocked out her two front teeth with a brick. No big deal, she says. They didn't get her $13. In a brawl last year, she hit a woman in the head with a purple, battery-operated dildo. Kim went to jail but won the fight.

Soon, the Rodac, a rusting 32-foot commercial fishing boat, chugs through John's Pass. Kim, her glittery pink toenail polish chipping, has stripped down to a lime-green bikini and begun prepping the deck. She flashes a peace sign to a passing boat. Another gets a middle finger. She laughs. Two hours out, Kim sits cross-legged on the ice box, listening to the diesel churn and the waves lap. Her Caribbean-blue eyes search the distant seam between sea and sky. Land is gone, beyond sight. "This is me," she says. "This is what I want."

When she was very young, on warm nights in Daphne, Ala., her stepmother would go to work and leave Kim alone with her dad at the mobile home. Before he could find her, Kim would speed away on her Sunflower bicycle, its white tassels flapping. Hidden in the sand dunes, knowing what was to come, she would stare at the water and beg it to take her away, until, through the quiet, she heard the keys jangling on his belt. The abuse continued for years. At 17, Kim bore her father's son. He took the baby. Broken in every way, she fled to Florida with a friend. Here she found liquor bottles and crack pipes and often jail cells. But here, again, she found the water.

It's midday, and a cigarette dangles from the gap in Kim's teeth. She pulls back the line like a bow, drawing up six hooks from 70 feet below. "C'mon," she says to the fish. Kim feels a tug. She cranks the reel and, in seconds, a 19-inch red grouper pops up. "Keeper," she yells. She slaps the fish onto the ice box, hammers a spike into its head. She slices it open and jerks out the guts. Kim grins. Out here, only out here, the urge to get drunk and raise hell — to destroy herself — vanishes. The shakes don't come. "Seahab rehab," she calls it. Behind her, held upright within a roll of duct tape, an open beer grows warm.

Hours later, the fish chilled and the sun plunging into the Rodac's wake, Kim leans on the ice box, her feet on the rail and her eyes turned east. Her all-day smile has waned. She can see the condos, the land drawing near. As the boat pulls into the dock, she slips into the cabin. Kim asks the captain for $5. She crumples the bill and steps off the deck, back to her bike. She pedals north, her bikini straps flapping, each stroke pulling her farther from the water. A dozen blocks away, she reaches a strip mall. She parks her bike and walks into a store. "My usual, please," Kim says to the clerk. The woman reaches to the bottom shelf. She sets a pint of vodka on the counter.


  1. Switchfoot will perform at 97X Next Big Thing on Nov. 22 at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa.
    They’ll join headliners the Killers on the festival’s opening night in Tampa.
  2. Authors James Baldwin (maroon), Kristen Arnett (pink), Rita Mae Brown (yellow), Tanya Boteju (green), Thomas Page McBee (turquoise), Alison Bechel (blue), Mariko Tamaki (lime green), Alexander Chee (red), Kate Bornstein (purple) and Eileen Myles (orange). Illustration by Lisa Merklin  |  tbt*
    Books help to chronicle the long, storied, beautiful and diverse LGBTQ community. | Ashley Dye
  3. Susan Kelly of West Palm Beach puts the finishing touches on her "Harry Potter" chalk art at the Clearwater Beach Chalk Art Festival in 2017. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times (2017)
    Peruse the chalk art festival in Clearwater Beach, ‘The Last Podcast on the Left’ visits Tampa Theatre and taste the Flavors of the Gulf at John’s Pass.
  4. Jeff Vinik and Penny Vinik, 2019. Courtesy of Tampa Museum of Art
    The gift that will fund the position of executive director is the largest donation ever made to the museum’s endowment.
  5. Billy Joel will return to Tampa for his Feb. 7 show at Amalie Arena. Times (2016)
    Billy Joel, Graham Nash, the Queers, Andrea Bocelli and more.
  6. The 53rd-annual Rattlesnake Festival will be held Oct. 19-20 at the Pasco County Fairgrounds in Dade City. The weekend event, kicks off with a prelude concert featuring the Bellamy Brothers on Friday, and raises money for the Thomas Promise Foundation. The foundation provides meals for Pasco County school children who do not have regular access to nutritional meals on weekends when school is not in session. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The annual festival offers a family-friendly outing while raising money to feed school children in need.
  7. Fred Johnson, who still performs locally, is community engagement specialist and artist-in-residence at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Courtesy of Tampa Jazz Club
    The 68-year-old artist has worked with all the big names. But helping the community is his purpose.
  8. Dunedin's Parlor House Bistro will feature an American-French menu that includes house-made pastries. Courtesy of Ryan Steffensmeier
    The new restaurant will serve American-French cuisine, offering a New Orleans vibe.
  9. Tampa Theatre in downtown Tampa. EVE EDELHEIT  |  Times (2012)
    The expansion ‘fundamentally changes our business model,’ said the not-for-profit theater’s CEO.
  10. Truth Hurts" wasn't originally featured on the 11-track "Cuz I Love You," but her record label added it to the deluxe version of the album, released on May 3. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    The songwriting brothers Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, who worked on “Healthy,” claim say they deserve writing credit on “Truth Hurts.”