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Please, celebrities, move to Tampa Bay
Gasparilla brings a reminder that our region is ready to supplement the professional wrestlers.
 
Timothée Chalamet, join our pirate parade.
Timothée Chalamet, join our pirate parade. [ JORDAN STRAUSS | Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP ]
Published Jan. 12|Updated Jan. 12

The arrival of Gasparilla, the rowdy pirate party that draws out Tampa’s most well-heeled denizens, begs a few questions: Does my tax accountant know how to wield a cutlass in battle? Does the average 2024 radiologist possess the temperance to squirrel away his loot in Tortuga rather than blowing it on booze and women at port? And furthermore, does anyone look good in taffeta breeches?

Most crucially, though, Gasparilla forces us to take stock of our stock. Of celebrities, I mean. The season’s various tricorne events require flash, notoriety, a whiff of glittering immortality beyond reality stars and orthodontists. These parades demand the leadership of grand marshals with whom the rest of us can claim unhealthy parasocial relationships.

While we await the announcement of who will join the ranks of Dave Bautista and Mario Lopez as grand marshals of the main event Jan. 27, we do know that WWE stars Montez Ford and Bianca Belair are helming the Gasparilla Children’s Parade on Jan. 20. And last year’s grand marshal, Ric Flair, is leading the Ybor Knight Parade on Feb. 10.

Grand marshal Mario Lopez throws beads during Gasparilla on Jan. 26, 2019, in Tampa.
Grand marshal Mario Lopez throws beads during Gasparilla on Jan. 26, 2019, in Tampa. [ TAILYR IRVINE | TIMES  ]

Good for them all, but the choices aren’t entirely surprising. Tampa Bay has predictable buckets of famous people: Wrestlers/actors who used to be wrestlers, professional athletes, Scientologists.

No offense to anyone, (big fan, Dave), but we stand ready to fortify our celebrity base, to attract movie stars and musicians who are not here for Operating Thetan reasons. Tampa is supposed to be cool now, based on our horrific real estate prices and hotels with spiral staircases. Rod Wave lives here! Kenan Thompson might live here sometimes! Tom Brady got drunk here! We are a fun time!

To start, I will call on stars who have flown the Florida nest, our Angela Bassetts and our Miles Tellers, to return to a high-rise overlooking the Riverwalk or a historic Craftsman in St. Pete. Come on, buy a bungalow in Tarpon Springs and lurk around the Greek pastry shops. The charm would be unspeakable. Is now when I tell you I once saw Kathy Bates, who had a sisterly connection to the area, at the Dunedin Smokehouse? Kathy. Winter home. Shuffleboard. Cuban sandwiches.

Meryl Streep lives part time in Connecticut. Now, I’m not going to uproot Meryl, who seems secure in her choices and is unlikely to recreationally wear a boned corset. In her stead, I would accept any of the following: Glenn Close, Faye Dunaway, Jessica Lange, Nicole Kidman, Viola Davis, Laura Dern, Helen Mirren, Alfre Woodard and Oprah Winfrey.

To answer your question, no, I don’t think this is aiming too high. Join me in this mission to lure Timothée Chalamet to roast on our briny seaside. We will entice him by dangling open-neck dress shirts on a fishing pole. You cannot tell me that man would not tear up Gasparilla. He would drink milk punch with Kylie Jenner and bring the whole cast of “Saltburn.” He’s not in it, but they seem like friends.

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I see no reason why Pedro Pascal, who loves shorts, should not rent a glam little houseboat in Gulfport. I see no reason Margot Robbie should not try the omakase at Noble Rice and return to her unit in the Tampa Edition. I see no reason Rihanna and A$AP Rocky should not raise their beautiful children in, uh, Carrollwood.

Lastly, keen observers of Tampa Bay history will recall that Scott Swift, Taylor’s dad, had a Vinoy Place penthouse in St. Petersburg, which was burgled. Yeah, that was not great. The incident probably left a bad taste in Taylor’s mouth, and rightly, but if I may: There remains one way to wash out that bad taste, and that’s a healthy dose of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum at 8 a.m. the day of Gasparilla. Sleep on it, Taylor. We will wait. We’re used to it.

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