Street Talk - February 2004

By staff February 1, 2004



Manhattan's Janeen Pernigotti makes the Sarasota architectural scene.

Janeen Pernigotti's raging red hair and outrageous fashions make her impossible to ignore. But the sassy 35-year-old and her firm, MOTHER, are also getting attention for her dazzling design of The Backlot, a futuristic arts, entertainment and education destination planned for the corner of Fruitville and Lime downtown. Explain your firm's unusual name. "MOTHER" is half a word. And we like saying it.

Is Sarasota too conservative for modern design? I believe "conditioned" would be a more apt description.

Will fresh young designers survive here? This city is wired for creatives. We are the endangered species that many business organizations are looking to preserve.

What about those outfits? I dress to amuse myself. Granted, vinyl pants and fake eyelashes won't get you accused of being a banker. But one of the most wickedly delicious parts of owning your own firm is that you are the dress code.

Best Bite

Funny thing about the Brownstone Cafe at 510 Central Ave. is that hardly anybody calls it that-most regulars call it "Earl's." That's because when you sit down at the bar, behind it you see the 75 or so bottled imported beers available, and next you see a slightly faded sign above the back bar exhorting you to "Eat at Earl's."

Earl Gallaher is one of those urban pioneers who's almost certainly going to do fine in the long term as his Central Avenue neighborhood continues to gentrify. Be sure to try Young's wonderful British chocolate stout or the raspberry flamboise from Belgium on draft. The latest amenity is a private back patio in the wide, clean and breezy alley behind the Brownstone, separating it from the now-restored Ace Theater. The patio was initially built for smokers, but many evenings you'll find more patrons enjoying it than are sitting inside at the chess tables or in the booths.

Earl practices the basics of good food, simplicity and fresh quality ingredients. Four salads and five sandwiches are available, or you can create your own combination from whatever Earl has in the kitchen. I prefer the Italian cold cuts hoagie and the spinach salad, but there's a hot Italian veggie sandwich popular with a certain crowd. And the Brownstone Deluxe with roast beef, turkey, ham, Swiss cheese and all the trimmings reminds you most young men still eat like you remember.

Brownstone Cafe may not be for everybody just yet. But since there's music some evenings and poetry readings others, it's quietly becoming a very "in" spot.

Hours are 11 a.m. until midnight Monday through Saturday, except when they're not. You can call 365-3354 to check if anybody's answering the phone, and there's even a Web site at

Hot Seat

The death of Pelican Man Dale Shields last year left real questions about the survivability of The Pelican Man's Sanctuary, but long-time volunteer Mona Schonbrunn has stepped up and today the institution is flourishing again. We asked Schonbrunn, a former counselor at Cornell University, how she came to be continuing Shields' work.

Q: Dale Shields is gone. How are you going to continue his work and organization?

A: I watched Dale over the years and he carefully laid it all out-all we have to do is follow the footsteps. Sure, Dale made it all happen by sheer force of his personality, but I'm just following his vision of being the best wildlife sanctuary in the country.

Q: How did you connect with the sanctuary?

A: My parents moved here in 1970, and I met Dale when I was visiting them in 1986. I saw his truck with the words "I tend the hurt and feed the hungry," on its side and asked him about his work. He showed me his then-small rehab center behind a hardware store on Longboat Key, and I was taken by him and the birds. The very next day I saw a pelican hanging from fishing line on an Anna Maria pier and called. I visited his sanctuary and watched it grow every time I came to Sarasota. Eventually, I couldn't leave to go back to academia-there was too much work needing to be done here. Some of my old colleagues thought I was making a terrible mistake-"You could be somebody," they said-but I am somebody, and from Dale I learned how one person really can make a difference.

Q: Does the development boom create a booming need for your services?

A: All this development is bad for wildlife-fewer places to nest and raise their young. Over the years we've tried to help preserve some land locally. Is it threatening? Yes, but we have to, all of us, people to animals, learn to live together.

Q: What can people do to help?

A: Become a member. Become a volunteer. Seven days a week we're out there rescuing birds, and we need helping hands. We know the people of this county have the resources to help us.

Q: What keeps you awake at night?

A: Nothing, absolutely nothing. I'm an optimist because I learned it from Dale, as did many other people. Most people never realized the power of that man because he was so humble and communicated with both people and animals on such a high level.

Now Hear This:

"You'd have to go to Mars to find air more corrosive to metal than at the Gulf of Mexico.-County Commissioner Jon Thaxton explaining his hesitation to support re-building the Lido Beach Pool.

The Buzz

During the 1940s and '50s, judging from its frequent exposure in publications like Life magazine, Lido Beach was one of the country's glamour spots. Now, as the community begins designing another (the third, actually) refurbishment of Lido facilities, we asked some residents who remember the old days what they'd like to see in the new incarnation.

"When I was a kid you couldn't get me out of the pool at Lido Beach. My folks swam in the Gulf, but I was strictly interested in the pool and being there with my friends. I danced in the floor shows and did my circus act in the casino on a regular basis.

"We can't bring back the Lido Casino but there's no reason we can't have a building to accommodate parties, weddings and other get-togethers and serve as a real community center. A band shell where folks can sit and watch sunsets while they listen to music is another idea, all designed to capture as much of Lido's history as we can.

"Architect Thorning Little is working on some ideas I like a lot. It's all very preliminary, but now that restoration of the pool is settled, we can finally move on with the re-building of our long-neglected Lido Beach."

Sarasota Mayor Lou Ann Palmer

"I was one of those kids who grew up on Lido Beach. The pool at Lido is important, especially for the kids. A band shell is a great idea, but good luck on dealing with all the complaints you're bound to get. The real problem, as I see it, is the county doesn't want to have to run another city park, so there's bound to be trouble somewhere along the line; and that's all I'm going to say before I get in more trouble."

Dennis Hart, owner/operator, Hart's Landing

"When we were kids, Siesta Beach was mostly sandspurs; and Lido, with its beautifully curved casino, was a Duany-style community gathering spot circa 1939 enclosing us and creating a feeling of community. It was the highlight of our lives. Let's renovate it so well future generations will have a beach memory life highlight, too."

Mollie Cardamone, recently retired city commissioner

"I don't want to see Disney World at Lido Beach. Perhaps the original casino could be replicated-that would be perfect."

Sue Michel, retired Sarasota teacher who competed as a youngster in the original Lido Pool.

"Both my brothers and my sister and I all came of age by stepping off the high board at the old Lido Pool and Casino. I still What I envision at Lido is a place for fellowship, bringing all the population fragments in Sarasota together. We've got old-time locals and snowbirds, the new arrivals, various religious groups and all the clubs-all fragments needing a place to come together and become more Sarasotan.."

Chris Blue, Chair of the Lido Task Force charged with studying the future of Lido Beach.

Changing the Guard

Traditionalists in Sarasota have long argued there are only three real pizza joints in town-Honey Crust on 17th Street, The Broadway Bar near downtown and Frankie's on Bee Ridge. Now, after decades of producing dependable pies and warding off the challenges of seemingly endless numbers of new chains, two of Sarasota's pizza stalwarts are undergoing major change-and one has dropped pizza altogether. Only Honey Crust, made famous to the masses through Stuart Kaminsky's crime novels, remains unchanged.

The Broadway is preparing to move a block east into a new upscale building at Tenth and Cocoanut to make room for more condos and a new supermarket along the Trail. But Frankie's owner Steve Polka says, "There just weren't enough people asking for pizza anymore." So he decided to close down the beer bar operation in hopes of "bringing in more families for hot and cold sandwiches." Times change.


By Mark Ormond

Simon Vouet at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art

Simon Vouet's painting Time Discovering the Love of Venus and Mars fascinates me as much today as when I first gazed upon it 20 years ago. Love, war, age, youth, folly and time are at once readily apparent and complexly interwoven in this timeless narrative. In the figure of the newborn Eros or Cupid, Vouet's version of the ancient myth paints the winged Chronos or Time exposing the romance between Mars, the god of war, and Venus, the wife of Vulcan.

The artist poises each character on the brink of action and charges their gazes with tension, much in the way modern soap opera scenes are constructed. The oval shape of the canvas as well as the curves of elbows, shoulders, hands and heads in the composition keep the viewer's eyes in continuous motion. We are swept up in the sensuous texture and fluidity of the sumptuous fabrics. The extraordinary colors captivate us and we read the unique flesh tones as further identifying each figure in this visual drama. No matter how many times we return to this image we are seduced by Vouet's skilled arrangement.

Simon Vouet, French, 1590-1649, Time Discovering the Love of Venus and Mars, c. 1640, oil on canvas, 57 x 42 inches. Bequest of John Ringling, 1936, SN 360.

Mark Ormond is a writer, lecturer, art historian and art consultant based in Sarasota.

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