Street Talk - April 2004

By staff April 1, 2004



Erika Lane has a whacking good time with polo.

When she was just four years old, Erika Lane's parents sat her atop a horse, and by the age of eight, she was competing in show jumping. She started playing at the Sarasota Polo Club five years ago, and today the diminutive 25-year-old has her own barn and a team called "Fast Lane"-the moniker combines her last name with the speed of her horses: Porsche, Bentley, and Aston Martin, to name a few. When she's not whacking a ball at speeds up to 60 mph she's selling real estate and teaching beginner riding lessons.

How did you get into polo? Somebody dared me to go hit the ball. After about 500 tries, I finally managed to hit the "sweet spot," and I just loved the sound of the crack that ball made.

What's most fun about the sport? As a show jumper, you're competing with yourself to beat the clock. As a polo player, you're on a team, and everyone matters.

What special skills do you need? Number one is horse riding, then hand/eye coordination, strength and endurance. Just the drive to compete. It's addictive.

Ever been hurt? I've fallen off a few times, and getting hit by the ball leaves a big round bruise. During the winter, I don't wear shorts because my legs are black and blue. Sounds dicey. No, I don't do anything stupid or dangerous if I can help it.

-Pat Haire

Best Bite

People do not live by bread alone. They need wine, too.

Some of the very hottest wines right now are Australian, and a real Australian, Kerry Walsch, recently purchased the old King's Liquor and Flowers (so-called because it was originally a combination liquor store and florist shop and still sells roses) at 1333 Washington Blvd. But it isn't just the wines, although the choice of fine Syrahs is impressive. It's also the genuine selection of rums and brandies, plus it's the only place in town selling Plymouth gin-remember, the one Travis McGee used to drink?

This is no chain liquor store. This place is interesting.

Sure, Walsch has painted and primped up the joint, but it's hard to

completely wipe away the ghetto feeling in most liquor stores, even on Ringling Boulevard. And that inch-thick plexi in front of the cashier and fine brandies is a tad sobering.

But as an Aussie character, Walsch is wonderful; and the selection in her shop is at least as good. Treat yourself to some fine Australian wines being sold by an Aussie. It's fun, you'll probably visit an area you haven't lately, and, that's good for our growing town.-Bob Ardren

Burning Issue

Should developers be required to provide school facilities for the number of new students their development will bring to the community, to help schools comply with the new constitutionally mandated class size?

School capacity should be a criterion just like water, just like roads. But how development impacts the many magnet schools in the county is difficult to measure. And some developments, like Village Walk in Palmer Ranch, have virtually no school children. So while I feel strongly the tie must be made, I recognize it's difficult to measure the link between development and school capacity in Sarasota County.

Jon Thaxton, chair of the Sarasota County Commission

This class-size constitutional amendment is a choice voted on by the broad-based public and the dollars for it are supposed to be derived from the state. Since the citizens of Florida voted for that amendment, then the funding should be raised from the general populace. Dickson Clements, executive vice president, Homebuilders Association of Sarasota County

Development should pay its way to the extent it's mandated by the law. The developers should pay that much because what they do has an impact on the schools.

Susan Chapman, president, Sarasota County Civic League

That already is required for large-scale developments of regional impact but not smaller ones. We typically include school boards in the review process and work with them on locations for new schools, to make sure roads and sidewalks are going to be there.

David Burr, executive director, Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council

Now hear this:

"My goodness, kids stop me in the street to say thank you for our new skateboard park, so go forth and multiply."

Sarasota Mayor Lou Ann Palmer reacting to a city report that 190 people a day are using the city's new skateboard park.

Hot Seat

Steve Queior is coming up on his six-month anniversary as the president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, having arrived here from a similar post in Fort Lauderdale. Since he's had a few months to learn the territory, we decided to ask him about some of the issues facing the chamber and community.

Q: Within 30 days of your arrival, the county commission decided to take its economic development program away from the chamber and bring it in-house. Will the chamber pursue getting that program back?

A: Actually, the economic development program is evolving into a not-for-profit organization. But the chamber will remain active in economic development, and we'll be working cooperatively with the new program.

Q: How's chamber membership doing?

A: We're now over 2,000. That's all types and sizes of business, along with increased involvement in committees and events. We're up about 100 members over last year.

Q: What's your No. 1 goal?

A: We're here to help bring all the players in the community together to make our business base and job market the strongest possible while maintaining our quality of life. The way we get these is through partnering with groups wanting to move this community forward while keeping our quality of life.

Q: Your predecessor built a new chamber headquarters and saw the Sarasota group named number one chamber in the state-and then he was fired. What happened? And is your job doable?

A: He'd been gone six months by the time I arrived, so I don't know the whole story. I do know, however, that chamber management can be very difficult-and also very rewarding.

Q: It took six phone calls before I could reach a live person at the chamber. Any plans to improve that?

A: Actually, the phone system is on my list of things to look into. It's a new system installed last year, but it could be improved, and so maybe I should move it up my list. Incidentally, we do have tremendous activity on our Web site.

Q; What keeps you awake at night?

A: We have to keep up with a very fast rate of change so we can address local issues; but the bigger challenges are education, health care and infrastructure to compete worldwide. And the competition isn't Jacksonville or Atlanta anymore, but Hong Kong and Singapore.-Bob Ardren

Looking at Art

A Heady Experience

In this painting from about 1610, artist Orazio Gentileschi provides all the visual clues for the faithful reader of the Bible to recognize the subject as the beautiful Israelite Judith, who foiled the advances of her dinner host, General Holofernes, by removing his head with his own sword. Her deed would insure the paralysis of Holofernes' legions, which had planned to attack Judith's tribe the next morning.

Gentileschi used raking light from the right to dramatically illuminate Judith and her servant, whose watchful gazes heighten the suspense in the painting. Compositionally, the artist has created a circle following the locked arms of the two figures around the basket and behind their heads. Judith, in the blood-red dress, looks up to her right toward the heavens and to God in whose name she acted, while Holofernes' head rests facing her. With her sleeve pushed up to bare her forearm, Judith exposes the strength of the limb that wielded the weapon. Her servant, in blue, seems more concerned with the threat of discovery and how to cover up the deed.

In addition to being a great example of the Italian Baroque, this painting is a somber reminder that the best plan before a battle may be abstinence and solitary slumber. Part of a special exhibition on loan from the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, it's at the Ringling Museum through April 25.

Mark Ormond is an art historian and consultant based in Sarasota.

Illustration and credit line:

Orazio Gentileschi

Italian, Florentine, 1563-1639

Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes, c. 1610-12

Oil on canvas, 53 3/4" x 62 5/8"

The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund 1949.52


Comedian Dick Smothers and his wife Denby get into Sarasota real estate.

Sarasotans are used to spying the rich and famous touring St. Armands Circle or at premieres at the Sarasota Film Festival. But they're not accustomed to seeing a Hollywood star at an open house selling real estate.

Especially not Dick Smothers, still worshipped by fans for his work with brother Tommy on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the groundbreaking variety show that ran from 1967 until 1969, when CBS cancelled it because of its bent for controversial social commentary.

But Smothers, now 65, is indeed selling Sarasota real estate with his wife Denby for Michael Saunders and Co., although Denby is the real performer on this team. Dick's name gets the attention, the two explain, and then Denby handles the actual transactions. After spending seven years traveling with Tommy and Dick selling merchandise for the act, she explains, "I'd much rather be doing this. Road work is grueling."

So now, while Dick travels-he did 120 shows around the country last year-she markets Sarasota properties. (No, they don't need the money, she says: "I just wanted to make a difference in people's lives myself.") So far, the formula is working. "Last week at an open house, I sold a $2.5-million property at full list price, cash closing," says Denby. "While I was getting the signatures, Dick was entertaining the sellers."

The two met when he was performing in her native Fort Myers, and after living in California for a while, they decided they'd move to Sarasota, which Dick discovered when he and Tommy performed at the Van Wezel 20 years ago. "We stayed at The Colony on Longboat Key, and it was phenomenal to walk on the sand, to see the multi-colored water," he says. "Every time I came, I never wanted to leave."

The couple purchased a home on Bird Key and have spent the last few years remodeling it and enjoying their new hometown. Says Dick, "I used to tell Tommy, 'You, John Lennon, Joan Baez, you're all trying to save the world, so I'm going to go out and enjoy it.'" While that approach eventually drove him into a 12-step program, today the 65-year-old relaxes by floating along Bird Key with their four dogs on his 26-foot catamaran; lunch most days is at Southside Deli.

He's still outspoken on subjects from the dangers of media consolidation to a government that he and Denby believe is stifling political dissent and free speech. And he sees problems in picture-perfect Sarasota as well. "This town should be offering more affordable housing for nurses and cops and firemen," he says.

"He thinks a little bit outside everybody's box," acknowledges Denby. "But you've got to define your values and then stand up for them."

And have fun, Dick adds. "The most important thing in life should always be, are you having fun yet?"

Going Shopping


Sarasota Film Festival executive director Jody Kielbasa starts a home video library at Blockbuster.

The Wizard of Oz. The classic original. "The greatest of all films, and the musical score is unforgettable. The scarecrow and witch gave performances that are buried in every child's memory."

Gone with the Wind. "Another classic that celebrates movie making during the golden age of Hollywood."

It Happened One Night. "A favorite screwball comedy of the '30s. Nothing compares to it in today's market. It captures an innocent age in America that can never be recreated."

The Godfather. "Recognized as number one on most movie lists. Francis Ford Coppola's epic of an Italian family making it in America is a must for anyone starting a collection."

To Kill a Mockingbird. "A quietly lyrical film that has not lost any impact 40 years later."

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. "One of the favorites of all time. A unique score by Burt Bacharach. Also the first pairing up of Robert Redford and Paul Newman."

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. "A Western of operatic heights set in the Civil War. A classic spaghetti Western. The cinematography will blow you away."

Lawrence of Arabia. "Truly one of the great epics. Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif unleash their two great talents."

Life Is Beautiful. "A drama with comic overtones. My wife and I sobbed in each other's arms. It uses comic relief to allow the Holocaust to make an even deeper impact on a younger generation."

Some Girls. Starring Patrick Dempsey and Jennifer Connelly. "This is a dark horse sleeper that few people know about but I highly recommend."

Some Like It Hot. "Top on the top 10 list. One of the top comic films of all time. Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are a ménage a trois made in heaven."

Waiting for Guffman. "A great mockumentary."

Chicago. "One of our best movie musicals to come around in ages. A great new entry. "

Filed under
Show Comments