Street Talk - May 2004

By staff May 1, 2004



Voice coach Kristen Conn adds to the Sarasota music scene.

Audiences sometimes mistake Kristen Conn, the slim, 29-year-old director of the Sarasota Youth Opera, for one of her students. But once Conn sits at the piano and the first pure notes of the choruses ring out, there's no doubt who's in control. With a master's in vocal accompaniment and an artist's diploma in opera coaching, she'll soon leave the opera to start her own coaching business, but she's directing the youth opera's largest production ever-the world premiere of The Language of Birds by John Kennedy-May 8 and 9.

How did you get into opera coaching? In college I studied music, but opera was not on my radar. I taught piano and worked with singers and kept being led down this path.

Do children come naturally to opera? The kids I work with already have a serious love of music, and this program is unique. It takes a lot of time, energy and money. We have it because of Maestro Victor DeRenzi's love for children. He comes to the rehearsals and knows all the kids. They're so fortunate-they work with singers who have worked all around the world.

What's next? I plan to establish a private practice to coach singers. I'd like to establish Sarasota venues where we can put on recitals for fun. I'd also love to start getting my feet wet in jazz.

Are you currently making music with anyone special? No, there's not a lot of time, and I'm picky. It's my lot for now, and that's fine.



Rolling with vintage motorcycle collector Ray Williams.

Ray Williams feels the need for speed. The broad-shouldered 47-year-old was riding a mini-bike before most of us took off our training wheels, and he still owns his first full-sized model, a 1975 Honda 354.

"Everyone wants to feel the thrill of a really bad-ass bike," says Williams. "It all goes back to the rough-and-tumble guys, the Hell's Angels. Now it's society people. The doctors, lawyers, they all want one."

A businessman with a master's degree from Cornell University in veterinary medicine, Williams started accumulating unusual bikes 15 years ago and opened American Legend Cycle Sales in Sarasota in 1993 primarily to stock his private collection. "Now people call me when they have something I might like," he says.

His name has even crept into celebrity rolodexes. Along with major league baseball players down for spring training, Gregg Allman, Woody Harrelson and Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman) have all bought, borrowed, or rented bikes from Williams.

His personal favorite? Either his limited edition model of the Harley-Davidson that Peter Fonda rode in the 1969 classic movie Easy Rider, or a raging, 160-horsepwer Italian Ducati. But mostly he tools around town on a custom 120 HP Vengeance custom chopper with a raked front end. On occasion, he does drive a car-a Porsche twin turbo.

At least he's cautious. "An accident when I was 16 destroyed my kneecaps," says Williams. "So I always wear a helmet. I've had a lot of friends killed who didn't."-Pat Haire

Downtown living

You know you live downtown when you're enjoying Judy Collins singing Song for David at mid-volume and someone starts pounding on your front door. Opening it, I was confronted by a young man in a beautifully embroidered and beaded black skullcap who looked up expectantly and said, "Hello. What is that beautiful music, please?"

"Judy Collins. I'm going to hear her tonight at the Van Wezel," I replied.

"She's staying with us," the young man said, pointing over at the Ritz-Carlton. "And the name of the album is?"

I walked over and looked. Whales and Nightingales.

"Thank you so much. I need to buy my wife an anniversary present tonight and that will be perfect. She loves beautiful music."

And he turned away, skipping down the sidewalk.

Fritz, my front yard watchcat, skulked in the bushes by the front door, giving the wearer of the beautiful skullcap a hard look, and then turned to me with a Cheshire grin that matched mine.-Bob Ardren

Best Bite

At first glance, 5-One-6 Burns is one of those pretty little restaurants for the Ladies Who Lunch crowd. But really, how many of those kinds of places have a good fried oyster sandwich and Yuengling lager on draft to wash it down?

Located in what one friend calls a "restaurant graveyard," a small house with wraparound porch directly south of the Burns Court Cinema that's been the home of several previous eateries, 5-One-6 Burns looks like a survivor. The menu is wide and the cooking is superb.

For example, salads range from house to grilled salmon Niçoise ($3.95 to $9.95) at lunch, when you can also get wood-fired oven pizzas ranging from $7.95 to $11.95. And don't forget that fried oyster "lo-boy," as they call it, at $8.95.

Sandwiches such as grilled rosemary chicken, portabellas, shrimp and crab salad and the "Burns burger" come in at $7.95 and $8.95.

In the evening, things turn elegant and even better. The seared duck breast ($15.95) was perfectly cooked one evening, and other entrées include double-cut pork chops ($16.95), a N.Y. strip ($20.95), Hunter chicken ($14.95) and a wide selection of seafoods including shrimp, sea scallops and grilled yellowfin tuna. Those range from $17.95 to $19.95.

If the basis of a good restaurant is good bread-and I believe that's true-then 5-One-6 Burns is off to a good start. The bread served is as good as can be found in Sarasota, as is the service at this latest resurrection of a spot we've all admired. Hope this is the management that will make it succeed.-Bob Ardren

Hot Seat

Not many people would want Deborah Millman's job. As executive director of the Sarasota County Humane Society, she's charged with caring and finding homes for the roughly 4,000 cats, dogs and other assorted creatures left on her doorstep each year. But she loves it.

Q: If I bring an animal to your shelter, what are its odds of being adopted?

A: Real good if it doesn't have a life-threatening illness and hasn't bitten anyone. After all, we have to protect the public. But healthy, adoptable animals, those we have a high success rate with.

Q: What percent of the animals do you have to euthanize?

A: About 80 percent of the dogs that came in last year were adoptable-and every last one of them was adopted out. More than 70 percent of the cats last year were adoptable and about 80 percent of those were adopted out. Remember, too, quite a few people bring in old pets and we euthanize them as a public service. So there's no specific number, and it depends on a lot of factors year by year.

Normally we have 95 to 100 dogs here at any one time and up to 150 cats.

Q: You're using the Internet now to help in placement. Has that made any real change?

A: It's helped us get our animals out to a wider range of people. We recently had a couple from Gainesville drive to Sarasota for a Weimaraner they saw on the Web site. In other cases, some people won't come to the shelter-they think it's too depressing, although ours is a cheerful, happy place-and so they look for a pet on our Web site ( Sometimes they see a face and fall in love.

Q: Do you just take in cats and dogs or are there ferrets and foxes, too?

A: No foxes yet, thank goodness. But we do get guinea pigs-one's lived in my office for two years now-along with hamsters and rabbits. That's basically what we see. If the odd bird shows up, we generally call another rescue group.

Q: Are you involved with seizing abandoned or mistreated animals?

A: The county's animal services deal with seizures because they have law enforcement powers, but sometimes we get those animals; and sometimes they break your heart. We do our best with them and try to educate people about caring for their pets.

Q: What about your own family? Do you have pets?

A: We've had so many over the years, and loved them all. My husband and I love Weimaraners and have two, one 11 years old and a one-year-old. In addition we have a boxer mix who's nine, along with two cats-and I'm always trying to sneak one more of those into the house.

Q: What keeps you awake at night?

A: Sometimes it's thinking about animals that came in so abused and wondering how to get through to people so this sort of thing doesn't happen again. Luckily, there are so many successes that it outweighs the bad times. I feel so fortunate to be doing what I do. When the alarm goes off in the morning, believe it or not, my reaction is "Oh, great!"-Bob Ardren

The Buzz

Many people say May is their favorite month of the year here. We asked some Sarasotans if they agree.

"October and May are my favorites, because it's dry and not packed with visitors. The temperatures are great, meaning it's the best time of the year to be-and dine-outdoors."

Restaurateur Michael Klauber

"There isn't a month I don't like-every day I'm thankful to be living in Sarasota. Every month offers unique opportunities. For example, I like the summers because I like to fish. It's warm then and even the waterways are less crowded."

Real estate tycoon Michael Saunders

"I love them all. But to tell the truth, I think October is my favorite. It's mild, not as hot as summer, and having been experiencing it here since 1945, I find it a great blend of the best of Sarasota's weather."

Dr. Bob Windom

"My favorite month is either May or October, both great fishing months. May signals spring weather with winter behind us and it's the kickoff of the summer fishing season. Catching big redfish from a kayak, now that's great fishing fun. That's the time of the year I pray for a day off; and when there's one, I'm gone all day."

Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton

"I like March because it's a great month for business. But personally, summer is a little more relaxed around here and I can do some serious fishing. The water's warm and there's less traffic, too."

Tom Wallin of Walt's Fish Market

Looking at Art


Photographer Jerry Uelsmann's exquisitely printed image is crafted with nuance and charged with subliminal issues. His work is about balance: black and white, positive and negative, solid and void. It focuses us on contrast: wood and stone, natural and man-made, light and dark, structure and destruction. We notice scale relationships, as in the size and shape of a leaf in the foreground compared with the negative space in a broken windowpane. Texture interests this artist, and he challenges our eye to discriminate and identify forms.

We see a building inspired by Greek and Roman prototypes growing out of a massive tree trunk. The transition from bark to stone is seamless. The columns of the façade extend like branches. Uelsmann places this mysterious central mass in what appears to be a small development of homes near a hillside. We are led to think about the evolution of man's taming nature to dwell on it and in it, how we ordered nature and cut stone and wood to conform to his vision. Uelsmann's image also reminds us that man cannot control time and its ravages. Both what is natural and man-made disintegrates. Jerry Uelsmann's work can be seen at Missing Link Gallery, 556 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota

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



Untitled, 1982

Silver gelatin print

18 x 15 inches

Going Shopping

Everybody wants a digital camera, but who knows which one to choose? We asked one of Florida's best-and busiest-photographers, Dick Dickinson, to help us with this daunting task.

First of all, Dick made a checklist to focus in on critical factors. Then we approached unsuspecting salesman, Joe Parisi, at Best Buy and used the list to choose a winner in four different price ranges.

The List

Simple or intuitive: Does the camera make sense? Can you use it without reading that complicated book?

Picture quality: Does the picture maintain its integrity for your particular use-i.e., e-mail or making a print? Does it lack "noise" (a digital term that means grainy or pixilated, which is determined by the number of mega pixels)?

Battery capability: How long will the battery last before it needs to be charged)? Are the batteries rechargeable; and how much is the recharger?

Delay: Is there an annoying delay between pressing the button to take the picture and the camera actually taking the picture?.

Comfort: Does the camera feel good in your hand? Some cameras seem too big or too small.

Lens: Is it a quality lens made by a known name- i.e. Ziess, Nikon, Cannon, Schneider? Is the lens wide enough or long enough for your needs?

Memory card: What type of card does the camera use? Is it included in the price of the camera? If so, how many images does it hold (which depends on how many megabits it has)? How much are extra cards?

Price: Can you find everything you want in your price range? If not, what do you want to sacrifice?

$The winner in the $249.99 range is the Kodak dx 6340.

The winners in the $400 range are the Cannon power shot 550 and the Nikon Coolpix 4300. (Dick actually bought this one for his wife, Linda, but had to buy a wide-angle attachment for an extra $150 to accommodate her need for a wide-angle lens for her real estate picture taking. Really worth it!).

The winner in the $699.99 range is the Cannon G5

The winner in the $1,000 range is the digital Cannon Rebel.

What kind of digital does Dick shoot with? A Fugi Finepix S2, priced at $1,900 for the camera body.

A piece of advice from our salesman Joe: Valuable Web sites to access information on the latest information in the digital camera world are and Baxter

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