Street Talk - October 2004

By staff October 1, 2004

You Make An Interesting Point

Now how's that for a line you never hear anymore? In our split-right-down-the-middle, polarized society, most folks seem to see only friends or enemies-never somebody who just might have a fresh take on the war, the Presidency or even the trees along Main Street.

Public relations specialist and music critic Gayle Williams decided to do something about that. This summer, she invited a group of friends to gather for dinner at a local restaurant and share their thoughts on society, politics, the Middle East, or "How the hell do we deal with all this craziness in the world, much less affect it?" The first dinner was such a success that a month later more than 40 people reserved chairs in an upstairs room at Cafe Baci to do it again.

An amazingly wide range of ages and politics took the floor one by one and offered thoughts on coping with the world, especially the Middle East-although a few pessimists suggested another round from the bar would be the best idea. But the most common sentiment voiced was, "Somebody is lying to me."

The debated question was "Who?"

Williams says she isn't out to start some big social activism group here. "We're trying to be nonpolitical and come together calmly, with dignity and respect," she says. She adds that it's clear she's touched a nerve, and many people feel better just talking about their worries. That's always been true, of course, but who would have thought serious talk about foreign affairs would be the basis of another evening gathering monthly in Sarasota?

If you'd like to get involved in the discussion, you can try to wangle an invite by e-mailing Gayle at [email protected] Just put "World Talk" in the subject line. -Bob Ardren

There hangs a (fish) tale

One of the traditional wall hangings in this fish-based village of Sarasota has always been the mounted tarpon. Since we don't eat the beasts, proud fishermen would put them on display; and wouldn't you know it, eventually they became common pieces of decor on living room walls. Truth is, they're so common in some neighborhoods I've found them wet from the rain and beginning to smell sticking out of garbage cans on Lido Key.

It's about this time of the year when taxidermists such as Richard Nutter are delivering these new, gleaming ("Looks like it's just come from the chromeworks!") fish caught last summer. It's no simple process, he says.

"Figure on about 90 days for a 75-inch fish," Nutter explains. The price tag for one that size? Around $700-800.

Winner of both state and national awards for his fish mounts, Nutter is a low-key local who goes on to say, first of all, that most tarpon mounts these days aren't real skin mounts anymore; they're hand-crafted and painted plastic-"lots and lots and lots of handwork."

Of course, mounted reproduction fish are a lot easier on the real fish population; and since Nutter specializes in working from photographs and measurements, the real fish can be promptly released.

Second thing is, people don't buy tarpon mounts much these days, although lots of other fish, like snook and bass (most of them hand-crafted plastic, too) are very popular. One guy bought a toadfish as a gag; another a tarpon with a big shark bite out of it-now that's in keeping with the times.

All you really need is a measurement and a photograph or two; and Nutter will faithfully reproduce that glorious fish you caught one day wading in Big Pass, or sitting in a teak fighting chair 125 miles offshore.

Yep, this is the time of the year when the new fish arrive. But this time the big fish are coming from Gulfshore Taxidermy (941-341-9292) and guys like Richard Nutter.

And don't you believe a word of that old wives' tale that every guide always adds an inch to the measurement he gives the taxidermist. After all, we all know plenty of anglers who'd look at a beautiful new mount and say, "Hey, uh, my fish wasn't quite that big."

Surely.-Bob Ardren

Hot Seat

Ron Mallory has managed the grounds and landscaping at the Ringling Museum of Art for well over a decade. His decisions make spots like the museum courtyard and rose garden sparkle. In this annual home and garden issue, we thought we'd pick Ron's brain in hopes of helping you make your grounds sparkle, too.

Q: What's the single best piece of gardening advice you can give a new Floridian?

A: Water, water, water. And don't be afraid to prune and to choose your plants carefully, so five years down the road you don't wake up and have a jungle.

Q: What's the biggest mistake people make in landscape maintenance?

A: People either don't know how or forget to check their irrigation systems to make sure every little sprinkler head is working properly. You see this at condos where lots of times nobody is really responsible for checking, and so nobody does. That's why you see isolated patches of lawns dying. Especially if you run your sprinklers at night, you should turn the system on during the day sometimes just to makes sure the heads are all working.

Q: You're responsible for converting the perimeter of Mable Ringling's rose garden to heritage plants. Do you recommend that to others?

A: We planted more than 70 different old garden roses, or "heritage roses," around the perimeter of the Ringling Rose Garden with great success. As a result, we've just been named one of only seven public gardens in the country awarded by the American Rose Society. Old garden roses are finally coming back into vogue because of their sturdy root stock and ease of growing. But be sure to allow lots of room, because they sometimes grow into absolutely beautiful monsters.

Q: As a serious orchid grower, how do you help others get started in that hobby?

A: Go to the local orchid shows every year. If you see a plant you like, go up to the educational table-there's one of those at every show-and ask about growing that particular orchid. There are also knowledgeable people at the Sarasota Orchid Society meetings held every month.

Q: What's your favorite plant story?

A: An old friend has a 35,000-acre ranch in Belize loaded with native wild orchids, and the first time I visited he told me to just walk around and take whatever plants I wanted. So I started walking, found an especially interesting orchid and then another, and as darkness approached, finally ended up lost simply because of my own greed. Spending a night alone, lost and hungry in the jungle-where I knew there were plenty of other hungry creatures, too-is about as bad as it gets in Belize. It taught me a lesson I'll never forget.-Bob Ardren

Hot Topic

As we begin a new season in Sarasota, what's the one improvement most needed in our community?

City manager Mike McNees: "We're a community of advocates, and we could all learn to listen a little more."

Kerry Kirschner, executive director, Argus Foundation: "For this season, it's definitely going to be parking. With the construction downtown, we're going to have massive gridlock."

Bob Richardson, president of the Downtown Partnership: "For everybody to realize we're friends and neighbors and to understand how we can achieve common objectives. And to think big. We are blessed beyond belief and we need to think big in what this community can do."

County Commissioner Nora Patterson: "A positive attitude."

Best Bite

Gentrification of downtown Sarasota roared full steam ahead all summer, and there were some real benefits. For example, you'll hardly know good ole Barnacle Bill's Seafood Market & Restaurant on Main Street. It's gone upscale in just about everything but prices.

Expanded westward to roughly double its original size, the entirely renovated restaurant now includes a beautiful long granite-top bar, bamboo floors throughout and even new oversize bathrooms that owner Bill Davis says are second to none.

But Barnacle Bill's is still about food; and if you want to know how good it is here, sit down to a bowl of lobster bisque ($6.98). It's got the lobster meat and the sherry; but most importantly it's got the flavor that only comes from long hours of cooking down the shells, doing it the right way.

Grouper here is local, not from somewhere in the Third World; and the kitchen knows how to turn out fine food night after night. Barnacle Bill's is now the quality seafood restaurant downtown, matching the upgrading of its neighborhood.

Another note: Watch for the re-opening of the new Mattison's Grille in the newly renovated Lemon Avenue Mall. It's going to be a great place to sit and watch the opening of Whole Foods.-Bob Ardren

Art Buzz

Inside the visual arts with Mark Ormond.

Husband and wife Leslie and Jill Lerner are now sharing studio space on the North Trail, and both are busy. Leslie's new book, Journey to the Moon, which consists of eight hand-printed photogravures illustrating poet Cyrano de Bergerac's book of the same title, is available this month at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art. Jill, who's worked with artists including Joan Mitchell, Richard Tuttle and Markus Lupertz and was most recently at Graphicstudio in Tampa, has opened her own press in Sarasota. Jill Lerner Editions has released new prints by Cuban-born artist Glexis Novoa, and Jill is now working with Ringling School alum Chie Fueki on a project based on images of Mount Fuji. New York Times art critic Roberta Smith has lauded "Fueki's imagery and meticulous craft and the fragile, ceremonial air of her work."

The much-awaited Tibbals Learning Center addition to the Circus Museum (the first new building on the campus of FSU/Ringling since 1966) is set to be completed this month. However, the official opening will be delayed close to two years because of construction of the visitor's center nearby. In the interim, donor Howard Tibbals says he'll work on the installation of his scale-model circus, which will occupy a prominent place in the new galleries.

Laurie Ossman, former curator of Cà d'Zan, is now curator of Whitehall, Henry Flagler's Palm Beach estate, which was designed by two of the Gilded Age's best-known architects, John Carrère and Thomas Hastings. But she's been back in Sarasota lately, working on an exhibition that opens at the Flagler Oct. 4. The show will include the efforts of Mable Ringling at her Cà as well as Mrs. Potter Palmer at her Spanish Point property; and Ossman notes, "The Gardens of Paradise exhibition reveals the ideals and hidden meanings that these gardens conveyed through their design." We knew Mable had a secret garden, and this show promises to tell us more. By the way, maybe Sarasota should think about hosting the Cheneys as well as the Bush family, since Lynne and Dick have dropped a bundle in the Flagler coffers recently and have two rooms named after them.

Much fanfare in Florence has surrounded the cleaning of Michelangelo's marble David this year, on the occasion of its 500th anniversary. Sarasota's own bronze cast of David, which stands proudly in the courtyard of the Ringling Museum, is of a later vintage; it was commissioned by John Ringling from the Chiurazzi foundry in Naples in 1924. (The silhouette of the David was later adopted by the City of Sarasota as its official symbol.) While our David is only 80 years old, bronze experts from Modern Art Foundry in New York recently rejuvenated his metal skin; and foundry owner Robert Spring suggested that Chiurazzi, which is still in business, should make another copy for the city to have downtown. Of course, someone would need to come up with $250,000 first.

From the pages of Sarasota-Manatee Business

From the September issue of Sarasota/Manatee BUSINESS:

Where's Patrick Kelly?

After making a very splashy $60-million purchase of The Quay last winter, Irish developer Patrick Kelly headed back to Dublin, but his team forged ahead, meeting with Sarasota officials and drawing up new plans. The latest master plan is a downscaled proposal from five condo towers of 24 stories each to three towers, each 18 stories. He's also proposing 75,000 square feet of upscale retail, and is trying to purchase properties on the east and west sides of U.S. 41 to build a retail district that would be a "fabulous" entrance to downtown, according to Sarasota planning director Jane Robinson.

Cuban Connection

Port Manatee is the closest Gulf seaport to Havana, and port officials are working feverishly to ship goods to and from Cuba once the U.S. trade embargo is dropped, as anticipated, in 2005. They've traveled to Cuba to meet with government importing officials and have been discreetly discussing trading opportunities with potential U.S. exporters. "Cuban officials have told me that when trade opens up with the U.S., they're not going to be looking through the yellow pages to decide what ports to use, what shippers to contract with, what businesses to contact," says Stanley Riggs, who is building a 400,000-square-foot warehouse on 21 acres adjacent to Port Manatee to take advantage of the trade. "If you want to do business with Cuba, you've got to start forming those relationships now."

Signs of Life

Englewood's Dearborn Street commercial district is heating up. Realtor Jack McCarthy of Coldwell Banker Sunstar Realty says when he started working here 17 years ago Dearborn Street was lined with service stations and car repair shops. Now, with the help of the Englewood Community Redevelopment Agency, it's home to antique shops, fine art galleries, a coffeehouse and upscale studios.

For more Sarasota/Manatee BUSINESS news, visit our Web site at



From his downtown condo, Ray Collins covers Sarasota for FOX TV.

Fox TV's Ray Collins covers Sarasota from his downtown condo.

Ray Collins likes finding out what makes people tick. "I'm curious by nature," says FOX 13 News' freshest face.

Collins is the first FOX reporter in more than 10 years to exclusively cover the Sarasota area. From his downtown condo, he operates a mini-newsroom equipped with three phone lines, two computers, fax machine, scanner, printer and a television. "I have a short commute, though," he jokes. "And there's no dress code in this bureau."

The single, 41-year-old has anchored the news in Richmond, Va., Tampa and Fort Myers, winning the Associated Press award for reporting in 1993. But he really hit the big-time in March, when his story about an alligator biting a hole in a Bradenton woman's car aired nationwide on the Fox network.

Describe your average work day. I'm always on the job. If I see a lot of police cars and an officer directing traffic, I'd be remiss not to pull over and find out what's going on, so I keep extra shirts, ties and sportcoats in my car.

What do you like most about journalism? Doing upbeat stories about unsung heroes. I also enjoy helping charities any way I can.

Your least favorite? Some stories come together logistically easier than others. Driving from one end of the county to the other to track down a five-second soundbite can get old.

Any ambitions for national coverage? Not really. I'm working with one of the greatest stations in the country in my absolute favorite part of the world. Not a bad deal.

-Pat Haire

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