Exercise buffs follow the power of Reggie Walden.
Reggie Walden's resume reads like a Dalai Lama in training: teacher, social worker, international karate competitor. The 11th of 13 children, Walden earned a degree in criminal science, but balked at police work when his mother feared for his safety. Instead, the 37-year-old New York native channeled his energies into a career in martial arts fitness.
Today, as many as 100 people squeeze into his aerobics classes at the Evalyn Sadlier Jones YMCA to hear him exhort them to their own personal greatness. So ardent is his following that Y officials are planning a new facility to accommodate the throngs. What is the secret of your popularity? I had a rough childhood, so I made a vow to make a difference in kids' lives. My father died very early, and my mother was strict, but loving. So I'm driven. You have to see a class to believe it, to get the full "Reggie effect." How long have you studied martial arts? Since I was eight. It was my mother's idea. She could see that I was quiet and shy, and it helped build my confidence. Doesn't it require a lot of physical strength? Anyone can do martial arts, no matter what age. The important thing is to get up off that couch and make the commitment. How is all this attention affecting you? It's been overwhelming. The members are doing all the work. I just try to stay humble and focused. Just do what God blessed you to do and everything will fall into place.-Pat Haire
After a long career on both the news and business sides of commercial television, Dick Lobo "retired" to Sarasota, and with his wife, Caren, opened Sarasota News & Books, a hugely successful independent bookstore/coffee shop at Main and Palm. But 18 months ago "the fire bell rang," and Lobo was back in show business as CEO of WEDU Channel 3, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year.
Q: How did your mindset have to change going from commercial to public television?
A: Toward the end of my tenure in commercial television I wasn't happy defending what we had on the air. I can truly defend everything we put on public television. Public television needs support and nurturing. It is so important given what's on the other 200 channels. We're still commercial-free and we provide children with the best teaching tool around.
Q: Is Sarasota a good public television market?
A: It's excellent. Of the 16 counties served, the highest percentage of viewers is in Sarasota County. Not only that, the highest percentage of gifts comes from Sarasota County. We have three prominent Sarasotans, Elaine Keating, Tana Sandefur and Vern Buchanan, on our board. We've been doing a great deal of local programming for the Sarasota area and recently received two generous gifts, one from the Selby Foundation and one from the Community Foundation, for Sarasota-based program production. So actually, it's a critical market for us.
Q: What was your biggest surprise opening Sarasota News & Books?
A: The amount of support from the community, in terms of sales, attending our events and buying merchandise which sometimes isn't as inexpensive as at our competition.
Q: With the big growth in residential coming downtown, how do you see its future?
A: We're ecstatic, What's happening right now is why my wife, Caren, and I invested so much of our time and money in that corner. We want downtown Sarasota to achieve critical mass, and it can only do that by bringing in residents of all kinds.
Q: And finally, what do you and Caren watch late at night with a bowl of popcorn?
A: What we're both watching is our weight, so popcorn is out. Mainly it's a power struggle over the remote control, as we're both addicted channel surfers. But we both love public television, so most of the time we land on WEDU. Because of my news background and state of mind, we watch a great deal of news and public affairs. We love Tom Brokaw and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer; and we're both hooked on West Wing.-Bob Ardren
Now Hear This
"I love the smell of hot asphalt in the morning."
Walter Kulash, Orlando traffic engineer consulting on Sarasota's cultural district makeover.
Question: Now that downtown has an upscale grocery and a lot of residential coming and it appears a conference center is finally in the cards--what does this town need next?
Michael McNees, city manager: The successful implementation of the Newtown Plan. That issue is high on the radar screen these days.
Arland Christ-Janer, former president of both New College of Florida and the Ringling School of Art and Design: A vision. We haven't created one, and so sometimes we feel as though we're being nibbled to death tackling issues one by one. We have to decide what Sarasota-everyone, including minorities-really wants and what we are really ready to pay for, because ultimately we always have to pay the price of our desires.
Mayor Lou Ann Palmer: Downtown Sarasota needs entertainment venues and residents-the symmetry of all kinds of people living together and acting like a pebble in a pond, rippling from Five Points through the entire community.
Journalist and former city commissioner Jack Gurney: Buses-either electric or hybrid-like the ones so successful in Santa Barbara. That's an upscale town like Sarasota, but there everyone parks their cars downtown and rides the clean, comfortable, quiet, convenient buses-not smelly, noisy ones like we've got.
Commercial real estate broker Bob Richardson: We need one of two things, and probably both. One is the enhancement of the bayfront cultural district, and the other is finding the right balance. We've got to balance the right amount of residential, of retail and of offices. While that balance is an art, there should be some science to it, too, and we need to find that.-Bob Ardren
"A square meal in the half round," is the motto of 4 & 20 Pasty Company, a brand-new bakery at 5638 Swift Road (just north of Stickney Point). Actually, it's not just "a square meal," it's an entire menu of them.
Pasty (pronounced pass-tee) is a sandwich with a history that goes back to the days of King Arthur. You might call it a potpie without the pot, but with a coat on. Traditionally from Cornwall, pasties came to this country when tin miners of that area moved here to work in the copper mines of Michigan and Wisconsin.
And now pasties are in Sarasota, offered in traditional form with beef, onions, potatoes, turnip and a side of gravy or nine other styles. You can have chicken tikka in a creamy Indian marsala sauce, Philly steak, tuna melt, Tuscan vegetable, or Athena with creamy spinach, onions, feta and Parmesan, among others. For dessert, try a peaches and apricot pasty or one stuffed with Aunt Betty's apple filling.
Strictly take-out and meant to be eaten on the run, at a picnic or back home around the kitchen table, pasties are a great addition to Sarasota's hand-to-mouth cuisine. Here's betting you find them popping up all over town.-Bob Ardren
SUGAR TROUT TIME
There's a funny idea in Sarasota that you need a boat to catch fish, and it's just not true. For example, January and February are the months when sugar trout, beloved by all but especially, it seems, in the Amish community, traditionally migrate through.
Sugar trout, sometimes called silver perch, are seldom over seven or eight inches long, but make up for that by being feisty, especially tasty and plentiful-when they show up. Dennis Hart of Hart's Landing recalls years when everyone bundled up, fished off a bridge somewhere in town and went home with a bucket full of the little critters that always reminded those of us from the Great Lakes area of big beautiful smelt.
This is the month to keep your ears open for news of sugar trout passing through. And if you hear, join the community of bridge, seawall and wading anglers-those "small" folks who don't have the funds or perhaps just the inclination to own boats-for this tasty annual Sarasota tradition.-Bob Ardren
JEANETTE-I'VE E-MAILED YOU A PIC-KAY
For Boston Symphony Orchestra harpist Ann Hobson Pilot, a part-time Sarasota resident, playing for film scores isn't exactly new. The BSO, under the direction of prolific composer/conductor John Williams, has performed the score for the movies Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, among others.
But Hobson Pilot's latest gig, working with director-musician Clint Eastwood on the highly acclaimed movie Mystic River, was a bit of a departure. "Mystic River doesn't use the full orchestration that most of our work with John Williams does," explains the harpist, a 35-year BSO veteran who also guested at the Sarasota Music Festival last year. "Clint Eastwood basically sketched or drew out the themes he wanted, chiefly for the three main characters, and then someone else did the orchestration. But he was very hands-on; he was in the recording studio for the two days we worked and he made it a point to talk to the players. He also got on the podium at one point and conducted a downbeat for a photo op."
When not in the studio, Hobson Pilot keeps a full schedule performing with the BSO and the Pops, playing each summer at the Tanglewood Music Festival, and making solo appearances, as she will with the Boston Classical Orchestra this month. Among her favorite musical experiences, though, was a journey to Africa, taped for PBS a few years ago, which gave her the opportunity to make music with the Bushmen of the Kalahari.
Hobson Pilot and her husband, a retired musician and educator, chose The Oaks as their winter getaway two years ago, drawn here by the beaches and the cultural life. "The way I figure, after I retire I won't just be lying about in the sun," she says. "I can go to the symphony, the opera, and maybe still perform sometimes."-Kay Kipling
Consultant Mark Ormond looks for art at the Women's Exchange.
The Women's Exchange in downtown Sarasota is the town's biggest and most popular consignment store, beloved by shoppers of all income levels for its enormous selection of items from fine jewelry to furniture. But art expert Mark Ormond says you have to look carefully-and often-to find exceptional artworks there. He combed the entire store before deciding upon "a charming" watercolor of a winter farm by Gladys Taft. "This is a sincere work by an artist with some skill," he says. "The snow sliding of the roofs of the red barns is particularly convincing." And best of all, because the work had been at the store for over a month, it was marked down from $56 to $16.25.
(1) Visit often (2) Buy only what you like and can live with. (3) Art should be original, meaning that there is a signature done by hand. (4) Buy only what is in very good or excellent condition. The watercolor I chose needs a new mat ($5-10) and the frame could be repaired with a little gold paint. (5) Check the front and back of the work for brown spots (foxing) or mold, which I saw on many prints. It's expensive to have a piece cleaned by an expert conservator. (6) If in doubt, do your research-go to the library, use the Internet or consult an expert.
Mark Ormond is a writer, lecturer, art historian and art consultant based in Sarasota. He can be reached at Markormond@aol.com.
Have you heard the one about Marvin Kaplan and the Pope?
So Ice-T, Sarasota businessman Marvin Kaplan and the Pope walk into a bar. Okay, there is no bar. But it's no joke, either. Kaplan and his partners bought the rights from the Vatican to every prayer the pontiff has written, then last year struck a seven-book deal with Simon & Schuster for The Private Prayer Books of Pope John Paul II. Now they're negotiating with actor/rap star Ice-T on an urban streetwear line that will use the Pope's words as graphic decoration, and with Hallmark on a line of greeting cards.
Pope John Paul II is the most traveled pope in history, and in every country he visited in the past 22 years, he said a special prayer. Kaplan and his partners sold the rights to those prayers to the New York publishing house for "not quite $1 million." The first three compilations-Words of Inspiration, The Rosary Hour and Invitation to Prayers-were published in 2002.
Kaplan, who owns diverse businesses-an auto dealership, gas stations, car washes, land development, a chain of Dunkin Donut stores-says simply that "it was an interesting business deal" that brought him to the Vatican and His Holiness' words.
He and one of his partners teamed with Britney Spears, Celine Dion, James Earl Jones, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, and 20 other celebrities in 2000 to record many of the pontiff's prayers. A Spanish version, taped at the same time, has already been released; Kaplan plans to release the English version by the end of 2003. He also holds the rights to staging a special concert in the Vatican.
As for Ice-T and his IceWear clothing line, "it's what the Pope wanted," says Kaplan, "his words to be used by everyone, especially young people."
Meanwhile, the first three books, which have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Polish and Portuguese and into audio-cassettes and CDs, have sold more than 300,000 copies in just a year. Books four and five come out in early 2004; books six and seven this June.
Kaplan and his partners, who get a percentage of every sale, are praying the series sells as well as Pope John Paul II's 1994 memoirs. Six million copies were snapped up in its first year of publication.