Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tampa Theatre - Part 2

A long time crowd pleaser is the Wurlitzer, and the talented organist known as “the Queen of the Soaps”. Rosa Rio provided accompaniments for soap operas prior to entertaining the people of Tampa. After studying piano at Oberlin College and organ at the Eastman School of Music, she began a career as a silent movie accompanist. After “talkies” began, her career turned to radio dramas, including “The Shadow” with Orson Welles. In addition to numerous soap operas, she played piano for Mary Martin while auditioning in Cole Porter’s apartment in the Waldorf Astoria.

Her love of music and the Tampa Theatre was evident in the fact that she continued to play the Mighty Wurlitzer, and at the age of 105 years old, provided accompaniment to Buster Keaton’s silent film “One Wurlitzer, and at the age of 105 years old, provided accompaniment to Buster Keaton’s silent film “One Week”. Rosa Rio passed away at the age of 107, but her music will live on. For a sample of her talent, watch this video from 2005, She was 102 at the time.

The Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, is a Tampa City Landmark, and is a member of the League of Historic American Theatres. Managed by the non-profit Tampa Theatre Foundation, it is used for a variety of events including weddings, business meetings, classic movies, first run films, film festivals, concerts, field trips, summer camp programs, tours and fundraising galas.

Tampa Theatre offers a summer camp program, in collaboration with The Florida Center for Instructional Technology at the USF College of Education. Students from 3rd to 12th grade are invited to participate in the one-week camp program. They will learn about scriptwriting, lighting, sound, filming and editing the work. Each group will create a 3-5 minute live action or stop motion animation film that will be shown to students and their parents at the end of the week. The filmmakers can go on stage to take their bows and pose for pictures. It’s a fun-filled learning experience. Information on the 2013 summer camp program will be posted on the website in February.

One of the more popular events is Oscar Night America. The event will be held Sunday, February 24, 2013. Visitors ride in a limousine (that is parked around the corner) and get to walk the red carpet while the paparazzi line the entrance. The Live Telecast of the Academy Awards begins at 8:00. 

A free preview screening of the season premiere of “Downton Abbey,” the popular PBS series, will be held on January 3 and an acoustic evening with Matisyahu on February 23, 2013. The Tampa Theatre is located at 711 N. Franklin Street, in Tampa. For more information about upcoming events, call 813-274-8981 or 813-274-8286 or go to

There have been so many events that have taken place over the years at the Tampa Theatre, from first dates to marriage proposals. Take the time to read some of the stories shared on the website, under Tampa Theatre Stories Project. We need to keep this piece of history alive, so that it can stay in the hearts and minds of future generations, too. When you are looking for something fun to do with your friends, get your glad rags on and head to the Tampa Theatre. It’s the bees knees!

(Part 2 of 2)

*Previously published in LOLANews

Friday, May 31, 2013

Tampa Theatre - Part 1

The 1920’s was a time when cars had cool names like the Ajax Nash, Flint and Rickenbacker. Styles were changing. Dresses became a little shorter and more fun with lighter, pastel shades. Bobbed hairstyles and chic hats completed the look. Men suits were less tailored with baggy pants and oxford saddle shoes. This new, fun-loving era produced a population of movie goers. Tampa was a growing community and needed a place for people to go when they felt like putting on the Ritz and getting dolled up.  

In 1926, the place for both young and old, the Tampa Theatre, was built. John Eberson, a well-known theatre architect, envisioned an opulent Mediterranean style courtyard. Visitors could sit on red velvet seats in anticipation of the night to come. The pipes would bellow as the Wurlitzer organ rose from below the stage. Movie goers were entertained from the moment they walked through the door.

On October 15, 1926, movie goers anxiously waited in line to be one of the first to enter to the new building. The silent film shown at the Tampa Theatre on Opening Night was “The Ace of Cads”, starring Adolphe Menjou, the well-dressed lead actor with a waxed black moustache. His co-star was Alice Joyce. The cost was a mere 10 cents to be transported to another time and place.

As you enter the building, there is such a sense of elegance. Flowers and gargoyles surround you, Colorful tile covers the floors and twinkling stars blanket the ceiling. The earlier movie goers must have felt like royalty as they were escorted by the uniformed ushers. If people had to leave before the movie ended, the ushers would communicate with other ushers by using the brass intercom to summon the next group. The group would then stay through the beginning of the movie to the point where they entered. It was a continuous revolving door.

Over the next several decades, numerous popular movies premiered including 42nd Street (1933) with Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers; Shirley Temple’s “The Littlest Rebel” (1936); Holiday Inn (1942) with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, Jerry Lewis in “Rock-a-Bye Baby” (1958) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. More recently, the theatre was the Tampa premiere for both “The King’s Speech” (2010) and The Artist” (2011), and opened the Tampa exclusive for “Anna Karenina” this past November.

In addition to movies, the theatre has hosted a variety of entertainment. Annie Lennox, Harry Connick, Jr. Ray Charles, and Joan Baez are some of the performers to grace the stage. Political leaders (George Bush, Bob Dole, Jessie Jackson) and comedians (Roseanne Barr, Sinbad, Carrot Top) have all drawn crowds to the Tampa Theatre.

(Part 1 of 2)
*Previously published in LOLANews

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Giraffe Ranch - Dade City - Part 3

Camels are domesticated, which means they have been bred in captivity for over 500 years.  Long ago, it was thought that the hump stored water, but in fact it stores fat.  Camels have cushpads on their chest, like a step stool.  So when they lay down, it keeps them slightly elevated so they get airflow to cool off.

“There are 30 different species of hoof stock that may be extinct in our lifetime,”  said Sheppa.
 “When animals are put in the right environment and raised properly, they are brought into the future more substantially.”  As members of Zoological Association of America (ZAA), they get their animals from other members, through trade or purchase.
Visitors can tour the ranch in safari-type vehicles with stadium seating.  The jeep like trucks with covered awnings hold 20 people and allow for up close and personal encounters with the animals.  For the more authentic safari feel, guests can tour the ranch on camel back.  The 60-90 minute tour is led by two experienced guides and the cost is $150 per person, for this (possibly) once in a lifetime adventure.  The camel tour is offered for children 3 years and older, and 3-5 year olds must ride with an adult.

For an additional $20 per person, visitors get the opportunity to feed Ring-tailed lemurs.  The gentle creatures don’t like to be pet, but they will hold your hand while you feed them grapes to munch on. Salisbury relayed the first time he held a guerilla’s hand, in 1981.  “The experience is burned into my brain.  It is such an emotional experience to holds hands with a primate,” said Salisbury.

As you take the tour, you will be educated and entertained by the stories the knowledgeable tour guides will share.  We have always heard that elephants never forget, well neither do warthogs.  Fred and Ethel have a nice shady area they share with their baby.  While the new pen was being built, they were staying in a barn.  A dog named Pip liked to bark at Ethel, to get her to play, but she wanted no part of it.  One night it was getting a little cool, so they added more hay to Ethel’s bed to keep her warm.  The ingenious wart hog piled up the hay high enough so that she could escape.  With her newly found freedom, she went up to the house and checked each door until she found one she could nudge open.  Salisbury heard a tussle in the kitchen and rushed in to find Ethel giving the dog a piece of her mind!  So, the lesson of the day – don’t ever get a warthog mad at you, they will remember, and they will find you!

A good sign of a successful ranch are the number of babies born.  The ranch has had many babies over the years.  A baby zebra was born in August.  When the baby was born the zebras forced the older sibling out of the herd.  “It’s like sending them off to college,” said Alex, Salisbury’s son and a tour guide on the ranch.  Zebras run in the large open grassy area and enjoy cooling off in the shade of the many oak trees.

Axis deeer, blackbuck antelope, pygmy hippopotamus, Indian rhinoceros, and many more animals call Giraffe Ranch their home.  Exotic animals are not the only species, on this working ranch.  Geese, hens, and other domestic fowl have their place on the ranch.  The hens produce free range eggs, up to six dozen per day.  They sell the eggs to help support the ranch.

Nature lovers and horticulturists will enjoy seeing the 450 year old live oak tree that lives on the ranch.  A 100 year old Orchid is growing high in a tree, but it is protected by a cage to ensure it isn’t dessert for the wandering Giraffes.  Our tour guide informed us that a wilted Resurrection Fern will come to life when sprayed with water. 

The wetlands serve as a native wildlife preserve, where 200 birds come to roost at night in the shallow water.  This is a way to protect themselves from predators.  If a bobcat tries to attack, the splash of the water will awaken the sleeping birds and give them the opportunity to escape.

Reservations are required, with tours at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm.  The cost to enjoy a day on the ranch is $59.99 for adults (12 & up); $49.99 for children (ages 2-11), $54.99 for seniors (65 & up) with discounts available for groups.  Be sure to wear close toed shoes, and a hat, sunscreen and long pants are recommended. The cost is comparable to what you pay at other animal parks in the area, but you don’t have to endure long lines and crowds.
It is amazing to discover how we are connected with the animals on the ranch.  From the Giraffe that shares the same number of vertebrae that humans do, and the horns of the rhinocerous that are made of keratin (like our skin and nails) to the gentle way Lemurs and monkeys like to hold your hand.  We are put on this earth to take care of it and other living creatures, and places like Giraffe Ranch are a great reminder of this important purpose.

(Part 3 of 3)

*Previously published in LOLANews