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subfield code a L34-000112 USFLDC DOI0 245 Carroll P. West oral history interviewh [electronic resource] /c interviewed by Cyrana Brooks Wyker.500 Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.Transcription and timecoding of this interview is underway and will be added when complete. At that time the audio link will be replaced with the OHPi player link (player supporting syncronized audio and full-text transcription).7 655 Oral history.localOnline audio.local710 University of South Florida.b Library.Special & Digital Collections.Oral History Program.1 773 t LGBT Oral History Project4 856 u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?l34.11
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Cyrana B. Wyker: This is Cyrana Wyker. I am here with Carrie West and Mark Bias. Is that correct? At MC Film Fest store in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida. This interview is part of the Tampa GLBT Oral History Project under my direction. Today is November 7, 2013. Do I have your permission to record this interview?
Carrie P. West: Yes.
Mark Bias: Yes.
CBW: So let us just start at the beginning. Where were you born and raised?
CPW: I was born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. And pretty much my life with a large family I had, political family. My mom was a housewife but also she was on the state board of education for the state of Wisconsin. She was on the state board. My dad had a farm. He worked in a diary business with his brothers and also was secretary for congressman Dave Obey.
CBW: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
CPW: I have five sisters and one brother.
CBW: Oh. Wow.
CPW: Big family.
CBW: So what were your childhood years like?
CPW: Very positive. Polish area, very heavily polish, an area of central Wisconsin. Very much, free-for-all, activities, working events, went to my grandfathers, my grandparents down in Nebraska. That is where they were from. He was a minister. On my moms side. Very family, pretty much encompassed by family all around the whole area up there.
CBW: What year were you born?
CBW: 52, okay. So what about junior high, high school years?
CPW: Pretty much was in sports. A lot of activities. Political activities. I was very much involved at an early age with politics.
CBW: What kind of political activities?
CPW: I remember my first time my dad was working on a lot of campaigns. He was working with one of the guys that was running for congress. He was a veteran of the Korean War. Lost both arms. So he had mechanical arms. So he needed help posting things out there, meeting people, so I went along with him. My dad said, You want to go along? You know, would you do that? Go out there and help him along, whatever he might need and assist? And so I did.
CBW: Oh neat. What kind of sports did you play?
CPW: I did football. I did softball. And baseball.
CBW: Oh wow. Did you go on to college or trade school or anything else?
CPW: Yeah. I was on the yearbook. I wrote a column for the high school newspaper and then also worked the yearbook. Then I went on from there I started college. And then I went from thereit was not really my take. I went right into the military after that.
CBW: Oh wow. Okay. What branch of the military?
CPW: Air Force. K-9 specialty unit.
CPW: That was the drug dog. There was either security dog, ammunition dog, or drug dog. And I took drug dog.
CBW: Wow. What made you decide to go into the military?
CPW: I dont know, I was justA lot of things that I liked about the military. I went up there and was accepted for the Air Force Academy by Congressman Obey but I had glasses. I was rejected, and he wanted to know if I wanted to go to West Point. And so, that was too engineer-y for me and I am not engineer inclined.
More artsy, public speaking, that area. So, that was right after high school. So I went right after I left college and went to college. It was not for me so that is when I went to the military.
CBW: How long did you serve for?
CPW: Four years.
CBW: What was your experience like in the military?
CPW: Very positive. I mean I went from one area to working the border, from Mexico, United States and Texas, going there and then also went up to North Dakota at Minot on temporary duty assignment to Vergina, Canada and stationed up there. Also over at the air force base over in Montana in Great Falls. So yeah, it was fun. And I did a lot of specialty especially with the dog.
Went out and forbecause they did not like a lot of times when you go in the military on large bases they want to go through there and they want a new person coming through when they do a sweep especially if they know that there is a lot of drug activity going on in the military. And that was mid-70s. And we did find a lot.
CBW: Wow. So after Vietnam?
CPW: Yeah. That was after Vietnam. Then my orders to Portugal got canceled because of the communist uprising. So that is where I was going to go and then so I got temporary duty assignments for different locations, different bases. That was it. Finished it up and got out. I went with one of a friendshis dad owned a boat company and so he wanted me to work for the boat company right afterwards. I kind of did that.
CBW: What did you do for the boat company?
CPW: Sales representative.
CPW: Up there for, ah, the company is out of Indiana. And I was in charge of the Dakotas. North Dakota, South Dakota, part of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: Yeah, so that was good.
CBW: So what was your social life like? You would have beenwhat twenty, in your twenties?
CPW: Yep. Oh, in the Dakotas there isnt much up there (both laugh). And so, I was going to school then too, right there. Took a break and went back to college in North Dakota. But it was not very much but then that is why I wanted to get back to a bigger city area. So I relocated to Minneapolis and that is where I met Mark.
CBW: What did you study in school the second time?
CPW: Communications, TV performance, television communications, communications stuff, public administration, and political science. So I actually have a degree, which I got down here at University South Florida, and my B.A. is going in the communications, TV communications, and my B.S. was in political science. Then my MBA is going into public administration.
CBW: And you two met in Minneapolis?
CBW: What year?
CBW: Can you tell me a little bit abouthow did you meet?
CPW: I had a boyfriend and he met up with Mark. Mark had a restaurant and he said, You have to meet this crazy person. So then we went down there and I met up with him. And thenso that is what happened there.
CPW: So, it was kind of crazy.
CBW: So what kind of restaurant did Mark own?
CPW: Ah, he had a deli.
CPW: So, right there in the middle of the gay district in Minneapolis.
CBW: Ive never been to Minneapolis. What was the gay district like in Minneapolis?
CPW: The gay district had adult theatres, upscale stores, then they had around three gay bars almost right in a row. They had a lot of bath clubs that were there in the area. Little restaurants but it was really kind of an eclectic mix. Brand new shopping centers and old buildings that were restored areas and things like that. That is what I would say it was.
CBW: Right. How long did you stay in Minneapolis?
CPW: I was there for two years.
CPW: Two years in Minneapolis and then I got transferred down to Indiana, back to the home front, and running the operation down there.
CBW: And did you both move together from Minneapolis to Indiana?
CPW: Nope, nope. Mark stayed in Minneapolis, and I went there. I went to the new location down there in Elkhart, Indiana with the boat company. I ran the operations there. And that was in the very economic time of the recession. The inflation rates were going soo high thatI mean, they were changing weekly. And so businesses were closing down in the fall, and this is winter time.
And I was picking them up, all the people that I knew were really good workers. And I just said, Lets go ahead and make the company really grow. And I think we could quadruple our business. And then they came in one day, or the bank did, and said, Guess what? We are shutting down. I took the keys to my car, taken away and that was it.
Went back, so I went back to Wisconsin, and then I went back up to Minneapolis and saw Mark. So, and then I got another job offer. And I did at the timethat would have been the 1980sand it was for Midas Corporation in the recreational division. And the recreational division was kind of interesting, but I didnt want to workit was out in California. I would have been the sales manager and running operations out there. And I didnt really like going to California. So that was that.
CBW: Did you twoyou kept in touch while you were in Wisconsin and Indiana?
CPW: Yes, in Indiana and Minnesota, yes. It was interesting. He came down one day. I was at work and all of a sudden he came in. I was surprised. He sat in the office and said, Oh, I was just passing through. I said, How did you get here? So, he got there by bus. He took the bus. So that was kind of crazy.
CBW: Aw, so when did you end up moving to Tampa?
CPW: Then Iwhen I had decided, and my dad thought that would be good, and I was really uncomfortable. I said, I dont know what is going to happen in the country. Why dont I finish up and really get my degrees. My sister lived down here in Satellite Beach. I wanted to go someplace.
My dad when he was younger, he went through in a hat with my grandpa, and he didnt know where he wanted to go in life so he put a couple of cities in the hat. He drew out of a hat, drew the city and went out to L.A. So that is what he did. So he said he thought I would like L.A. real well, and California was just likeI dont know exactly. I didnt want to go to a big college and I didnt want go.
My sister went out there. Two sisters went there. One to Santa Cruz and Stanford, and I really didnt care too much about it. So I just went through there, and so I put in a couple names. So he said, Well, put L.A. in. So I did for my dad. I put Atlanta and Miami. And I thought, Well that would be a couple of areas I know out there. And then I put in thisTampa Bay had a Buccaneer team. So I figured, Oh Tampa Bay. Knew nothing about Tampa at all.
CBW: Only the Bucs, huh?
CPW: That is the only thing I really realized. So I put that in the hat and pulled it out. In fact, actually I was taking the job offer. So Mark got a U-haul truck. We were going to move together out to California. And he had to change it. I told him, Well, I am not going out to California, Sacramento. I am going to move down to Tampa, Florida.
CBW: And that is how you both ended up here?
CPW: Yeah, that is exactly. We didnt know a person here. Not one person. Drove down a U-Haul truck. Went over and I drove down. We went to my sisters over there and drove over here. Then we looked for apartments. Very interesting because this is an interesting point. It was 1980. So I thought well, there is a university here. There is the University of Tampa and there is also the University of South Florida.
So, I kind of looked out there and it was real inexpensive to come to the University of South Florida. It was really cheap. Sun Tan U they called us. Oh wow, okay, that is what I want. So we were looking around the college and that area up there. We went to one place and, you know, we looked at it, apartment. That was nice.
It was really low student housing. That is what it was. So then we went on to another place and asked for an application for a one or two bedroom. In fact, the corporation up there, the apartment complex, is still there. They said, We dont rent to homosexuals.
CBW: This is Temple Terrace area.
CPW: This is the university area.
CBW: In the 1980s.
CPW: I said, Who said we are homosexuals? It was very, very weird that someone would evenbecause we came from Minneapolis, real liberal, liberal area.
CPW: So if you have someone going through there and they tell you and you dont say nothing about it. And I thought, My god, how many college kids are here? Who cares? But that was what she said. We went back and took the other apartment. You know. It was walking distance, right across the street from the university. So I went there and we took that one instead. But that was first discrimination we really, really had down here.
CPW: Oh, there was a lot of it.
CBW: Was it your first experience with discrimination ever?
CPW: No. There is always discrimination. There was always people in the streets and in the military and everything like that. Not discriminating against me but as a whole.
CPW: anybody that would be anything in a challenging area. So, and so that was kind ofI went to school at USF and graduated out of there. And Mark got a job right next door at University Square Mall. He got a with a photo studio over there, and I went to college and I worked at the VA hospital. So, they put me in and so I worked at the VA pharmacy for three years.
CBW: And this was all out in Temple Terrace?
CPW: That was all out in that area.
CBW: So what wasyou said you hadnt heard anything about Tampa except for the Bucs. What was your impression of Tampa when you first moved here?
CPW: Oh, I had been down to Florida before but I had never over on this side. It was very laid back, water. You know I didnt want snow and cold anymore. I had plenty of that and that was all I seemed to see was snow and cold. And its really cold up there. And up north in the Dakotas and up in Saskatchewan. So I said, No. In Montana, those three areas up there are just too cold for me. I just wanted someplace different. Start a newnot start my life, go someplace and do it.
CBW: Was there a big gay community here in the 1980s?
CPW: Underlining a gay community, there was a lot. The first gay bar So when we got down here we moved in. And then we said, Lets go check out some of the gay bars that are down here that we had the listings for. And the first place we went to a guy was shooting up heroine. Well it was cocaine or heroine. It was heroine, I think, in the bar. Im going, Oh. And it was rough as hell.
It was called the KiKiKi 2. It was right downtown. So then we kind of went to talk to the bartender a little bit. Is this the only gay bar? He said, Well, there is another one a block down. That was called the Ohio Bar. So we walked down to that one. That was no better. That was a hustler bar. And, you know, they were shooting pool. It was extremely old men and young hustlers.
CBW: And this was in downtown Tampa.
CPW: That is downtown Tampa. Yeah.
CBW: Oh wow, okay.
CPW: So we had to work and redefine what we wanted to do. Mark hated it right away. He said, Oh my god, there isnt anything down here in culture. So, then we checked out a couple of other places that were down here, the others that were down here that we went to. Were meeting up with friends and things like that.
We met up with a lot of guys that worked withand Mark worked also part-time for a restaurant. And they said, Oh girl, you need to go down togo see this. El Goya, that is the place. That and Renes. So then we went down. El Goya was reallyEl Goya was right here where Czar was. I dont know if you know where that was or not. And then it turned into Tracks.
It was twenty-five cent drinks. You know, for college kids you cant go wrong. You know, so that was very fun. And then right next door to Renes, which was two blocks away, was another one called Old Plantation. So thats an interesting place. So friends came down from Minnesota. We went out, and went to the Old Plantation, a good experience out there. We had just moved down here around two months. So we went out.
We parked on the street there, went on in to go to the bar. It was kind of real nice. It was outside bar, inside bar, right on Kennedy Blvd. Both were. And we went back to the car, and all of a sudden I got in the back seat. He had a new car, one of those Pontiac with the T-tops. So I got in the back seat and Mark was getting in the front.
And I didnt know of anything really going on and all of a sudden there is a guy who was talking to him outside. And they were a little bit noisy. What is going on? I didnt even know anything. They were trying to rob Mark. He had a shot gun to rob Mark and our friend Steve.
So Mark just told Steve to get in the car, and Marks line was, You dont rob a faggot coming out of a bar, you rob a faggot going into a bar. You dont have any fucking money left. He told him, Get on the ground. Get on the ground. Mark told him, Fuck off. So then he jumped on the car right on the windshield and he put the gun right to the windshield.
And Mark just told Steve, Put it in reverse. Knock him backwards and then go forward and kill the son-of-a-bitch. And, so anyway. He tried to, and Stevehe stuttered a lot. Anyway, everyone was just shaking, you know. And all of a sudden he started putting it in gear and the guy was screaming, you know, he wanted money. All of a sudden he just blew the windshield out. Shot right in the car.
CBW: Oh my gosh, was anybody hurt?
CPW: No we were all full of glass. Then we walked over there to the bar. And uniquely that was the start of an organization called the Bay Area Rights Council. Because of what happened there we told a lot of the people, the security, and everything there. The police all came and stuff like that.
They never did catch the guy who was there. But you know the place out there. It was just kind of ironic in the story coming up. Bay Area Rights Council was kind of the first kick off in Tampa against any thing gays and lesbians. They wanted all the bar owners to get involved and people to get involved. Which turned into Human Rights Task Force, which turned into Equality Florida. Okay?
CPW: That is. So that really the starting point was what happened in the incident between what happened with the three of us.
CPW: So, yeah.
CBW: So were the police helpful? Or were they hostile?
CPW: You know. I would say there were indifferent. Because when you left the bar at Old Plantation or if you left Renesthey are both on Kennedy Blvd. Now its a radiation therapy center. When you left there the police pulled you over all the time leaving the gay bar. They still did raids back then.
You have realize this is kind of still an era of coming out but still facingthis is still right at the ten-year mark of Stonewall. But still had a lot of things going on. Nothing was organized. It was just people that tired to organize butthere was a lot of good leaders at that time. We were not at that time; we were trying to finish up schooling.
CBW: So what was the surrounding area like on Kennedy?
CPW: Very, very poor.
CPW: In fact, it was right at the beginning of Hyde Park, and Hyde Park was not very pretty. It was just old houses. Just a lot of vagrancies and rentals and nothing was really being taken care of there. It was really justits unbelievable to see and then all of a sudden it started changing. But at that time was still old boarding houses, and rentals, and run down buildings, and stuff like that.
So, and that is the way Kennedy was. Kennedy was just kind of nothing there. They still had porno shops on the avenue. Little areas and that kind of they werent pawnshops. They were likeWell they were pawnshops. Different things, you know, not of a good city level.
CPW: It was just basically like you knew you were in the hood. Right there in that area. It was a mixture of everyone scrambling around. Prostitution was at an all time high. You know, that and drug dealing was right there. Right on Kennedy Blvd. And they didnt do anything about it. The leaders, the council didnt do anything. The police did very little, except they would you up all the time just for driving out of the gay bars. All that time. That was just harassment. Total harassment.
CBW: Right. Was this female and male prostitution?
CPW: Mostly in that area it was male prostitution.
CBW: Oh, okay.
CPW: Male prostitution on Kennedy Blvd. Female prostitution on Nebraska Ave.
CBW: Oh, gotcha. Okay. So the Old Plantation, what was that like in the inside?
CPW: It was neat.
CBW: What kind of atmosphere?
CPW: Um, this was interesting. The bars that were owned in Tampa were owned by mafia. Okay, different families. The onefor example, one was owned Renes and KiKiKi were owned by the family down in Miami. The bar unit which was in Old Plantation and also this one over here [El Goya] was owned done by the Houston mafia family, a Greek mafia family.
CBW: Kaven industries or enterprises?
CPW: That came in. They bought out. Yeah, very good. Very good point. Theyre from Denver. They bought out the group out of Houston, which was the Greek mafia. And Old Plantation had around twelve bars around the country. They had one in Key West. They had one down in Fort Lauderdale. They had one up in Jacksonville. They had this one here. They had Houston. They had one up in Washington, D.C. They got one in Dallas.
They had one in New Orleans. They had largeyeah, very big. So each family had a lot of intake of where, of what went on. They had a lot of power in runningif they got picked on too much they told the police department, No. They are the ones. It was not gay groups that did this. This was the family that operated because it was so big of money. There was so much money that was being made.
Of course with that each mafia family bought different liquor distributors and brought their liquors in. It was not the same liquor distributors. That was very huge. So that is fight. If you did not have a family backing you, your place got burned down. They burned you down.
CPW: That is how strong they were. And no one really questioned it.
CBW: And this was the 80s?
CPW: This was the 80s.
CPW: All ofIn fact, it went into the 90s before it broke up. Before thatIm trying to think. I know who is. It was the family, the Greek family in Houston. I mean the guy that ran the operation here was Nick Fouriner. And he was veryprobably around 350-400 pounds. Wherever he went, he liked boys. He liked his cocaine because he had cocaine at all the events. It was just openly. And we are going there freaking out, like, Oh my god.
CBW: So this was in the bar, in the bars?
CPW: This was on the side bar. Yeah, because there is a building across the street. Right across the street or next door to them. There was a lot of drug activity. Just unbelievable. Of course that time was besides the cocaine there was other things. They also had init was kind of like Ritalin. They had in roofies. They also had in a couple different ones.
The drugs were predominant besides pot, a lot of pot. But they kind of ran that operation, if not selling it right there. And then the other family that was owning and operation out here, which is a local family. Yeah, they are still here. And they still own a lot of the gay bars. That was Generemember Genes last name? They own Hollywood, North Hollywood, 2606, Metro.
He ownsthat was like around five gay bars he owned, but then they own like twenty-five straight bars. Okay that would be like the Palladium over there on Hillsborough and Armenia. A lot of them. They took one of his bars on the middle of town, 22nd, right in the middle of the Black district. They just took the bar. The city finally took his bar away from him.
That is one of the biggest cases around here. He held off. Yeah, he has got a lot of them on Hillsborough Avenue. A lot of girl places and stuff like that, strippers. He has got a place on Dale Mabry. So, and its very interesting because, you know, how they operate is totally different than what any bar Id ever known. It is. They service their own bars, which is illegal as hell.
CPW: They own liquor stores. Theyve got six liquor stores, and liquor stores feed the bars.
CBW: I see.
CPW: Cant do that.
CPW: You have to get your liquor fromyou know, you cant transport. You cant give liquor from one location and take it to another location. That is done day in and day out over there.
CPW: They had two places over in St. Petersburg. Now St. Petersburg was not like that. St. Petersburg was independent gay people that had their own bars over there. So that is a little bit different. So we knew way back when it was the bars on the Fourth Street South they had a bar, and then they had the big one called the Wedgewood.
You know, the Wedgewood. That is where they had in there Grace Jones came in on a motorcycle. And it was all glass piano bar, beautiful, with a dance floor. It was a beautiful, gorgeousit was right there and they tore it down. It was right there by Bayou Park on Fourth Street South and 22nd.
That was thethey had cottages so you could rent rooms, rent like little cabins out on the side there. They had like around twelve cabins that they rented out (phone rings) in the back and it was separate from the bar. You walk out there and of course everyonewhatever, you know.
CPW: All the activities.
CBW: Youre pretty good. You know these things out there. There is a lot of bars out there on central avenue too. Right there. We did thein fact, on our take we did a Bars that Were and we one an award on that. We are the ones that won an award from the National Gay and Lesbian Journal Association about all the bars that were and also just information about how many bars that were here from the 1950s on.
CBW: Right. And there is a lot. There is quite a few.
CPW: Yes, this is the come and gone. We have them all written in there. Youll find a lot of history from that.
CBW: So what would happen duringyou said the police were still raiding in the 1980s. What would happen during the raids?
CPW: Um, well they would come in there and turn the lights on. Okay. And then they would start getting for a little for harassment a little bit the police out there. They would push their way through and see what is going on there.
CBW: So no arrests or anything like that? Just a tactic?
CPW: Yeah, if they wereanybody abusive. Friends of ours that are about the same age, but they were down here but they were teachers. Now if you realize, if you are a teacher or worked in the city or worked in the county government, any kind of federal government, if you were known to be gay then you were fired. Boom. No questions asked. That was it.
So you know who was pretty much in that area that was really out, you know, was that had extra money was teachers and or politicians and they would just go through there in the hearing board. Pretty much. One of friends gotbecause he got caught and when he got caught they stamped every one of his personnel records homosexual on every page, homosexual, homosexual, homosexual.
Now that was done in the late 60s when he got caught. Other than that they still notated it on your records so that most colleges, you know, you tried to get hired out there. So that was kind of an interesting point down here. Um, who cared, I think, in Minneapolis? We knew a lot of teachers and businessmen and professors. They didnt care. Down here, they made sure. It was like really they go after you in a lot of different areas. It was almostYeah. So.
CBW: Um, so what was El Goya like?
CPW: El Goya, it was fantastic. It was a show bar. It had a bar. When you walked in it had kind of an outside feeling bar, cave bar really, in the back. They had a show bar. They hadwhich they had over herea restaurant. They had a western bar out there. And so it had multiples of different areas of different things and themes all in the one building. So, it was just a great bigif you didnt like this scene you went to the next one.
CBW: Right. Kind of like how Czar was until recently with the several rooms.
CPW: Well that is the same building. So that was exactly how they were they just changed it over. Yeah.
CPW: Yeah, that was it. And when you walked inyou always paid to get in. And you get to know all the people out there through different events, you know. Theyd go out there. Remember at that time acid was really prominent.
CBW: Oh yeah.
CPW: Yeah. And when using the acid most of these girls where especially the drag queens. And the guys that owned it, of course, they owned it and they had a fire. It was kind of an unknown fire, how it got burned. They went over and got the insurance money and then they bought the Parliament House. They bought the Parliament House in Orlando. So then they had this one and over there in Orlando they bought that one, which was a run-down, old kind of a
CBW: When did El Goya burn?
CPW: Uh, 1977.
CBW: But they just re-did it and kept it as El Goya?
CPW: Oh, they re-did it. The upper floors were never redone. So even to this day those floors they are just being redone now. So you can imagine from 1980 to right now all it was just burned out. It was all burned out building up there really. There was nothing ever redone to fix it. Everything on there was supports and things in that area. So, they justit was still when youd go up there you would smell smoke.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: Because the smoke just never left.
CBW: What it expensive to get in? What was the cover?
CPW: Oh, lets see. I think the cover was like around two dollars. Twenty-five cent drinks. It was not very much. It was like two or three bucks. That was kind of the going rate. That was always going through there.
CBW: What kind of clientele?
CPW: All kinds. Young drag queens. Young twinks coming out. Very mucha lot of friends took their straight friends. It was very open. It was the gay bar that you wanted to take your friends to.
CPW: Okay. In fact, Dick Greco, he had a permanent table there. He had a table that he broughtwhenever he came in, like he had visitors, he would take them to the El Goya. Oh, Im going to take you out to a show. Oh, love it. You know, from around the country different people visiting. They never told them it was a gay bar or a drag show. You know, and then they would go flipping out and he would freak out a little bit.
You know, Dick Greco just laughed. These people going in there for such a good time. In their small towns or wherever they were from, they never went to a gay bar. So you can imagine, he thought it was the funniest thing. Girls, you know, sitting out there. One was Sister Porn. All she did was open up a porn book and read it to the audience.
After that was out there. Joey Brooks was there. There was so many different ones. They had Bobby. They had a dress team that went opposite. They were a married couple. The guy would dress as the woman. The woman dressed as the guy. And they did shows and they were part of the act too.
CPW: And everybody, oh my god, you just sat and listened to them. They were just back there. Everything is going on, but when the show went on it was likeit was great.
CBW: So what was
CPW: You know, heavy duty. Beautiful curtains going up there. They put a lot of money into that to make sure it was a production. Notit was not just a show ta-da. No, this was full production of curtainry. They built it up with great big huge sound systemit was awesomethat youd never heard or you could ever get. And the lighting out there. And then that is where everybody met. Hey, how are you? What is your name? Everybody just did that. They dont do that now. But back then the only way you met people was, hey, who are you?
CPW: Ive seen you around. Whats your name? You know, that is it. You never went by last name just always by first name and that was it. Some people used code. They would never use their real name. It was real strange back then. You know, so you might beTonight Im Bill. Tomorrow night may be Gary. The next week after that would be John. The week after that I might be Matthew. It was just one of those that people changed their names all the time.
CPW: But a lot of them, not normal people. That is where we met a lot of crazy people. Of course that Mark worked with at the restaurant. They all went down there as a big group to go to El Goya for twenty-five cent night. Of course, I was going to school, and I had to get up early in the morning to work at the VA. I finished up and I went over and did my classes over at USF.
So, and at night time so they would get done about eleven oclock at night and then they are all ready to go down for the shows which started at midnight. And so then they would all group together and then they would come back to our house, our apartment, and of course start partying around three oclock, four oclock on in the morning, and I had to get by five [a.m.]. I would be waking up when they were still partying. It was interesting, very much.
CBW: What was Ybor City like back then?
CPW: Oh my goodness. Ybor City. You know, Ybor City was the two buildings, two business stop. This end was El Goya. There was a lot of businesses in between but nothing. And then the other one at the other end, you know, was the Columbia Restaurant. That was it. I mean, there was boxing meets. There was mostly boarded upthere was nothing at that time we got here. There was already gone to the decline of the dumpster.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: Yeah, it was not very pretty at all. It wasyour chances of getting robbed were very good. Shot. Stabbed. Anything like that. So you always went across to the Blue Ribbon. The Blue Ribbon was a grocery store right here on the corner down here. In the parking lot there they had someone there charging and picking up cars. We would try and get in the parking lot, the El Goya, parking lot but you didnt get in there. Your chances of getting robbed were very good.
CBW: Oh wow. So crime was really high?
CPW: Oh yeah.
CBW: Much higher than today. I know Ybor City has reputation for having a high crime rate but more so back then.
CPW: It was uncontrollable. These were outlaws. And the projects were all right here.
CPW: And the only way that theyre going to go get in places. They came through there. What is your line of work? Well mine is robbing people. And that is how you made a living.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: That is how lucrative it was good.
CBW: So the efforts to restore the residential part of Ybor Citythats new?
CPW: Very much.
CBW: More recently people are buying homes and
CPW: That is only now. That didnt happen before that. What happened that killed a lot of Ybor City, of course, was the interstate. The interstate killed the community by cutting it in two, that side and this side. And then pretty soon it was just like grandma that lived here and grandpa. The kids all left out of here in the sixties. The kids were here. They moved out to Town and Country, Lets go to the suburbs. So that was a burb area.
Remember they couldnt because if you were Spanish or a lot of Italians. We know the mayors brother. And they are growing up here in the seventies, and he goes swimming, tries swimming over at a pool up at Nebraska Ave and Sulphur Springs. If you werent white, you dont get in. And theyd kick your ass and they would throw you. It was really just abusive. They would take him by the britches and throw him on the floor. Get out of here. You know you dont belong here.
CPW: You know, yeah. So you just couldnt go all over the place like its right now. So it was stillyou know, You cant cross this line. This is where you go, this is what you can do but dont cross it and dont get out of here. And that is all that was gone through the law enforcement all the way through the leadership and all the way through.
This is your district, dont screw it up. And also you look out for others and if its a neighbor that saw you doing something youre still going to get whacked. Even back then, even back in the eighties, 70s 80s. They stillit was mamas and grandmas that still took care of things out there with an iron thumb, which isnt totally gone. I mean, you dont even hear about that kind of stuff that used to be done here.
And then they moved on to move to the suburbs. So this area done here was really nothing. There was nothing left to it. There was no existence like it used to be. You know, we really made it thrive. You know, they had the clubs down here. At that time when went to, saw a club, went the Cuban club to see a gay play calledwe saw a couplethe first one was Bent. I dont know if you know Bent? The movie Bent? Or the play Bent?
CPW: Its about concentration camp. About the gays that were in the concentration camps, and if they didnt do it right all they had to do was move a huge pile of rocks, cant talk, work until the end of the day, move that pile to the other side. Okay, so they got done there. They would take that pile and move it to the other side. You know, without any food, they gave them a little water.
If they talked, they got beat up or tortured from the Nazis. It was a great play. Its very, very good. And that was over there. It was very beautiful. Then for some reason, I dont know what it was or when they took that out, but then they kind of went a bust. And they dont have money forthey took the lights out. They took the curtains out over here. And theyve never replaced them yet.
CBW: At the Cuban club.
CPW: At the Cuban club, yeah. Its a gorgeous place. The theatre was gorgeous at that time. And so we saw that. And we saw Mamas Ghost there, which a friend of ours had put on. It was just going from here going on up to Broadway. So we saw that play over there too. We saw a couple of other events over at the Cuban club. There was nothing really over on any of the other ones. It was closed downAsturiano. That was closed down.
CPW: Espanol. It was just kind of like an abandoned building. And so, you know, there was a lot of empty buildings and stuff like that that were down here. Then it was not until the 1990s, mid-1990s that they started the gentrification, started working on doing a come-back period for this area. A lot of empty homes and stuff like that. They had just started HCC in a small effort before its really growth period.
CBW: So why do youwhat other gay bars were here in the early eighties?
CPW: Oh, There was one out here. There was another one, which is right down, right underneath were Hamburger Marys.
CPW: That was another gay bar out there. It was a show bar. The name of that one I dont remember. But Melanienot Melanie Minyon. It wasoh, who came in? I am trying to think who that was. I just want to let you know. Oh, Tiffany Middlesex. Have you talked to Tiffany Middlesex?
CBW: No, but the namesomeone mentioned her to me.
CPW: She was a very prominent drag queen. They flew her down from Ohio, and then from Ohio they hired her down here. They saw the place, and was just kind of like, Mm, no. It was not going to go far. They grabbed her so she worked here at the El Goya and also at Renes. She was a show director there. So, she is right here. She lives right by Central Avenue and by MCC Church.
Now she wentshe was the largest coke dealer in Tampa. Okay, so. You know. And they looked for her. The police tried a lot and different decoys and trying to get her at different times. The raids and stuff like that. She eluded them all every time. I dont know. But that is true. It was kind of known. Now she has gone to very religious, but she is a great person to really fill in. I would like to get some pictures of Renes.
I do have pictures ofwe got the VIP cards. And VIP cards that we got from Rene. Rene was real short. He was really short, not even five foot. That is how short he was. And his brother Caesar and Johnny and the other ones out there, they got caught up in the mob. Over and bought up buildings and shopping centers, and stuff like that. Then the federal government came in and took that all away.
CBW: Oh, interesting.
CBW: Why do you think Ybor City was a good spot for the gay nightclub?
CPW: Actually, we kind of came through there and talked about it. There was really all the way through the cigar days when they started and brought the immigrants in over from Spain and from Italy, and they did a lot of the odd jobsand Cubais that they came through there and they were defined, This is the district you can come in. You get out of the districtyou know, it was kind of like little gangs in that area. You know, youre not safe. We will guarantee your safety in this zone. You stay there, okay.
And most of them didnt have girlfriends. And most of the buildings up here where there is a second floor were boarding houses, all up and down Seventh Avenue. You know, this area over here was prostitution avenue up here at night. That was the prostitution houses. And the one right behind where Skye is across the street, that is the one that burned down. That is a prostitution house that burned down with people in it. You know.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: Very quite crazy. That is what I call the ghost down there, Seventh Avenue, is all those people that got burned up in that.
CBW: And they were prostitutes and
CPW: They had prostitute area. Dick Greco, he said he came through there. He said he had a chance to try to do some kind of redevelopment out here but he said he know it was going to just be drugs and alcoholics. So he changed all that whole area and he brought in HCC. Bringing in HCC is the college into the area of Ybor City hopefully to get some economic stimulus to build it.
But at that time up therethis is up there back, in the early start of the eighties and they didnt have anything really there. So it was just old buildings, old dilapidated buildings, and then where there was not the money there were people that had causes. And of course people that lived here but then a lot of times they didnt have money to help get things done as they wanted to.
CBW: Do you think the city of Tampa cared much about this area, Ybor City?
CPW: They had to because you have to realize they were doing a million cigars a week. Making cigars, and that was a major industry down here. So yeah you have to take notice of what is going on and that is your industry of making, you know, around the country, half of Tampa. You know, in that area. So yeah, they did take notice, but they also didnt cross the line. I mean you have to realize that this is where Trafficantes run was. Okay.
CPW: And this was also where, you know, you have a lot of pretty big families down here. And I talked to one of the ambassadors down here. His name was ambassador Bob. And he was telling me the story about the Holiday Inn. And the Holiday Inn was not like the Holiday Inns we know today. Holiday Inn was a restaurant and the families were feuding. And so they had two families meet up there.
One family kind of made believe that they were one family and the other family, and got both groups to go over to the Holiday Inn. What they didnt know is that the third family, which they say was the Trafficante family, they went through there and they wanted to get rid of them so that they could rule Tampa.
And they just had all the guns out there and blew them all apart. Okay, they took part of them. Then they had another group that was taking them to the hospital, which just up here on 22nd and outside there they had another crew and they just blew them away. Everybody down there. They call it the Holiday Inn incident of Tampa.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: Yeah, he said, So that got rid of the families. And guess what? One family survived. Guess who ran it then?
CBW: I see. So then it was policed by the Trafficantes.
CBW: this area.
CPW: Yes, a lot of it, yeah. Yeah, and total corruption. And its unlike today.
CBW: (laughs) So you mentioned the Bay Area Rights Council.
CPW: Bay Area Rights Council was then turned into Human Rights Task Force and turned into Equality Florida. Yep.
CBW: So what was the goal of the Bay Area Rights Council?
CPW: The Bay Area Rights Council was not to go and pick on gays and lesbians as they go doing the everydayyou know, dont pick on them in bars. Um, dont pull them over as soon as they left the bar. They had a coupleit was quite few people that were involved in that but I dont know exactly everything in the mission but that was mostly a part of it.
CBW: Okay. So it was kind of a formal, activist oriented
CPW: And then it was off that, of course, they had the line, which the line was the help line to help for suicidaldifferent things that were going on in the gay community, different problems they had, and getting abused by, you know. And that really turned into really a headache because a lot of times they would be placing people and they placed them in with pedophiles.
CBW: Oh gosh.
CPW: So all of a sudden they were just like in from one area and then they, a lot of the kids committed suicide.
CBW: Oh no.
CPW: There was a lot. Their stats are still strong down here. And it was not like the runaway haven that Daytona Beach has but it was still a good place out there for runaways to come down to. You know what I am saying?
CPW: And so there wasand then we always were notified when we met you, where is the gay district? Okay. So this is 1980 again back when were coming down. And the guy said, South of Kennedy. And I go, Well Kennedy runs all the way down from Westshore all the way to Downtown, east of Downtown. And that was the mention I think all the way up there even, jeez, I would say probably until right before 2000, I think. Theyd say, Where is the gay district? Oh, its South of Kennedy.
That was the weirdest conversation I ever had with anybody, and still was. That is what people said. Meaning that the gay bars at that time were down there. We had our store on Kennedy Blvd and Himes, right next door to us was the Metropolis. We had a gay beautician. Further on Dale Mabry you had Baxters, you had City Side off there on Neptune.
They had another one over here, which was the Jungle, which was where right now, where its today, is where City Side. And then, you know, its just places down. Then they had Tomes and Treasures, another one that opened up, and Moodys. It was like different places down there. So thatsbut it was like [makes noise]it was destination. You couldnt walk there.
So that was kind of interesting. It took a long time. So and bringing real quick forward, just to let you know, this was really the first one. When Mark and I got here we defined this and said, This is gonna be a gay district. We named, I named, GaYbor. That was in 2007. When they kicked the gays out in 1993 out of Ybor City.
CBW: What do you mean kicked the gays out in 1993?
CPW: They didnt want any bohemian style gift shops. They didnt want anyoh good, hang on just a second.
(Talks with delivery person)
CBW: So 1993. Who is they?
CPW: City leaders down here especially in Ybor City. There is a lot of homophobic people down here. And the macho-ism of theespecially in some of the Italian and a lot of the Hispanics, macho-ism, you know, There is no homosexuals in my family. You know what I mean? You know, if there was a gay son or a gay nephew, they need to be slapped up a little bit. Beat em up, get them toughened up a little bit. You know? I heard that from a lot.
CBW: Was this
CPW: So when they came through that is when they closed down Pleasure Dome. They went over there and then Tracksthey closed Tracks down. They closed Tracks down and then they opened up Pleasure Dome. And the drag queens felt like they were in cages. People were throwing things at them on stage. A lot of stuff. It was just like a monkey show. They would just throw stuff at them, and derogatory.
They were like gawking like, ahhhh. And you know, heckling. It was notthey said finally it was just like (makes gesture). Everything else down here, all the little small restaurants, the little pipe shops, or the more or less like incense and different clothing shops, little tiny things like that (makes noise) closed them all down. Were going for gentrification, making this an adult area out here, and its going to be really popular for the straight adults. They were going to make it real popular.
CBW: So Pleasure Dome was down here?
CPW: It was El Goya, Tracks, Pleasure Dome, Czars. Same building.
CBW: Right, okay. Okay. So these were people that were business owners down here that that were trying to
CPW: Business owners, leaders, the little development corporation down here that they had before that.
CPW: Everybody down here. They justThey didnt want it. They didnt want it down here. There was hairdressers. There was a hairdresser upstairs here that had a hair salon. It was just kind of bizarre. That is exactly what it was.
CBW: Interesting. So, the Ybor City Development Agency?
CPW: Before it wasthis was the state had Ybor City. It was kind of Ybor City Council.
CPW: And then they defined it and changed it to Ybor City Development Corporation.
CBW: Is the Ybor City Development Corporation have the same sort of beliefs, or are they
CPW: I believe so.
CPW: I think so. They come acrosswhat saved their asses was when we came into town. Okay. Because nothing was down here. There was forty-four empty buildings on Seventh avenue and they are thinking they are really progressive in development, economic development and preservation. Well yeah because the buildings are all empty so no one is going into hurt it.
CPW: All it do is the termites are having prayer meetings.
(talks to Mark about the dog)
CBW: So how did theyso you said they would come and heckle the drag queens. What other kind of tactics did people use to
CPW: You know, the shops. They didnt want the shops. You know, theywe faced it too. Same thing. They go through there and all of a sudden you are paying like six hundred dollars a month rent. You know, Im sorry. I am going to raise your rent a little bit. Thirty-six hundred a month. Okay.
CBW: That is a lot.
CPW: Oh is it? You think? (laughter) And a lot of, We dont like your kind here. We dont want you here. Do you understand that? And this is businessmen telling businessmen that. We were faced with it when we first got here with it too. We dont want you here.
CBW: Really? From peoplefrom owners of the buildings?
CPW: This was in 2007. Oh yeah. Its still today. People that own a lot of buildings down here. We dont want you here. I got a telephone call from somebody that is a big person in the city, says, We dont want you in Ybor City anymore. You did enough. You did your little parade now get your funny people out of there. Move on.
What they dont realize is when we came in 2007 and before the crash, in 2008 when the crash hit down here, it already had hit down here. They still think, the guys were getting a place, they thought, they were getting way three times what it should have been. And they were smiling all the way to the bank. They are, you know, real estate owners.
They were making all that kind of money. Then all of a sudden, they still realized but they kept holding that price up, Were gonna just keep it there. And all of a sudden guess what? They lost their buildings. They lost them. Because they kept this stupid attitude that, No we cant come down with the times, whats going on.
Those that went and went with the times, and guess what? We havent made any money on this place at all. Everyone is closing down, and were not makinglets get some better rent and then we can raise them accordingly.
(Carrie greets a customer)
CBW: So you opened this store in 2007?
CPW: Um-hm. Yep. We had stores ten years over in Suncoast Resort in St. Pete. And we worked heavily on that area and we did a lot of marketing. And of course we did guerilla marketing over there because it was a first gay hotel outside of the Parliament House over there in Orlando. And, How could this work? It cant work. Its never going to work. Its
You know that isthe biggest person out there, the biggest people that go in, give you hum-drum and Youre not going to do anything. Youre not going to make it. How are you going to make it? How are you going to make it? I think they told us, How are you going to make it? for ten years. I dont think youre going to make it here. We accidently found this place. We said, you know, we have an operation that we want to grow and we live here in Tampa, in Hyde Park.
So we wanted to go through here and say, you know what, we want to go through there and have something here. Well have the store here and we will keep maintaining the store over there at Suncoast, the big hotel. Its a gay hotel. Four floors. The first floor was all shopping center and we had two stores there. So we thought, Lets have an outlet here. Well just supplies in here too and kind of make our growth.
And little did we know once we got this place, and it was all full of junk and stuff like that, and they said, Oh were gonna clear it out, well get it cleared out. But it was two floors down because theyre putting in the brand new sewer so that killed everything on this avenue here. Everything was dead. It was two floors down, just trying to put a new sewer line in all the way down there.
And it was supposed to be done in around basically around three and a half months, four months. And you know, this was over a year and a half later. You know how slow things go. So all these businesses down here just died. They just died. That is what killed it down here, a lot of it.
CBW: And this was early 2000s?
CPW: Ah, this was 2006 they started working on the sewer system. So that is when we got here and at this place. We looked outside here and to get here we could drive down one side but there other side wasthey had just tore up the street putting a brand new sewer in. It was two stories down in the ground here.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: Yeah, it was reallyit was quite the park here. It was really neat. They really saved for the sewer lines out here because there is so much flooding that comes through here. I mean, it floods in Centro Ybor all the time, in the middle of Centro Ybor. The water line goes right underneath, right through here. Its a river right underneath the land here.
The river that goes through here, and they put culverts over there to build up a little about it, but the big artesian well is right where in the central right were the tobacco, Tampa Bay Brewing company is. There is an artesian well that comes right out of there underneath the water. That was there forever probably and it has been there for over a hundred years, fifty years at least.
I think it was seventy years that they worked on that thing, continuous. You know, just having it right in the middle of this, and they had a sandwich shop there and then they built up at that time. And then what helped them out, then they had a idea, You know what? If we come through here and lets rebuild Ybor City by putting in Centro Ybor. Okay.
And Centro Ybor was kind of crazy because it was friends on friends, and everything is a buddy system down here. If you know somebody, you get it done. If you dont know something, you dont get it done. So if you know somebody that does this kind of work, okay, city bids, doesnt matter what, there is no bidding. You get it. That is the way it works down here.
CPW: Still. Yeah, it does. It still works that way. And this is 2013. So that is the way this good ole buddy system out hereI want you in, I want you out. That is how it works.
CPW: Still is.
CBW: So after um
CPW: But getting to that point, there was so many empty places down here that some of these places tried holding out. You know, they were making out there for a place, like I said, it might be worth the six hundred dollars, but they still wanted to get the maximum of what they could get out of her, a thousand dollars.
They always say it was three times whatever theand so they were always making big pockets down here. Then all of a sudden nobody came down here because the crime got so bad down here and other shops started going down here, and they didnt maintain anything down here that people left, you know.
CBW: What years were those? Was that in the nineties when
CPW: That wasno that was right, that was this They didnt open up the mall down here until 2002. Nor put the trolley in 2003.
CBW: Oh, okay.
CPW: This is all very, very recent. And then but the city backed the bonds for that mall, the Centro Ybor, building the theater, the stores, and everything. And then the developer says, I cant do this. He walked away with his money and so the city has been paying for the mall for the last ten years. And they tried selling it and they got a buyer out there from Chicago, JC Wilco Company. They bought it but they dont have to pay. They have to just pay the mall but they dont have to pay for the bonds.
CPW: So they lived on that for the lastwhen they bought itso theyve lived on that for seven years.
CBW: So what was Ybor City like in the nineties when
CPW: Nineties was nothing.
CBW: gay people were pushed.
CPW: It was very much the closed streets of Seventh Avenue. It was a very biga lot of people were coming in. If you wanted a liquor license, no matter which building, that is why there is so many liquor licenses, you can get a liquor license. You had right next door to each other. Gentrification was you work on your building and you get liquor license.
Okay, no there placeuntil 19it was interesting at this point and Ill tell you why1997, 96-97. We got approached by a corporation that came through there and they wanted to put inand it was 1997they wanted to put in a new gay bar, gay district, in Tampa. And it was the Palm Beach Investment Corporation. The location that they had was South Dale Mabry right across from Britton Plaza.
CBW: Oh, okay.
CPW: They had a big location. They wantedhere is the concept. They came down and showed us. Gay bar at this end, gay bar at that end. If we had a store, had a gay and lesbian community center, which was starting up at that time, the travel agency, a couple other things. A variety ofits all gay area out there. And it was contingent on the fact of should they go to city council and get it passed.
No, way. They said anything in Ybor City but nothing else in the rest of city can go through and get wet zoned. They werent looking for wet zoning. You cant get it. There is only a certain amount you can do per year, and they didnt want it. And the only areas that could get it was justthis was an enterprise zone. If that would have an enterprise zone, possibly yes, but the dynamics of Tampa would totally have changed if that would have went through. Its the same corporation that went down there in Wilton Manors.
CBW: Okay, that was on the tip of my tongue when you said that.
CPW: They did that. That is what they did.
CBW: Oh, okay.
CPW: Same concept. Same, identicalthat is exactly what they were doing to an area out there. It was just limbo. Here is what we are going to do. Were going to build this out, and make this a gay community.
CBW: Thats great.
CPW: It was good. This wasthese are people with good foresight and ideas, and yes. And so that would have been a changing point because we were a part of that, would have been a part of that. Those little things along the road that people dont know how the things in Tampaand there is a lot of people that said, you know, those that are talkers and dont ever do anything.
Then there are the people that do and have action behind them, and they just go through there, have a cause and finish it up and actually activate what they want to do. There is the talkers and do-nothing that say, Oh it could be like this or should have been like this to the ones out thereand I think both Mark and myself and a number of other people, you know, there are leaders and promoting what we do, and setting things up by example. And if you cant do that then you need to shut up.
CPW: I like the comments that are negatory because they all come through there, You gonna make it? You gonna make it? You hear that. We dont need to know that and we dont hear that anymore. The first thing that Mark and I really enjoy seeing is something subtle. Its two guys holding hands, two girls holding hands. You can do that in Ybor City. Okay.
We had a meeting and luncheon. Of course, we know Pam Iorio real well. She says, You know, you guys have done so much down here but really you know in Tampa they can go anywhere as gay and lesbian couples. You can go anywhere and be equally treated. I said, No.
You try going into Malios at that time, the old Malios, holding hands or giving kisses in that place. You try going to just down to Village Inn. You start going up to different districts and walking downtown Tampa, just right next to your building hand-and-hand, its not going to happen.
CPW: Weve defined this and that is something that is really strong. That this isand we worked with the police department, police chiefs, and majors and came through there and defining our areas, what we have and what we want to have done. The security measures, I think, that need to be implemented. We changed the lighting system. So the Teco put in brighter lights on the corners.
It was only down Seventh Avenue then they moved it up this area and so in the corners here are brighter lit than down on other areas out here. Its for safety matters. That is all its because there is always this guy that doesnt know. This guy who is testing himself. Its a girl who would be going through there bewildered, that she doesnt want her girlfriends to know that she is a lesbian.
The guy doesnt want to let his friends to know hes gay so that they can beat him up. He beats up queers, thats what they do. And yet he is a closeted kid. Now those are the worst, those are the worst kind. I see pick up truck that go around here. Remember these are guys from Plant City. These are guys from Riverview. They come around here, Hey, lets go beat up some fags.
So in response, if you see a truck going around twice that means there is trouble. I am just telling you that. We know that. And, I would say, you see that stop them, get their IDs, and they have been very flavorful and favorful [sic] and supportive of what we have done. In our district out there we have implemented walking patrols. Actually weve had the horse patrols here.
Weve got down here motorized patrols down here. Weve got more visibility all the way up there to Palm Avenue because a lot of people are living over there at the new Quarter. And now I would say about two-thirds Id say gay now. The Quarters here. They built that as Camelot, which is a build corporation out of Atlanta. Made it beautiful for the area. They need to build at least two more of those. They need to build them.
Then they can get stuck with the historic preservations Barrio Latino commission. So I mean, I was on that too. I got all my experiences on that. I dont exactly know, you know, there is some things you do by the secretary of interior, which standards are, but other things you have to have in-fill. There is more parking lots that used to house, the house is torn down. If it doesnt get torn down, it gets burned down.
Oh, it didnt burn down, my goodness, hadnt had electricity there for years but that is okay. Its not there anymore. We try to keep original buildings and try to bring in the old buildings, those coming through. And we work with the transportation department of Florida and trying to get those houses put in all the areas and relocate them to do the in-fill, but we need larger facilities like that to make this really a happening area.
And so far no one has budged on this. A lot of it, say, Well you have Channelside. What is going on Channelside? See how Channelside is. And its only a streetcar ride away. And its true, there is a lot of, very much a lot of gays went there and moved down there. But its both mixed. And that is very good. A lot of Europeans live there. They bought in. So that is one area that is a good theme area out there, but you have to go through there.
People want something to walk to and feel good about the community, and that is what we try doing. Making you feel good about a community, no matter if it could be a Black community, Hispanic community, or a Gay community. Its your community. You take care of it and have pride in it. And pretty much I would say a majority of that is happening. Its a respect. Okay. So that is were we are at on this.
CBW: So when you named Ybor City GaYbor, the GaYbor Historic District
CPW: Its GaYbor District in Historic Ybor City.
CPW: Always. And weve always left it that way. A lot of people, Oh, see, they are trying to name It was Patrick Manteiga. He didnt realize what we are doing. Of course he is one of the voices out there. His family was down here. They wanted to change it to GaYbor, all of this is going to be GaYbor and those queers are coming up there.
You know, we heard that directly, and this is a publisher of a magazine and a newspaper. Right here in Tampa. But then anyway, he saw what were doing and I said, No, Patrickcause I was on many committees with himI said its still GaYbor district in Historic Ybor City.
CPW: And we define it that way. Very, very close down there.
CBW: So how did that originate? What gave you sort ofwhat inspired you to bring your store here?
CPW: That is with our second store from St. Petersburg.
CPW: We just found this and it was still filled with a lot of stuff in it. We just called the people and they said, sure its available. Well have it cleaned out around sixty days and we will sign a letter of intent that we are going to take it over. And then when theySuncoast, after we had gotten going over there, we got a notice that said Suncoast was bought by Home Depot and was going to closed and we had to be out in three weeks.
Three weeks we had to be out of there because everything was going to be torn out or else it was going to be confiscated. You know, it was going to be taken and torn down. So that is why wewhew we moved everything out and then moved everything back in again.
CBW: And then, you know, G-bar is down here. Honey Pot.
CPW: G-bar came down. Actually they were down here just a few months before we opened up.
CPW: So we knew Steve Donohue and Steve Moss at that time. Oh, you come on down here. Okay, we will take a look. And that is kind of, well we will see what is down here. There was a couple gay bars. There was nothing else down here. So we went down here and we started looking and that is when we found this building. Its really a neat building.
You know, we liked that out there. We didnt even go on Seventh Avenue. We just want something we could afford, something that would be just kind ofand then some of these places over there were just unbelievable on Seventh Avenue. The prices, and what they want for money, rentals.
CBW: Who ownedDid the Gonzmarts own?
CPW: Nothing down here.
CBW: Okay, except for the Columbia.
CPW: The Columbia, and now probably around six blocks they bought up now. So they are looking forward and in fact its rumored that they are going to be building a boutique hotel just like they did down there at the Berns Steakhouse.
CPW: Okay. The little culinary school, and in that area out there. Theyre very big. They are. But they dont care too much. Its Casey and Richard take care of what is going on with themselves, and around what they do, and they dont really go out of the realm of the rest of Ybor City. So. They are not members of GaYbor. We have approached them a number of times, and knowing Casey and working on the area out there.
They just decided they dont want to be apart of it. That is one of those machos, We cant afford And I said, Its a chamber of commerce, is what we are, and GLBTA. Meaning gay, lesbian, transgender, okaybisexual, and also allies of that, which some call them straight allies or just people that work along there. And that is why the GLBTA
CBW: Well you have over 200 members and they all have stickers in their window.
CPW: Yes, we do, very much. A lot of what I say is our planning. This is us. You know, we had friends but this is definitely things that I, we needed. I wanted pavers. I wanted to be noticed. Some of the guys they like the fact of leadership, going through there. They went through there and you have to have recognition out there. You have to promotion and marketing materials.
You see, we were initially over at the Tampa Baybefore it was the visitors bureau, before it was the Tampa Bay and Company. They wouldnt allow us because remember the county commission came through there under the Rhonda Storms rules that they cant promote or do anything. And that is through marketing the gay community. That is through medical training or medical facilitating or else its medical, anything in the GLBT.
They couldnt participate with that either. You have to realize. This is so monumental of what we have done in changing that area. It was not just the you cant do gay prides No, it was gay events, anything GLBT, or gay or lesbian. You know, and Kevin Beckner came through there and he presented to the county commissioner that he wanted to go through there and have domestic partnership.
That area out there beforejust the benefits, not even the partnership, just the benefits. And you know you had Jim Norman going, Well lets see. Domestic partnerships would mean a man and his wife, a woman and her boyfriend, it could be a man and a man or it could be a woman and a woman. Well we cant talk about this whole issue because youre bringing up gay, GLBT, and we can talk about that. Table, gone.
CPW: Yeah, we wereI said I dont understand why an ACLU attorney did not take this on for the state because we were so violated. This county. And we were violated for everything we have ever done. Last year I spoke up and it was just like deaf ears looking crazy.
Then went through there and we got the county commissionersbecause they wouldnt sign off of what we wanted to call GaYbor DaysI think you have to some sense of activity to say, youve got to support what you already have. I didnt want a pride event. I didnt want a pride event, but we wanted it for businesses. So you could be gay businesses. And we did it on the fourth of July because no one is down here.
CPW: Times that people are not down here: definitely the fourth of July, the holidays, thanksgiving. Its dead closed down. Christmas. Its crazy but this is like real small town. Okay. You go by what small townsand a lot of Christian values. You close down for the Sunday events. You close down for holiday events, and people go and they leave.
So we said, Well no one is here fourth of July so why dont we go on the fourth of July and have our GaYbor Days. That meaning bring in a movie, they can have health screening for free health for those that cant afford it, go through there, have a parade, which we turned out there was more or less a walking parade like a bar crawl, but we wanted to do that. Dinner, and then huge parties all over at some of the clubs.
Bring in your best events. Youll bring people in. Youll fill up the hotels. The hotels were on board with us doing all this at that time. So instead of having around ten people in the hotel, around two hundred and forty people, or two hundred and forty rooms. They could fill up all two hundred and forty rooms, four days in the middle of summer time, and we did that.
We gave them a great GaYbor rate, and we came out there and facilitated them for whatever they wanted. And people were coming in for GaYbor Days so that was why we did very well in that area. And all of a sudden they noticed. Were closed down. The city is closed down, but all of a sudden Ybor City is getting a lot of numbers out there. And the clubs were doing very well. The fact is it was just too hot.
CPW: So actually after around five years of doing it we changed it from fourth of July, we moved it to memorial day. Memorial day is still not quite the hotness. Its still coming off of the spring, late spring. And also its getting in there before they go to start the Gay Days and all the things in Orlando, and all the pride events that go on there. People spend their money out. Theyre going to spend their money if they got it in their pockets. I want to take it before they go to the other events. So that is how we kind of triggered that idea and doing that idea, and keeping it going, and bringing people around.
CBW: And the city has been supportive.
CPW: Oh, the city has been great.
CPW: Pam Iorio, everybody on there has been supportive of this. The only ones that were not supportive, city council and county commissioners were the only ones not supportive of GaYbor Days. Everyday I would goFrom the President of the United States recognizing GaYbor Days. From the House of Representatives from Washington D.C. recognizing GaYbor Days, from the state, GaYbor Days, the city, GaYbor Days.
You know. The city council but we didnt get anything from the county commissioners. And every year I went. I still went. And I was turned down. And this year, just happened to be, they took a different eye, and they said, Well we are going to support you this year for GaYbor Days. In doing so, we went over and had a talk.
Kevin Beckner said, Im going to propose that we get away from this crazy, super majority ban. I think we can get five of the seven commissioners to go along with us, because Mark Sharp proposed it. He was not in that area. And then we had the other one out there in was in West Miller and Kevin Beckner, and the other one out there which I thought we knew would be kind of supportive would be Charlie Crist.
Not Charlie Crist, but Victor Crist. And so they went through there and I didnt Ken Hagan would do it, but Ken Hagan signed it. Sandy Murman signed it. They all signed it. They all wanted it to turn intowell GaYbor, this was then Victor I thought was on our side. The other one was Higginbotham. He wants to know more about it. And so we had talked to him about what it really is, and economicallyand they come down here.
That is the trouble. County commissioners come down politicking down here, preaching down here, wanting our money but then all of a sudden they dont recognize what the achievements are from the city that was dead and very muchgangs were coming in here in full force. I didnt realize this. We kind of under covered it out there, but the gangs are afraid of gays.
CPW: Its something. You know, and they held the line. We held the line. Were not going to take this shit. Were not going to take crime down here. And of course when its all your way and then someone is coming up and putting a road block in there. And its all about something, which is going to do you more harm because you are not doing what the law wants anyway. Everything was the law was on our side.
CBW: Mm-hm, right.
CPW: So then all of a sudden they backed away. But still Empire was really popular down there you know, and we still had one of the guys that ownsManilla, it was a gay guy that owns it. You know, and so they had the shootings at those locations. You know, but they were doing that long before GaYbor.
They were doing that all the way through the late nineties, all the way through 2000s. They were doing this. Always had rubber bullets and were shooting, and had around twenty to thirty police officers down there every Thursday and Friday night. Everyone. Down at the Empire. Its justsorry, no.
CBW: So youve participated on several preservation boards.
CPW: I was put on first Ybor City Development as a board member. Then I was put on as the Barrio Latino, representative of the preservation down here. So I was on that board. I am presently still on the county preservation board, historic preservation. I am on different ones out there.
I am a board member over here at Ybor Youth Clinic, one of the board members there. President, I was president of GaYbor for you know seven years. That is a lot. So we took on a lot of activities, a lot ofand spoke all over. Spoke to the educational, for the MBA program in secondary education at University South Florida, spoke there numerous times.
CBW: And your experiences on these boards have been positive in terms of
CBW: No? (laughs)
CPW: A lot of times theyve been positive but you know they still put that, you know, You always push the gay thing when you are here, Carrie. No, Im not pushing the gay thing. You see it maybe, but I tell you what, when there are things that are unfair, they are unfair.
There is equality and fairness for everybody and if you dont think its just then you go in your direction, but I think here is what I am representing is what needs to be just for everybody. And youre talking about something that happened out here, which you guys werent doing before we got down here.
When we moved here we came down here just to open up a store. We didnt have any ideas about opening up a big area down here. Just something out there transitioning saying guess what there is an alternative, a great place to go shopping to when you come down here if you want to do that. What they were doing, they were just falling apart. They didnt know what to do.
CPW: And that is why is just kind of created itself. We had all of our friends. We told all of our friends, You want to open up a store? You want to open up a bar, a restaurant, non-profit? Look at what we have down here. Weve got the fifth largest gay and lesbian community center in North America here, right down Seventh Avenue, Metro Wellness.
We had underneath that, next door, brought in thewent out there looking for a grocery store. That is one thing that we havent done yet. We havent done the grocery store. Weve tried a lot of places but havent gotten a grocery store, but we did get a lot of non-profits. We got B Man [BBQ place?] that came in down here. They were down here. We had a bar that was right there where the Bricks was that is a gay bar down there 714.
G-bar was already there, and then it was empty for years. I mean, some of these places were empty for five years. Theyve been just totally empty, not nothing. I mean from the Amphitheater all the way to where the Honey Pot was, where the Czars is or Ritz is today. Now these were places that were empty. Places that hadnt even been over, place where Bradleys is on the corner down here. These are empty huge beautiful buildings. Nothing going on.
CBW: So what would your vision be for GaYbor? If you could have anything?
CPW: Ah, just a recognizable, positive area out there for the GLBT community, because its not going to happen. Everyone wishes it could happen and that is what happened over there in St. Petersburg. We were part of that being at the Suncoast. A lot of people came to the Suncoast, you know, and that is a ten-year run. But I live in Alabama, someplace in Alabama, someplace small town USA, and they dont treat me well.
Im totally bullied. I am totally getting harassed. I might bemy girlfriend and I get fires in front of our house, little torches. You know, this is stuff that goes on all the time. We want a place that is safe, that we want to live. And so that was why St. Petersburg jumped because then Georgies came in. They are very supportive over there in that area. The mayors were and the city council members were and they started going out and graphing out an area, which found to be the grand central district.
But I think Suncoast resort was very much the stimulus for that to even happen. And its two millionaires that sat there getting drunk and said, Well, lets do something. You know, the next thing I think that is going to happen out there is very much needed in the community is going to be geriatrics, gay geriatrics. The GLBT and geriatrics area out there for nursing homes and/or living facilities. That is going to be big across the nation.
One of them has already happened. The first one was in, ah, Lake City. They have a GLBT, sponsored by HUD, community and assisted living facility. I want that here in Tampa. And I have talked to Ed Turanchik about. Ive talked to Bob Buckhorn about it. I said, How do we get this to happen here? I just need more specifics out there so they can go through there. They are the ones that can make that roll. I cant.
You got city land available sitting out there and doing nothing. Why dont we have a place out there for GLBT but its not goingit has to be in the corporate area so they can travel here and they cant goI dont want north Tampa. Its got to something within the vicinity. So, to facilitate it. That is going to be a growing area. A lot of growing. And they cant stayits not, its weird.
They can but they have to abide by too manythey arent going to be themselves. You know, and then when they are themselves, they want them out. A bunch of crazies, orand its just fun. These are people having fun in their life. Just being who they are and that is fine. Theyre not crazy. Theyre varied on all levels. You can be super quiet if youre like a librarian or you can be very vocal as an activist.
_____(??) But you have toon all levels you have to be taken care of. And that is something that we havent identified in the communities and/or the county or the cities and the state that this is going to be something to reckon with. And I think that is. So we will take care of that. We will have something coming in on that. So but anyway. We jumped a lot.
There is two different things out there. But weve experienced a lot of thing out there, a lot of experiences. And Tampa is a growing city, you know, small town. Look at where we are at right now. We have a lesbian as a police chief. We have right nowI would say there is a lot of the mayoral candidates, okay, that are totally against it. I ran for city council twice.
Once in the west district and then they didnt like that and they moved me, just my house, moved me into another district which is the district right here. And running again, and that is okay. That isI looked at it as a saying, you know, this is a challenge and this is things I can do. This is what I do and this is what I want to do. This is what I can help, not just the simple people.
I do it for all people and all mankind and all the humans and all the people. And avenues saying its not just GLBT and gay rights out there. Its equal rights. Thats all, and also in some environmental issues. You know they were real pissed off because I was on the Barrio Latino and they cut down all the trees of Ybor City. All the trees.
CBW: The Latin commission?
CPW: Right outside. No! They come in there, and what in the hell are you doing? Had press down here and everything. They were pissed off at me. They kicked me off the Barrio. No.
CBW: Why were they trying to cut down all the trees?
CPW: They did. They cut down everything on the avenues down here. These are all new trees. Theyre sick, they said, Theyre sick. Theyre in the way of the power lines. Honey, they werent sick. Island florist came over here, and what he is, is a professional. This one works with trees. He went through there and, None of these trees are sick. They cut them down. They just cut them down.
A hundred and twenty trees they cut down. And we call them murdered. They murdered the trees of Ybor City. And you know. It was a stink. I dont care. This was all part of what the Barrio should have been notified. They werent notified. They had anything like this and they just did it in the middle of the night, they cut down all these trees. The city did.
CBW: My goodness.
CPW: This is one ofcome here, Ill show you this one. This is what we callthis is one of our tree people. That is what came out of the ground in front of our store right here.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: Okay. And the workers were so upset that they ran from that. That was actually looks like a person, you know, a tree people.
CPW: And so we kept him. He is our tree people. He supports us. He looks at what we do. (laughter) Yeah, all the trees down here wereall the way down from Twelfth all the way down to Eighteento Twentieth.
CPW: Cut down.
CPW: All along the sidewalk. All along the walkways here. Until they had about another fifty trees there were going to do. The press and the media were down here so fast they shut down and had a representative down here, and that got everybody involved. I went right there to the top to everybody, What is going on?
Of course that gets them pretty upset when you start getting, the police chief gets called in from the mayor, Whats going on down there? Everything going on, and arrest them. I dont care. You might have thought you had a contract, but you arrest them because this isnt going on in Ybor City.
CBW: That is crazy.
CPW: Everything was down. We took pictures of all being cut down. So anyway they put in olive trees, so most of the olive trees that they were putting inolive trees last for two hundred plus years, but if you go on the boulevard over here that they were going to be planting, down here on Nuccio, you will see the little trays that they were adding, a lot of them are olive trees. But they are four foot high. You know how many years its going to take for that tree to come out there?
CPW: I want full figured, like when you go to Orlando the scape, the tree scape that you go through and seeing it down there, kind of a cascade of all the different things are wonderful.
CPW: So that is another little thing out there.
CPW: Yeah we had aroundworked with the department of Florida transportation. We hadthere is like forty-six houses that are going to be there. And on the forty-six houses we only could use twenty-two to move them. The other ones are going to be demolished. We just accepted two more houses, which one is going to be the Miller Law Enforcement Museum and the other one iswe took Al Lopezs house moved it from north of the interstate and moved it down here and its going to be across from Centennial Park.
So there is two more houses. So they are still trying to figure out where we can do some of the other houses, the bungalows, otherwise they are going to be [makes noise], you know. Were taking the best of the best and relocating them because they are going to be doing more interchange work and also more transportation. That is where these houses came. So we moved that many houses down here and that is a lot of money that they are moving up for. So that is good.
CBW: Thats neat.
CPW: Yep, right now our new project right now is Equal Marriage Florida trying to get the amendment, so to get the marriage amendment out there. So we have that. In fact, I dont know if you signed one yet.
CPW: This is one for Florida for the ballot next year.
CBW: Yeah, I did one at Hamburger Marys, I think, last week.
CPW: There you go. Good. We appreciate that. So yeah, you just talked to them down at Hamburger Marys, how they came inand I took themthe owner was out from California. He was opening up the brand new Hamburger Marys over in Orlando. And when he went to Orlando he came back here just to stop off at Street Car Charlies and I grabbed him and I justCome on, I just want to take you for a walk. Took Dale for a walk and that place used to be called the Dish. It was empty for
CPW: I dont know how many years. I said this is going to be the next Hamburger Marys.
CBW: And you were right.
CPW: Yep. This is just part of the growth area out here and be supportive of what is going on down in the area. So, yeah, there is a lot of things we need. We need a show bar. We need a nice good gay restaurant. We have another new restaurant that is opening up just down the street, very proud of; its going to be opening up. Its a gay boy from Italy opening upbut his restaurants are wonderful. He has got one over in Clearwater, standing room only to try to get in. So that is going to be coal oven pizza and he makes his own gelato. He makes his own sauces and pastas.
CPW: Oh, its yummy, yummy.
CBW: Ive heard from some people that Hyde Park and Palma Ceia were sort of like gay ghettos and then once they were gentrified um
CBW: and the wealthy moved in
CPW: Im gonna take a break. Do you want a water?
CBW: Oh, no. I am okay.
CBW: What is your perspective on that? Do you think that is accurate?
CBW: That the gay community has
CPW: Thats what I talked beforeit was somewhat a gay ghetto. You know, the term gay ghetto, okay, a lot of areas out there is kind of like the district. That is the district where gays live. Its not the succumbed low poverty line, its just an area where gays live and congregate.
CPW: Just get that right cause a lot of people go, Oh ghetto, oh my god, why would you guys want to go there? The houses were big. They had beautiful old history to them and the architecture is wonderful, and where you find old architecture and that is where you find a lot of gays. They come to challengethey come to fix it up and they did. They did, we did.
You take it, a challenge, pull yourself with a new idea, different perspective, and some people see black and white, and we see gray and a multiple of twenty-five, a hundred and twenty-five thousand colors. (laughter) So we can go through there and say, this needs to be done, this is not right. And its pictured in your mind. You dont even draw it down. That is what is neat about a lot of people, have that ability. He [Mark] has that ability. He walks into a place, This is what is going to happen to it.
CBW: So do you have any concern that that would happen in Ybor City once this area is
CPW: We are hoping for that, but right now the area that is working doing the same area isnt quite gentrified yet, which is working out there for being established for remodeling and renovations, is up in Seminole Heights. That is the new area right now. Seminole Heights is growing with the multiple areas of Seminole Heights. There is old Seminole Heights, there is new Seminole Heights, there is West Seminole Heights.
There isyou know. Its just an area out there. This is the business district, and that is what we are looking at it as GaYbor is the business district and enthralls all the people around it to come and visit and to be supportive with different things. And just like it is in Wilton Manors. Its a perfect location, different restaurants, a multitude of placesI dont want to go to the same place all the time, but you give new ideas and also you give alternatives to where you want to go and what you want to do.
And some are going to be high class, some are prissy, some are going to be just regular, and some are just going to bethat is what happens when you start something and that process. You have a goal what you want to do its not immediately going to go up there, but that is what is going to happen out there.
Yeah. I think that weve already established that part of the GaYbor District in Historic Ybor City, this area out here is still venturing out there because this is one of only two locations in Florida, you know, that is acknowledged, which are historic landmark districts. You know, there is two. This one and St. Augustine, thats it. Now there is a lot of historic areas. You know, Key West, out there, the old Miami area, those are but theyre not
CBW: Dont have the national status.
CPW: They dont have the national status, no.
CPW: So, Its working its way. You kind of give it and you have to give it a lot of leniency in ways of thinking. You start something and you have to kind of give it cause and you have to get it reasoning out there, and you have to give it its roots or who they are. I think weve already gone past the roots and that is one reason why after being in there a number of years on as a president I had to have someone neutral, and come through there.
We found someone who moved into the area, and has taken over, and now that is sustainable. You know what I mean, its not passed on. You know you can take over there and be who you want to be forever, you know, but are you going to get where you really want to be, and sometimes you have to take the baby steps going in and out and then maintain it and say, What is going on? And the younger generation a lot of them have come into the area out there and said, You know what, I want to step up.
CBW: What do you mean find someone neutral?
CPW: You cant have a bar owner running the operation right now. Its going to be real tough for a bar owner.
CBW: The GaYbor association?
CPW: In the GaYbor, yeah. Because then all of a sudden its like favoritism. Youre doing this on this, and then that is the breaking up point of, okay, of trying to get what youve established to try to makeright now everyone works together. This is aits unbelievable. Most and all of them are friends. Friends before we started this and still friends now. Thatsyou know, come on, that is something out there.
CBW: So what kind of issues come up at the GaYbor association meetings? This is a business association so
CPW: Yep, business and residential. Biggest one out thereevery week its new topics about bringing in people. Weve had all the legislators or city council members. There is two that have not spoken yet at thebut five of them have spoken. County commissioners represented that. Alex Sink has spoken. Mayoral candidates and also mayors.
You know, we sponsored andthis is a good tradition, and I think that we had the start of the mayors, start of the season out there and getting ready for the candidacy, we had the first open mayor forum, and I think that is going to be continued. Events and things and activities to keep the people interested in coming. Each onewe dont make the activity, we make the activity, but the bars, the restaurants, the shops, individually you have to market yourself.
CPW: But underneath the umbrella of the area out we got more people. Were going to be doing at least four or five films this month. Weve had a film that Mark was just in, he was in the Ybor City, the movie Ybor City about a gay mafia member, and that is coming out. It should be out this fall any time now.
CBW: Oh, youre
CPW: Dan Steadman is the director.
CPW: Now, Rob Williams is coming in and he is shooting a movie down here also. And he has already got seven, eight big movies out right now. And he is coming in from out in L.A. and he is coming here. Weve come in and he looked at it and he says, Ive got the perfect script. I am going to make it into a movie. And that is starting this month and next month.
CBW: Would that beis that a gay filmmaker?
CPW: Gay filmmaker. Yep, yeah.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: Rob Williams. He is probablyThere is a couple you might know, some of them you might not know. You know, holiday films and things. Genre.
CBW: I recently read one of the citys redevelopment vision for Ybor City, and some of the language I noticed was making it a family oriented place.
CPW: Mark, you want to say what you say on that word?
MB: What ____(??)
CPW: Family-orientated. They want Ybor City to be family
CPW: Not. (laughter)
CPW: He says, bullshit, but that is okay.
CBW: Do you think though that that is somehow
CPW: No, there is nothing. It is not even feasible. Its the stupidity of whoever the person who is that is speaking about it because he doesnt know Ybor City. Thats never beenit has never been family orientated. On the peripheral it has been but that time out there was the 1940s, 1950s after that when that interstate came through that killed families here.
CPW: They moved out. Grandpa and grandma lived here. Aunts and uncles lived here. Singles live here. Young couples live here but they dont have a family. Its not a family orientated place at all.
CPW: Thats aI would have to say that this person who brought that up would actually be stupid. You can try to make something that isnt, you know. I can say, Oh my car is really a truck and/or bulldozer, you can say that but isnt going to ever happen. Isnt going to be it. You know, wherever you are coming from. If you think that is it, that is it. You know, no. Isnt intended that way. They dont have any housing for that. The housing is pretty much for single individuals or small couples.
CPW: Thats the housing. They dont have housing to support anything like that. And just like going down to Channelside. You see that as a very, very family friendly location to be down at Channelside? It has got the pier. Its got the aquarium, but there are no shops anymore. And the majority of people that live there, are you going to raise a family in the condos on the water there?
CPW: I dont think so. (laughter) Okay, no. So that is good that they can say that. I hope that they do say that. They say that every year. They say it every year, the Chamber of Commerce, about Guavaween but its not true. We have kids that come down here, we support them in the morning but like it or not, this isnt a night time activity place for kids!
CPW: And we did this yearthey put out the pumpkin patch out there this year. Last year they did a hundred, this year they did five or six hundred, next year they are going to do twenty-four hundred pumpkins for kids. So yeah, it brings out kids. But no, there is just nothing down here for that.
CBW: Right, right.
CPW: This nothing down here.
CBW: Are there any other activities or experiences that youd like to talk about today?
CPW: Well I think a lot of its non-profit. I think a lot of non-profits are doing a great part, of being a part of Ybor City.
(customer comes in)
CPW: Something to demonstrate the community for people outside of the community, visiting. This is really with a historical area you have to have places for people to go visit. What happens is that they dont have any place for people international or when you come to visit to shop.
CPW: A multitude of areas. You want the fudge shop. You want a few clothing shops. The chachkie shop. You want something high end. Look at
CBW: Like Duval St.? You know how they have
CPW: Duval St. Or many places like New Orleans. Now that we dont have.
CPW: They dont have it.
CBW: Do you think it will ever happen? Are there reasons why we dont have that?
CPW: No. In fact right now its kind of sad that we are training and turning the retail spaces into office space on the first floor. This is probably basics of economics and/or land development 101. And the people who are doing it are killing it. They are going, Ah, or maybe we will put some upstairs. No, people want first floor walk-in, see the little boutiques, see the shops, see the eateries. Give them the opportunity and then all of a sudden have anything upstairs. You walk upstairs for your services. Offices.
CBW: Why do you think theyre putting offices on the street levels?
CPW: They are hungry because they dont have anybody else coming in. They havent researched that area. Theyre taking the first person out there. Okay, Well take you. You know, there is landlord greed. But sometimes its landlordwhat their depiction is or what they want or their bottom line, and mostly its their bottom number. That is where everyone kind of works for but sometimes youve got to go through there and if it just doesnt fit, it doesnt fit. And they wanted to change this whole here where Czars was and El Goya. You know, they want to change that into an office building.
CPW: They changed it in where Urban Outfitters. Okay. They changed the location where Bizarre was, World Bizarre. That is also nowyou know. They changed the places down here all the way. So all the places that used to bewere the only place on Eighth Avenue anymore.
The only place on Eighth Avenue that is retail. There was twelve when we got here. Were it. So, and that is only in seven years. Theyve already changed that many so we dont have retail. So then you start seeing all the eateries start closing down and this was a bad year. We have a lot of places empty out here right now. And it is not GaYbors fault.
CPW: We went through an area out here which is consistently very empty, that is West End of Ybor City. And weits almost 95 percent occupied.
CBW: Right. So
CPW: The other end now that is where they kind of go through in there, and weve gone through there and weve out exactly what they feel like. When you go to some cigar factories or some cigar houses, you know, its: Faggots, we dont want to belong to your organization. See theyre very blunt, what they say. You know they think, Ha, I am macho. I told those S-O-Bs off, didnt I? Those crazy perverts. Whatever you think, but guess what, youre not going to be on our map.
CPW: You dont think that map is a big part of what Ybor Citys growth was? These are the places that you go to because theyre the ones that are supporting you. They supportwe support a lot of people and businesses, and they go on there.
CBW: So the businesses owners
CPW: That is forty-thousand maps a year we hand out.
CBW: Oh my gosh.
CBW: Thats a lot.
CPW: Yes, that is all over from down to the cruise ships down there. Forty-thousand maps. Thats a lot of maps.
CBW: So these owners sort of the cigar shops and things, are they active in any preservation efforts, or no?
CPW: No. Im just here. Im existing here. Its my business, I dont know why people arent coming in.
CPW: I dont either. Wow. We dont want any faggots. Definitely, no, you know, we dont want any niggers. Im going
CBW: Wow, so its very old
CPW: This is very old school down here.
CPW: But remember a lot of these are immigrants coming in, and the immigrants coming in out there they dont want a toleration of what they dont have overseas. They have not accepted what America is. They accept the fact that they are Americans and that we givingand they should be making all the money. They dont like the fact is how they have to work with other people to make the money. And that is a shame.
CPW: If they dont take that course, then that is a shame on the government that they dont realize what they have to do and work with it, and work with each other.
CPW: Because if they work in the other areas. Remember a lot of people say, Well what do you think of situations out there like what is going on right now? And we talk about issues out there like there are some places out here that are really anti-gay down here.
CBW: Which places?
CPW: I cant tell you that. I wont say it.
CPW: But there are places down here. Its because they came over from the old country. And homosexuals were hung, or shot, or stabbed to death. That is back in your old country. You are in a new country and you want this to be your home. Why are you bringing in your old beliefs from other there to here?
Okay. Well I make lots of money. Yeah, you can make a lot of money. And so different things that came up. For exampleoh what is his name, the Bujuwho is the singer, jazz singer, out there from Jamaica? He talked abouthe always talked about how he can go through there and he can kill homosexuals on the beaches? Buju Banton.
CBW: Oh, okay. Yeah.
CPW: He was coming in over here at the Ritz. I said, No, hes not. Why? Because he is antihe promotes gay hatred of not just the fact that he talks about killing and murdering, and that I dont want these people inside of there to get all blown up in the area and say, Oh my god, this thing is full of homosexuals down here, and they go out thereokay. I am not going to promote his dream cause that dream isnt the dream of the United States.
So then he did, the Cuban Club brought him in. They let him come in! We told them, Okay. And tell you what, Oh we need the money. Well and then they came through here. They knew. They got a hard lashing from everybody. Â He says anything about anti-gay, if he says anything out there about murdering gays, if he says anythingat that time the plug is going to be pulled, and you dont have to pay him. Police were there.
Yeah, it was going to be a conflict because that is what this guy talks about. That is what is hisyou know, we dont have people like that. You can put him, if you want to put him somewhere else, that is fine, but not in my community youre not going to. Let the others in the other communities around say the same thing, I dont want him here. Gays around the world. No, no. That is how he is making his living?
Just like the guy that owns up there, Brooks, that owns up there the Chick-fil-A. He put in you know how many millions of dollars he supported the Nigerian government about killingabout murdering if you have homosexuals in your country. You murder them. He gave a large lump sum and it was well over you know, it was the eight, nine figures.
You know, tens of millions of dollars he gave them to promote that to the church organizations, right wing church organizations that in his country is being president and through the congress and through that they have out there, the legislation, they need to know that you should murder all homosexuals. So what do we read today? Something just as bad. Salvation Army today, the president of the Salvation Army, the head general Chaplin, You should be murdering homosexuals. And were putting it on our
MB: We said are you serious ___ (??)
CPW: This is getting ready for Christmas time. We need your support. And I dont even know how the question came out. I said, well if you got money from them or if you support if gays came along like the Boy Scouts. Said, We believe that you need to murder the homosexuals. This is the head of the Salvation Army in the United States saying this on aand documented, and he wants support and help. Ring those bells.
CPW: So there is a lot of issues to be had. Anybody that walks down the street, as I said, hand-and-hand, we promote that. You can be that way and you should feel safe. Other areas of Tampa, no you cant. You cant feel safe like that. Other areas of the county. Try doing that in Plant City.
CBW: Right, oh.
CPW: Okay. There you even thought about it. Oh my god, I cant believe that. But that is exactly what I am talking about.
CBW: Right, right. Well it seems to have gotten worse in Hyde Park. For a while Hyde Park was very gay friendly, now the reverse seems to be happening. There seems to be some gay-bashing in the places for example, in some of the bars on Howard.
CPW: Are you talking about Howard Avenue?
CPW: Howard Avenue is nouveau, brand new. Young, entrepreneurs, people coming from outside the area moving into the area out there. It just takes one person to be an activist. That was very, remember it used to be the epicenter of the gay community was at Swann and Howard. Okay? Tampa. That was it around that circle. Changed a lot. A lot of new condos and people living in that area out there.
You know, a lot of people areespecially younger generation right nowthis is one thing is that weve gone through and faced a lot of discrimination. We faced the discrimination aboutwe went in about 1992, 1982 we went to a conference about gay adoption because Anita Bryant said homosexuals cant adopt in 1976 and it went through the legislature. So Florida gays cant adopt. They are banned from adopting.
Well friends of ours went through there and they challenged that law just most recently and they changed it. But we went to a conference way back when, went to ajust talking about gay adoption. That was right afterwards. So its kind of like interesting things where we have to go and what we have to do. But always issues are going to come up. There is always going to be people pushing the button on something.
So the next thing out there is going to be, you know, can you be legislators? Im happy that weve got people out there. I set out to blaze the trail. I dont mind it. Other people should be coming about there and should be doing the same thing. Not blazing the trail, taking advantage. If you can do it, I can do it. And that is kind of what we want. But the new generkind of the younger. I wont say new generation.
Its the younger generation that are coming through there that say, you know what, My friends know Im gay, they dont care. I can go anywhere I want to go out to eat at. They dont care that they dont think they are being discriminated against, but when they are, guess what? They will be lined up here, Help me, help me.
CPW: Im being discriminated against.
CBW: So young people come in here and say that to you?
CPW: Help me.
CPW: Yeah. They dont know where to go. They know that we are a gay community center. Okay. We are a place out here, a business, but we help people out in that area. Tourist information and community center. And more so than what weve ever had, the gay and lesbian community center was there for around seven years and then we went and collapsed.
Okay, I was on the board of that for the first five years of that. But then got relocated when we went over to St. Petersburg. It was kind of far to do that anymore. So there you go. But they all ask for help. See, its changing. That is why I say the ballot initiative is going through there because a lot of the older people are dying off.
Old ways of thinking are changing, and even they are finding thathow many people have said, No, there is no homosexuals in my family. You havent looked. So, so that is one of the things I would say about that.
CBW: Okay. Well is there anything else? Any concluding remarks?
CPW: No. We love our dog, Amber. Miss Amber.
CBW: She is tired.
CPW. She is our mascot. Yeah. So we are happy. Of course this year we were the St. Pete grand marshals for the St. Pete Pride Parade. So that was athey had for thirty-five years, thirty-five years of bliss. We got the pens for signing the domestic partnership, helped to get that promoted, and we had the official signing of the pens from Bob Buckhorn and signing the legislation and eull capin(??)
CPW: Yeah, we have a lot of things and a lot of memorable things. We passed on. You know what I mean. They will be in some museum someday. And we are old ones. We started out there believe it or notthis we started because we both hadMark was in real estate as a broker. I was in the corporate world with the marine industry, boating industry and that area. And this was only our part-time. This was our part-time.
CPW: You know the starting of that area out there so we are very unique, and were very happy to have the fact that we have the opportunity to even have a store like this. Almost all of themthere is two like this, two stores now, every city had a gay pride store. Now there is this one here, our store, and the other one is down in Fort Lauderdale at the Pride Factory. The others have gone away.
CPW: And it was a center of activity, a center of the community and a lot of things going on. So you met everyone, all avenues from students you meet doctors. From criminals you meet state attorneys, you meet politicians. You know, you just meet everybody out there from all avenues out there from the workers, state workers.
So, everyone comes in here and that is what we like about it. Always talk about different things and keeping them abreast of things. And we do that. We started out in 96 we started out column Dishing with Mark and Carrie. And now you know, we are over some fifty thousand we send out worldwide as a subscriber list. People that subscribe to our list.
CBW: Wow. Worldwide?
CPW: Worldwide, worldwide.
CBW: And what do you guys talk about in the blog? Local?
CPW: Primarily local but we also talk about national and state issues also that has to be recognized and if isnt happening in your community I think you need to do something about it. So, we push that avenue. That is what we push, push the button. Here its, push the paper in your direction, here you go. Just be alert and here is what is going on. It is not all happy. Just what three years ago, they had all the raids back in Atlanta again. It was almost like they raided all the bars. The police came in and raided them. All the gay bars.
CBW: Thats nuts.
CPW: In Atlanta. So you are looking at 2010 that is happening. So yeah, a lot of crazies, a lot of things happening, but it goes on whileand you know now with the social media it makes it easier. A lot of people talk to each other. They dont know who they are really talking to and a lot of times they are missing out is the communication one-on-one.
They will stand with somebody or sit at a table with somebody and they will communicate back and forth but they are afraid to talk. And I dont understand that. Their voices, they dont want to be heard. They like to have their fingers do the walking and the talking. That isnt the way its in life. You dont know expression, you dont know intonation, you dont know how its going to come out.
CBW: Right. That is true.
CPW: So its an understandable avoidage [sic]. Nope, thats it. That is all I got.
CPW: And I think weve earned a lot of respect. That is our biggest thing. You dont have to like. I dont want peoplethey dont have to like me. They dont have to like Mark, but youve got to respect what we have done. And thatsand some people do a lot of damage with their mouth, and you know, with that I dont understand these people.
I just let them go. They are barstool quarterbacks, okay, and its always on a Monday afternoon that they always make their quarterback decisions out there. Usually with a couple drinks in hand, so that is way it goes. Just do the do, walk the walk, and dont just talk the talk.
CPW: Ding! (laughter)
CBW: Well thank you so much for letting me
CPW: Oh, I hope I gave you something.
CBW: Oh, you gave me lots. Lots. Thanks.
CBW: Okay, so okay we are up again for
CPW: This is Bobby Smith and also Kay Thompson. And they lived, Bobby lived as a boy and was the youngest telegraph up in Birmingham, Alabama, he was the youngest telegraph boy, and he really was a girl.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: He always dressed as a boy, transgender, and you see all the pictures you see him as a boy, dressed up as a boy on there, clothes as a boy, haircut as a boy. But they were together out there over fifty years together in partnership. And here is some of the pictures that they had. So some of the parties that they have had, some of the closures, and some of thethat is what they always had.
A lot of them at some of the different unique bars that they had at the time. So they gave us a lot of information also. But one of the nice unique items out there is that they were very much, again, they were advocates in the community. They were thrown up to Washington D.C. to be in the March on Washington and they were the celebrated lesbian couple.
CPW: And here they are from Tampa. Miss Kay was the most prettiest and lady like. She was a florist on Swann Avenue and MacDill, her huge place out there for flowers. But they helped start the MCC Church here in Tampa, and also was one of our best friends Dr.yep, and on here. That is Walter Banks and was a doctor back in the Tampa area out there. Great stories of that time. Him and his partner have been together for fifty years.
Georgia boy, just a sweetheart Georgia gentlemen, that is the best way you can call him. But Bobby and Kaythere is a picture down there you see them it was 1949, and weve got pictures out here back there in the 1940s before the war. So he worked for a company here in Tampa and one of those odd positions where you work for a company for your lifetime, and one day Bobby got called in the office.
He said, Bobby we need to talk to you for a moment. You know, they said you went to the doctors but they said that you had a hysterectomy and guys dont get hysterectomy. He confessed to them, at this company he had worked for twenty years, worked for ____(??) and they had no idea that he was anot at all. That he was a girl.
CPW: Yeah, in that area. So that was an interesting part of it. Mark saidand of course you can see involvement in the church activities and they brought in a lot of things out there in the community. Again, new leaders and old leaders that we totally respect, and we knew them from the MCC Church out there and things, just good friends. But one of the things that happened at the end there was that Bobby died.
When Bobby died we had a nice big funeral. And it was surely not even months Miss Kay died. What they did is they had him cremated and they put his ashes in a pillow. They went through there and at first you could not be put together in a burial. So what they did is they opened up the casket at the funeral and they put and laid the pillow underneath her head. Sealed it.
CBW: How did they meet? Do you know?
CPW: That I dont remember. I dont if Mark knows how they met or not. But yeah, that is a touching story. So they are buried and are everlasting together.
CBW: Where was Jimmie Whites located? Downtown?
CPW: Jimmie Whites is Old Plantation.
CPW: Which is now is the on the corner of Kennedy and Freemont.
CPW: Now its a lawyers office. Okay. They tore it down. That is where ___(??) and Jimmie Whites turned into Old Plantation. That is really interesting on howyou know, one of the friends of ours, this would have been 1985, 86, he opened up called the Firehouse Pub. Up there, which is on Busch Boulevard and Florida.
CPW: And he went over there and he had not made a decision, like which liquor company you are going to go with and if you go with this oneand anyway he was found murdered just right at the dumpster. Assassinated. Because he didnt go with the right liquor. And that was still all the way through the mid-eighties that was still going on.
And its still under toned a lot because they took awaysome of it they broke it up here in Tampa. They took away some of the distributors, the liquor distributing, from some of the companies. And this was big and some of them went to prison. It was all schemed and you know, a lot of them they caught and they went to prison.
CPW: From insurance companies.
CPW: You know that so if you know who I am talking about, major insurance companies down here that were owned and they were giving it to their sons and they went off to
CBW: Oh gosh.
CPW: They went off and their kids took on the responsibility. The other one took on the responsibility of running a liquor company. His dad and his grandpa went off to prison. This was recent.
CBW: Its shocking that its so recent.
CPW: That is how its. We live through it. Mark worked on there withone of the Mafiohe worked at University restaurant. That is the restaurant he worked at. It had a basement, and they all came and played their poker and went out there and had bedrooms downstairs and whatever. And it still goes on today. We have it down here. Is there bedrooms down here? Big guys come on down here, and that is the way its. That is life. A lot of these bars have huge hidden bedrooms.
CPW: Multiple rooms that they canmhmm.
CBW: That is fascinating.
CPW: Was not it two years ago? Mark foundwe were going through and I said, Mark, look it. On the ground here,it was right over here across from Czars. The whole thing, they were putting in a parking lot over here, and it caved in, and all of a sudden here is all brick walls, all the way down underneath the ground from there going all the way down.
CPW: Into a room right over here. So we called the TV stations, of course, you know, they are getting all going on there, goings on, and what is going on down there. There was a walk way between Czars and the Blue Ribbon. One of the guys I worked with who happens to be Dennis Fernandez, who is in charge of the historic preservation for the city of Tampa, the city manager.
Any way, he was younger; they took him down behind the cooler, the meat cooler. There was a whole space there. They went down and they went in through the Czars. So he has pictures of all that.
CBW: Oh my gosh.
CPW: All brick. All done in brick underneath there. And its allwhen we went down here its all bars, they had bars going across there so you couldnt get across there. Yeah. So there is a lot of tunnels through this area. The tunnel area is quite fascinating.
CBW: Just for organized sort of crime to traffic underneath?
CPW: Yeah, for drinking, and a lot of the homes also have that. They had it so they could go through their getaway and come into the homes.
CBW: Oh, okay. Interesting.
CPW: But that is a good story and a goodfor Tampa. You kind of follow. You know when we grew up I didnt have anybody to guide me and saying what to do and how to do, and how to be this and that. We were a strict family but you know, not tooI guess we were conservative, the family was, but not ultra conservative but my dad was very progressive and I loved that. But we never had that.
Today we have so many icons that the younger person can go up and say, Oh, okay. But we get questions all the time. How do you further How do you do this? What happened there? And of course Mark and I were celebrated as the USF alumni of the year so we have that. We have our big ones up here. We have a lot of things and awards. We are saints from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a national order.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: Mark and I both are saints. We have orders out there. Were recognized from Equality Florida as the first business to business locatedfor achievement and equality in the state of Florida. We have a lot of things. Plaque up there is for our sainthood [referring to the area above the register which is home to many trinkets and awards having to do with the gay community and community service].
Weve got one up there that is from Pam Iorio congratulating us. Weve got the one out there, but all the other ones weve got them flatly laid, all the ones from President Obama and all the way down from all the other ones for GaYbor Days.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: We have all those proclamations and commendations. And yeah we are happy. All this stuff weve done.
CPW: Its kind of weird when you receive it though. (laughter) All of the sudden you kind of work real hard and then all of a sudden you get it, but you say, Wait, are you trying to tell me something? Were not done. No, no, just accepting what weve done is just where we are going.
That is one of my campaigns. I was with district five. And then the other one out there I had over here when I was running for district six. So I ran for two different districts though I hadnt moved. (laughter) They just had run their house around our house around that area. But Dick owned this. This was Dick Grecos building.
CBW: Oh okay.
CPW: But its tough in that area because the mayors down there are very tough in that area. Youre in with them or not. So, um, he definitely when they came through the plan when we had oh about fifteen gay businesses back in the nineties that were down in the corner right there, not Palma Ceia, just off Kennedy and off the Kennedy area.
And we know that they came through there and said that they raised our rates tremendously almost three times our rental rates. They wanted us out. They wanted all the gays out of there. So, that is how they did it back then. That is how they tried doing it to us again, and it worked! We moved. We moved to St. Pete.
CBW: And then came back.
CPW: And then we came back, yeah. We came back ten years later. So that is kind of the areas out there. But that is how they kind of go through there and they talk to the landlords about, Here is how you do it and get rid of them. But now they dont realize is that at least around half a dozen of these places if not more are owned. We bought the land and the buildings down here.
CBW: Okay, good.
CPW: Its different.
CPW: Its renting.
CBW: Right, right.
CPW: So that is some of the things. One of our ideas out there and one our friends gave us that. That was from Stonewall, that Gay Street. That right there, that picture, that is what that depicts. That is right from the Stonewall area over there.
CBW: Oh wow.
CPW: Yeah, we had that down there. So yeah, we worked a lot of campaigns. We worked with everything. I think the first one we worked with was with Hart for President, Gary Hart. We were doing that. That area. I was a delegate, and that was nice. That was my firstIve got some pictures. Back in 1972 I went to the Miami Democratic Convention as a delegate, youngest from Wisconsin, but they had a whole contingency back down there of a lot of gay flags down there.
Ive got pictures of all that way back 72. Ive got to dig that out in my books that Ive got put away in my scrapbooks. So, yeah that is it. We will work with every one of them, went from Iorio now to Buckhorn, and everything else in that area. And we dont know where it goes from here. Just work in that area. Now we are working just with Equality, getting that, make sure that some of the things that need to get done, done. And then progress out there and more issues.
There is more issues to work on. We just take on a couple at a time. Cant do them all. Let other people said, You need to step up to the plate and do something that you are involved in, and get involved. Doesnt matter what its involved with. It doesnt have to be gay issues, any kind of involvement because we need that. I think that is kind of your stewardship to your life is to go back and work and be a part of what make your world better. Thats all.
CPW: Anything else Mark?
MB: No, youre fine. You _____(??)
CPW: No, I thought if you had points or anything else on there.
MB: You did a great job.
CPW: Mark agrees. There you go.
CBW: Okay. Mark agrees with everything.
MB: I agree.
MB: Excellent job, did a good job ___(??)
CBW: Okay, well thank you.
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