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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fourth calendar year
    PCR #195  (Vol. 4, No. 51)  This edition is for the week of December 15--21.

Will and Karen's Excellent Adventure to South Florida - Part One........The Continued Death March of Locally-Produced Radio and Television
 by Will Moriaty
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
 by Mike Smith
Held over from last week!
 by Patty G. Henderson & Terri Davis
Let Me Be "Direct", Generically-Speaking
 by Matt Drinnenberg
This And That....Mel And Jesus....Oscar Watch....Willy Sleeps With The Fishes....Beatles Notes....A Big Shout Out
 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
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Will and Karen's Excellent Adventure to South Florida- Part One

A Decision is Made
For those of you who regularly read this column, you may recall that my wife and I went to the mountains of Tennessee on our fall vacation last year. This was documented in PCR issues 143 and 144. Although there were some blue skies and incredible star filled nights, there were several gray, cold, drizzly, sleety and dreary days as well which prompted me to say to Karen, "Next year we're going to St. Maarten!" To which she surprisingly responded "How 'bout we go to the Keys?" By August of this year I was already laying out plans for a whirlwind South Florida vacation, which will be the subject of the next four stories in this column.

But First, We Return to Tennessee
As most of Karen's relatives live in western Tennessee, we boarded a Southwest Airlines flight out of Tampa direct to Nashville on a foggy November 25th morning. Although the skies were blue and cold when we arrived in Nashville, Tennessee was its predictable fall gray, cold, drizzly, sleety and dreary for the remainder of our time there, even snowing as we traveled from Martin to Van Leer and finally back to Nashville. On Saturday November 30th we boarded our Southwest flight back to Tampa. It was blue and clear the entire trip with some rough air turbulence over northern Georgia. The cool weather did not let up as it was only in the 50's when we touched down on Runway 36L. Later that evening, before I left my Plant City home to buy a newspaper at a nearby convenience store, I had to scrape ice off of my Firebird the "Huntress" and even the City's sewers were steaming - - I was really looking forward to the warmth of South Florida that we would be traveling to the next morning!

"Phooka" looking tropically cool on Pine Island next to Capt'n Cons restaurant in Bokeelia.
Southwest Airlines
For years Delta Air Lines had been my airline of choice when flying, but over the years the Delta I knew and loved has become a mere shadow of itself. Corporate pinheads like recently resigned CEO Leo Mullin have denigrated this once fine institution to a dumbed down glorified bus service with overworked and under appreciated staff.

I was pleasantly surprised at the service provided by Air Tran during my flight to Miami (see issue #190), but I was delighted at the innovative approach that Southwest uses. Very customer driven, flight attendants are not scared to use sometimes scathing satire and humor to get their point across (i.e., on our flight to Nashville the steward announced "Since this aircraft will be operating at an altitude higher than ten feet, should we loose cabin pressure this oxygen mask can be fitted over your big fat nose and mouth like this..." and upon pulling up to the gate in Tampa another steward proclaimed "Do not get up to exit the aircraft until you hear the clicking sound...wait...wait...wait (click!) Okay, now get off!" One attendant even sang for us!). Although it is seating on an availability basis, you owe it to yourself to fly Southwest any opportunity that you can - - Thanks Herbert D. Kelleher!

The base of operation for Tropic Star of Pine Island Inc., colorfully decked out dockside in Pineland.
Southwest Florida and the Cabbage Key Inn
On a bright clear Sunday morning, Karen and I drove down Interstate 75 in her Firehawk "Phooka" to the Rest Area at County Road 765, better known as Burnt Store Road in Charlotte County on our way to the Cabbage Key Inn.

By fate or by coincidence we ran in to fellow Sun Coast F-Body members Christopher (Tophrhawk) and Davis Gandees (Old Goat) who had just wrapped up a Thanksgiving vacation in Sanibel. From there we traveled down to the Lee County seaside village of Matlacha. In many aspects this small town is more colorful than those of the Florida Keys and the South beach with its tiny yet tropically colorful and decorated buildings. We then crossed over a bridge onto Pine Island, drove past Florida Folk Hero and author Randy Wayne White's yellow Cracker house built upon a Calusa Indian mound and made our way to the dock where the Tropic Star, a boat similar to the African Queen, would ferry us out to Caya Costa State Park and then out to the Cabbage Key Inn.

While waiting for the Tropic Star, I met Roothee, an aspiring Florida noir writer trying to get her works put on the literary world map. Needless to say we hit it off pretty good, and her current book project sounds fascinating. She even tried to arrange for me to meet Randy Wayne White, but the best that time would allow was for me to purchase some of his books and hot sauce at the Inn. Here's hoping Roothee can find a publisher for her talents!

The Tropic Star fully loaded on its return trip to home base.
No Phone, No Lights, No Motor Cars, Not A Single Luxury
All right, Cabbage Key has all of those things with the exception of the motorcars and paved roadways, but it is in large part one of the last Fantasy Island and Gilligan's Island types of places left in the Sunshine State. If you ever needed to truly get away from it all, this is the place. The only television is located in the Inn's bar, and the only public phone is at the Inn's dock.

Erected in the 1930's by the family of playwright Mary Roberts Rinehart, Cabbage Key Inn is a wooden structure built on a 38 foot tall Calusa Indian mound, making it one of the highest points in Lee County. This Inn was discussed in "The ghost of the Cabbage Key Inn" article in issue #187. Karen and I stayed in the sixth and last room of the Inn (cottages are available, but detached from the inn) from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon December 2nd.

A view of the Cabbage Key Inn's "Dollar Bill Bar".
Thirty Thousand Dollar Wallpaper
Both the Inn's bar and restaurant are covered wall to wall and wall to ceiling with approximately thirty thousand one dollar bills. An entire piano in the bar is covered, and those hanging from the restaurant's ceiling gave an effect of a catacomb as one ate their meal and observed. Karen and I placed one autographed dollar bill from Sonic's siren Liz Warner (with an illustration by PCR publisher Nolan Canova) and our own autographed bill ("William Moriaty La Floridiana and Karen Cashon") next to the table we were eating at in the restaurant. Oh, and one last thing, if you want to see or sense the ghost, reserve Room 3!

A cavern of dollar bills as stalactites droop from the ceiling of the Cabbage Key Inn's restaurant.
Fantastic Staff
Inn staff members, who comprise of close to two dozen, are a friendly and fiercely independent type that Karen and I quickly warmed up to. Those who ran the bar and restaurant included Shannon, Steve, Paula, and Amy. Terry is the Inn's legendary dock master, Tom is a great cook, and the dude in the Chicago Bulls hat was a great conversationalist. Ken Wells, son of the owners, was also a most courteous person. We often stayed up after hours blabbing with the staff under star light. People definitely make the difference at this wonderful sub tropical island escape. But sadly, it was time to leave and head further south to our next destination at the Flaming Lodge in the Everglades National Park, all of which will be covered in next week's PCR! Be there!

Tropical Coconut Palms (Cocos nucifera) frame the view looking down from a 38' tall Calusa Indian mound onto Pine Island Sound from the Cabbage Key Inn on the Lee County coast.

The Continued Death March of Locally-Produced Radio and Television

Retirement of A Legend
Such as commercial aviation is losing flight engineers at a precipitous rate, locally produced television talent, especially in Florida, has also been disappearing at an alarming rate. Charlie Folds, who portrayed the affable "Toby the Robot" on WCKT in Miami retired at age 65 on December 15th.

"Toby the Robot" was legendary among a generation of South Florida kids who grew up to the robot's antics on Sunday mornings, amongst them reading comics out the Miami Herald. Folds started at the NBC affiliate also known as Channel 7 in 1958. In 1983 the station changed its call letters to its current WSVN, and in 1992, became an affiliate with the Fox network.

In addition to "Toby the Robot", Folds also appeared as "Mr. Magic", "Duffo the Clown" and the bumbling vampire "Count Down" from 1958 to 1984. He then became a public relations director until his retirement, and plans to write children's books. Folds also worked with WCKT legendary newsman Wayne Fariss who anchored at the station from 1958 to 1984 after putting in a three-year stint (1955-58) at Tampa's WTVT Channel 13 (see Mike Clark's fine "Big Thirteen' web site).

Due to out of control major communication corporations (there are what, two of them left by now?) who have made it a top priority to eliminate locally produced programming and present the least innovative and sterile crap possible for public consumption left legends like Folds are becoming an extinct species.

Notable Local Personalities
Both radio and television have had their share of notable local personalities from the 1950's through the 1980's, particularly in the Sunshine state. Some that readers need to know about would include Miami radio personalities such as Alan Freed at WRAM, "Big Wilson" at WPGC, Morton Downey Junior at WFUN and the "Alan Burke Show" on WINZ. Tampa had its radio notables at the WRBQ's "Q Zoo", which featured Scott Shannon, Cleveland Wheeler and Mason Dixon in the late 1970's and 1980's, and the "Ron and Ron Show" on WYNF featuring Ron Diaz and Ron Bennington in the mid 80's to very early 90's.

Tampa's "Kiddies" Shows
In addition to the legendary Dr. Paul Bearer, whom we have covered extensively in this publication, there were numerous other local kid show hosts and hostesses in the Bay area market including WSUN Channel 38's "Captain Mac", "Bongo Bailey in Jungle-La", "Super Duper Coloring Book", "Firehouse Frolics" and the "Davy Crockett Show". WTVT Channel 13 had "Rufnik the Robot" and the legendary "Shock Theater", while WLCY Channel 10 used weather man Dick Crippen as "Commander Astro" in 1965. Another legendary local production was "Uncle Bruce" with recurring characters "Barney Bungleupper", "Little Mike" and "Hector Hambone". Mike Clark's incredible WTVT web site mentioned above goes into loving detail about these incredible shows and many others like them.

A Sad Demise
Possibly as the Baby Boomers put away childish things by the early 1980's, the locally-produced kid and fright night shows were one of them. As time and tide move on, it is clear that we will probably never eyewitness the magic and enchantment that these shows and their stars provided us when we were still young and young at heart.

"La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.