by Cliff Roles, radio host 1220 AM Talk Of The Sun Coast, columnist SCENE Magazine
On her 65th birthday, Linda Carson's gift to herself was to join the "Luffing Lassies", part of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, buy herself a 17' Pram sailing boat and learn how to sail. That was five years ago. Amazing as it is to believe, Linda turned 70 on July 11 this year.
She still sails a lot nowadays: "I capsized last week" she blushes. "Two men from the chase boat had to fish me out of the bay!" I visit Linda at her desk in Sarasota's ABC 7 studios on Tenth Street, where she's preparing the weekend news together with her producer Courtney. We chat as she proudly shows me photos of her four children and three grandchildren.
This past Monday, December 7, Linda made her way to her church to celebrate the life of her late husband Bud Carson, the acclaimed former football coach to whom she was married for 35 years. He passed away on that date in 2005. "I'm helping to send my two grandsons to college in Bud's name", she tells me. She's also formed the Bud Carson Memorial Scholarship, which awards $ 5,000 every year to a defensive High School football player who embodies "the backbone of the team". Three players have already received this scholarship.
It didn't escape anyone's notice 3 years ago when Linda put herself in the hands of Dr. Bill Anderson and succeeded in losing 73 pounds. "He would get me to sit in a chair and meditate," Linda recalls. She still sticks to the no-snacking rule, restricts herself to 800 calories a day, exercises at the YMCA three times a week and takes her dog Murphy, a 5-year old Collie, for brisk walks. Linda got him from Southeastern Guide Dogs three years ago. "He didn't quite make the grade as a guide dog", she remembers. "But he's a great companion, and I love him dearly."
Linda has spent more than 44 years in the field of television broadcasting, working as a weathercaster, anchor, sports reporter, and consumer reporter. She began her career in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, as a weathercaster at the ABC affiliate. She spent 10 years at that station and went on to become a reporter and weekday anchor. Linda joined ABC 7 in 1995 from WTFX-TX in Philadelphia, PA, where she worked as a freelance weather anchor and Co-Host of the award winning show, "Job Exchange", and Guest Host of the sports feature "Eagles Day Live Show."
Memorable episodes in her career? "Definitely my coverage of Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Atlanta during the nation-shattering moments following his assassination. I was at WXIA-TV, getting ready to anchor the 11 pm news on the night it happened; we followed the Mayor to Coretta's house and waited outside while he told her what had happened. We saw the world change before our eyes when the leader of peaceful change was gone, and riots broke out all around the county."
Linda was present on October 25, 2006 when "Gainesville Ripper" Danny Rolling was executed by lethal injection in the Florida State Prison in Starke near Gainesville. He had been convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of five people in 1989/90. "His signature was to arrange the bodies in such a way as to highlight the carnage in the rooms, even including setting up several mirrors and decapitating or posing his victims."
Linda interviewed Rolling on Death Row.
"The most shocking thing was that he appeared to be so nice and normal. He was funny and good looking, and personable.
I said to him, "Danny, you're a nice guy; if I ran into you at the mall, I wouldn't be afraid of you.
He replied: "You should be - sometimes the nicest face you see can turn out to be the last face you'll ever see."
The story was about how to avoid becoming the victim of a serial killer. Danny said he really wanted to help people, and he gave this advice:
"Lock your doors, get a dog, lights around your house, and one of those clap-on, clap-off gadgets. If I make a noise trying to get in your house and the lights go on, I'm out of there."
He went on: "I don't have a certain type of victim - my motto is easy is as easy gets."
He also confessed to raping several of his victims, committing an additional triple homicide in 1989 in Shreveport, Louisiana, and attempting to murder his father in May 1990. In all, Rolling confessed to killing eight people.
None of us will ever forget September 11, 2001. For Linda Carson, it's especially poignant. As the local news team, Linda and her photographer were in the second-grade classroom with President Bush when he learned of the terrorist attacks. Linda remembers: "President Bush paused for a moment as if to absorb the news, then headed for the Media Room where the national media was already gathered, and spoke to the nation on live TV. As horrible as those moments were, I felt a great pride and a great love for my country and a determination that we would somehow get through this together."
Linda likes nothing better than to grab her cameraman Tom and travel through the county meeting people, investigating new controversial topics and reporting on current events. Every week she seeks out and previews the best events for her very popular "Suncoast Scene" segment, which viewers can see on Thursday evening and Friday morning. And every weekend she anchors the ABC 7 newsroom at 6:30 and 11:00 pm with her pal, weather-lady Wendy Ross.
But Linda's utmost priority is her family, of course. Having just spent Thanksgiving in Jacksonville with daughter Cathi, who works there for CBS47 WTEV, she'll soon pile Murphy into the car and enjoy Christmas in Atlanta together with son Gary, daughter-in-law Nary, and her 15-week old granddaughter Ariana Grace. She holds up a photo: "Isn't she beautiful?" she beams. "She was born on August 21 and I was present at her birth!" And there's that unmistakable smile again - that warm, charismatic smile that has made Linda Carson one of Sarasota's most popular and loved personalities.
If you'd like to write to Linda Carson, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AnythingArts.com Oct 30
By Cliff Roles, radio host 1220 AM Talk Of The Sun Coast,
columnist, SCENE Magazine
I've learned one very important rule since I've been writing in Sarasota - never, ever attempt to be as funny as Bob Plunket. Don't try to imitate his humor or counter his subtle jibes. You'll fail miserably.
He's one of the few people in the world that can leave me speechless. That's particularly embarrassing if we're in the middle of a radio interview, of course. Don't tell him this, because it might go to his head, but I'm one of his biggest fans. We should call ourselves "Plunketeers": people like Pam Daniel, Kay Kipling, Kim Davis, Matt Orr, Marjorie North, AnythingArts' Rick & Christine, David and Myrna Band, Margaret and Bill Wise, Ron and Rita Greenbaum, the bar staff at the Ritz Carlton, the population of Papua New Guinea ... there are hundreds of thousands of adoring readers all over the world who owe their insanity to this man.
He's a true Sarasota celebrity, no question. In the opening scene of the trailer to Martin Scorcese's 1985 film "After Hours," you'll see a young, heavily bearded Robert Plunket talking to Griffin Dunne. Really, you will. (see photo collage) And Madonna optioned the movie rights to one of his books, Love Junkie. Talking of books, the Washington Post called Bob's My Search For Warren Harding "one of the five funniest novels ever written in the United States." He also provided his own wry commentary in his book Walker Evans: Florida, in which "the American photographer Evans captured a unique look at Florida in 1941, revealing a wealth of contradictions in the nation's seaside vacationland."
Robert Hercules Plunket was born in Greenville Texas, in Dr Crabbe's Clinic. But he was mostly raised in Latin America, and considers Mexico City his hometown. Bob has worked for Sarasota Magazine since he moved here from Manhattan in 1985. Back then the magazine was called "Clubhouse" and his column "Plunket's Place." He's an expert in real estate, an award-winning author, and a celebrated magazine columnist and bloggist. His columns and blogs Mr Chatterbox and Real-Estate Junkie are widely read and respected, so much so that he even has his own weekly real-estate TV slot on ABC7. His story two years ago about his experiences following a homeless man around Sarasota should be made compulsory syllabus in journalist colleges everywhere. He followed ASOLO Rep boss Michael Edwards around for a week in New York during "Tale of Two Cities" rehearsals, and if you ask him nicely he'll show you the copy of Michael's restraining order against him that he keeps in his wallet.
Together with his pug Pee-Wee, Bob organizes the Sarasota Pug Parade, which brings about 500 pug-lovers from all over the country to our community every February. And before Jimmy Dean or Cliff Roles ever emceed a gala in Sarasota, the dream team of Bob Plunket, Carolyn Michel and Annette Sherman ruled the auction gavel.
Bob has a new series starting in Sarasota Magazine's November issue: "Decorating Can Be Murder," in which he introduces Timothy Spryke to the world. Bob has created a whole persona around Timothy. He lived in a little town in Wisconsin all his life taking care of his elderly mother. When she passed away, Timothy fulfilled a lifelong dream by moving to Florida and opening a decorating business in Sarasota. As the series title suggests, every time Timothy goes to work on a project in the house of one of Sarasota's celebrities, he ends up having to step over corpses and solve a crime.
In order to conduct his research and keep everything as true-to-life as possible, Bob will be visiting the homes of various well-known Sarasotans. Then, in true Plunket tongue-in-cheek style, Timothy will be revealing the owners' ghastly taste, disastrous color schemes, hideous furniture and accessories, and many other designer "faux pas" to the magazine readers, and in-between on his blog at SarasotaMagazine.com. You've guessed it: my house is one of the first on his list. And my wife is sharpening kitchen knives as I write.
Why did he make Timothy an interior decorator? Bob P.: "It's the art form of Sarasota - that, and plastic surgery."
Bob has engaged top illustrator Michael White, a teacher at Ringling College of Art and Design, to bring Timothy Spryke to life and develop his outfit, shoes, watch, glasses etc. Timothy will have his own blog and occupy a special section of SarasotaMagazine.com's website, which will offer product placement to potential advertisers, show Timothy's paint samples and fabric swatches, and allow readers to accompany him into the celebrity homes.
Bob P: "In Chapter 2, Timothy bids on a county job and gets it: re-decorating Kathy Dent's house! And guess what he finds in the closet? 18,000 votes!"
AnythingArts.com, Jun 26 2008
I don't know about you, but laughter and music are the way to my heart. However, really talented musical-comedy actresses are few and far between. Chenoweth, Ebersole and LuPone don't grow on trees. Luckily, in this town the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre is a fertile breeding ground and ideal platform for such an actress to develop and fine-tune precisely those skills. Take the sublime, beautiful and incredibly talented Catherine Randazzo, for instance.
It's no wonder that Catherine decided to pursue a life in the theatre, as she's been singing, acting, telling jokes and impersonating people since she was five. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre performance at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio (where she became friends with Players Artistic Director Jeffery Kin, incidentally), and since moving to Sarasota in 1990 has received many local awards, including a "Sammy" as one of Sarasota's Funniest People, a "Handy" for her portrayals of Ethel Merman, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Angela Lansbury and Carol Channing in FORBIDDEN BROADWAY, and the title of Best Supporting Actress by SRQ Magazine for her performance as Rizzo in GREASE. Most recently she was nominated Sarasota Magazine's Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Fanny Brice in FUNNY GIRL.
Catherine has played over 35 roles at the Golden Apple, most notably Grizabella in CATS, Sister Margareta in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, Vicky in THE FULL MONTY, Maggie in A CHORUS LINE, Lucille in NO, NO, NANETTE and Dee Dee in SUDS.
As an educator, Catherine has been teaching private voice and piano for 8 years and is now Music/Drama teacher and choral director for St. Martha's Catholic School. Before that, she was the Golden Apple's Production Coordinator for seven years.
Now our Funny Girl has also transitioned into directing. Her upcoming directorial debut is "IF THE DEVIL COULD FALL IN LOVE", which was written by local writer Jenny Beres and won the 2007 "The Play's the Thing." It will run from July 17-20 at the Players of Sarasota. Catherine will also be directing BYE BYE BIRDIE there this coming October.
Yep, laughter and music … watch Catherine Randazzo on or off stage, and I don't have the slightest doubt she'll find her way into your heart as well.
(Written by Cliff Roles of WSRQ AM 1220 Talk of the Sun Coast)
AnythingArts.com, Jun 12 2008
Jenny Beres burst on to the Sarasota theatre scene in the summer of 2007 when her very first play, If The Devil Could Fall In Love, won the Players play-reading festival. Just hearing it read from the script had the audience in stitches, and everyone was amazed and delighted at the writing prowess, the mature quality and the intelligent, honest humor of the 25 year old student. Now it is to be performed four times on the Players stage in mid-July, and Jenny's riding a big, beautiful wave of success.
Jenny, who moved to Nokomis with husband Brian three years ago from Cleveland, almost didn't make it to Florida.
"When I was 17, I backed over my eighty-four year old neighbor while he was cutting the grass. It was a scene straight out of the Wizard of Oz, with his red-and-white-striped crew socks being the only thing sticking out from underneath the car. His wife came running out screaming, and I knew I was finished - until I heard her say "If only you would wear your hearing aid" - she was yelling at him! Luckily he was OK, but my mom made me write a greeting card that started: "Dear Mr. Horton, I'm sorry for backing over you today".
When she's not mowing down old men in her car or writing plays, Jenny loves to gallop cross-country on her horse Final Agenda.
After being hailed as one of "Sarasota's Leading Understudies" in last month's SCENE Magazine, Jenny had her second play "Misery Loves Children" performed at Home Resource in mid-May by Ann Morrison and Wesli Spencer. Hannah Wallace wrote extensively about Jenny in her blog on SarasotaMagazine.com, and she'll be guesting on Talk of the Sun Coast on June 19. And as if that's not enough: Jenny's mentor Jeffery Kin, Artistic Director of the Players Theatre, informed her last weekend that her new script "Hay Day" will be read as one of the six finalists during this year's The Play's The Thing festival from July 7 - 12.
However, as proud as she is to be an AnythingArts.com featured artist, there is no doubt you're going to discover an equally proud Jenny Beres sitting in the back row of the Players Theatre on July 17, 18, 19 and 20 as she watches the second coming of her first "child", "If the Devil Could Fall in Love." Directed by Funny Girl Catherine Randazzo, this heavenly romp features Julianne Randolph as she-Devil Scarlet, Berry Ayers as Saint Peter, Tommy Carpenter as Robert Charm, and this humble writer as God. To purchase tickets, call the Players Box Office at 941 365-2494 or book online at www.theplayers.org.
(Written by Cliff Roles of WSRQ AM 1220 Talk of the Sun Coast)
AnythingArts.com, May 29 2008
In Memoriam: Robert E. Atkins
April 19, 1944 – May 24, 2008
A Man Of Many Hats - And Just As Many Dreams
It’ll be strange not to hear his unmistakable booming deep voice over the loudspeakers any more, or see him coming out of the Asolo, or just helping out backstage at the Players … last Saturday, Robert Atkins was working in his garden when his heart stopped. He was only 64 – far too young, of course, to leave behind his wife Patty, his 84-year old mother Katherine, 3 sons, 6 daughters and 13 grandchildren. But friends of Robert Atkins know that he’d understand why it happened the way it did. He’d shoot them his wry smile, then follow up with a quick quip for everyone in earshot.
A Vietnam War Veteran who worked for the BBC in England after his military service, Robert returned to the States to "multitask" for 13 years in Florida, among other things as a DJ, voiceover specialist, Boys and Girls Club mentor, baseball coach, radio show host and actor on Sarasota stages. Theatre audiences at the Historic Asolo recently saw him act in Mike Bennett’s "The Boys Next Door", but I think he’ll always be remembered most for his performances as Hoke in "Driving Miss Daisy" and Midge in "I’m Not Rappaport". And of course, as the voice of Audrey II in "Little Shop of Horrors."
Robert and Patty were married on the stage of The Players Theatre, and it is there that Patty would like to celebrate Robert’s life with a commemorative tribute on Sunday, June 1 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.
If you’d like to send a message of condolence, you can mail Patty at email@example.com.
(written for AnythingArts.com by Cliff Roles)
AnythingArts.com, December 27 2007
Steve and Dianne Dawson
Their names are synonymous in our theatre world with quality, success, reliability and vocal flawlessness. They could have long since trodden the Broadway boards, but we're lucky they didn't. Southwest Florida's best-loved musical-theatre couple, Steve and Dianne Dawson, met during A Little Night Music, fell in love during The Fantasticks, planned their wedding during Barefoot in the Park and got married straight afterwards on June 8, 2002 on the stage of the Manatee Players' Riverfront Theatre. He is reticent and shy, a man of few words, but his smile (and magnificent baritone) will capture your heart immediately. She is the alert perfectionist, always leaving you wanting more when her blue eyes flash and her dynamic soprano voice quivers with passion. Everyone has their favourite "Steve & Dianne" story, such as Steve's Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, or their portrayal of John Wilkes Booth and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme in VLT's award-winning Assassins, or Dianne's Best Actress performance as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady at The Players of Sarasota. Since that time they've gone from strength to strength, always acting and singing together if the show allows it: "It's a lifestyle, not a hobby,” they'll always tell you. West Side Story, Zorba, I Do I Do, WillmS, Oliver … ask them about personal highs, and they'll say Batboy, Sweeney Todd and Jekyll & Hyde.
Steve's currently performing in VLT's Forever Plaid until December 29, then going straight into Grand Hotel at the Players from January 10 - 20. Dianne's taking a well-deserved break, getting things in order for the holidays. But then, on January 31st, the couple reunite in Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last 5 Years at the East Village Cabaret, directed by Michael Sebastian. Not to be missed, believe me. They could read from the telephone book and I'd still go. I'm a Dawson groupie, you see. Say it for me, Dianne, say it just one more time ... say, "Come on, Dover, move yer bloomin' arse!"
(Written by the ubiquitous Cliff Roles for AnythingArts.com; a clue was the way he spelled “favorite” with a “u”. Thanks Cliff!)
AnythingArts.com, November 15 2007
(Our Featured Artist today is David Breitbarth. The following was written, with our appreciation, by Cliff Roles)
Tears of laughter rolled down my face when his vampire cloak got caught in the door in Laughing Stock; tears of emotion flowed freely as he comforted fellow Asolo legend David Howard in Tuesdays with Morrie; and last season I sat open-mouthed as he sparred with his buddy Jimmy Clarke at the speed of light in Men of Tortuga and with passionate sports know-how in Rounding Third. David Breitbarth is a twelfth-season Associate Artist at the Asolo Repertory Theatre. He celebrated the big FIVE-0 birthday last week, but his boyish charm and cheeky smile make him ageless. A female friend of mine once described him as "the Robert Redford of Sarasota,” but he'll have none of it. And Koufax, his 9-year old English pointer mix, named after the famous Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodger, couldn't care less either. David considers himself introverted and shy: "I'm not comfortable talking off the top of my head, especially in front of groups of people. People are obviously surprised at this." A bit of Breitbarth trivia: Up until the age of 13, he was a pretty serious trombone-player, and even made it to first chair in the New Jersey All-State Band. Catch him now thru December 9 as "bedridden" novelist Paul Sheldon in Simon Moore's adaptation of Stephen King's Misery in the Cook Theatre, then watch him in Smash from February 15, 2008 in the Mertz, then back in the Cook from May 9 onwards in Craig Wright's Lady. David Breitbarth is not a man to blow his own trombone, er… trumpet, so let me do it for him: he's a helluva guy and one of the finest actors I know. Happy Birthday, mate!