Little-Known Facts about the Widely-Known Songs in SHOUT! The Mod Musical

SHOUT! The Mod Musical opens tomorrow, so now is the perfect time to take a strut down memory lane with a few of the show’s mega-hits from the 1960s. We put together this fab list of choice info to give you the skinny on some of the most popular songs in the show. It’s a gas, baby.

Photo By Rob/Harris Productions, Inc.

  1. Wishin’ and Hopin’

The *other* 60s throwback, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery¸ put Burt Bacharach back on the screen in one of the best scenes in the movie, a cameo featuring “What the World Needs Now.” Because, what’s a swingin’ Sixties story without Burt Bacharach? The smoother-than-a-lounge-sofa composer first wrote “Wishin’ and Hopin’” for Dionne Warwick (aunt of Whitney Houston). Dusty Springfield heard Dionne’s recording and loved the song so much she went out and recorded her own version two years later. Dusty Springfield, of course, is best known for another song revived by the movies …

  1. Son of a Preacher Man

Welp, we dare you to hear Dusty Springfield’s version of this song and not think about Pulp Fiction. We’re pretty sure the scene of Vincent (John Travolta) picking up Marsellus Wallace’s wife Mia (Uma Thurman) at their house would not have been as fraught with temptation had Tarantino picked any other song. In fact, Tarantino claimed later he wouldn’t have shot the scene had he not be able to set it to “Son of a Preacher Man.” The song sits at slot 43 of the greatest singles of all time according to the writers at New Musical Express. Dusty Springfield, of course, is a stage name. She was born in London as Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien. That’s a lot of names, kind of like the woman who sang …

  1. To Sir, With Love

… who was Lulu, born Marie McDonald McLauglin Lawrie. Lulu is certainly easier to remember. “To Sir, With Love” hit No. 1 in 1967, the theme song of the film To Sir, With Love starring Sidney Poitier as a teacher doomed or destined (depending on your perspective) to save a class of wayward youths at a school in dodgy east London. Lulu made her film debut in the movie, going on to win bit parts in other films including 2016’s Ab Fab: The Movie.  Don Black, the lyricist for “To Sir, With Love,” also wrote the lyrics to the 60s hit “Born Free” and the theme songs to the Bond films Diamonds are Forever, The Man with the Golden Gun, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough.  Which brings us to …

  1. James Bond Theme/Goldfinger

Probably one of the most recognizable movie theme songs next to Jaws, the James Bond Theme carries a bit of intrigue around its creation. Credited to Monty Norman, whose been earning royalties from the music since 1962 when he composed the piece for Dr. No, there’s been some pushback from John Barry, who wrote “007 Theme” for From Russia with Love. {Some will argue the circumstances for Sidney Poitier in To Sir, with Love were much more dangerous than for Sean Connery in same title except From Russia]. John Barry indisputably wrote “Goldfinger” for that Bond film with the unashamedly over-acting diva Shirley Bassey belting out the theme song with her unmistakable “GooooldFINGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” which has been a joy to replicate for everyone covering the song thereafter. As of this writing, the great diva Dame Shirley Bassey is still alive and performing this very song.

  1. Georgy Girl

As long as we’re talking divas, let’s start by mentioning Lynn Redgrave starred as Georgy Girl in the film, which was her breakout role about a young woman coming-of-age in Swingin’ London. It’s a perfect song for SHOUT!, which is all about women like Georgy. The theme song “Georgy Girl,” performed by The Seekers, made them the first Australian folk group to get major success in the US and UK. The song hit No. 1 in 1965, and, in 1967, The Seekers were named Australians of the Year. And, guess who wrote the music to “Georgy Girl”? Tom Springfield—Dusty’s brother. His birth name was Dionysius P.A. O’Brien. At this point, we’re beginning to suspect Dusty and Tom had very interesting parents. And you know who did have interesting parents …

  1. These Boots are Made for Walkin’

Nancy Sinatra. Eldest daughter of Old Blue Eyes Frank and mom Nancy, this woman was destined for the charts. Her No. 1 hit, “These Boots are Made for Walkin’,” has been covered by a surprisingly diverse crowd that includes Billy Ray Cyrus, Megadeath and Ella Fitzgerald. Lee Hazlewood wrote “These Boots are Made for Walkin’,” and he’d later write the theme song for Frank Sinatra’s detective movie, Tony Rome¸ which he got Nancy to perform. Lee and Nancy collaborated all the way up to 2004. Hazlewood confessed in an interview that the catch phrase of this song, “one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you” came from a conversation he was eavesdropping on in a bar.  That proves 1) be careful what you say in a bar and 2) inspiration comes from all kinds of places like …

  1. Downtown

… the ginormous 1964 Petula Clark hit that came after songwriter Tony Hatch went to New York City to find new material for Clark. Before “Downtown,” Clark was unknown in the United States even though she was a huge British star. The single skyrocketed her to the top of the U.S. charts and “Downtown” was covered by Frank Sinatra, Patty Duke, and, most notably, by Dolly Parton on her The Great Pretender album. In a very 90s turn of events for the song, it featured prominently in “The Bottle Deposit” episode of Seinfeld, when George and Jerry decide to use the lyrics of the song to try to decipher a message from George’s boss because George, of course, is too anxious to ask his boss to clarify the message directly.  So, George and Jerry head, well, downtown—where all the lights are bright—and a bunch of hilarious nothingness follows.

  1. Shout!

Talk about your songs that have been covered and covered and covered. This Isley Brothers ditty barely had a chance to become one of their signature songs before everybody in the 60s … then 70s … then 80s … then 90s to now covered it for their own albums. Only one month after the Isley Brothers dropped the record, Johnny O’Keefe did the song in Australia and got it to #2 on the Aussie charts. After that, Chubby Checker recorded it, followed by Dion, Lulu, The Shangri-Las, The Beatles, The Kingsmen, The Shondells, Otis Day and The Knights, Joan Jett, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Green Day, Panic! At the Disco, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Alvin & the Chipmunks and the cast of Glee. And that’s not even a complete list. In an interesting side note, the Isley Brothers also wrote and recorded “Twist and Shout,” also recorded and made famous by The Beatles.

From Houseless to Household Name

Consummate storyteller John Tesh speaks in this exclusive interview with the Straz Center

A few months ago, our senior marketing manager Carol Cohen interviewed John Tesh over the phone for his current Q&A in the back of The Straz’s official publication, INSIDE magazine. The interview covered some interesting ground that we had to edit from the Q&A—including his time living in a tent at a state park in North Carolina among other fascinating tidbits. We wanted to publish a longer, edited version of that interview here so John Tesh fans could get a fuller version of the story.

Carol Cohen:  I read that your parents only let you watch Star Trek: The Original Series growing up. Is that true?

John Tesh:  It is true, but they didn’t say, “You can only watch Star Trek.” They said, “You can only watch a half hour of TV a day.”

CC:  So you could choose.

JT:  Yeah … My mom was like an age group tennis champion, and she was also a retired surgical nurse. I was born in ’52, and back in the day in the suburbs if you had kids, as a woman, you didn’t work anymore. It was natural to raise the kids, right? That was the social demand. She decided that I was going to be a musician. So, for two hours every day, even as a six-year-old, I was either playing piano or playing trumpet. There really wasn’t much television. My dad liked The Jack Paar Show. It was on too late for me, but we also watched Ed Sullivan as a family. So there wasn’t [much television watching] … unless I got sick, right? Then you watched I Dream of Jeannie.

CC:  Obviously you’re an extremely gifted piano player. Do you still play the trumpet?

JT:  Yes. I play piano for a living now, but I was probably a better trumpet and baritone horn player than I was a piano player, because I had some incredible training as a kid in elementary school on Long Island. Stewart Avenue School. In fact, the teacher, Dr. Tom Wagner, he ended up being New York State Teacher of the Year twice. This is before performing arts schools, and so the Garden City school system was really like that. There was a lot of theater, a lot of music, a lot of performance. And so, I played trumpet in the band, the marching band, the orchestra, the dance band and all that. I only played piano at home and during recitals. I had more training as a trumpet player.

CC:  Do you still play it now?

JT:  Only to wake up my grandkids. [laughs]

CC:  I guess the piano just doesn’t quite cut it for that.

JT:  Well, and the other thing is … I’ve interviewed many musicians, including Eric Clapton and Michael McDonald and Elton John, all those guys. You can ask any of them, and they’ll tell you that the reason they got into music wasn’t because they were interested in music. They were either interested (a) in being popular or (b) in meeting girls. Girls weren’t really interested in the kid holding the trumpet in the marching band, so I went to Western Auto and got myself a little chord organ and played in a garage band. We played for a lot of the school dances and the Catholic Youth Fellowship back in the 1960s. I still didn’t meet any girls, but at least I was in a band.

CC:  I saw on your website how you have the pet of the week. Are you an animal person?

JT:  I grew up with a cat person, for sure. We always had two cats in the house: Tippy One and Tippy Two because we couldn’t come up with another name. [laughs] In fact, Tippy One was the star of my first science fiction movie. But then we ended up getting a chihuahua, and there was a total mess in the house. When I got married to Connie 27 years ago, she’s allergic to cats and so is my stepson. We ended up with a dog that followed me home one day as a puppy. I was running out on Mulholland Drive, which is a very dangerous area, and she followed me home. We’ve had Lucy for 15 years. She’s got a heart problem, so the doctors gave her Lasix, and then they gave her this other pill. I said, “What is that?” It said ‘sildenafil.’ And they go, “Oh, that’s Viagra.” I said, “You’re giving my dog Viagra?” They said, “Yeah, it was originally prescribed as a heart medicine, and then it had other ancillary effects.”  So, my dog’s on Viagra and Lasix, and she couldn’t be any happier, you know?

CC:  Let’s talk about how you got started in show business.

JT:  Well, my dad was a vice president at Hanes underwear. When we were getting ready to tour schools [after high school], I wanted to go to a conservatory. He said, “Sorry, that’s not happening. You need a real job.” And so, he enrolled me in North Carolina State University, in textile chemistry. I lasted for about three years in that curriculum, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. A friend of mine said, “Hey, I have an easy A course you should take,” and it was radio and television. I walked into that course, and everything changed for me. It was just … a light bulb went off. As a little kid, I was always making movies and making shows. I tried to change my major without telling my parents, and one of the professors wouldn’t sign the drop/add card. He said, “No, you’re past the drop/add date. I can’t do that.” I pleaded with him, and he said, “No!” Under advice from one of my dorm mates, I signed the professor’s name to the drop/add card, which basically is forgery. I got caught. I got thrown out of school. I wasn’t expelled, I was suspended for breaking the honor code, and my parents threw me out of the house—my dad did.

JT:  I ended up living in a tent for like six months in North Carolina. And I begged my way onto a radio station and got a job playing the religious tapes on Sunday. Then you know what happened … Within about four months, I was doing the news on the weekends. Then, three years from the moment that I was homeless in a tent, I was anchoring the news in New York City as a 23-year-old.

CC:  Were you up in the Raleigh area living in a tent?

JT:  Yeah, I was in Umstead Park.

CC:  You’re kicked out of school; your dad kicks you out of the house. What’s going through your mind as you’re sitting in this tent in Umstead Park? Were you like, “My life is over”? Or, “Now I’ve got to figure it out”?

JT:  Mostly I was exhausted because I got a job working construction during the day, then at night, I was pumping gas at College Esso. I had to buy food, right? And mostly hotdogs. I thought I was done, you know? I didn’t even have enough money to get drunk. [laughs] My girlfriend broke up with me. All my friends were going to classes, and Raleigh was really the only area that I knew. I didn’t have enough money to drive my car back to Garden City [NY}, so I thought that was it for me, that I would be working construction. I didn’t have any skills that would get me a job. I didn’t have a college degree. Eventually, the feeling I had was that I could either stay in that tent and work construction and pump gas for the rest of my life and start chewing tobacco, or I had to get a job somehow. And so, I went into the college radio station. I had a friend who got me in there, and I did a fake demo tape. I took that tape to several stations. One guy felt sorry for me and gave me a job on Sundays. You know, strangely enough, in three weeks, I’m going to be in New York City. They’re inducting me into the Radio Hall of Fame, and the guy that gave me that first job back in 1973, Scott White, is going to be sitting there. I’m going to thank him publicly.

CC:  That’s amazing. Speaking about that, what would you consider your greatest successes?

JT:  Professionally, it would certainly be the Red Rocks show. I was married at the time and working for Entertainment Tonight, but I couldn’t get a record deal. I was recording all this music, and I was sending it to record companies. They were like, “No, this is not for us. No instrumental music, no thank you.” I saw a PBS special on TV that was the Moody Blues at Red Rocks. I saw another one with U2 called Under a Blood Red Sky, also at Red Rocks. I was like, “What is this Red Rocks place?” I thought, you know, “If I’m going to be taken seriously as a musician, I need to do something big like that.” And PBS would not fund it because I didn’t have a history as a musician. So Connie and I took our savings and took a second mortgage on the house, and we produced the show ourselves. And we almost lost everything because it started raining in the middle of the show. But God stopped that after about four songs, and the orchestra came back, and we finished the show. That show has raised about $20 million for Public Television over the years. And my music career, that’s certainly the biggest thing I’ve ever done.

CC:  What about personally? What do you consider your greatest successes?

JT:  Personally would be being educated and learning after 65 years about something called the mind/healing techniques. In May of 2015, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and doctors gave me anywhere between 10 and 18 months to live. Our family, Connie and I mostly, went through the normal channels of surgery. It was prostate cancer, but it was undetectable prostate cancer. It was the weirdest thing. We went through the usual channels of surgery and chemo and all kinds of really horrible treatments. It left me with barely a body, and it kept coming back. About a year ago, Connie and I had gone through this training of using visualization, manifestation, and certain scriptures in the Bible, and renewing our minds and getting together and using prayer to manifest my healing and the end of sickness in our family. It was a supernatural healing that can happen for anybody, but there’s a path that you have to follow for it.

CC:  Active healing on your part. You discuss that in your concerts. I was looking at a lot of the videos, testimonials of folks who had been at your concerts and so on. They were saying how inspirational it was that you had overcome such an illness.

JT:  You know, testimony is a powerful thing. I’ve written it all down. I finished a 90,000-word manuscript, took me two and half years, just last week and handed that in. And the cancer journey is throughout the book. The journey of my life, and a lot of the stuff that you and I are talking about right now, that’s the book, but also there are flashbacks to going through the surgeries and going through the divine healing.

CC:  Well, let me ask you: If you hadn’t become a musician, composer, radio host, all the things that you do, what career do you think you have wound up in?

JT:  There never was a chance that I was going to be anything but what I became. If you were to look at me as a kid, I was always putting on shows for the other kids. I was always recording stuff. I was always making music. As a kid in bed at night, I literally was visualizing me playing on stage with an orchestra. That visualization was so strong, it would have chased me down. Maybe I would have fought it until I was 70, 75 years old, but it would eventually have chased me down. I have to be a disciplined person. I’m in the gym at 5:00 a.m. every morning, standing outside waiting for it to open. And in my ear are readings about healing and manifestations, you know, out of Scriptures. And so, there’s so much more to do, but it was never a question that it was going to be anything but this.

JT:  There were some detours. I think that time in the tent, right, where all was lost, everything, done … I’m able to look back at that and connect the dots, right. [Especially when you write a book] you go through everything and you connect the dots. When I was in the tent and then I’m anchoring the news as a 23-year-old in New York City, that always seemed like a 10-year time period for me. But when I went back and started writing it, I’m like, “Wait a second. That was less than three years.” I just said yes to a lot of stuff, you know? And jumped out of the airplane without a parachute. And then you just outwork everybody. It’s the only way. I’m a very average person. You can look at my SAT scores. Very, very average. But I will outwork you. I just never stop.

CC:  So in terms of inspiration, it’s your family and God?

JT:  Well, yeah. If you’re able to renew your mind, and you get the message, the Word, the message in the Bible, right?, then everything just falls in place. And I’m not talking about religion. I have a serious problem with what some churches are doing, where they’re weaponizing Christianity. I don’t think Jesus would have done that. He never did. But pursuing the Word of God, that’s the best way to say it. And my wife’s always saying that. We continually pursue the work of God, and that always leads us into righteousness. I’m sorry. I’m probably hitting the Bible a little too hard for you. I apologize.

CC:  Not at all. But I’m wondering… do you read other books besides the Bible? Do you even have time to read books?

JT:  Yeah. I’m actually … I think my wife would tell you I am a voracious reader. I am always reading. I’m in the middle of Phil Knight’s book, it’s called Shoe Dog. It’s the story of him starting Nike. It’s a fascinating book. I just finished my second read of a book by Ryan Holiday, called The Obstacle is the Way, which is a tremendous book, especially for me because there have been obstacles I’ve faced throughout my life. And then one of my favorite books is [Stephen King’s] On Writing. I’ve read it three times now.

CC:  Well, I think I have all the answers to my questions. Gosh, I could probably go on for another half hour at least with you. But I know you’ve got a busy day ahead of you. I so appreciate this. We really look forward to seeing you here in February.

JT:  I really enjoyed it. Thanks again for your time. I appreciate it.

John Tesh performs Songs & Stories from the Grand Piano in Ferguson Hall on Friday, Feb. 28.

A Real American Story: Tampa’s Fortune and a Tale of Straz Land

historical marker

PROLOGUE:

JOSE PERFINO
EL INDIO
A CUBAN PIRATE
KILLED 1850

MR. HUBBARD
A CUBAN PIRATE
FOUND DEAD IN WOODS
JUNE 18, 1850

Just beyond these square chunks of gray granite nestled amid the carpet of dead leaves in Oaklawn Cemetery lurks the city bus station. People get on and off the buses. The buses heave, sigh, trundle into traffic. Beyond the bus station, cars streak across I-275 shuttling between St. Pete and Orlando, yet only several yards away from Mr. Hubbard and El Indio, a gleaming alabaster mausoleum looms. It’s the final resting place of an important man; that’s plain to see. This smooth rock shrine houses the remains of Vincente Martinez Ybor, patron of Ybor City, cigar boss and wealthy entrepreneur whom local history remembers as a man who charted the course for one of the most promising money-making multi-cultural cigar cities of the United States.

Between the pirates and the man who invented Ybor City rests yet another humble granite marker, about the size of a medium Amazon delivery box, of another Tampa entrepreneur who cultivated fruits from her large parcel of land next to the Hillsborough River, made pies and sold them to any one of the 6,000 people who called Tampa home back in her day.

This marker says

TAYLOR
FORTUNE
1825-1906

She shares the space on the granite’s face with her husband Benjamin; yet, if you dig, you won’t find their remains. Not under that marker, anyway. Their bodies are somewhere else in Oaklawn, cast into that nebulous, undocumented section of history called The Slave Section.

Even though neither one was a slave.

Not when they died, anyway. Which brings us to the start of our story. But you will have to stop and sit awhile, if you want to know what we just found out about Fortune Taylor and what she has to do with The Straz.

grave 1_edit

 

In the mid-1800s, there was a white couple named Howell using slave labor in South Carolina. Two of those enslaved people were a man and a woman. They loved each other.

Their names were Benjamin and Fortune.

The Howells moved to Hernando County to set up an orange grove, bringing Benjamin and Fortune with them. The end of slavery arrived in 1865. So, by 1866, Benjamin and Fortune had left the Howells in their rearview mirror and staked out a new life for themselves in a desolate, cattle-rustling, drunk and disorderly town called Tampa. For the Taylors, it was freedom. They went to the courthouse and married as free people.

fortune taylor marriage license

Fortune and Benjamin’s marriage license in the bottom right corner, deciphered below:

To the Clerk of the Circuit Court for the County of Hillsborough and the State of Florida. Whereas Benjamin Taylor, a Freedman and Fortune Taylor a freed woman have applied as one to join them in Marriage, And whereas they have lived harmoniously together as man and wife for several years. I have this day joined the above named Benjamin Taylor and Fortune Taylor in the bonds of holy Matrimony, according to the Act of the Legislation of the State of Florida passed as it’s late Session.

(signed) F Branch
Local Elder of the M. E. Church [South]
Tampa Fla
5th May 1866

They knew the land. They knew work. They knew how to use both to grow things that made life and money. On January 20, 1869, Benjamin filed a claim to homestead 33 acres next to the Hillsborough River. Benjamin and Fortune took to their land to make life grow: peaches, guavas, oranges. The ownership of self. Of land. Of labor.

The future looked like acres of sweet, delicious fruit. They survived the yellow fever epidemic of 1867 and the ensuing epidemic of Reconstruction Republicans who came shortly thereafter to enforce the post-Civil War policies of the federal government. But what is a Reconstructionist to a human being who survived enslavement to become a successful citrus farmer? Not much.

Then, Benjamin died. Late in 1869, less than three years after their wedding day, Fortune Taylor found herself widowed, newly free and now head of almost three dozen acres of land as an African American woman almost as far South as you could go.

But Fortune was fortune. She was an entrepreneur, too, beloved by her community, and anointed with a high title. Maybe she wasn’t a patron, or a tabaquero, or a mayor or city councilman—all of those titles were denied her because of her gender and skin color—but in her life, in her circumstances, in her neighborhood, they called her Madame. She earned that respect for building something meaningful and dignified in Tampa during a time when the town itself was struggling to be something more than a chaotic river outpost.

So, the woman with the baked goods, the woman with the land, was known around Tampa as Madame Fortune Taylor, by white and black alike. Remembered as a “short, stout woman,”* Madame Fortune Taylor donated some of her property to start St. Paul’s, the second oldest church in Tampa today. Another section she sold to Mayor Edward Clarke so he could develop a subdivision in 1878.

The road leading from downtown Tampa to her homestead? That became Fortune Street—the same one that exists in downtown Tampa today. Take Fortune Street to Doyle Carlton to the door of the Patel Conservatory and you’ll be on Madame Fortune Taylor’s old orange groves. We’d like to imagine she’d be happy with the legacy of her land becoming a place for arts education for kids, as she was known as someone who loved and was loved by children.

street sign

Take Fortune Street all the way to the end in the other direction and guess where you’ll be?

At the bus station that lurks right next to Oaklawn Cemetery. Somewhere, in there, she and Benjamin watch us now, pulling their names from the shadows of history into the light of our present day. They were not pirates; they were not slaves. They were builders and survivors, creators and lovers, free people with an important story to tell.

 

 

EPILOGUE:

Ersula & Gloria

Ersula K. Odom and Gloria Jean Royster, active members of the Friends of Madame Fortune Taylor society.

So, we wish we could tell you that we came into this amazing story on our own through our own coolness and research into Straz land history, but we did not.

We’re riding the coattails of people like historians Fred Hearns and Canter Brown, men who have dug, fought for and unearthed exquisite stories from African-American history, Tampa’s in particular, and who have been writing and speaking about Madame Fortune Taylor for years. We also relied heavily on Lucy Jones’s 2007 article on the history of the Fortune Street Bridge in Cigar City Magazine, and tampapix.com’s history of the bridge as well.

But, none of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for two important women working with Tampa’s history now:

We came to know Madame Fortune Taylor through two incredibly cool ladies, writers, researchers, and performing artists themselves, Gloria Jean Royster and Ersula K. Odom, who are active members of the Friends of Madame Fortune Taylor society. They contacted our executive administrative assistant extraordinaire, Patricia Griggs, to ask if The Straz would be interested in sponsoring the banner for the Fortune Taylor Bridge dedication ceremony on May 20, 2018—since we now sit on part of Madame Fortune’s estate.

Patricia 1_edit

Executive Administrative Assistant Patricia Griggs’ office overlooks the Fortune Taylor Bridge and most of the Taylor homestead. Today, we know the Taylors’ land as the area roughly from I-275 at the river to the Patel Conservatory.

We loved Gloria Jean and Ersula so much we brought them into our offices for an exclusive interview about the Fortune Taylor Bridge, their research into Madame Fortune Taylor and the kind of connection historical information awakens in people living today.

You can hear the highlights of that interview on Act2, our official Straz Center podcast, going live on our Soundcloud station May 10. Subscribe by finding Act2 on the iTunes Store, the Podcasts app for iOS, or on the Google Play Music app for Android by searching “Straz Center.”

The dedication of Fortune Taylor Bridge takes place Sunday, May 20 at 10 a.m. on the east bank of the Hillsborough River. You can keep tabs on this tale by following Fortune’s Friends on Facebook.

Madame Fortune Banner Art

We also wish we could tell you we know all of Madame Fortune Taylor’s story, but we do not know that, either. Some years have been lost, and some land transactions can’t be proven without records.

However, thanks to many devoted researchers working with spotty, racially discriminatory records that excluded so many valuable members of society, a skein of Madame Fortune Taylor’s story exists today. The Straz knows more about itself because of their efforts.

We would also like to thank David Parsons and Todd Ciardiello, librarians at the John F. Germany Library next door, who helped us tremendously in tracking down photographs and information from the Florida history archives. We used photos from the Florida Memory Project and the Burgert Brothers Collection from the Germany Library’s digital archives.

If you have any information on what happened to Madame Fortune Taylor from 1878-1885, please contact us. We are also looking for photos and for any transactional records about her selling her land after 1885.

*this quote is from Canter Brown’s oral history interview of Dr. Robert W. Saunders, Jr.

The Man Behind the Mission

Governor and former Tampa mayor Bob Martinez on growing up Tampanian, the creation of The Straz and what it meant for the growth of Tampa.

Morsani bw

Construction of Festival Hall, now Carol Morsani Hall.

With Caribbean blue eyes, an easy smile and a rambling drawl that flows through stories of Tampa history like the Hillsborough River ambles through this vast county, Robert “Bob” Martinez makes for an enchanting conversationalist on the subject of The Straz and what Tampa was like all those many years before it housed a world-class performing arts center.

This season, we celebrate 30 years of The Straz. As part of this celebration, we are gathering stories, “the million little stories that make up who we are,” and we decided that we might as well start at the beginning – with Bob Martinez.

Martinez’s grandparents came to Tampa from Spain, mingling with the other immigrant cultures of Ybor City and West Tampa – Italians, Cubans and Germans – and, like those new Americans, Martinez’s grandparents joined the mutual aid societies of the area.

“I grew up here, and we belonged to Centro Español. For twenty-five cents or fifty cents a week for your whole family, you had hospital care, a clubhouse, doctors, a cemetery. It really was care from birth to death,” Martinez recounts from the penthouse conference room in the Regions Bank building where, though in his 80s, he works as a senior policy advisor for Holland & Knight, LLP. From this bird’s-eye view, the swooping lines of the deep blue Hillsborough Bay hug the sprawling cluster of white and terra cotta rooftops. Like exotic hot air balloons, railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant’s Moorish minarets spring skyward, an opulent reminder of Tampa’s first renaissance, now on the campus of University of Tampa, home to the Bob Martinez Athletic Center. This view looks like it does now mostly because of Martinez’s mayoral agenda in the early ’80s, the second renaissance for Tampa.

Martinez_Bob_300

Robert “Bob” Martinez.

As worker-centered social clubs, the mutual aid societies came to represent the hard-working and community-centered ethos that would dominate Tampa until the abrupt socio-economic changes of the mid-20th century. Part of the vital fabric of the mutual aid societies was culture. “I went to live productions all the time,” Martinez says. “We had live talent [at the mutual aid societies], and I was taken to all the shows at five and six years old even though I probably fidgeted through most of them.”

In school, Martinez worked on the grade plays – 6th, 9th and senior year – as crew. “I wasn’t a participant. They were mostly musicals.” (He confided later to a singing ability so bad he won’t even attempt to exercise it in the shower or car. However, he’s a crackerjack dancer.)

Dirt roads led in and out of his neighborhood, near where Raymond James Stadium sits today. To get to any excitement, you had to board a streetcar that would click and clack to the action: downtown. “In the ’40s and ’50s, the entertainment center was Downtown Tampa,” he recalls. “Movie houses, hotels. All the hotels had restaurants and live entertainment. I dated my future wife, Mary Jane Marino, at every movie house in Downtown Tampa. Downtown was the core, and that probably stuck in my mind. All the streetcars led to downtown – that’s impressionable to someone young, as I was then. I probably got it in my mind that anything that would happen for Tampa would happen downtown.”

By the 1970s, Martinez, who had been a much-loved high school teacher, bought Café Sevilla, a Spanish restaurant with a reputation for attracting a who’s-who from business, politics and entertainment. “If any famous actors were in town filming a movie, somebody would bring them by Café Sevilla,” Martinez says. “We had Ricardo Montalban, Vikki Carr, Fernando Lamas.” People knew Bob Martinez, and a month after he took over the restaurant, then-Governor Reubin Askew called Martinez to serve on the board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The call jump-started Martinez’s political life, and, in 1979, he announced his mayoral bid. The major focus of his platform?

“I announced I wanted to build a performing arts center. Downtown.”

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Photo of downtown Tampa before the Straz Center was built.

Martinez, who would later advance to Governor of Florida and eventually serve as Drug Czar under President George H. W. Bush, saw that the Downtown Tampa of his youth had stagnated, mired in random industrialization and unable to revitalize after the cigar industry collapsed. “In July of ’79, I released three white papers, the first one explaining how job creation and economic development were tied to the performing arts center. You see, in order to attract new businesses, the CEOs and their spouses would need something to do, a reason to want to be here. They wouldn’t want to come to a place with limited culture. That’s how I sold it. I tied it to economic development. Nobody was going to come here without some kind of culture.”

At a candidate forum on Davis Islands, Martinez openly spoke about his vision for Tampa and how that vision depended on 1) a performing arts center and 2) everybody’s buy-in. “I explained that bringing a performing arts center to Tampa allowed middle-class people and others to enjoy Broadway and other shows. For a lot of people, it would be the first time in their lives. But it was more than that. A performing arts center would give children who were arts-oriented a chance to develop their strengths and talents. Children who were arts-oriented ought to have the same opportunities to develop those talents as children who have athletic talent, and we had Little League fields all over the county.”

The idea took. The daily papers supported the platform, and Martinez received almost zero push-back on the proposal – impressive, considering it carried a multi-million-dollar price tag that taxpayers, would, in part, cover. He won the 1979 election.

“As soon as I was elected, I gathered a task force to figure out how to build one [a performing arts center]. I called H.L. Culbreath, who was a good friend and customer at the restaurant, and I wanted him to chair the task force. We compiled a list of names, H.L. made the calls, and we had it.”

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The groundbreaking for the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, now the Straz Center.

Martinez and the performing arts center task force faced a formidable challenge: how to raise the funds. “This had never been done in Tampa before, raising that much money,” Martinez says. The $15 million he thought would cover the one-hall center was a far cry from the 25-cents-a-week price tag of the mutual aid societies. But, the community spirit was still there, carried on the wind from the remaining shells of cigar factories lining West Tampa and Ybor City. “We realized, though, that if people were going to have to give, it should be to a non-profit organization, not the local government,” Martinez remembers, “so the city doesn’t run it, but the non-profit does.”

The design phases of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (renamed the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in 2009) proved challenging, with a few hiccups along the way but no major bumps in the road. The biggest problem – if you could call it that – was that everyone involved with the concept and construction wanted the best of the best. “The biggest surprise in the whole project was how big it ended up being,” he laughs. “I thought it would be one hall – not two or three or four! But, H.L. kept saying ‘I think we need to add this … ’ and it just sort of grew. The people on the committee were all local business and community leaders, we were doing this for our community, for the growth of Tampa, and a lot of the people involved in the construction were local. We wanted to do it right.” The total costs far exceeded Martinez’s initial thoughts, but the community commitment and business leadership followed through to the end, when the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center opened for business in 1987.

The success of The Straz’s public-private partnerships set the standard of business for what Martinez calls “a community ticket facility.” “It’s the best model,” he says. “We used the same non-profit concept we established for the performing arts center for the zoo and all the museums with ticket sales.”

Many people don’t know that, before the plans for The Straz began in earnest, a group of “baseball enthusiasts” courted Martinez over lunch to build a pro baseball stadium instead of the performing arts center. Martinez enjoyed his meal, thanked the enthusiasts and said no. “I ran on building a performing arts center, not a baseball stadium. I had to keep my promise.” Martinez, himself a baseball talent who passed on a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers to get married and attend college, saw that the zeitgeist for Tampa’s second renaissance would be in the arts.

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Grand opening celebration of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in 1987. (Photo: Cliff McBride)

“If, for some reason the performing arts center hadn’t materialized, it would have been first a denial to the young people who needed arts education. Second, it would have been a denial to people who can’t afford to go to Broadway. It would have had an adverse impact on recruiting business. A performing arts center showed that we were a growing, sophisticated community,” Martinez says. “If we hadn’t built the Straz Center, Tampa wouldn’t have seen growth of the same magnitude.”

An unintended outcome of building a performing arts center as a juggernaut of metropolitan growth was the effect The Straz’s success had on subsequent projects. “Building a performing arts center opened the citizens of Tampa Bay’s pocketbooks for other organizations. The zoo, the history center … once you invest, you’re an advocate. You have skin in the game,” he says. “As you can see, I’m real proud of our community.”

Martinez left Tampa for several years to follow his political trajectory – which, incidentally, led to a parallel side-job related to the performing arts. He landed a walk-on role as a customs officer in the James Bond film License to Kill after meeting with producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, who invited him to the set in Key West. Broccoli later allowed Martinez to use pre-release screenings of the film to raise funds for a children’s organ transplant foundation. Martinez then got a speaking part on a “drugs and go-fast boats” pilot for a television movie called Thunder Boat Row but it didn’t get picked up.

Despite the fact that he has both an IMDb (Internet Movie Database) listing and a former place in the Presidential Cabinet, Martinez returned home, to the place of his cherished memories, his grandkids and to the bustling city poised on the next renaissance. In his spare time, he works towards efforts to restore and renovate Centro Español, the mutual aid society building of his youth. But, he is not riding on nostalgia.

View from river

“The future looks wonderful. For a city our size to have two sports teams, arena football and all of our cultural institutions with hardly any corporate headquarters … that’s one great story to tell about the Tampa people. That they wanted these things for themselves. To me, it’s an incredible story,” he says. “And what we have at the Straz Center is second to none.”

Bob Martinez gambled on the economic savvy of relying on the performing arts to drive growth – and won. This incredible story started simply enough, with a teacher-turned-restaurateur who knew that the power of culture could transform a town into an international destination.

As If Going to the Theater Wasn’t Fun Enough, They Had to Invent the Lottery

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A crowd of people eagerly await the results of a ticket lottery for Book Of Mormon at The Straz.

It all started with Rent.

When that show blew up and became the hottest ticket in town, the producers tried a radical idea to make the show more accessible to as many theatergoers as possible: sell the first two rows of orchestra seats for a scant $20 a pop on a first-come-first-served basis. In no time, students lined up at dawn to purchase these “rush” tickets when the box office opened, and the idea – like the show – was a huge hit.

Since then, producers have been concocting fun ways to get massively discounted tickets into the hands of the widest possible audience. Recently, one of the most exciting pre-show events to emerge for these ultra-affordable tickets is the lottery.

That’s right. A good, old-fashioned luck of the draw: go to the theater, write your name on a card, drop in in a box, then wait. Competition is fierce, and hope runs high, with sometimes 200 people vying for up to one pair of coveted tickets to shows such as Matilda, Kinky Boots and Wicked.

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A few hours before curtain, a representative of the show (or theater) passes a hand over the box as the crowd of fans holds its breath with anticipation. The person reaches in the box, draws one card, then reads the name to the waiting crowd. Most groan, but there is one cheer – if your name comes out, you’re the lucky winner of one or two seats to the big show at a fraction of the box office rate. As technology advanced, the old-fashioned ways included a new-fangled digital lottery, where patrons can throw their proverbial names in the hat via a cell phone app – and be notified by text if they are winners.

One show hosting a pre-curtain lottery is Wicked*, running in Morsani Hall Feb. 1-26. This thrilling game of odds gives all people a chance to buy a ticket and take a ride to the other side of Oz. And if you lose … who cares? You can always come back and try again tomorrow. But you gotta show up in person; there’s no app to get you to Emerald City on the cheap.

*A limited number of tickets will be available by lottery for the performances of Wicked. Entries will be accepted at the Straz Center Ticket Sales Office two and a half hours prior to each performance. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random for a limited number of tickets priced at $25 each – cash only. Winners must be present at the time of the drawing and show valid identification to purchase tickets. Limit one entry per person and two tickets per winner. Tickets are subject to availability.