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Clearwater Beach Antics

June 12, 2002

"I wanted to come down here, but he just wanted to have sex in the bathroom"
-Crouton (real name Stacy????), a hot chick I met at Clearwater Beach

"The price of liberty is eternal vigilance"
-Thomas Jefferson

I have my computer on MP3 shuffle mode, and of all the songs to come up, it's playing "Mr. Roboto" by Styx. I'm still baffled at how that song managed to be popular, let alone still get played in some 80's flashback sets. I guess I should be thankful they don't play it at Bar Tampa when they inexplicably go from Eminem's "Without Me" to Kenny Loggins' "Footloose". But I digress.

The battle against the ants are over, and I'm glad to say that I won. As I mentioned in my last commentary, on Sunday I was rudely greeted by a deluge of ants in my kitchen. So Monday morning I called the Camden Ybor office. They sent a couple of their maintenance people up to check it out, and they saw the ant mania. They promised that an exterminator would be coming by.

I waited here on Monday, playing Literati and writing and basically relaxing. Finally, at 4:30, the exterminator arrived. And much to my surprise, it was a woman -- who was pretty hot. It almost sounds like something that should begin with "Dear Penthouse...", but she sprayed some mysterious bug spray stuff around the baseboard in the kitchen and by the windows and patio door and what not. I have no idea what it was, or if it's hazardous to be around, but I figure she sprays it all day every day so it can't be too bad. At least it makes me feel a little better to think that. But most importantly, the damned ants are now all but gone. A couple of survivors were easy enough to kill (killing two is no problem; killing 200 and seeing plenty more there to take their place is no fun).

Found out that my bro Matt is invited by a girl he met at Nashville's Liquid Lounge to go see Kid Rock on Saturday in Nashville... with tickets and BACKSTAGE PASSES. Don't tell me that my bro doesn't know how to play the game. I tip my hat to Matt on that one -- well done. What can he do to top this -- hook up with J-Lo again?

Speaking of Matt, he wrote a very astute response about my TV Commercial Rant. Actually the entire e-mail is one of those rare achievements of logical segues between seemingly dissimilar topics (seeing Jeff Jarrett in Huntsville promoting the NWA TNA PPV to Toby Keith appearing at that PPV to Toby Keith on those 1-800-Collect commercials to the ad response). I wish my transitions in newscasts were always that smooth (though you try finding a story to bridge between, say, a triple murder and a baby seal being born). Anyway, here's some of his thoughts on commercials, with my responses included. His work is in italics.

Now, speaking of commercials, you totally forgot to include all of those wretched, god-awful collect phone call commericals on your commentary the other day. Actually, this topic deserves it's own block of conversation.

I don't know if I'd paint the genre of phone commercials with the broad brush of being wretched, but they do tend to be dumb and obnoxious in general. And for the record, the best number to use is 10-10-636. 5 cents a minute out of state, all the time. And like Disco Stu, they do not advertise. At least not on TV...

The ones with Carrot Top are by far the worst. If I were to rank the collect phone commercial genre, in order from worst to least-worst (but still awful), I'd order them like this:

1)Carrot Top's "dial down the center" campaign. Carrot Top is quite possibly the biggest cancer on television today. And to think a major movie studio actually green-lighted a Carrot Top movie... gotta be one of the all time worst studio decisions, right up there with Waterworld and Battlefield:Earth.

I'm not sure if I'd classify Carrot Top as the biggest cancer on TV (he'd have to beat out Bob Saget, who's purportedly on a show called Raising Dad on the WB -- and no, I haven't seen it, either). But I think of Carrot Top in the same category as Kevin Nealon; I don't understand how they're considered "comedians" or what makes them funny to people. I'm at a loss to explain it.

By the way, I agree that Battlefield: Earth is a horrible movie. It was on the premium movie channel circuit earlier this year for reasons I can't comprehend. I think I'd rather watch Little Women or Bed of Roses. Seriously, it's that bad.

2)David Arquette's vomit-inducing performances for 1-800-COLLECT. The only one that was worth half a chuckle was the Crouching Tiger ripoff with Marlon Wayans, but even that wore out its welcome in a hurry. Arquette's career has free-fallen ever since Scream.

Actually Arquette did spots for 1-800-CALL-ATT, just like Carrot Top. The entire ad campaign with second rate "comedians" in poorly scripted spots ranks among the worse campaigns in the past 10 years, in my opinion. And Arquette totally jumped the shark after Scream, for sure. His marriage to Courteney Cox ranks right behind Julia Roberts' marriage to Lyle Lovett as the most inexplicable Hollywood marriage of the 1990's.

3)Doug Flutie's slew of 10-10-220 commericals. Not only did Flutie come off as an arrogant prick (which he is) in all of these, but he had the audacity to hawk his son's medical condition to get people to use 10-10-220. Also, the one where he "tricks" his little brother into going long (and subsequently not passing to him) when they are standing this dumb map of the U.S. and Canada meant to explain the long distance benefits of 10-10-220. What was the purpose of that? To make Flutie look even more like a prick? Mission accomplished.

No argument here. Speaking of Flutie, I caught a little bit of a 1985 USFL game between Memphis and New Jersey on ESPN Classic yesterday. Flutie was running for his life from Memphis' Reggie White. That was great.

And didn't Flutie's exploitation of his son's condition make you feel uneasy as a viewer? If would've been different if he did that one spot and didn't do it in a "commercial" type way, but with him doing the other silly spots it really came off in a sleazy, Gene Okerlund 1-900 # kind of way. If you for some reason watched any WCW Saturday Night shows on TBS in the mid-to-late 90's, you know what I mean, like where Mean Gene would tease "A former World Champion is dead, find out who on the hotline tonight." And it would turn out to be some guy who held one half of the AWA World Tag Titles for three weeks in 1982. Sleazy on many levels.

4)Terry Bradshaw/Mike "I'm not gay" Piazza/Toby Keith series of 10-10-220 commericals. All of these ads are hopelessly dumb, but with "hopelessly dumb" being Terry Bradshaw's gimmick before these commercials started popping up like weeds, it's harder to hold it against him. The chicken wings for $1 each is definitely the worst of this bunch, while the one where Piazza hits a baseball through Bradshaw's windshield is the best because I actually thought that one was funny, even after a couple of viewings.

Maybe it's because I didn't watch football in the 1970s (being that I was born in 1977 and all), but I don't get the appeal of Terry Bradshaw. He actually fits well with what Fox wants from its NFL pre-game show (contrived "arguments" and what not), but there's a reason I mostly watched ESPN's pre-game coverage last year (CBS had the insufferable Jerry Glanville, who was quite possibly the worst hire in that network's history, first as an awful color commentator and later as a studio host who came off in that Bob Eubanks-esque used car salesman mold, except maybe more irritating than swindling). It's funny to read Terry Bradshaw's list of works on, by the way.

Toby Keith is one of my favorite country singers. Despite being from Nashville, I'm not much for country music (though you don't know how many people presume I am on the basis of having grown up there). But Toby Keith is very good. The song "I'm So Happy (That I Can't Stop Crying)" is stellar.

5)Mr. T line of 1-800-COLLECT ads. These are so painful to watch because it is a constant reminder of how far Mr. T has fallen from his B.A. Barrakus and Clubber Lang days. Not even a cameo in Busta Rhymes' "Pass the Courvosier Pt. 2" could damage control this situation. Mr. T has fallen from the A-Team to the D-Team. Other members of the D-Team: Corey Feldman, David Lee Roth, Dustin Diamond. (I predict Mike Tyson will be a candidate for the D-Team in a few year's time) Especially painful is the one where T is parading around in a dress.

I was like "Who the f*** is that?" when I saw the name Dustin Diamond... but that's Screech from Saved By The Bell and most recently from Fox's second edition of Celebrity Boxing. IMDb lists Celebrity Boxing as "Action/Comedy", which is pretty apt if you ask me.

As for Mr. T, having to watch his match against Kevin Sullivan at Starrcade '94 in person was beyond painful. Worse than any of those ads, for sure.

With Mr. T's collect call ads, they were more forgettable than anything to me. But yes, it will take more than hanging with Busta Rhymes from time to time to remove him from D-Team status.

6)Alyssa Milano in the Eva Savealot series for 1-800-COLLECT. These are the most watchable, since Alyssa is still pretty hot in the all-leather jumpsuit, but the cheese factor is through the roof. Plus, this series is getting worse, with most recent, the "suttle" tatoo product placement ad, hitting a new low-water mark.

I'm not sure a Alyssa Milano ad in 2002 can be bad. The spots have the same bad writing, but instead of having some doofus like Carrot Top or David Arquette running around like an idiot we see Milano looking hot in tight clothes. No comparison.

Matt also pointed out my error on the "Loan Ranger" ad series in Nashville. See, it's a play off the Lone Ranger character, but because it's a loan (shark) service, they call him the Loan Ranger. Get it, the Loan Ranger?!? Ugh....

Also, rounding out my rant on commercials, I am dissapointed you didn't mention the classic, hall of fame bad commercials from the '80s that were so bad we had to tape them. They still are around in the Pickney Archives in Nashville, I think somewhere on the Wiffleball tape. You know which ones I'm talking about, the Holy Trinity: LifeCall, Absorbine Jr., and Encyclopedia Brittanica. Maybe you can ammend your commentary.

I wish I could locate the famous tape of commercials that Matt and I compilated circa 1989. Maybe it is on the infamous Wiffleball tape, I'll have to check this weekend when I'm back in town. We were well ahead of the curve on the LifeCall "I've fallen, and I can't get up" spot. Before David Letterman was mocking it, we had many a laugh. Good times. I think there were some others, too.

My friend Brook Gardiner e-mailed me a couple weeks back about an ad I haven't seen, but apparently should (since he says it's really bad):

There need to be a comment on the page about how bad that stupid mcdonalds commercial is where kobe fills in for the 5th 4 year old on the little league basketball team.

Doesn't exactly sound like a winning concept to me. Though the Kobe Bryant Sprite commercials of late have been good. Well designed and produced, if nothing else.

Yesterday at Clearwater Beach was a great time. I managed to get lost and couldn't find Mandalay, but finally (after I tapped out and stopped to ask for directions) I met up with my friend James Maynard down at the Subway restaurant. Thank god for cell phones though -- without one, I'd have never been able to figure out where he was (since I hadn't been to Clearwater since 1996). We checked out the beach and looked at the amazing array of hot women out and had some drinks at a couple of spots near the beach. If I were to move from Ybor, it might be to land an apartment there...

We went to play volleyball and met some guys from Orlando who happened to be playing. So we had a couple of 3-on-3 games. The second one was especially memorable -- almost ESPN Classic worthy (I hit seven straight points from serve to rally from 17-11 to take an 18-17 lead, only for the opponents to edge out a dramatic win where the final shot that would've given us volley back fell out by an inch). It was crazy though how some of those guys reminded me of people from my past. It's like it was "Lou Pickney -- This Is Your Life", only with fill-ins cause the real people couldn't be there. If Ben Lynch (from Harlaxton) and Matt Sheppard (from WSAZ) were Puerto Rican, they'd be dead-on ringers for two of the guys, both in personality and appearance. It's like something out of a dream. Very surreal, but cool if for nothing else the 1randomness factor. Then their friend Danny and his girlfriend Crouton (I think her real name's Stacy, not sure though, for some reason they were calling her "Crouton") walked down from another spot on the beach and we all talked some. Such a crazy turn of events, meeting random people on the beach, yet very memorable. Crouton was one of those girls you meet and know right away she'd be cool to hang out with. She can talk the talk (note the opening quote on this page). Plus her being hot didn't hurt things either.

Ended up coming to Tampa to get cleaned up and dressed up. James and I then headed back to Clearwater to Liquid Blue, which he said it had a good Tuesday night scene. We went there, and at first it felt like the scene out of Animal House at the Dexter Lake Club. But it was still a good time. At one point, this girl walked by with a pair of shorts on that had what looked like newspaper headlines and phrases as the pattern. One of the phrases was "Freedom", which we laughed about. So James, ever the smartass, went over and asked her "What is the price of freedom?" Of course the girl had no idea what he was talking about. Classic stuff.

Unfortunately, bars close up at 2 AM in Pinellas County (as opposed to 3 AM on the Hillsborough side). We were going to go in Stormin's, but it was too late by the time we got there. So we each bought a piece of pizza from this hot girl selling pizza and water outside of there and watched the mayhem unfold as the people left. The pizza girl was hot as hell, but the opposite from Crouton as she was clearly a bitch from all indications. All this on a Tuesday night, wildly enough. We heard bits and pieces of conversations and people arguing and what not... then we saw this girl get busted for trying to steal a big silver napkin-holder looking thing. It was bizarre, as there would be no real practical reason to do it. But it was an interesting observation in sociology, if nothing else.

Tonight I'll finally get to see Green Iguana on a Wednesday night. I've heard many good things, but amazingly enough this is my first Wednesday night free in Tampa since I moved here (the other two times I wasn't working Wednesday night, I was out of town). So we'll see how it goes. But at least I can say that this hasn't been a disappointment or a letdown, even as thoughts of what might've been in California rattle around in my head.

I'll conclude with a list of songs that played as I wrote this. MP3 shuffle mode is a curious thing, particularly with me having such a wide range of musical interests... Some unlikely songs (like Mr. Roboto) happened to be in there (I originally downloaded it after hearing it at Masquerade a few months back and seeing it bring the dance floor to a grinding halt), but it's interesting to hear what comes up. Don't take this as an endorsement by me of all these songs -- some I acquired on a whim, or on a suggestion, or by mistake even. But there are some awesome songs in there (like "Don't Think Of Me" by Dido and the "Damaged" techno mix and "Honey Baby" by Damien Jurado)...

Styx "Mr. Roboto"
Ani Difranco "32 Flavors"
Plummet "Damaged" (Techno Remix)
D12 "Purple Pills"
A Tribe Called Quest "Check The Rhime"
Lenny Kravitz "It Ain't Over Till It's Over"
The Cranberries "Salvation"
Moby "South Side"
Afghan Whigs "Fountain and Fairfax"
112 "Peaches And Cream"
(I'll always think of Guavaween weekend 2001 when I hear that song)
Aaliyah "Try Again"
Hudson Brothers "So You Are A Star"
Heather Nova "Virus Of The Mind"
Dido "Don't Think Of Me"
Descendents "Hope"
Powderfinger "My Happiness"
Leona Ness "I Tried To Rock You But You Only Rolled"
The Beatles "I Saw Her Standing There"
Radiohead "Knives Out"
Damien Jurado "Honey Baby"
Elliott Smith "Coming Up Roses"
(when did I download this?!?!?!)
Lovelorn "Dashboard Lit Confessionals"
(downloaded by accident trying to find songs from the band Dashboard Confessional)
Counting Crows "Butterfly In Reverse"
The Rosenbergs "Paper Or Plastic"
NWA "Boyz In The Hood"
Rob Base "It Takes Two"
Elvis Presley "Heartbreak Hotel"
Albert Hammond "It Never Rains In Southern California"
(what, is my computer trying to tease me about missing out on the Cali trip??)
Guns 'N Roses "November Rain"

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