Paul Wilborn is executive director of the Palladium Theater at St. Petersburg College. Under his direction, the Palladium has made upgrades to its 1926 digs, added an intimate cabaret series, and entered into rich cultural partnerships with the Florida Orchestra and American Stage Theatre Company. A Tampa native, Wilborn was a founding member of Ybor City’s Artists and Writers Ball, the cheeky underground alternative to Tampa’s high-society Gasparilla Pirate Festival parties. He’s also a cabaret entertainer, bandleader and co-founder of Guavaween, the outlandish costume party and parade that each October draws around 100,000 people to Ybor City. A former reporter and columnist for the Tampa Tribune, St. Petersburg Times and the Associated Press in Los Angeles, Wilborn had a four-year stint as Tampa’s manager of creative industries, hired by then-Mayor Pam Iorio to champion artists and spur prosperity among local arts organizations.
His wife, Eugenie Bondurant, is an actress and teacher. For 10 years she’s led an on-camera acting program at the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, and taught acting for 12 years at Beverly Hills Studios, where many of her former students, including actress Jessica Alba, went on to become Hollywood stars. A New Orleans native and former runway model, Bondurant worked for decades as an actress in Los Angeles, appearing in movies (Fight Club, Space Truckers) and TV shows, and will appear this fall as Tigris in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2. She’s a co-founder of The Radio Theatre Project, a live radio theater show presented in collaboration with The [email protected] and WMNF Community Radio.
Bondurant and Wilborn live in a 1913 home in St. Petersburg’s historic Old Southeast neighborhood. When they’re not up to their neck in home repairs or combing St. Pete for antiques, they’re performing together in Wilborn’s American Songbook Series at American Stage.
Best place to pick up fresh greens: City Produce. Eugenie: “I get their old marked-down tomatoes for tomato sauce because I’m so cheap. They’ve got everything there — six different kinds of feta cheese, baklava, it’s amazing.”
Most peaceful spot in St. Pete: Lassing Park. Paul: “It’s like our secret little park. There’s low tide twice a day and I can walk right out into the bay. There are hundreds of sea birds. You can see as far as Ruskin. When I’m trying to work out a problem I’ll walk to Lassing Park and clear my head.”
Best South St. Pete diner: Munch’s. Paul: “It’s a classic St. Pete eatery. If they see you walk in they immediately know what you’re going to order and how to make your drink. On Tuesdays they serve their famous fried chicken.”
Best architectural salvage yard: Schiller’s in Tampa. Eugenie: “When fixing up a historic house it’s important to keep within the time period, and Schiller’s is great for finding old stuff. I found some great window locks and handles there.”
Best place to score cool old wares: Brocante Vintage Market. Eugenie: “It’s open the first weekend of every month in a big converted warehouse. It’s a cross between a flea market and an antique store. The place gets mobbed with people who love to collect stuff. Our friends have furnished their homes in interesting Brocante finds. It truly is the coolest place in St. Pete.”
Favorite random shopping experience: Puckett’s Store Fixtures. Eugenie: “It’s a retail resale store where you can buy racks, mannequins, shelves and other stuff from stores that have gone out of business. It’s a goldmine. For $200 I built my whole walk-in closet using racks from Puckett’s.”
Favorite avant-garde neighborhood: Old Southeast. Paul: “We love that it’s eclectic and multiracial. You’ve got big houses on the water, people who work in the marine business, students at USF St. Pete, a Quaker Meeting House and a Hindu temple. It’s gay. It’s straight. It’s all over the place. It’s a real welcoming, wacky neighborhood.”
Favorite St. Pete listening room: Side Door Cabaret at The Palladium. Paul: “I’d go there even if I wasn’t running the joint. Last night we had three of the best New York jazz musicians. It’s a nice thing for downtown residents to do if they’re entertaining out-of-town guests.”
Where they go to appreciate art: Monthly Art Walk in the Warehouse Arts District. Paul: “We’ll start out with a group of friends at Duncan McClellan’s gallery, which really spawned that whole district, and continue through the other studios and galleries. It’s the perfect night out.”
Best Cajun food fix: Ricky P’s. Eugenie: “It’s the most authentic New Orleans food you’ll get in St. Pete, other than what I serve at my house.”
Favorite one-tank trip: Myakka River State Park. Paul: “Myakka is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s so thick with wildlife. You can get out of the city in less than an hour and really unplug.”
Favorite old-school date night destination: Bern’s Steak House. Paul: “I went there for my high school prom. It’s just the way a place like that ought to be. In a world of chain restaurants, Bern’s is kind of an old-world institution.”
Where they get their chocolate fix: Everything Dolce. Paul: “I’ve talked live music for an hour with the barista. He makes his own cannolis and cookies. I usually bring them home for Eugenie.”
Best alternative to Cappy’s Pizza: Flippers Pizzeria. Paul: “The pizzas are incredible and they stay open til midnight. They cater to the artists at the Palladium.”
Favorite after-work watering hole: Old Northeast Tavern. Paul: “It’s a great place to watch a Rays game and it’s two blocks from the Palladium.”