Best Of 2007

Bill Keller
Bill Keller

St. Pete-based evangelist Bill Keller’s outreach took a big hit not long ago when his call-in TV show, Live Prayer, was cancelled by Ch. 44. He said pressure from the Council on American Islam Relations sparked his ouster, and CAIR took credit. (Ch. 44 said it was a pro-gramming decision.) In a May 2 broadcast, Keller said Islam was a “1,400-year-old lie from the pits of hell” and called the Prophet Mo-hammed a “murdering pedophile.” Islam was just one of Keller’s targets, which also include homosexuality, “living in sin” and even masturbation. But give Keller this: He’s relentless. The evangelist has already launched a new prayer show, Live Prayer a.m., Mondays through Fridays from 7:30-8:30 on Ch. 38. And he has brass balls: Keller has guested on Howard Stern’s radio show a few times, where he was subjected to mockery and insults by Stern and his audience. Why would he sign on for the abuse? Keller has always maintained that he needs to do his work among the sinners; he has no interest in preaching to the choir. If he doesn’t temper his extremism, though, Keller may end up preaching only to a handful of froth-mouthed Bible-thumpers. Is that the choir he wants? liveprayer.com

People & Politics


People, Places & Politics 2011

You don’t have to act like a politician if you have a solid record upon which to run. Unfortunately for Miller, she needed to tap dance a bit in her umpteenth re-election campaign. Actually, her campaign more closely resembled a third-grade class president contest. She flip-flopped on property tax reform about a dozen times, seeming not to remember whether she was for it or against it. (We’re still not really sure, even now.) She pronounced that her biggest accomplishment was lending her always-reliable yes vote to Mayor Pam Iorio on command. Despite all that — and losing the editorial recommendation of the Times to opponent Joe Redner! — Miller squeaked by for yet another term.

Tampa’s community access station TBCN, known for its anything-goes culture, garnered national attention for a run-in on The Bleepin’ Truth, produced and hosted by Chris Krimitsos. A guest, token Republican Tony Katz, squared off in a debate against Joe Redner, a fel-low who’s been known to get under people’s skin. When Joe called Katz fat, well that did it: Katz stormed off the set, hurling profani-ties at the renowned strip club owner. And he threw more than indelicate words; he also launched a wicker stool that hit Redner’s shoulder and nicked his ear. bleepintruth.com.

You could make the argument that calling Devil Rays games on TV is a thankless job, seeing as the team loses about two games for every one win. But we should thank Staats and Magrane for making Rays telecasts watchable and most of the time entertaining. The pair clearly has a home-team bent — that’s pretty much part of the job description — but they handle it with finesse. Further, both are adept at boiling down the game’s nuances and micro-strategies in ways that can be understood by the casual fan. They’re funny in a dry, and sometimes obscure, kind of way. And they seem to be genuinely enjoying their time together in the booth.

In the chatter-filled weeks leading up to the NFL draft, geeks and pundits thought Tampa Bay, picking fourth, had a good shot at getting freakishly talented wide receiver Calvin Johnson. If Johnson happened to get grabbed up because of his superstar potential, the thinking was that the Bucs would have a shot at a beast of a left tackle, Joe Thomas. It didn’t work out that way. Detroit grabbed Johnson; Cleve-land took Thomas, and that left the Bucs with … defensive end Gaines Adams from Clemson. The kid’s a talented pass rusher, but he simply did not merit a fourth overall pick. The Bucs, as draft experts like to say, did not get enough value. Certainly, Adams has the po-tential to become a star, but he also has the potential to become a bust. During preseason, he got pushed around and looked lost. But hey, it was only preseason, right?

Boxers Winky Wright, Jeff Lacy and Antonio Tarver dominated Tampa Bay badassery until last year, when each experienced signifi-cant career setbacks. It’s time to hand over the badass award to a mixed martial artist. The sport — often called MMA — is experienc-ing a boom in popularity internationally, and that includes Tampa Bay. Berto stands 5 foot 9 and weighs 154 pounds. Unlike a lot of MMA practitioners who try to wrestle their opponents to the ground and hug them to death, Berto likes to throw punches and kicks. Af-ter dominating the local Real Fighting Championships, he won two matches on the national scene this year as part of the Elite XC se-ries. The 24-year-old transplanted Haitian is a nice guy with a winning smile, but did we mention that you shouldn’t mess with him?

Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair
Hillsborough County
Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair

First it was his belief that he was justified in pushing county workers to clean up the lake next to his home — ahead of many, many other lakes that are polluted. Then it was his fight with a fellow commissioner who dared suggest the board might want to freeze their own salaries in the current budget crisis. Then it was his double-speak on the issue of wetlands protections, pretending to hug the envi-ronment while trying to gut laws and lay off regulators. “One thing I found in politics is there is no way that you can make everybody happy,” Blair said at a recent public meeting, “but if we find some type of compromise and we work together, we can do wonderful things for this community.” Yeah, we buy that.

See above. Despite Redner’s assurances that he was willing to brave criticism to get people to vote in the runoff election (for either can-didate, just be sure to vote, he proclaimed), the gambit served to remind folks that “Hey, this guys owns strip clubs,” an image that he’d worked hard to overcome. In the end, as ostensibly civic-minded as it may have been, the stunt helped defeat Redner, who lost his clos-est race for public office in nine tries. Oh, and a few dozen people redeemed their “I Voted” stickers for a more visual experience than voting.

Hardcore conservatives have to be mad enough to choke a dog at the way Republican Charlie Crist governs: an awful lot like a progres-sive would. First, the governor’s property tax reform proposal was softer than the House’s, which called for a drastic paring back of government in Florida. Then he ordered an end to electronic voting and called for (gasp!) paper ballots. Finally, he held an environ-mental summit in Miami, convinced California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to attend and drew national attention by calling for stricter changes to Florida environmental policies to forestall global warming: tighter pollution limits for power plants; better building codes for efficiency; 20 percent of Florida’s power from renewable resources such as solar and wind. The environmental initiatives prompted one conservative blogger to write on PEER Review: “Today, Florida conservatives met Gov. Hyde.” The rest of Florida, however, seems very happy with Jekyll and Hyde, giving both approval ratings in the ’70s. No wonder Time magazine headlined its story about Crist “Undoing Jeb Bush in Florida.”