Best Of 2012

"It's nice to be married to my best friend" —Julie Weintraub, w. husband Steve.
Photo by Todd Bates
"It's nice to be married to my best friend" —Julie Weintraub, w. husband Steve.

You've seen Steve and Julie Weintraub on TV, the glamorous couple repping their Clearwater-based jewelry business Gold & Diamond Source. But you may not know that they're deeply involved in charitable giving, and that Julie's biggest passion isn't gold and diamonds but providing aid to victims of domestic violence.

Gold paved the way for the couple's philanthropy. Steve, 58, came to Florida in 1979 to be part of a gold-plated seashell business. He parlayed that into G&D, which at one point was an eight-store chain. The financial downturn of 2007 led him to reduce the business' physical presence to one store on Ulmerton, but things have turned around in recent years as gold prices went up, growing G&D from a $4 million to a $25 million business.

Julie, 40, had a varied career (interior designer, restaurateur, Realtor) before joining with Steve at G&D. She created the non-profit foundation Hands Across the Bay in 2010, raising money to combat domestic violence with the annual Dancing with the Stars event, and helping other causes on an as-needed basis. "We probably send out thousands of dollars every day in jewelry donations," says Julie.

She has become a fierce advocate for victims of spousal abuse, attending abusers' trials and working the legal system to make sure attention is paid. She runs Hands Across the Bay out of "one little office" at the Ulmerton G&D store with "no government funding, no grants."

"We both work on both," says Steve of the couple's involvement in the business and in Hands Across the Bay. ("We don't pay ourselves anything" for running the charity, Julie points out.) Steve handles day-to-day operations for the store, but with Julie on the premises he does call on her from time to time to seal the deal with customers. They've all seen the couple on TV, and "people like to shop with people they relate to."

Longtime acquaintances before they wed, this is the second marriage for both. They have five children between them, ranging in age from 12-28.

"It's nice to be married to my best friend," says Julie.

People & Politics

Best Anti-James Franco Rant

Metal man artist Frank Strunk posted a photo of a shirtless James Franco in the upcoming film Spring Breakers back in April, along with this rant. The photo got close to 100 responses on Strunk’s Facebook in a matter of minutes: “So this is how our town is being depicted by the movie industry. We work so hard to have what we have here and douchebag filmmakers come down and find the single worst element of our city and represent us with it. Tell me exactly WHY we should be welcoming to these assholes. Nice “727” tattoo dickhead. I don’t care how much “money” they bring to this area, if they are doing it at the expense of our hard work and reputation, they can stay the FUCK where they came from.”

Charlie Justice
Charlie Justice

Two years ago Charlie Justice held the state Senate seat that encompassed both Tampa and St. Pete. He left it to run for Bill Young’s congressional seat and lost. This year, the Democrats failed to field a candidate in the race.

Best attempt to clean up a racist quote from a sports talk show host

After Sileo called three black football players “monkeys” in a passing reference, WDAE 620 announced that they “would like to apologize for Dan Sileo’s ill-chosen on-air remarks earlier this week. He absolutely meant no disrespect to the players and he is sincerely embarrassed and upset that his off-the-cuff remarks might be taken as hateful, disrespectful, or in any way racist. Dan and the station regret any offense to the players; to the Bucs organization; and to the people of the Tampa Bay community.” Shortly thereafter, WDAE canned him.

Kevin Beckner
Kevin Beckner

In one of the most ethically and socially diverse areas in the country, five of the seven Hillsborough County Commissioners are white men. So when they voted to support a Diversity Advisory Council (proposed by the sole gay commissioner, Kevin Beckner, and slated to include a representative from the gay community), some local columnists cheered the new perspective on the board. But wait — isn’t this the same local government that refuses to include the LGBT community in its human rights ordinance, and has a ban on gay pride? “The goal isn’t to promote a GLBT agenda,” said Commission Chair Ken Hagan, who supported the gay pride ban. “This wouldn’t use taxpayer dollars to support gay-pride events. This action does not conflict with that.” Whew. Thank God for that!

Magic Mike
Magic Mike

Who would have guessed that a movie about male strippers would be the best Bay area recruitment film ever made? Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, starring Channing Tatum as a Tampa-based exotic dancer with dreams of hitting the big time in Miami, makes the Bay area look like a tropical paradise chock full of beautiful bodies and scenery. Get past the soft R-rated content (sorry folks, no dongs), and what’s left is a beautiful travelogue of Tampa and St. Pete, complete with glistening beaches and the hip urban cores of Ybor City and downtown St. Pete. Magic Mike will hit DVD right as the weather turns to slush up north, and in addition to inspiring daydreams about abs and ass, the film will surely draw a few new transplants looking for fun in the sun. (Clothing optional, of course.)

Best Beach

Runners-up: St. Pete Beach, Ft. Desoto Beach

Whoa, easy there, baseball fans. Sure, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon might get the boys into the playoff picture, but do you think it will amount to anything more than an early exit, like the last two seasons? Well, we can dream. Bucs fans? I'd sure like to see coach Greg Schiano’s crew bring playoff pigskin back to the Bay. I'm just not sure the former Rutgers top dog (don’t get me started) has had enough time to get his house in order. Leaving us the Bolts, under Guy Boucher, who has captain Vinny Lecavalier supported by alternates Steven Stamkos ("best goal scorer in the world," according to Barry Melrose), Marty St. Louis, Mattias Ohlund and Eric Brewer. There's your winner.

Best Bill Hicks Comeback

For five and a half years, activist group St. Pete for Peace showed cutting-edge documentaries for free at Cafe Bohemia. The weekly series was cut short after the new owners of the café found themselves shocked and awed by American: The Bill Hicks Story, the animated documentary about the comedian’s life and early death. The film, and Bill Hicks’ potty mouth (or words of wisdom, depending on your taste), got the film series canned (temporarily) until it found a new home at the L Train.