#B0TB25: The Best of 1991

The voting for our 25th annual Best of the Bay has begun!

Meanwhile, in the weeks leading up to the 25th anniversary issue on Sept. 24, when this year's results will be published, we’re reviewing each of the BOTB issues that has gone before. 

Here's what we were talking about in the second year of BOTB in 1991.

CL’s foresight was 20/20 in ’91 — or at least it was in these examples.
Best Sports Franchise: TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING. They hadn’t even played their first game, let alone won a Stanley Cup, but they snagged a ’91 BOTB anyway. The reasoning, it appears from the following quote, is that no one had believed a hockey franchise could even get the rink to freeze in the Tropic of Tampa, so just getting a team together was an accomplishment. Plus — they weren’t the Bucs: “Kind of says it all, doesn’t it, as the Lightning seemed doomed to fail. Meantime, we sincerely hope for a successful Bucs season. Remember them?”
Best Reporter: WAYNE GARCIA. “Garcia is consistent, as tough as his paper will allow and breaks good stories now and again…” Garcia was at the Tribune when this item was written; he’d go on to the Times and then to CL, or rather the Weekly Planet, in 2004, where he was political editor for five years. He’s now associate director of USF’s School of Mass Communications, and still one of the best in the biz.
Best Original/Creative Chef: MARTY BLITZ of MISE EN PLACE. “A culinary genius” we called him in ’91. His pioneering cuisine not only continues to top Best lists, he also set the stage for the lively restaurant scene Tampa Bay enjoys today. (Just read our recent Meet the Chefs interview to see how many of today's top chefs point to Blitz as their inspiration.)

Best Songwriter: PAUL RELLER. He’d just joined the USF faculty and premiered his band Clang when he won BOTB kudos for being “Tampa Bay’s most experimental, original tunesmith.” Multiple award-winning accomplishments later, he’s now director of USF’s SYCOM Electronic Music Studio, and he just released a new solo CD, Pop Americano. He also — lucky man — is married to recent BOTB winner (and current nominee), Tempus Projects' Tracy Midulla Reller. 

Best Actress: SUSAN ALEXANDER. Susan left town for LA after winning her BOTB accolade, but returned to become an American Stage staple. She's now appearing with the Radio Theatre Project at Studio@620 and teaching at Berkeley Prep.


Some Bests of 1991 that aren’t around anymore include:
Best Power Lunch Spot: VALENCIA GARDEN. Once the place to see and be seen for the city’s power brokers, Valencia closed its doors in 2009 after 82 years in business. (Since then, the Oxford Exchange seems to have assumed the power-lunch mantle.)
Best [INSERT NAME OF FRENCH RESTAURANT HERE]: A host of restaurants that won accolades in 1991 are now closed, and many of them were très, très Francais, including LE BORDEAUX in Hyde Park (where CopperFish is now), MONTE CARLO FRENCH in Westshore, and CHALET SUZANNE, a Lake Wales institution which closed
last year.
Best Art Museum: MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ART. In 1991 we praised this museum’s “powerful and distinctive permanent collection,” and said its very existence was “unique in the country.” According to Forbes magazine, the museum closed in 2008, its collection purchased by BET founder Robert Johnson.
Best names to drop: STORMIN’ NORMAN & DWIGHT GOODEN. Good names to drop in 1991, perhaps. In 2015, not so much.
Best bookstore chain: B. DALTON BOOKS in the TAMPA BAY CENTER. Quaint. On several counts.


A big raspberry for the pirates and a back-handed compliment for a master:
Best Impersonation of a Spoiled Brat Taking His Boat and Going Home: YE MYSTIC KREWE. “What a bunch of losers,” snarked the BOTB team, reflecting on the sorry spectacle in January 1991 when the Krewe, the then-all-white, all-male social club that organized the Gasparilla parade, was scheduled to hold the parade in tandem with Super Bowl XXV, but balked when the NFL and activists pressured them to integrate. Rather than do so, the boys pulled the plug on the parade and the city organized “the hasty and dismal” Bamboleo in its stead.

click to enlarge Howard Troxler. - Todd Bates
Todd Bates
Howard Troxler.
Best Columnist That Doesn’t Deserve an Award: HOWARD TROXLER. “Gee Howard, you leave the Tribune to go all the way across the Bay, showing either a lack of loyalty or a sellout or delusions of grandeur or an overworked system.” I guess we were miffed he moved from the Trib to the Times. But later on he landed in the BOTB Hall of Fame for winning much-deserved Bests for several years running — until he left it all behind and moved to the mountains of North Carolina. Retirement didn’t last long; he is now happily working from home, writing explanatory publications for a software company. “When I publish something that says, ‘This is what happens when you click this button,’” he reports, “I do not get 100 emails from people declaring that it is not true because their political party or religion tells them so. This continues to be a great relief.” 

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