Category Archives: TV Fame

Orville Schell: The Top 5 Concerns Central Florida Should Have about China

The Top 5 was very excited to be able to speak with Orville Schell, one of the country’s leading authorities on China. (You’ve seen him on 60 Minutes.)  Orville is coming to speak at Rollins College tomorrow night, Thursday, November 11.

Special note from the editor: Yes, I did a bit of reading to sound intelligent when speaking with Orville–I tried!– but he was kind enough to explain why relations with China matter to you and me as average Central Floridians.

And, after this conversation, I do realize how important his message is to all of us: from the products we buy and the jobs we may or may not have, to the money we can or can’t borrow from the bank to even preventing future apocalyptic wars. Pretty important stuff, no? Here’s what he had to say…

The Top 5 Concerns Central Florida Should Have about China

1)  Trade

Have you been to a Walmart recently? Come on, even if you haven’t surely you have seen these three words over and over: Made In China.

Confession: I heard about a local school who had a Veteran’s Day Assembly, where several worthy veterans were honored. The students proudly waved tiny American flags to show their patriotism. (The flags were flown on sticks that read “Made in China.” Ugh!)

2) Almost $2 trillion in Debt

Yep, China holds 20% of the U.S. government’s debt, and we seem headed towards going even deeper into their pockets.

Now, my hubby doesn’t let me handle our own bills, because I’m not much with economics, but even I can see the MAJOR problems with this much foreign ownership. It seems to put us in a rather poor negotiating stance, doesn’t it?

3) Climate Change

Although my older brother used to tell me that I could only get to China by digging a hole through the middle of the Earth, the world is apparently much, much smaller than he thought.  If ash from an Indonesian volcano can drift across the Pacific to pollute the western coast of America, then certainly the coal China and America burn affects each other.  We pollute the same air, melt the same glaciers, and destroy the same environment. Think about this: even if all of America switched to electric cars, there would still be 27 million cars in China to deal with!

“China is the fastest-growing contributor of global warming emissions,” says Douglas Ogden, director of the China Sustainable Energy Program, “with its carbon dioxide output on track to surpass that of the U.S. by 2025.”

So the lesson in all this? America must be on good terms with China to be able to work together to reduce the carbon emissions and slow the effects of global warming. Yeah, our very survival as a race depends upon this!

4) Nuclear Weapons

Okay, just Orville saying those two words kind of freaks me out!

There are a lot of countries that have (or soon may have) nuclear weapons, and North Korea and Iran are two that are not so friendly to the United States and our policies.  China, however, seems to have a much better working relationship with these two countries, and so it is imperative we learn to cooperate with China to reduce any and all nuclear threats. (That or we need to dig more fall out shelters here in Florida!)

5) Global Financial System

Here in Central Florida we have all felt the effects of the slow economy. Thousands of jobs lost, hundreds of stores closed, and far too many people out of their homes.  And in a global market dominated by both the U.S. and China, we will need to work together not only to keep the system from breaking down altogether, but to also figure out how to rebuild it.

As Orville pointed out, “We are joined at the hip with China whether we like it or not. It is an illusion to think we can separate ourselves.”

Baby Steps

Of course, the teacher in me asked Orville whether he thought today’s schools were preparing tomorrow’s generation to deal with this massive gorilla on our back (metaphorically speaking, of course), and he said no.  He pointed out that schools are not teaching students the history, culture, language, or politics to be able to deal with China. So, I would like to give some kudos to Lake Highland Preparatory School for offering Mandarin Chinese as one of their foreign languages options. At least it’s a start!

I would also like to congratulate the Central Florida city of Tavares, whose mayor Robert Wolfe is currently on a trip to Taiwan to explore a sister-city relationship. By taking the initiative, perhaps we Central Floridians can have a greater influence on international relations than we realize, and this can only be for the good of all!

Go Hear Orville Schell in Person: 2 Chances

Tomorrow night at Rollins College, Bush Auditorium, 7 pm:
Climate Change and the Melting Glaciers of the Himalayas: Why it Matters

Friday morning at Rollins College, Bush Auditorium, 9 am:
What’s Happening in China and Why It Matters: Q & A with Orville Schell


Filed under Celebrity, Education, General Info, Literary, Politics, Rollins College, TV Fame

Greenwood Cemetery: Orlando’s Most Exclusive Gated Community

With all the terrifyingly thrilling buzz about Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights XX and Sea World/Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream, the Top 5 is embracing the spooky season… we’ve dusted off our collection of Edgar Allan Poe tales, along with Washington Irving‘s ghost stories. (Yep, we’re kind of geeks!)

So, when Don Price, the sexton of the Greenwood Cemetery–the City of Orlando‘s only cemetery–invited us for a Moonlight Walking Tour, we jumped at the chance to stroll among the headstones and crypts, and ponder the souls that dwell there.  So, into the car we went and bravely made our way to the Greenwood Street entrance, where a set of intimidating wrought iron gates lit by flickering lamps awaited us.

With a sardonic smile, Don greeted us, along with a few other unfortunate souls from the Orange County Convention Visitors Bureau and the Orlando Arts Magazine, and so our small pack followed our fearless leader armed with a single flashlight into the night.  Dark clouds masked the eye of the moon and from time to time helicopters cryptically flew overhead as if searching desperately for someone or something. Other than that, the grounds were quiet as we were followed by our own footsteps. Silent owls swooped and the whisk of bats’ wings could be heard. I, of course, shivered despite the heat and humidity, and was fully prepared for a shadowy figure to be stalking us.

What I found instead, was a truly refreshing new look at the city I call home.

The first grave we happened upon was that of July Perry, a black man who in 1920 was stabbed, shot, and then hanged on the property of Orlando judge  John Cheney as a dire warning.  (I had no idea the namesake of Old Cheney Highway had played such a large part in the racial tensions that historically plagued the South!) During the time of the Jim Crow Laws, Perry had been denied the right to vote, and Judge Cheney was attempting to aid Perry, by sending him back to the voting precinct to get the names of the men denying him.

Perry made the ill-choice to return with a friend and a shotgun for support. In Ocoee later that night, retired sheriff Sam Salisbury would be shot in the right arm as he was attempting to serve a warrant on Perry, and things quickly spiraled out of control resulting in a lynch mob, as well as 25 black homes, 2 churches, and a masonic lodge burned to the ground.

Perry was laid to rest in the “black part” of the cemetery, and ironically enough, I discovered the cemetery was segregated in many more ways:  “Union” vs. “Yankee” soldiers,  the “in” crowd and the “out” crowd, the “English” colony vs. the “Americans.”

I had studied Florida’s past, hadn’t I?  Why was all this missing from the history books!

It should be noted we later crossed near the grave of Sam Salisbury, the retired sheriff who got shot while serving a warrant on the tragic July Perry. Karma apparently has a way of finding itself and its unknowing victims…Sam’s right arm was left paralyzed as a result of the gunshot wound on election night in 1920.  However, 54 years later, Sam tripped down the stairs, and the gun he had tucked in his belt went off, killing him with a bullet to the head!

Continuing to meander through the stones, Orlando’s streets came to life as we were told stories about their namesakes.  We met Samuel Robinson, think Robinson Street, who served as county surveyor for 16 years. In his travels across Central Florida, he gathered a large collection of gold and silver ornaments from Native American mounds, a collection that now belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. And, it should be noted that Sam Robinson chose the highest point in Central Florida for his gravesite.

Samuel Robinson's "terrazo stone" marker.

We also heard about Aaron Jernigan, Orlando’s first settler and the city’s original namesake. It would be called Jernigan until the name was changed to Orlando by Judge J.D. Spear. Spear was a great fan of Shakespeare, and relished the performances of Shakespeare among others at the Orlando Opera House, and so it is rumored that he chose to name the city after one of Shakespeare’s characters from As You Like It.  (This would make sense with Rosalind Street, Orlando’s love interest.) However, other rumors of the city’s naming center around an unconfirmed account of a heroic soldier named Orlando Reeves.

Orlando Opera House

We also heard about other city founders and pioneers, including Holden, Delaney, Gore, Leu, and Beacham.  (I remember my mother telling me stories about the old Beacham Theater.) Apparently, Beacham teamed with J.F. Ange of the Angebuilt Hotel across the street. It turns out, there is a tunnel running under Orange Avenue connecting the two, so Beacham’s actors could make their way to and from the theater in secret. (Yes, the tunnel is still there, although bricked up on either side.)

We ran across other names, fixtures in Orlando’s history, albeit not quite as famous as those with streets named after them. We saw the grave of Ruth Pounds, of Edgewater Drive’s Pounds Dance Studio, where generations of teens have been sent for ballroom dance and etiquette lessons. (Your Top 5 editor is included in this! I spent every Monday night during 7th grade at her dance studio…)  We saw the headstone of Chauncey Boyle, at one time the strongest man in the world.

Strongest man in the world, as shown by the barbell on his headstone

We also saw the grave of Delta Burke‘s father. Apparently she visits fairly often, casually chatting a while with Don and the other caretakers at the cemetery.  (My hubby liked hearing about this as Delta was a companion of his mother, when they both were in their pageant days!)

And then we saw the grave marker of Francis Eppes… who is he?  He is Thomas Jefferson’s grandson (he was even born at Monticello) before making his way to Florida. Want to know why else he’s important? He founded the Florida State College for Women… now known as Florida State University! (Hmmm…shouldn’t we ship him back to the panhandle or something?)

Francis Eppes, Founder of FSU

We also saw large crypts, straight out of H.P. Lovecraft‘s “The Outsider.” (By the way, if you’ve never read this tale, it is my all-time favorite!) The Wilmott family, who owned the Tremont Hotel, has a crypt with a curious window of orange glass in the back, and on certain days of the year, when the sun is just right, the entire crypt is aglow with the eerie orange color.

On certain days, this glows orange

Another crypt, hand-built by its owner, mysteriously has no death date. It simply reads “1836  – 19–”  This leads many a mischief-maker to light candles on the doorstep, in hopes the still-living undead might make an appearance. (Apparently the owner died with no heirs to pay for the remaining numbers, thus it is not quite as mysterious as it appears!)

So as we made our way around in the dark listening to Don spin his sinister stories of Orlando magic, I found myself reflecting on this wonderful city of ours.  It is thrilling to now understand that we have an actual history–one that is great and turbulent and full of true characters that forged us into “The City Beautiful.” (Yes, we also saw the grave of Jessie Branch, the lady responsible for giving Orlando this motto.)

I believe we should all come to understand the factors that led us to today, we should embrace both the warts and the beauty marks. If we don’t, how can we truly appreciate all that Orlando has overcome to be “The City Beautiful” it is today?

Mrs. R. Greer - Orlando's first professional painter

Don retold history in such a respectful yet intriguing manner, that he rivals any professional story-teller. So, in between your trips to the theme parks this Halloween season, make your way to the 100 plus rolling acres near downtown where Orlando’s most exclusive and famous residents now call home. You will be glad you did!


Filed under Celebrity, Convention Center, Education, Fun, General Info, History, Just Plain Weird, Seasonal, TV Fame, Uniquely Florida, Universal

Billy Gardell: Winter Park Boy Makes it Big in Hollywood!

Stand up comedian and actor Billy Gardell is starring in the new CBS primetime sitcom Mike and Molly.

Billy is originally from Pittsburgh, but attended my high school when his family moved to Florida. As a classmate at Winter Park High School, I don’t pretend to have known Billy well at all–who knows if he would even remember my name! Just my graduating class had over 900 students after all!–but I do claim to remember that he was a funny guy even back then. One year for a talent show,  he donned a brown paper bag over his head to debut as the “Unknown Comic” and had the crowd in stitches! I find it so refreshing that somebody who actually knew what he wanted to do as a career (starting back in high school) had the gumption and guts to persevere until he made it. Way to go, Billy!

Mike and Molly starts September 20 on CBS. Until then, catch this interview with Craig Ferguson on the Late, Late Show. Billy confessed this was his very first talk show and that he was nervous! (I must confess, I had never seen the Craig Ferguson Show as I am always in bed by then! But, the host was gracious and very funny… me likes the Scotsman!)  And, we think Billy did an absolutely great job and are proud to claim him as a local boy done good!

Warning: Rated PG for langauge.


Filed under Celebrity, Just for Me, Resident done good, TV Fame, winter park

Growing Bolder is Growing!

Congratulations to two former Wesh News anchors, Marc Middleton and Bill Shafer, for taking their show Growing Bolder TV national! Starting this weekend, Growing Bolder will be seen on 100 PBS stations across the country.

Bill and Marc. Photo from Bolder Media Group.

The show, the brainchild of Middleton, which began to ferment in his kitchen over a cup of coffee, resulted in first a radio show and then television show geared for the 50 and up crowd. It focuses on inspirational stories, such as “Broken Neck to Broken Records” featuring cyclist Sandy Scott, who didn’t start competitive cycling until age 64. Or you can find out Olympic Gold Medalist Dara Torres’ secret to success. And although the show claims to be for the “growing bolder” crowd, there’s something that every age group will enjoy! (I’ve even made my teenage son watch a few episodes for him to find out he actually enjoyed it!)

From the show’s website:

“What is Growing Bolder? It’s the newest show on PBS stations coast-to-coast. It’s inspirational, affirmational and entertaining. Produced by an Emmy Award-winning team, Growing Bolder tells the stories of ordinary men and women living extra ordinary lives. It’s about people reinventing themselves to pursue their passions and build lives of significance. It’s about entrepreneurs, cancer survivors, masters athletes, rock stars, artists, and more.”

You can also connect with Growing Bolder on Facebook as well as Twitter. So, do yourself a favor, and tune in this weekend… I promise you will be inspired!

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Filed under Celebrity, Education, General Info, Resident done good, TV Fame

Floridian to be featured on the Tonight Show tonight!

When Growing Bolder first featured Rachel Veitch and her 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente, little did they know the type of media storm that would set off… Since that time, their video has seen 6.5 millions views and has helped Rachel and her car, fondly referred to as Chariot, be featured on TV and radio stations, shown on the Today Show, and tonight, Rachel and Chariot will chat with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. (Yep, the Tonight Show has paid to ship the car to Los Angeles!)

Rachel and Chariot in the early days.

Rachel and Chariot today.

Jay Leno is an avid car collector and especially likes vintage cars. He even has a website dedicated to his garage!

Rachel is excited to show off Chariot, which has over half a million miles on it, and has been kept running well with tender loving care as well as Valvoline, too. Way to go, Rachel and Chariot!

See more about Rachel and Chariot on Growing Bolder.

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Filed under Fun, Out of Orlando, Resident done good, TV Fame

Shaq Vs. Bieber Fever for Real?

Yep, it must seem like David vs. Goliath, with Justin Bieber facing off against Shaq’s well-known killer dance moves… and it all went down in O-town!  (Did I really just call Orlando O-town in order to make a rhyme? I have never referred to Orlando in that manner before!)

NBA super star Shaquille O’Neal (7′ 1″, 235 lbs.) challenged newest pop sensation Juston Bieber (who is 16 years old but hardly looks a day over 14). Here’s footage of practice from a studio in Arizona:

So, if you missed the first season of Shaq Vs., you missed a very high quality series. Basically, Shaq challenges experts in their given field–Serena Willims in tennis, Michael Phelps in swimming, you get the idea–and captures it all on film.  It makes for some very enjoyable filming. What the Top 5 likes best is Shaq incorporates doing some good for a local charity or organization while he is filming.

And, here’s why else I like the format… Shaq brings some star appeal and notoriety to some lesser known sports, such as swimming or beach volleyball. Any guy who likes sharing the limelight, spreading the love, or whatever you want to call it, is okay in my book! Bieber aside (he doesn’t really need the publicity now, does he?) Shaq is a “good sport” through it all, including walking down the beach wearing a Speedo after losing to Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.

So, the Orlando episode, with the Shaq-Bieber Dance Off is scheduled to be aired on August 21 on ABC.  Who are you betting on?

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Filed under Celebrity, Fun, Music, TV Fame

Orlando has America’s Talent!

Did you see Studio One Young Beast Society last night on America’s Got Talent?  Did you vote for them? Well, you should have because they’ve got Orlando connections: The group placed second in January’s Seminole’s Got Talent at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, and Parramore Kidz Zone’s DaQuan Barnes Williams is part of their dance group.

The Parramore Kids Zone (PKZ) is part of the Mayor’s Children and Education Initiative and is modeled after the well-known Harlem Childrens Zone.  Here’s what the PKZ website says is their mission:

“PKZ aims to lower teenage pregnancy, juvenile crime and child abuse rates among children in this neighborhood, and also improve their school performance.  How will PKZ do this?  By investing in things that make a difference in children’s lives – such as quality early childhood education, after school programs, programs that build family economic success, youth development programs for teenagers, access to health care, mentoring, and more.  PKZ will make Parramore a GREAT place for kids.”

So, now that you know, perhaps you will vote for them! Go Studio One Young Beast Society!

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Filed under Resident done good, TV Fame