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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #225  (Vol. 5, No. 29)  This edition is for the week of July 12--18, 2004.

LA FLORIDIANA
A Visit to the North Florida Patron Saint of Pop Culture
 by Will Moriaty
THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEW
"I, Robot"
 by Mike Smith
ODDSERVATIONS
Don't Fear "The Reaper"
 by Andy Lalino
VINNIE VIDI VICI
Kerry Gets the Dead Vote....Liberal Financing....Japanese Economy Unveiled....Trickledown Economics....Column Correction
 by Vinnie Blesi
MATT'S RAIL
Can You Give me A Helsing OF That?....Bush Speak
 by Matt Drinnenberg
MIKE'S RANT
The Automobile Song....Wanted--A Director With No Vision....Passing On....Money Well Spent....Sci-Fi Dumb....Flame On....Meet The Beatles, Part 25
 by Mike Smith
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A Visit to the North Florida Patron Saint of Pop Culture

It was a beautiful and clear July 4th morning as yours truly and PCR publisher Nolan Canova jumped into my 2002 Trans Am, "The Night Stalker" and began our 300-mile sojourn to visit PCR contributor and Florida Folk Hero ED Tucker who lives with his wife Cindy up in an outlying area of Jacksonville known as Mandarin (so named after the Mandarin Orange, a form of citrus better known as a tangerine that is capable of enduring the more cold winters of that part of the state. Mandarin and Satsuma Oranges were planted in that area after freezes in the late 1800s destroyed citrus varieties that were not as cold tolerant).

In addition to spending July 4th night at his North Florida fanboy contingency, this would also be a trip dedicated to exploring the roots of Nolan's lineage in the part of the Sunshine State that I refer to as "Canova Country" (see La Fla, PCR #110 and a Canova Family web page). Although Canovas are now spread across the country, their point of arrival and primary home in the United States is in northeast Florida.

Prior to this trip, Nolan had expressed to me his fears about going, foremost amongst them, the fear that the daylight travel would adversely effect his sleep cycle since he holds a night job. I am pleased to report that he proved to be a delightful and topical travel companion throughout the daylight sojourn.

Now the Fun Begins
Once we exited I-75 in Marion County at Orange Lake, we traveled past the Ocala Jai-Alai Fronton on County Road 318, which afforded us a hilly, two-lane road retreat of hardwood forests and horse farms. We wound our way eastward to the small town of Citra where we then headed north on U.S. 301 in search of the first destination of a former Canova habitation called Campville, which is located in Alachua County.

Upon reaching Campville, I slowed down and pulled off of US 301 near the sign announcing the small town. Since I figured that Nolan may not have known the specific house his father grew up in, I thought that if nothing else he could get a photo of the sign as evidence of his search. (This photo was published in PCR #224 ---N)

I explained to Nolan that many U.S. Highways were built next to existing early railroad systems, and this portion of 301 appeared to be no exception. It was my own belief that his father lived in one of the old Cracker houses located west of the CSX track a few hundred feet from the roadway. I am certain that 301 was not a four-lane road when his father was a child there. It was most likely an unpaved or paved two-lane road.

We next had lunch at the McDonald's in Starke and planned to stop by Camp Blanding where his father was inducted into the Army during the Second World War (As far as I can recall, that is. --N). Heading east onto State Road 16, pine plantations became more numerous and the skies took on what I call an "Atlantic Skies" appearance. I have noticed throughout my life that the skies of Florida's East Coast are generally more intensely blue and clear than the skies of the Tampa and Gulf Coast, which tend to be hazier.

Nolan was reciting his Florida native trees quite well, being able to correctly pronounce the scientific name of the North Florida Slash Pine and the Tulip Poplar, a hardwood found in the seepage slopes of that region.

Once we photographed the sign at Camp Blanding we followed its never-ending fence eastward until we reached the small town of Penney Farms. It was created by retail magnate J.C. Penney as a retirement community for ministers and gospel workers (source: "The Florida Handbook 1963-1964" by Allen Morris, 512 pp, Peninsula Publishing, Tallahassee, FL, courtesy of PCR Florida Folk Hero Vincent Blesi). In this town, according to ED's travel instructions, lived the coroner of Munchkinland from the movie "The Wizard of Oz".

Following the "ED Tucker Path of North Florida Cinematic History", we next arrived at Green Cove Springs where the 1971 low-budget horror movie "ZAAT" was filmed. ED instructed us that as we turned onto US 17, to look to the north in order to spot the old Clay Theater. I decided to take us by the theater for a photo shoot and was glad that I did. The old theater is still operable (showing "Spider-Man 2") and was one of the few art deco buildings in the area. (This photo, too, was published in PCR #224. --N)

We next crossed over the St. Johns River into St. Johns County. Once on the other side we headed north on State Road 13 on our final leg of the "ED Tucker Path of North Florida Cinematic History" going through the beautiful and densely forested small towns of Orangedale and Switzerland, which were also backdrop locations in the movie "ZAAT".

A Case of Mistaken Identity
ED knows his pop culture, but his geographic skills became a little bit suspect, as we got closer to his house. Once on his street we made it to the fourth house on the left, which had a large "Copenhagen" banner, displayed across its front wall. I could picture a "Creature Feature" banner at Casa Tucker, but not a "Copenhagen" banner.

As I approached the door, two good old boys kindly informed me that this was not the Tucker residence. Nolan and I drove a little further south where the actually address was, but not sequence-matched. This time, a charming young lady who reaffirmed that this was indeed the Tucker residence greeted me at the door. ED then appeared at her side and we were invited inside, where one of my most memorable and enjoyable forays into pop culture would begin.

The Patron Saint of North Florida Pop Culture did not fail to deliver on his promise to surprise us, delight us and show us his own unique brand of Southern hospitality.

In the living room was a limited collection of Batman, Lost in Space and Dr. Paul Bearer memorabilia. Most notable to me was the good Doctor's original suit with its "Be Peculiar" button pinned to it. It was mind numbing to see that same suit and button thirty-one years after I met Dick Bennick staging for "Creature Feature" takes at the WTOG TV studios when I was a ripe old 18.

In addition to the myriad, yet tastefully done collection of fandom in the living room, I got to meet ED and Cindy's laid-back gray cat Earl (or Earle - - get it? "Earl" Gray? My wife Karen and I also have a gray cat named Erin - - get it? "Erin" Gray? Ah, forget it!).

We retreated to ED's movie studio or fanboy den where after repeated mind numbings and pop culture revelations a late afternoon thunderstorm ensued. After that, we moved to the back of the house where ED stoked up the grill for the 4th of July dinner. The weather was delightful as the storm reduced the high heat of the day considerably. ED's circle of North Florida fan boy confederates begin to show up one by one. There was Rich, a former Tampa boy; James, a former Orlando boy; and of course the always friendly and delightful characters Byron and Donovan, who I had met previously.

As Nolan slipped out for a nap, I was engaged in a wonderful conversation with ED and Byron where they were describing how during their college days they managed to finagle getting "Bloodfeast " producer Herschel Gordon Lewis to give a presentation for them at the University of North Florida. In addition to their wealth of pop culture knowledge, this group of fanboys definitely demonstrated an incredible ability to "tweak the system" in order to advance fanboy awareness and causes. The "shock and awe" continued as they described more of their fanboy college adventures while the Guru of Central Florida Pop Culture was sawing logs in another part of the Castillo de San Tucker.

Fireworks Galore
Much to the chagrin of my car "The Night Stalker", the neighborhood fireworks show was the most ambitious of its type I had ever seen. Again, ED was true to his word.

As we moseyed back inside, all of those present discussed a myriad of subjects. I think Nolan started to doze when we discussed barbeque, but that's inevitably what happens when you get Southern folk together in the same room!

Once the crowds left and the dust settled, ED treated us to some old Dr. Paul Bearer out takes and I felt like I was back in my twenties again! Man, do I ever miss these great more innocent and carefree days of yesteryear!

We then went to bed, which in my case was a couch in ED's film and collectibles den - - perfect! I had my own mental reruns of the delightful day's events before I lost consciousness, safeguarded by the adjacent movie poster of "ZAAT" staring down at me.

The Morning After
A bright, sunny Monday morning greeted me as I stumbled into the living room where ED and Nolan were already up and watching TV. Cindy then joined us. Of all the treasures in his home, his most precious is Cindy, who is a very supportive wife and most genteel and cordial hostess.

After more "Creature Feature" out takes, we then saw a 1991 videotape of a much younger ED at the Necronomicon in Tampa with Dr. Paul Bearer. None other than our own PCR publisher Nolan B. Canova makes an appearance in the video although he and ED would not even know each other for another ten years! (Vid-caps of the 1991 encounter were published way back in PCR #154. I'm not only much younger, but much thinner; and no facial hair. --N)

ZAATTV watching was capped off by the showing of the 1971 North Florida horror movie hallmark, "ZAAT", which ED acquired the rights to several years ago. I will be reviewing this movie in the near future for "Schlockarama", so stay tuned!

As the afternoon approached, it was time for Nolan and I to head back home. Nolan and I, along with ED and Cindy drove down State Road 13 to the Outback Crab Shack outside of St. Augustine. The food and atmosphere were absolutely delightful. After a late lunch we bid ED and Cindy adieu and continued to our next "Canova Country" destination of St. Augustine, the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere, in search of the "Canova House".

Drove By, Didn't Know It
Regrettably, I should have printed out the photo of the historic house that was on a web site that I pulled from ED's PC, All that I knew about the 1840's house is that it was located on Bridge Street. Once in St. Augustine, we ran by it several times, but since it was not marked, did not know which specific house it was.

After about an hour of futile searching, we finally headed back home. As I-95 was its usual backed up mess, I decided to take back roads down to I-4, and I'm glad I did. State Road 11, which runs between Bunnell and DeLand (and I suspect may have been an old carriage road) is one of Florida's most truly rural and scenic highways. As the sun began to set and the mists of previously heavy summer rains began to infiltrate through the damp forests and fields, we continued southward on the closing portion of our trip driving through the beautiful city of DeLand, followed thereafter by getting onto I-4 and travelling the heavily urbanized yet cosmopolitan sprawl that comprises greater Orlando and Disney.

Once west of Osceola County, I-4 looked like a moonscape with its 40-plus miles of road-widening construction. It was amazing to go from such pristine beauty (S.R. 11) to such disturbance in less than twenty minutes, but that is the story of Florida.

Six long hours after leaving the Outback Crab Shack, Nolan and I safely made back to the Cigar City of our birth after a most wonderful Independence Day visit with North Florida's Patron Saint of Pop Culture.


"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.