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Radio's Jack Harris wants Tampa to showcase celebrities with walk of fame

With more than 2,600 five-pointed pink terrazzo stars bearing the names of celebrities who hit it big in the entertainment capital of the world, Hollywood has the most famous Walk of Fame.

But it is not the only walk of fame.

Nashville has a version for the music industry, for example.

On a local level, St. Louis and Palm Springs each have a walk of fame honoring celebrities and historic figures with links to the cities.

So why doesn't Tampa have one?

As longtime listeners to WFLA-AM 970 may know, it's a question AM Tampa Bay co-host Jack Harris has been posing for a decade.

Recently, he's been discussing it with more frequency.

And he is now willing to lead the charge to create a Tampa Walk of Fame.

"I think people would be surprised by how many famous people emanated from here," Harris said. "It would be a good attraction and make us a little prouder of our home town."

Those honored would have to be known nationwide, Harris said, and either have been born or raised in or have a strong connection to Tampa.

Some examples:

Pledge of Allegiance author Francis Bellamy worked for TECO years after penning the nation's signature expression of allegiance.

Actress Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen whose most iconic role was as Prissy, Scarlett O'Hara's maid in Gone with the Wind, was born in Tampa.

While Virgil Runnels Jr. performed around the world as professional wrestler Dusty Rhodes it was from Tampa he rose to prominence.

George Steinbrenner may have born in Ohio and been "The Boss" in New York but he resided in Tampa nearly full time for the final decade of his life and was a city philanthropist.

Before Channing Tatum starred in Hollywood blockbusters he graduated from Tampa Catholic High School.

And if the other side of the bay is included, Harris said, beatnik author Jack Kerouac, who died in St. Petersburg, and actress Angela Bassett, who was raised in St. Petersburg, could be among those included.

To help bring this dream to fruition, Harris has recruited local promoter Ken Walters, best known for his "Celebrate Sinatra" event, a 1950s-style party held annually for 20 years that is a homage to the multi-talented entertainer.

"We would have no problem finding candidates," Walters said. "We'd be overwhelmed. There are too many to count."

Walters envisions the stars being like Hollywood's but with a small spot reserved for a sponsorship to pay whatever the cost may be.

A committee would choose honorees, Walters added, and preferred locales include near The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts or Tampa Theatre.

As for a time line? The man who calls himself "Whacky Jack" on Twitter would not commit.

"Well, I came up with the idea 10 years ago when I saw the one in St. Louis," Harris said with a laugh. "But I think it is time."

It was a recent trip to Palm Springs that provided Harris a newfound inspiration for a Tampa Walk of Fame.

When he visited that city's version, the first star he gazed upon bore the name of Elvis Presley's manager Colonel Tom Parker.

Parker did reside in Palm Springs for a time, Harris said, but he has deeper ties to Tampa, from where he worked as a dog catcher for over a decade before he found success in show business.

Never forgetting his roots, when Presley hit it big with his performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Parker made sure one of his first concerts was in Tampa.

"He belongs to us, not Palm Springs," Harris said. "Lots of celebrities do."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

"I think people would be surprised by how many famous people emanated from here. It would be a good attraction and make us a little prouder of our home town."

Jack Harris, AM Tampa Bay co-host

     
     
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