Christopher Spata, Times Staff

Christopher Spata

Times Staff

I'm focused on the offbeat side of life. I love stories about people pursuing unusual goals, and what drives them. I've written about retirees attending Santa Claus School, competitors at the World Sign Spinning Championships and an optician rebuilding old Chuck E. Cheese robots in his bedroom. I'm also looking for hyper-local culture stories, from tracing the global path plastic beads take to Tampa's Gasparilla festival, to pondering mysterious butt graffiti in downtown St. Pete. I also contribute to our entertainment and Things To Do coverage. I previously worked for the Tampa Tribune and Ocala Star-Banner. I'm a rare, native-born Floridian, and collect all things Floridiana, from alligator ash trays to vintage postcards for roadside attractions. I say Florida isn't "weird," just more interesting.

A guide to vintage Christmas ornaments from some bay area collectors

TAILYR IRVINE   |   Times
A color wheel sits on display in Annette Ross' home in Gulfport. The color wheel was used to color aluminum trees in the late 1950s when you couldn't hang lights due to fire hazard.
Vintage Christmas ornament collectors tell us about their treasured finds, and how they reflect world history, nostalgia and changes in taste.

Neil deGrasse Tyson cancels Tampa appearance in wake of Me Too allegations

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017 file photo, Neil deGrasse Tyson attends a fan event celebrating the release Kelly Clarkson's album
Neil deGrasse Tyson is no longer coming to the Straz Center.

America’s Got Talent Tampa auditions bring out comics, singers and tinfoil hats

TAILYR IRVINE   |   Times
A line of contestant hopefuls reaches around the corner of the Tampa Convention Center during the America’s Got Talent auditions on December 10, 2018.
Hopefuls had 90 seconds to convince a producer they should be flown out to perform for the celebrity panel of judges including Simon Cowell.

Festivus 2018: Submit your complaints and grievances here

A scene from the
For Festivus, we're once again asking readers to air their grievances for the past year. We'll publish them before the holiday.

Hernando retiree who saved Cagney & Lacey is the subject of a new documentary

Dorothy Swanson on the set of “Cagney and Lacey.” Courtesy of Brainstorm Media
Dorothy Swanson for two decades was the “housewife” TV networks couldn’t ignore.