Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

Ask The Locals: Okesene Tilo

Okie Tilo Ask The Locals 2014
Ask the Locals: Okesene “Okie” Tilo of the RITZ Ybor
by Heidi Kurpiela

Okesene Tilo is the director of public relations, marketing and events at The RITZ Ybor. He arrived at the storied theater in 2008 after it had undergone a transformation from seedy nightclub to hip new concert venue.

Tilo –– known as “Okie” among Tampa Bay artists, musicians and Ybor clubbers –– is a 34-year-old social butterfly; an Ybor denizen with a weakness for Madonna, music festivals and comfort food.

An Army brat, Tilo was born in Berlin, Germany and moved to Tampa in 1991, where his knack for bringing people together made him the obvious choice for senior class president at Armwood High School in Seffner.

He studied political science at the University of South Florida and in 2005 produced his first fundraising event. The project proved the perfect outlet for a party-going extrovert with an admitted “OCD streak.”

For five years Tilo served as the managing director of Square One Creative, a collective of artists, designers and entertainers best known for hosting raging art parties at venues across Tampa.

In addition to his work at The RITZ, Tilo is the managing partner of the Up Up Up Group, a special event, festival and attractions planning company. He serves on the steering committee for Pride & Passion at the Tampa Museum of Art and the planning committee for Festa Italiana.

Best Ybor watering hole: First Chance Last Chance in Ybor. “It’s not too overwhelming or too loud. It’s a good place to have a conversation with someone over drinks.”

Best place to people watch: The bench in front of Honey Pot. “You’ll see rockers, hipsters, drag queens and people in fetish costumes coming and going.”

Best reason to cross the Howard Frankland bridge: Sake Bomb. “They make my favorite saketini. I’ve tried to replicate it at home and I can’t.”

Best cheap date: Five Bucks Drinkery in St. Pete. “Nothing costs more than five bucks. You can get loaded tater tots, a root beer float and a Frito pie. It’s like a Jack in the Box.”

Best weird food fusion: Nitally’s Thai-Mex Cuisine. “Thai food mixed with Mexican food is a nice little twist. It’s an interesting place. You’ll always leave with your nose and eyes burning from the spices.”

Best food truck: Aloha To Go. “Whenever they feature the Loco Moco I go nuts. It’s a hamburger patty over rice with gravy on top. Their Facebook page tells you where the truck will be. They go to Tampa General a lot. I’ve got no shame. I’ll follow that food truck to the hospital.”

Best hidden park: Edward Medard Park and Reservoir in Plant City. “It’s a gigantic park with hiking trails and tons of outdoor activities. It feels like you’re in North Carolina.”

Best act to play the RITZ: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. “Everyone I know was going crazy for her and she actually lived up to the hype. She was at the merch table at the end of the show talking to every single fan. She was very down-to-earth and natural. I felt like I’d known her for years.”

Best place to stretch out: Yoga Loft. “Yoga actually works! I started going two and half years ago. Now I can completely touch the floor.”

Best new local band: The Sh-Booms out of Orlando. “They’re amazing. I saw them at The Hub. I’m somewhat of a Sh-Boom stalker now.”

Best wild Friday night party: The Filthy Richard Party at The RITZ. “If you want to full-fledge drink and dance this is the place to go.”

Best all-American eating: The Florida State Fair. “I don’t eat fair food regularly, but when I do go all out. My friends and I go on rides first, then eat every ounce of fried food we can find: fried Pepsi, fried bubble gum, fried butter, funnel cakes, elephant ears … This isn’t just one day of cheating, it’s destroying your entire eating plan for the month.”

Best way to burn off fair food: Spin class at Powerhouse Gym. “I take Mike Hammonds’ class every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. DJ Jason Krouth spins EDM, dance, Top 40s and 90s hip-hop. The guy has a following because his class is always full.”

Best bargain basement finds: Revolve Clothing Exchange in Ybor. “I once found this Michael Jackson Thriller jacket. It was such a rare find I got a call from someone at the store asking if I still had it. Apparently it was in high demand.”

Best way to tick off your dentist: Binge on croissant donuts at Piquant. “Everything they bake gets reserved. Basically you have to call and place an order. There’s a waiting list. My friends made fun of me for loving this place and then they had a croissant donut and now they’re hooked. It’s heaven.”

Best guilty-pleasure greasy chain: Church’s Chicken. “I’ll go to get my fried okra on. A big box of okra at Church’s is cheap!”

Best way to spend a silly Sunday: At an auction at Myers Fine Art & Antiques. “Once or twice a year my friends and I get dressed up and go to Myers in St. Pete. We don’t go to bid. We go to watch. It’s crazy what some of these things sell for. People are actually on the phone with bidders. You’ll see someone throw down $5,000 for a spoon.”

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The MDNA Tour: Chicago

8 years ago, Kristin and I drove to the K-Mart in Sebring, Florida in an attempt to be first in line at their Ticketmaster counter so we could purchase our Madonna Re-Invention Tour tickets as soon as they went on-sale.  We both rationalized that the blue haired retired residents of the city of Sebring would be too busy playing bridge and bingo to have any interest in standing in line for Madonna concert tickets at 9am on a Saturday morning.  We were right, but for whatever reason, Kristin wound up not going to our Re-Invention Tour date in Miami.  Two more Madonna world tours later, Kristin had never seen my her our idol live in concert… ever.

As soon as Madonna announced this year’s MDNA Tour, Kristin and I decided that we would fly up to Chicago to see the Queen of Pop.  Due to the high demand once tickets went on-sale, we were unable to purchase 2 tickets together and were only able to secure solo VIP tickets.  In short, we would be sitting apart from one another during the concert.

The day before we were to fly out, Madonna’s long-time manager Guy Oseary tweeted that he was giving away Golden Triangle Pit Tickets to Madonna’s ultimate fans.  So I entered the contest, texted Kristin to give me a wake-up call at 5am so that I would be ready for the first flight out to Chicago and then went to bed thinking nothing else about the contest.

Fast forward to 5am the next morning, Kristin called me to wake me up as planned.  I laid in bed completely lifeless and not wanting to move.  I rolled over, looked at my phone on my nightstand.  I noticed that I had a new Twitter notification.  I expected to see some trivial tweet about Amanda Bynes, Honey Boo Boo or Chik-Fil-A that I happened to be tagged in, but instead, I saw something else.  I saw this…

…a message from Guy Oseary.  A message from the one & only Madonna’s manager.  To me.  Informing me that I won 2 Golden Triangle pit tickets to that night’s show.

I called Kristin to tell her the news.  She thought that I was having a heart attack.  I called Jocelyn.  I texted Neil in Chicago.  Shower.  Airport.  Flight.  Taxi.  Neil.  Boystown.  Shop.  Eat.  United Center.  Concert.  That 24-hour period zoomed by so fast, it all seems like such a blur in hindsight.

The concert was a tour-de-force show of non-stop entertainment.  This was my fifth Madonna tour, and probably my favorite Madonna tour.  While I highly respected 2001’s Drowned World Tour and 2006’s Confessions Tour as artistic statements and loved certain parts of each show, both did not excite me and felt cold at times.  2008’s Sticky & Sweet Tour was a ball of fun, but lacked the artistic depth of a true Madonna show.  The MDNA Tour reigns supreme because it combines the darkness of Drowned World, the unity and political message of Re-Invention, the beauty of Confessions and the animated hoopla of Sticky & Sweet into one show.

The MDNA Tour is proof that the girl from Michigan is still on top of her game 30-years into her career.  While her rivals are all judging reality shows, performing to theater-sized audiences or promoting a weight loss program, Madonna is selling out stadiums and arenas across the planet with VIP tickets that flaunt a $1,500.00 price tag.  Yes, $1,500.00 for a VIP Floor Madonna ticket!  Is she worth it?  Of course.

Kristin pretty much cried the entire duration of the entire concert because she was so starstruck and in awe.  (Fun Fact: Kristin cried so much that she cried her fake eyelashes off.)  What has always separated Madonna from the rest of the pack was her starpower.  She commands the stage.  You simply cannot take your eyes off of her.  When all is said and done and years upon years later, history will only remember Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Madonna…  and only one out of the four is still touring.  I remember watching an MTV News Segment as a kid back in 1990 when they were covering Madonna’s Blonde Ambition World Tour and a random Madonna fan made the bold statement: “You haven’t truly lived if you haven’t been to a Madonna concert!”  22 years later and that statement rings even more true.  Go see her while you can!

Highlights of the show: the Express Yourself / Born This Way / She’s Not Me mash-up, a rump-shakin’ version of Gimme All Your Luvin’ with a flying marching band, M’s 12-year-old son Rocco joining Mom onstage as a back-up dancer and choir member, stripped-down sing-a-long versions of classics Holiday and Open Your Heart, the heavenly divine Like A Prayer, the grand entrance of (literal) biblical proportions to Girl Gone Wild, a very somber and eerie take on Like A Virgin,  meeting other really cool & very kind Madonna fans and of course, seeing Madonna with Kristin for her very first time.

When I returned back home to Tampa, nearly all of my friends and co-workers asked why I did not take more photos or videos of Madonna since I was a mere 6 feet away from her at times.  I just wanted to make sure that I enjoyed every single second of the opportunity, to be in the moment and to NOT constantly fidget with my camera phone.  Actually, my phone only left my pocket just once the entire show to take the above photo while M performed Turn Up The Radio.

I have VIP Floor tickets to see the final show of the MDNA Tour in Miami on November 20, 2012 and absolutely cannot wait to experience the show all over again.  I cannot think of a more perfect gift to myself for my birthday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Front & Center

with Madonna’s longtime guitarist & guitar teacher Monte Pittman

I met up with soulmate Gina & the gang after the show.

New friends Mary and Rafael

A very special thanks to Rafael Cardoso, Madonna’s #1 Fan, for the warm welcome to the Golden Triangle Pit, for allowing me to use some of the photos in this blog and for simply being a fantastic and kind human-being in this world.  This man has been to every single MDNA Tour show since it landed on U.S. soil!

Madonna the prophet with Dick Clark on American Bandstand in 1984

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The Voice of My Generation

Growing up as a kid, I could not live without MTV. Everyday after school, I’d literally run home to turn the TV on and endlessly lose myself in the music videos playing on MTV. The music era of the 1980’s is either known for the saturation of one-hit wonders and ultra cheesy music videos and songs, or the domination of huge superstars such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Whitney Houston, George Michael to name a few. I remember it more for the latter. Those superstars were already living legends in their day, inspiration to a whole new generation and icons of the music revolution that MTV created.

When Michael Jackson passed on June 25, 2009, my heart weakened. I was in the midst of opening the doors to The RITZ Ybor’s 1-Year Anniversary Party that I had been planning and working on with my co-workers for the last 2 months. Anyone in the event industry can totally relate to the inevitable anxiety that accompanies the start of any event, and news of his death literally sent my nerves into overdrive even more. Michael Jackson was the ultimate superstar of my childhood. He shined brighter than any of the other stars that were played on MTV. Even though his behavior became more bizarre during the later half of his career and he hadn’t released any new material since 2001’s Invincible album, his legacy as a performer, singer, entertainer and humanitarian trumped any of his oddities and stagnacy.

As a kid, I could never imagine a world without Michael Jackson. And after this past weekend, I cannot believe that I’ll be living in a world without Michael Jackson AND Whitney Houston.

I was on a cruise coming back from Cozumel when I heard the news of Whitney Houston’s death on CNN playing in the background. I was in total shock. If Michael Jackson was the ultimate superstar of my generation, then Whitney Houston was arguably the voice of my generation.  I remember as far back as being 7 years old and all of the little girls at the playground talking about how pretty Whitney was or them trying to sing “The Greatest Love Of All” like she so perfectly did. And just like Michael, Whitney’s behavior became more erratic and strange.  Just as Michael’s life was plagued with rumors of child abuse, Whitney was overcome with reports of her bouts with a heavy drug addiction.

How did these two superstars of my day allow themselves to fall so tragically?

I’ll always remember Whitney Houston as the girl from New Jersey who made it… who became America’s sweetheart and the Queen of Awards Shows, who kissed Kevin Costner onscreen when Jungle Fever was still a bit taboo and who sang her way into our hearts.

R.I.P. Nippy!



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