Tag Archives: USF

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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Commencement to Be

Robby HS Graduation

It seems like just yesterday that the above photo was taken… me watching 18-year-old Robby graduate from High School. 

And then just two weeks ago…

Robby Graduation Okie 2

…Robby graduated from college and moved to Fort Liquordale!  Huh?  WTF?!  Where the @#$% is time going?!

Robby officially became a USF Alumni, and relocated down south with A.J.  To celebrate this achievement, he hosted a nearly 8-hour bar crawl that terrorized my liver and checking account sauntered through the hot spots of Ybor City.  And to celebrate this very same achievement my way, I will post 5 of My Favorite Things about Robby.  Let’s begin:

#1:  Paula Deen… I mean, Robby introduced me to his famous McDonalds Apple Pie & Chocolate Ice Cream Sundae concoction-in-a-bowl dessert.

#2:  Robby forced me to watch the Game of Thrones Series Recap.  After I stopped watching the show during its snoozefest second season, he promised that the current Season 3 was worth watching the show again.  A mere 10 minutes of my life and I am officially all caught up on Game of Thrones.  Bring on the damn dragons!

#3:  Robby watched Madonna’s Truth or Dare documentary and afterwards, remarked that he totally understood why my friends and I act the way we do.  (Now that I think about it… was that even a compliment??!)

#4:  Robby’s random insightful but hilarious text messages like the one he sent when describing his first impressions of being a new resident to the Fort Lauderdale area.  See below:

Robby Text Message

and last but not least…

As two gigantic music fanatics, Robby and I are constantly trying to introduce new and great songs to one another.  The “oh I’ve already heard this before” and the “I’m not really feeling this one” do often pop-up in our conversation.  So when a great song is truly introduced to one of us by the other, it becomes a mini-event.  When Robby first played “Blood” by The Middle East, I instantly fell head over heels for that song and had to immediately add it to my Current Favorites Playlist on Spotify.  To my surprise, the song was already on there.  So Robby playing “Blood” wasn’t my virgin time hearing it.  I still don’t remember ever adding that song to my playlist.  Nor did I ever figure out when exactly I first heard it either.  But just like mine and Robby’s close friendship, there really is no explanation for something that was meant to be.  Oh and #5: Robby has great taste in music.

Congratulations again to my old soul friend for graduating!

Robby Graduation ZOYA

Photo by Branden Hollywood

Please click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view photo:

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Congratulations, Happy Holidays & Farewell

Congratulations, Cheers, Farewell… it seems that the trend this year was for every celebratory event to conclude with a goodbye.  (Click here.)  I have always disliked saying goodbye and try to make the situation as short, sweet and to-the-point as possible.  Last weekend was yet another weekend filled with commemorative celebrations followed by a goodbye.

I know a handful of people who have been in school since what seems like 48 B.C.  When I first met Bryan 7-8 years ago, I thought that he too would be one of those people I refer to as a lifetime student: a person who takes one class every other semester and swears to the high heavens and Madonna that graduation is the ultimate goal.  Well what do you know?  Last weekend, Bryan graduated from USF with not just his Bachelors but his Masters degree and threw a party to celebrate.   So congratulations to Bryan for busting his ass and working so hard to accomplish his goal, for proving me wrong in my very initial assumption and for putting up with Jocelyn’s 40-balloons graduation gift.

Bryan Okie 1 Bryan Jocelyn 2 Bryan Boys Jocelyn Balloons 2 Jocelyn Balloons 1



After recouping from Bryan’s Greygoose-filled evening the night before, I had a Holiday Dinner with friends to attend at Texas de Brazil the next day.  My good friends Cheri and Mike were in town from Los Angeles for just one day, and maximized their brief time in Tampa by inviting their closest friends to dinner.  Every year, my best friends and I throw a Holiday Party / Gift Exchange.  Given everyone’s crazy schedules this year, Cheri & Mike’s dinner doubled as this year’s Gift Exchange.  As always, it was wonderful to see Cheri and Mike again, to consume 931 lbs of meat at Texas de Brazil and to remind yourself how friends can also become your family.  Happy Holidays and cheers to Cheri, Mike and everyone and anyone else who is reading this!

Cheri Group

Cheri Boys

Cheri Girls

Cheri Okie

Cheri Jocelyn

Cheri Billy

Cheri Linley

Cheri Robby

Cheri Jaime

Cheri JadenCheri NielyCheri Kristin Cheri JonCheri JessCheri Jaime Jaden



The celebratory weekend concluded on a bittersweet note with my friends Jamal and Lorena leaving Tampa and moving to Los Angeles.  I first met Lorena through mutual friends three years ago, and since then we’ve traveled together, lived with one another (best roommate ever), worked together, shared a toy poodle (and the best dog ever) named Zoe and devoured chili dogs and taters in the middle of my living room floor at 4am.  Although I will miss her and Jamal dearly, its encouraging to know that my annual trip to California is right around the corner.  So for now, farewell to Lorena and Jamal.

Okie Lorena Jamal Okie Lorena

 



I willl conclude this entry with a lyric video for the song “I Am Yours” by the band Churchill.  Right now, the band is right on the brink of taking off with their hypnotic and catchy current single “Change” but this particular song has been receiving much more love on my iPod and Spotify.

Congratulations… Cheers… and Goodbye… but Hello to new music!

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