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Christopher Spata, Times Staff Writer

Christopher Spata

Christopher Spata is a web producer and features writer for the Tampa Bay Times, focusing on entertainment, pop culture, social media and things to do. He also contributes to The Feed blog. A lifelong Floridian, he previously worked as a web producer and entertainment reporter for the Tampa Tribune, and covered sports for the Ocala Star-Star Banner. He graduated from the University of South Florida in 2011, and joined the Times in 2016.

Phone: (727) 893-8719


Twitter: @spatatimes

  1. National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale is coming to Tampa to tell you about pandas


    Rhinos can't talk. That's where photojournalist Ami Vitale comes in.

    She's spent the past two decades traveling Africa, the Middle East and Europe taking photographs that tell unsung human stories, but also, she says, giving voice to the animals whose fates are so intertwined with them.

    Her photos have documented, often in stunning intimacy, conservation and relations between humans and rhinos and elephants, as well as conflict in Kosovo and life in Kashmir, the long-disputed "nuclear flashpoint" on the India-Pakistan border. ...

    A cub gets weighed at Bifengxia. In the wild, once they?ve grown to adulthood, female pandas may weigh up to 220 pounds and males up to 250 pounds, and they?ll range from four to six feet long.
  2. 'America's Toy Scout' buys pieces of our childhood at Tampa show

    Human Interest


    They came with deteriorating cardboard boxes filled with Hot Wheels cars and a laundry basket overflowing with stuffed bears crowding out a Bart Simpson from the "Don't have a cow" era. Their arms were stuffed with My Little Ponies, metal lunch boxes reading "Sock it to me!" and Batman comic books.

    Some left Thursday's Toy Buying Show at the Tampa Marriott Westshore with a crisp $20 or $100 bill. Some left with several of them....

    A vintage Barbie catches the eye of Magee. He soon shared his knowledge of the doll.
  3. Want to own one of St. Petersburg's urban murals? This artist says he's selling his


    If you've passed by the building at 1027 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg lately, you might have noticed something is missing. 

    The entire east facing wall was once a colorful mural of a guy riding a bike made of vines, pedaling toward the beer tangled in his beard. Now, there's part of a mural, with a 20-foot-tall blank square smack in the center of it.

    What happened?...

    Sebastian Coolidge's mural at 1027 Central Ave. as it looked in August of 2016.
  4. Trailer: Tampa Tribune documentary 'Stop the Presses' to premiere at Tampa Theatre


    At 121 years old, the Tampa Tribune was one of the few local institutions that pre-dated even the historic Tampa Theatre. 

    That makes the downtown movie house an interesting venue for the premiere of a new documentary titled Stop the Presses, which uses the now-closed Tribune as its subject. The 90-minute movie will screen there May 3 and feature a talk with the director and crew of the film following the 7:30 p.m. screening. ...

    A scene from "Stop the Presses," a new documentary about the Tampa Tribune.
  5. USF students wrote their 'stories' on their skin, here's what it looked like


    Hundreds of University of South Florida students wrote messages on their skin earlier this month as part of the Dear World event at the USF University Lecture Series. 

    Dear World, which is currently touring college campuses, started several years ago with residents of New Orleans writing "love letters" to the city on their bodies, but has since become an interactive storytelling project spanning 30 countries and meant to "unite people through pictures in their distinct message-on-skin style."...

    USF students and faculty wrote messages on their skin during the Dear World event at USF.
  6. St. Pete's Casita Taqueria expanding into Tampa with Seminole Heights location

    Food & Dining

    Popular St. Petersburg taco shop Casita Taqueria is growing across the bay into Tampa, owner Don Arvin confirmed Monday.

    Arvin, who opened the original Casita on Fourth Street N in 2011 with his wife Gwen Arvin, said they'd been looking for a place in Tampa for more than a year, and finally found a good fit at 6707 N Florida Ave. in Seminole Heights. It's the same recently-renovated strip of brick storefronts that Revolution Ice Cream and Seminole Heights City Wine Bar moved into in 2016....

    The courtyard outside at Casita Taqueria at 2663 Central Ave. in St Petersburg features lots of picnic tables. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  7. 'America's Toy Scout' coming to Tampa Bay to pay cash for your old toys


    Do you have G.I. Joes lingering in your attic? Old comic books hiding under your bed? Pez dispensers stuffed in a box out in the garage?

    Joel Magee wants them all.

    The man who goes by "America's toy scout" has been traveling the U.S. for decades in search of old toys, but makes his first toy-buying trip to the Tampa Bay area this week with stops in Tampa, Clearwater, Oldsmar and Brandon. ...

    Joel Magee, who goes by "America's toy scout," will host six toy-buying shows in the Tampa Bay area. [Photo via Facebook]
  8. Tampa Pride parade and festival returning to Ybor with Pulse survivors and Key West flag


    The Tampa Pride parade and street festival returns to Ybor City on Saturday.

    Tampa Pride president Carrie West said even though Tampa's modestly sized pride parade and festival is affectionately known in the community as the "baby pride," this year's event could top last year's crowd of 30,000 attendees.

    There are more vendors at the festival this year, including a food truck alley . And there are more floats in the parade, which includes former Hillsborough commissioner Kevin Beckner and local entertainer Joey Brooks as grand marshals . Steve Grand, hailed as the first openly gay country singer to taste mainstream success when his video for the song All American Boy went viral, is the headliner on the main festival stage....

    The Tampa Pride diversity parade will return to 7th Avenue in Ybor City on Saturday. [Luis Santana | Times]
  9. Gay Men's Chorus brings 'It Gets Better' to Straz


    At 13, Tyler Houston was outed by a family member who'd read his personal diary. By 16, he was kicked out of his father's house for being gay. He was stuck in a small, conservative town.

    He'd tried to harm himself. His mother, struggling to find a way to help, turned to Google.

    She typed in "gay guys who sing."

    "The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles was the first thing that came up," Houston, now 26, said. "She sent them an e-mail simply saying, 'My son is going through a hard time. Can you help?' "...

    Tyler Oldham, Josh Skidmore and Jason Currie in 'It Gets Better' at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on October 10th, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.
  10. Jennifer Lopez spotted in Tampa with A-Rod


    Jennifer Lopez was in Tampa on Saturday with the man she's reportedly dating, ex-Yankees star Alex Rodriguez

    A-Rod, who's serving as a special instructor for his former team during spring training, brought J-Lo along to an afternoon game between the Yankees and Orioles at Steinbrenner Field, the Associated Press reported.  ...

    Alex Rodriguez is reportedly dating Jennifer Lopez, and brought her to Tampa over the weekend.
  11. Delta Air Lines investigating comedian's claim she was given blanket with feces on it


    A comedian with a sizeable online following leveled a serious, and extremely bizarre, complaint at Delta Air Lines on Thursday via Twitter.

    Nicole Byer, a stand-up comic, UCB improv performer and actress who starred in the MTV series Loosely Exactly Nicole, posted a photo of a blanket with something on it, from what appears to be her seat on a flight.

    "Dear @Delta the grossest thing happened on my flight. I opened my blanket & there was a literal piece of s--t. How does that happen?," the tweet reads. ...

    Nicole Byer, center, in an episode of Loosely Exactly Nicole.
  12. New York Times writes '36 Hours' on St. Pete Beach. Did they get it right?


    You've only got a day and a half to visit the stretch of Pinellas County beaches from Fort De Soto to Madeira Beach. What should you do?

    According to the latest entry in the New York Times' "36 Hours" travel series headlined "36 Hours in St. Pete Beach, Fla. (and Environs)," the trails, fishing and "lazing" on the sand at Fort De Soto Park are a must. So is a visit to the John's Pass Village and Boardwalk and the Merry Pier in Pass-a-Grille....

    The <i> New York Times </i> story says to head "to the Don CeSar for dinner Gatsby style. The enormous 'pink palace' opened in 1928, the architecture a blend of Mediterranean and Moorish styles. It immediately pulled in some of the era's most celebrated, and most notorious, figures; both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Al Capone stayed here." [Times (2011)]
  13. Tampa's Brad Culpepper stepped up on last night's 'Survivor' (w/video)


    Tampa lawyer and former Buccaneers player Brad Culpepper is getting props from fans for his performance on the second episode of Survivor: Game Changers.

    The latest episode saw one tribe pondering the ethics of eating a young goat they'd captured, along with its mother (Sandra, you are cold-blooded, girl), and also the player-dreaded/fan-favorite surprise tribe swap, where two tribes were suddenly split into three, throwing strategies into disarray....

    Brad Culpepper came out OK after a tribe swaw on last night's survivor.
  14. Plant Museum minaret pieces part of pickers' paradise at Tampa auction, says owner


    For decades, sixth generation Tampa resident Clyde Darville traveled with his father to swap meets, flea markets and car shows, collecting and collecting.

    The automotive machine shop he and his father Walter Darville opened in 1973 at S Howard Avenue and W Cypress Street in Tampa became like a museum of old gas station pumps, porcelain signs for defunct cigarette brands and motor oil, soda machines and antique machinery. Anything that seemed cool to guys who spent their time rebuilding engine parts....

    Pieces of what Clyde Darville said is an old University of Tampa minaret will be auctioned in Ybor City on Saturday. [Photo from Clyde Darville]
  15. Heinz is using Don Draper's 1960s 'Mad Men' ads in real life


    Mad Men fans might remember that time that Don Draper's agency had a shot at signing a massive new client, Heinz ketchup. 

    Don, in his usual style, confidently pitched a minimalist idea to the Heinz execs that seemed both brilliant and ahead of its time, an ad for ketchup that included no mention or image of ketchup whatsoever. 


    Jon Hamm, as Don Draper, pitches to Heinz on AMC's "Mad Men."