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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. Days left to qualify for Tampa burrito eating championship


    If you're interested in claiming the Tampa Bay area's first championship belt in burrito eating -- yes, it's an actual, physical, WWE-style championship belt -- you've got until Friday to qualify.

    The El Jefe Burrito Eating Championship will be held April 6 in observance of National Burrito Day, local Mexican chain restaurant Taco Bus announced.

    The eating competition happens at 6 p.m. at the original Taco Bus location at 913 Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa. The fastest competitor to take down an entire, 2.5-pound "El Jefe" burrito (a beast so massive it features two tortillas), will be rewarded with the grand prize, $250 and the championship belt. There are also cash prizes for second through fourth place....

    This championship belt will be awarded at the El Jefe Burrito Eating Championship.
  2. Remember the 'Tampa Sandwich Bar' in Korea? They're coming to Tampa to make Cubans


    Last year, we told you about Geunmin Kang and Hyunmin Cho, the proprietors of Tampa Sandwich Shop, located in Seoul, South Korea. 

    They've been serving up Tampa-style Cuban sandwiches since 2015, and they are pretty good, too, according to the reports we got back from our "foreign Cuban sandwich correspondents."...

    Geunmin Kang, left, and Hyunmin Cho started the Tampa Sandwich Bar in Seoul, South Korea, in 2015.
  3. Performance artist squeezing oranges for 140 hours in St. Pete — then he'll wash your dishes

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Curtis Bryant was walking alone Friday morning along Central Avenue when he saw a sign outside the Morean Arts Center reading "free juice."

    He wandered into the gallery and found Brian Feldman standing at a juicer in overalls, ready to tell him the rules. In the corner, a camera was streaming the whole scene live to the internet....

    Orlando-based artist Brian Feldman squeezes Florida oranges into juice, Friday, 3/24/17 at the Morean Arts Center, St. Petersburg, as part of the "Fresh Squeezed, Emerging Artists in Florida" exhibit. Feldman is one of six Florida artists whoes work is on display through April 30th. On Friday, Feldman squeezed Florida orange juice for visitors who created drawings of oranges and other citrus scenes. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Photos, video: Maestro Anton Coppola celebrates 100th birthday with Opera Tampa and Coppola family


    Maestro Anton Coppola received a standing ovation Saturday during an Opera Tampa gala celebrating his 100th birthday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Coppola conducted the world premiere of his revised duet and finale of Puccini's opera Turandot and also selections from Copola's opera Sacco and Sacco and Vanzetti.

    The gala was attended by several of Anton Coppola's family members, including the maestro's nephew, director Francis Ford Coppola, great-niece Sofia Coppola and his great-nephew Nicolas Cage....

    Nicolas Cage, in sunglasses, poses for a photo at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa after attending a gala to celebrate his great uncle Anton Coppola.
  5. 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. ...

    Ami Vitale says she’s “a Floridian, born and raised,” growing up mostly in Jupiter.
  6. '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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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]
  11. '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]
  12. 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]
  13. 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, Jason Currie and Josh Skidmore in 'It Gets Better' at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on October 10th, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.