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Writer, lawyer, musician – and more – Tom Gribbin spins yarns at the Vinoy

Bill DeYoung



At the Feb. 23 Vinoy Business Luncheon, Tom Gribbin, author of the novel The Last Florida Boy, entertained the audience with stories from his colorful life.

He is, it would seem, St. Petersburg’s own Forrest Gump.

As an attorney, Gribbin argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. He wrote songs, made records, toured Europe and palled around with the Clash. He brought standup comedy to the bay area, and turned his nightclub into an international franchise.

As vice president of Big3 Entertainment, he was part of the core team that transitioned the Mahaffey Theater from a “dump” into what’s considered one of the most beautiful state-of-the-art performing arts venues in the country.

Gribbin is a born storyteller, as is evident in The Last Florida Boy, a skillful blend of real people and events, moments from Gribbin’s own life and made-up stuff for the sake of a good story.

It’s told in the first person by one John Bellamy, who recounts his adventures as a pot smuggler in 1970s Florida, an era romanticized for all time in Jimmy Buffett songs, and remembered wistfully by many of those who were around then.

Not everyone, though. As Gribbin’s novel makes clear, there were – and still are – rose-colored glasses involved in those “memories.” The reality, in many cases, was prison time. Friendships and other alliances badly broken. Damaged feelings and lost opportunities.

Nevertheless, The Last Florida Boy is an adventure tale that leavens hard reality with humor and hopefulness.

At the Vinoy event, Gribbin reminded attendees that the book is a work of fiction – it was John Bellamy, not Tom Gribbin, who was aboard the shrimp boat weighed down with marijuana bales, or the passenger in the radar-dodging small plane running out of gas high above the Florida coast.

He spent most of his hour at the microphone recounting his own adventures, many as entertaining as those in the book.

Take for example, that time he “tasted the horn” by running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, as a college student.

Or when Tom Gribbin & the Saltwater Cowboys performed as part of an all-star country music festival at England’s Wembley Stadium.

Or when his recording of “The Guns of Brixton” was banned by the BBC – a badge of honor.

Tom Gribbin’s life has truly been a box of chocolates.

Click the arrow to watch the video.

The Last Florida Boy is published by St. Petersburg Press which, along with the St. Pete Catalyst, is a division of the St. Petersburg Group.







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1 Comment

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    Paul Wennik

    March 19, 2022at10:59 am

    Congrats, Tom- David and I stayed at the Vinoy when we had Def Leppard there- next day golf with Ted Williams! I so miss Pass A Grille- 1996 bought lovely home on 5th Ave- next to beach- grouper sandwiches- Mary owned motel on beach- sunsets- golf across way with lefty pro Dave and I knew- sigh – divorce lost house( after spring training in Winter Haven I came to coast- found Don then Pass A Grille- was Capitol salesman- Taylor/Apple- my favorite as all Taylor kids( and this lefty) went to Mcleans mental hospital- thanks Polygram- James “ Just knocking ‘round the Zoo – on a Sunday afternoon—-“ about being in Treatment! Terrific talk- best Paul/ Lefty

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