By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
The occupation most would perceive as weirdest is held by Rian Gittman of hard rockers One. His band possesses all the musical strengths to score stardom - a solid album in Black Is Black, a positive reputation as a provocative live act, a bulging fan following, and absolute dedication to their art. They don't sing love songs or espouse social commentary, nor, thank God, do they blend those two approaches. One chooses to denounce and pronounce on another level, part raw anger and part inducement for members of the public to wake up and smell the bullshit around them.
Gittman has pulled his pants down on-stage, loudly denounced local awards shows as politically motivated hogwash, and stuck out his middle finger at virtually every other aspect of the establishment, musical and otherwise. All of these factors, combined with Gittman's New Yawkish accent, provide One with an identity as urban - slick, worldly denizens of pavement environs.
"What I do," Gittman says, "is collect reptiles."
Nearly four years ago Gittman arrived here from New York, where he'd been driving to the country during summers to catch snakes and lizards. He did not choose South Florida for its abundance of reptilian wildlife, but instead traveled here for musical purposes. "I was supposed to come down with a band I was in," the vocal vocalist explains. "But they were junkies, one guy came to a show all coked up, or something, and that was it, I came down here alone, just blind."
Gittman was delighted to find more than compatible fellow musicians to work with. He found plenty of snakes and other reptiles. Two years ago he opened his business, the Reptile Service, now with offices in Davie and Deerfield Beach. His is not a small-time operation. "I buy animals off the immediate importers and sell them to wholesalers," he explains. "My minimum is ten or fifteen on up. I've sold baby iguanas in lots of 500. I'm a middle man and I'm also a breeder. I don't have enough time or animals to satisfy my customers, much less to go hunting as much as I'd like. I could make another $500 or $600 a week collecting."
Self-taught, and a veteran of fifteen years of reptile gathering, Gittman knows a number of ethical and productive ways to corral scaly critters. But the most fun way to gather snakes is called road cruising, which involves driving slowly along back roads at night, spotting the serpents, jumping out and snagging them. However, One practices six days a week, five or six hours per night, and because the other members also have day jobs, those rehearsals must take place in the evening. "Having to practice every night eliminates road cruising," Gittman laments. The abundance of snakes here, however, has alleviated that disappointment. "Before I came here," Gittman says, "a Florida king snake made me go, `Wow!' Now I can catch a dozen a day. I find so many I can't keep them all."
There are other ways to pay the rent via the great outdoors, and local musicians have found a number of ways to spend their days in the sunshine (or rain). John Sorter, guitarist for Mr. Twister, works on a golf course. As a diver. Several days each week, Sorter dons mask and snorkel and dives into the water hazards at Doral, from which he retrieves misfired golf balls. He is employed by a concessionaire who has worked out a deal that allows Sorter and his colleagues to clean the lakes (to Doral's benefit), then sell the used balls to a retailer (for profit).
It's the latest in a long line of jobs Sorter has held. He was an armored reconnaisance specialist in the army's 24th Infantry Division from 1977 to 1980, then gave over three years as a reserve. He drove a truck for four years, laid tile for a while, and sprayed poison for the State of Florida (he quit when he realized that he was "killing everything" and not doing his own health much good). At one point, he says, he was hired as a bodyguard to Sheik Al-Fassi, when the Saudi Arabian lived in South Florida. Ironically, Mr. Twister is a band that can earn enough to get by without side work. "I'm not the type to sit behind a desk," Sorter says, "or sit around being lazy and hanging out."
While John Sorter is diving for pearls, so to speak, Steve Levy deals in diamonds and other jewelry. He's been involved in a number of enterprises, but buying gems from estates and pawn shops and reselling them is, he says, "what I know best." About three years ago, Levy recalls, he was under the stress and strain of a crumbling marriage, and, being a fan of blues music, particularly harmonica players, he picked up the harp himself. "It was my escape," says Levy.
He quickly developed his blowing abilities, impressing a friend within a week of beginning to learn the instrument. After nine months, he was playing out live, and soon had the chance to work with Harps and Chords and Blue Hurricane. "Playing is the only thing with any continuity in my life the past few years," Levy says. "It took over, changed my life, my whole direction, my perception, my psyche. You escape the daily realities. It's an amazing thing." He also notes that blues music is about life experiences, not necessarily negative ones.