If you have a breakdown along I-4, Mike Cocomazze, 57, has the tools and the know-how to bring you up to speed.
By day, Carl Roberts, 50, is an attorney. By night, from September 25 to October 31, he’s a character in Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights.
Linda Chapin, 67, didn’t start out as an Orlando power player. Her foray into the city’s business world was visiting her grand-father at his downtown car dealership in the 1950s. It would take a series of volunteer projects to craft her social conscience and develop the political skills that led to roles as Orange County commissioner and the county’s first chairman (now called mayor). In 2001 Chapin became director of the Metropolitan Center for Regional Studies at the University of Central Florida, focusing on growth, the environment and social policies. She retired from UCF last year.
Her parents were dynamic civic leaders, but Winifred Sharp still had to chart her own, sometimes difficult course as a woman entering the legal profession in the early 1960s. She earned her law degree at Stanford and went to work in her father’s Orlando law firm, practicing property and family law among other specialties. In 1979, then-Governor Bob Graham appointed Sharp to the newly created Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal. Sharp, 72, retired in 2006 and today is a trustee of the Winifred Johnson Clive Foundation, which awards grants to various nonprofit groups that focus on children, arts, education and wildlife conservation. She and her husband, Joel Sharp, have four daughters.
Coming out of a lesser-known college basketball program, Courtney Lee felt that he had to disprove notions that he wasn’t NBA caliber. Since joining the Orlando Magic as the 22nd overall pick in the 2008 draft, Lee, 23, has done just that, working his way into the starting lineup as a point-producing guard. Lee recalls the impact an unfortunate event had on his life, inspiring him to play at his highest level.
The son of a Venezuelan military officer, Henry Maldonado adapted to change early on in his life. Living in different places around the world and making new friends were part of the education of Maldonado. After studying film at Boston University, Maldonado found his calling in local TV news production. In 2001, he came to Orlando as the vice president and then general manager at Orlando’s WKMG-Channel 6. His periodic editorials on Local 6 made him one of the most recognized faces in Central Florida. Recently, Maldonado, 60, announced he would retire this summer and pursue filmmaking.
No Central Floridian of any species is more beloved than MICKEY MOUSE. He’s an icon of fun, a symbol of all-American moxie and a goodwill ambassador for the Orlando area. Mickey came up the hard way, in the early days of the movie business, eventually conquering television, theme parks and other fields. Through it all, he’s never lost the spunk or humility that help to make him a star. For “In Their Own Words,” we’ve interviewed many movers and shakers but never Mickey Mouse (perhaps due to the stigma that being “fictional” once carried). So on the occasion of his 80th birthday—which the Disney company calculates from the premiere of his first short, Steamboat Willie, on November 18, 1928—we’ve asked our favorite mouse to reflect on his storied career.
The son of concert musicians, Hungarian-born TAMAS KOCSIS was destined to follow in his parents’ footsteps. His ascension as a classical violinist took him away from the Soviet-era Eastern Bloc and to the United States, where he furthered his music studies under the direction of prestigious instructors. Kocsis went on to land the concertmaster post at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and, in 2004, joined the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra in the same capacity. Kocsis, 37, is a frequent soloist in the OPO’s concert series. He also is a knight, a title bestowed upon him during a visit to his homeland in 2006. His recordings of the complete violin sonatas and piano quartets of Brahms are released under the EPR label.
Considering Daisy Lynum's love of reading, it seems fitting that her life story would make a great book. Her thirst for knowledge (plus a well-timed letter to President Lyndon Johnson) helped elevate her past poverty in rural Leesburg and into the upper class of education. After completing studies at Bethune-Cookman College, she attended Bryn Mawr, the prestigious women’s college near Philadelphia, and Florida State University, where she earned a master’s degree in sociology. A former state social worker, Lynum, 62, entered public life as an Orlando city commissioner in 1998. As the District 5 (Parramore neighborhood) Orlando City Council commissioner, Lynum has been a controversial figure.
A product of land-locked West Texas, Mark McHugh, 49, grew up as an unlikely prospect to one day get a master’s degree in marine biology and go on to work at SeaWorld Orlando as a whale trainer. At SeaWorld McHugh met and married Diane Godwin, whose grandparents started Gatorland in 1948. McHugh took over the reins at Gatorland in 1996, and he has been a presence in the Orlando-area tourism industry ever since. He is the former chairman of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s board of directors. He and Diane have two daughters, Chelsea and Taylor, and live in Orlando.
Alan Grayson grew up in a high-rise apartment in the Bronx with views of Yankee Stadium and the Manhattan skyline. His parents, both public-school teachers, strongly supported his academic achievements. He graduated from Harvard in three years and went on to get a law degree from the prestigious university. As an attorney, Grayson, 50, gained wealth and recognition from his lawsuits against Iraq war contractors, claiming they had defrauded taxpayers. He and his wife, Lolita, moved to Orlando 12 years ago because they wanted to raise a family here. In November, Grayson, a Democrat, unseated Republican Ric Keller in the 8th Congressional District race. He will split time between Orlando, where he and Lolita live with their five children, and Washington.