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Growing up Tinkham

Published:   |   Updated: March 28, 2013 at 10:18 AM

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With camera rolling, a crack of the bat began a scene in the 1987, made-for-TV baseball movie, “Long Gone.”

Dusty tracks and dollied cameras followed the action as the runner darted his way down the first base line.

About halfway to the base Spring Hill resident Jay Tinkham, owner of Lizzy T’s Coffee House, stopped the tape.

“We were right behind the first-base dugout,” said Tinkham, picking himself out in the crowd on the jittery tape, evidence of repeated pausing.

Tinkham and his mother Becky, his older brother Troy and their father, the late Jack Tinkham, can be spotted in the crowded bleachers in the background.

“Actually the way it all started was when my mother saw a classified advertisement in the Tampa Tribune for movie extras being cast in Tampa. She thought it’d be fun, so we went down.”

There was a wide field of prospects that day.

Lillian Gordon Barnett and Kathryn Laughlin of Independent Castings had plenty of people to choose from those who showed up.

“I think we had to go to Ruskin, Jay says hesitantly. “Somewhere down there, I forget.”

For Jay and his family, it was well worth the trip.

“We were picked,” he said.

The Tinkhams were dressed in late ’50s period clothing.

When cued by director Martin Davidson, Jay said he and his family and a hundred others cheered, applauded or booed for the minor league baseball team, the Tampico Stogies and its star player, Cecil “Stud” Cantrell, played by William Petersen, star of today’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

Tinkham was just 10 at the time.

He says he “does not remember very much more,” but it was his first taste of the bright lights.

Those fleeting moments of his appearance on the screen in “Long Gone” inspired Jay.

“My mom, who also doubled as my manager, had some professional photographs taken of me for a composite.”

Back then, a composite was a large file card with several pictures of the subject on both sides taken in color and black and white. Some pictures were close-ups, others were mid- or full-length.

“They basically wanted to see what you looked like,” said Jay.

At 10 years old, Jay was a cute, pudgy kid with a great personality, a great smile and a great head of hair to match.

Those looks paid off.

Jay said his mother got a call from his agent saying she found him a spot in an American Savings Institute commercial.

“All I remember is that they videotaped me over and over playing marbles, shooting marbles off my thumb into a bunch more on the ground. “Repeatedly I was playing marbles, over and over,” Tinkham recollects.

“I don’t remember too much more about it, but I still have the sack of marbles they gave me. I saved ’em all these years.”

Tinkham remembers doing a total of five commercials.

“I remember being in one commercial for then-Gov. Bob Martinez. It was a re-election commercial, like at a rally.”

Tinkham probably could have gotten more work from the former governor, but he and his party were defeated in 1990 by Democrat Lawton Chiles.

However, between the ages of 10 and 12 years old, Jay was on a roll.

In May 1988, Jay was getting media attention.

Local newspapers such as the old Hernando Tribune featured him in a story after a local reporter heard about the young boy’s new fame.

His dad, Jack, permitted his son to talk to the press at his restaurant while he was doing his chores.

Jay was working in the restaurant behind the counter and had just helped his dad prepare a pizza for a customer.

The customer opted for coffee and Jay was quick to the coffeemaker.

Jay was literally on his toes, to get the pot of coffee off the top.

For a kid almost 11, Tinkham balanced his time for schoolwork, his restaurant chores and his modeling career.

Then one day the call came.

“I remember the phone rang,” Jay said.

For him it was that once-in-a-lifetime call.

“I actually was lucky enough to get a tryout for the Mickey Mouse Club in Orlando,” Jay said.

The Tinkhams loaded up the car and headed east to Orlando for Jay’s audition.

Jay downplays the story and exclaims, “The agency informed us that Disney was only looking for two kids.”

After all, Disney was slated to crank out “Splash Too” ” in 1988 along with “The Little Mermaid” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” the next year.

With a slight pause, Jay said, “I wasn’t one of them.”

After moving briefly to Las Vegas, Jay and his family returned to Spring Hill where they opened Luigi’s in Tarpon Springs.

The business closed after Jack Tinkham passed away, but Jay and his family stayed in the restaurant business and opened The Woodside Inn in Brooksville and Spring Hill.

In December 2010, Jay and his wife Elizabeth (hence Lizzy T’s) opened Lizzy T’s Coffee House, just off the truck route, on Horse Lake Road.

Now 36, Jay has no problem reaching the coffeemaker.

The days of the old Bunn coffeemakers, like those in his father’s Italian restaurant, are gone — replaced with an Italian import, a Simonelli coffee machine.

The Lizzy T’s Coffee House menu be can found on the website:

“Wake up and smell the coffee? I grind our own beans every day.”

Not to be outdone by Baskin-Robbins in flavors, Tinkham points to a shelf of successive white pumps, a proud assortment of 53 flavorings for coffee beverages.

Tinkham likes to remind people, “Lizzy T’s Coffee House is more than just coffee. Our food is always prepared fresh.”

While the days of the lights, the camera, the action and hobnobbing with movie stars and famous people are but a great memory, Tinkham says it is all about his customers and the community now.

At Lizzy T’s, so far, “we did a charity event for the Gold Shield Association,” Tinkham said.

The business, which offers free Wi-Fi, gets its share of Pasco-Hernando Community College students who sip coffee while tapping iPads, texting on phones and browsing on their laptops.

As for Jay’s old VHS of the movie “Long Gone”?

The tape still quivers when paused on the Tinkhams.

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