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Show business: comedian Dick Smothers and his wife Denby get into Sarasota real estate.

sarasotans are used to spying the rich and famous touring St. Armands Circle or at premieres at the Sarasota Film Festival. But they're not accustomed to seeing a Hollywood star at an open house selling real estate.

Especially not Dick Smothers, still worshipped by fans for his work with brother Tommy on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the groundbreaking variety show that ran from 1967 until 1969, when CBS cancelled it because of its bent for controversial social commentary.

But Smothers, now 65, is indeed selling Sarasota real estate with his wife Denby for Michael Saunders and Co., although Denby is the real performer on this team. Dick's name gets the attention, the two explain, and then Denby handles the actual transactions. After spending seven years traveling with Tommy and Dick selling merchandise for the act, she explains, "I'd much rather be doing this. Road work is grueling."

So now, while Dick travels--he did 120 shows around the country last year--she markets Sarasota properties. (No, they don't need the money, she says: "I just wanted to make a difference in people's lives myself.") So far, the formula is working. "Last week at an open house, I sold a $2.5-million property at full list price, cash closing," says Denby. "While I was getting the signatures, Dick was entertaining the sellers."

The two met when he was performing in her native Fort Myers, and after living in California for a while, they decided they'd move to Sarasota, which Dick discovered when he and Tommy performed at the Van Wezel 20 years ago. "We stayed at The Colony on Longboat Key, and it was phenomenal to walk on the sand, to see the multi-colored water," he says. "Every time I came, I never wanted to leave."

The couple purchased a home on Bird Key and have spent the last few years remodeling it and enjoying their new hometown. Says Dick, "I used to tell Tommy, 'You, John Lennon, Joan Baez, you're all trying to save the world, so I'm going to go out and enjoy it.'" While that approach eventually drove him into a 12-step program, today the 65-year-old relaxes by floating along Bird Key with their four dogs on his 26-foot catamaran; lunch most days is at Southside Deli.


He's still outspoken on subjects from the dangers of media consolidation to a government that he and Denby believe is stifling political dissent and free speech. And he sees problems in picture-perfect Sarasota as well. "This town should be offering more affordable housing for nurses and cops and firemen," he says.

"He thinks a little bit outside everybody's box," acknowledges Denby. "But you've got to define your values and then stand up for them."

And have fun, Dick adds. "The most important thing in life should always be, are you having fun yet?"
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Title Annotation:streetTALK
Author:Haire, Pat
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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