Saturday, July 16, 2011

Orlando Weekly "Best of Orlando" Party

Each year the Orlando Weekly publishes a "Best of Orlando" edition. There is a category for Best Blog, but this year I threw my AADW votes to The Daily City. Even with my support, The Daily City only got 2nd place. Some Republican political blog won 1st place. Anyway, I was asked to submit an illustration to this edition of the paper and part of the compensation was two comp tickets to the big bash at The Beacham Theater. The Beacham is newly renovated, and I was curious to get a glimpse inside. When I arrived, Brian Feldman was getting ready for his performance piece, "The Boxer." He was going to hand out copies of the Orlando Weekly from inside on of their red newspaper boxes. Since I was early, Brian walked me inside and up to the balcony where I had a view of all the action below. He said, "This is the first time I've been in this theater since I was 11 years old." He went back outside to continue setting up, and I started sketching on my digital tablet.

The bands were doing soundchecks. One group had urban tap dancers and plastic paint cans as drums. As I sketched, people started to trickle in. Busty barmaids in slick black dresses vogued as they shot photos of each other. Soon the place was packed. The bar became a hive of activity. Blackjack tables started getting busy. Entry to the event entitled each person to 1,000 units of Casino Chips, which could be turned in at the end of the evening for prizes.

With my balcony sketch finished, I went outside to sketch Brian. Terry was at the bar trying to shoot photos of Brian Feldman and Mark Baratelli's awards as they popped up on a large video screen. Outside, Brian was in the tiny red box right at the entrance. That meant I had to sit on the sidewalk to get a view of him. I wedged myself against the red velvet rope and got to work. There was maybe two feet of space behind me to the curb and I had to shove forward several times to let caterers by with huge vats of food. I think Brian's presence threw people for a loop and some searched around for another way in. One woman cooed to Brian, "Oh, you're so cute." When she was gone he pointed to the back of his throat and gagged. He had trouble keeping his head up and he napped between groups of people entering the club. People kept offering him food and drink. He always refused. I , on the other hand, was actually quite hungry and parched.

The sketch was going good, the ink work finished, when I heard a voice behind me. It was a policeman on a bike. "Oh no, not again ." I thought. He asked me to, " Move along." Since I wasn't finished with the sketch, I asked, "Can I sit out in the street to avoid blocking pedestrian traffic?" "No," he said, "Then I'd be concerned you might get injured." I just sat for a moment, thinking. He said, "Is he on a time out?" It took me a moment to realize he was referring to Brian in the box. I explained that it was performance art and for a second I thought he was going to ask Brian to move along as well. He didn't. He asked me to move again, then biked off. He didn't say I couldn't stand where I was, so I stood and started quickly throwing down watercolor washes. I worked fast since I figured the bike cop might just go around the block and check back in on my anarchist sketch in progress.

David Plotkin, the new art director at the Orlando Weekly, introduced himself to me just as I was finishing up the sketch. I flipped through my sketchbook to show David and his lady friend my work. I was still rattled thinking the police might return. My wife Terry had just left and I was feeling guilty for not spending more time with her inside the party. I went back inside and made myself several soft tacos from the decimated food table. The stage was empty. I wolfed down the tacos and typed a text message on my cell to Terry, "Heading home." I left, still feeling persecuted by the law. Besides, I wasn't a winner.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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