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Now in our ninth calendar year!
PCR #424 (Vol. 9, No. 19) This edition is for the week of May 5--11, 2008.

"Iron Man"  by Mike Smith
Summer Movie Preview by Mike Smith
Greco the Great Common Man - A Look at Tampa's Former Mayor  by Paul Guzzo
Comic Book Confidential: Iron Man Primer  by ED Tucker
Uniforms...Clemons...Eight Belles...New Orleans vs San Antonio....Malone\'s Son Drafted....Storm by Chris Munger
I'm A Ramblin' Guy .... The Boys In Green Are Back .... A New Horrorhead Fred ....  by Matt Drinnenberg
I Love New York! .... The Worlds Shortest Rant .... Mother's Day .... .... .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1977 Should Have Gone To...  by Mike Smith
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Filmlook by Paul Guzzo

Greco the Great Common Man - A Look at Tampa's Former Mayor

He’s just a weird guy.

Fidgety and jumpy, as though his mind is working a million miles a minute on a billion different topics. He likes watching films projected onto tabletops and swimming pools rather than a movie screen. He thought he could outfox the FBI, enrolled at college because he missed air conditioning and said he may give up eating because it’s becoming a waste of time.

Yes, David Audet is extremely weird, but that is, of course, his charm, what draws people to him and what has enabled him to become one of the Tampa Bay area’s top art festival organizers for over 20 years and founder of the successful HCC-Ybor City Festival of the Moving Image, a festival that is anything but conventional.

While the festival showcases some films in the “traditional” setting of a move theatre, it also has also shown films on table tops, sculptures, and walls surrounded by art that is incorporated in the performance. And, in the past, live performances have been mixed with digital programming and a “drive-in” movie has been projected in a parking lot with the soundtrack broadcast over the car radio, as was once traditional.

“I’m a photographer, painter and sculptor, so like any artist I see things differently,” said Audet. “I get bored running a projector in a theatre and having everyone stare straight ahead at a square screen silently for two hours. I like my projects to be memorable, completely different than anything anyone has ever seen.”

Ironically, the man who has become one of Tampa’s best-known artists originally became interested in art as a way to escape yelling generals.

Born in San Bernardino, California in 1951 and raised in the Mojave Desert, Audet said he was far from interested in art as a kid. In fact, he said he wasn’t interested in much at all.

“Growing up, your life revolves around school and I hated school. I wasn’t good at math, history, science, anything. I just wasn’t smart,” he laughed. “I wasn’t dumb, I just wasn’t interested in learning in high school.”

After graduating from high school in 1969, Audet faced a tough decision. He could go to college and continue his education or get drafted and maybe fight in the Vietnam War. After less than a semester at junior college, Audet decided he didn’t want to do either. He dropped out of school, dodged the draft and stuck his thumb in the air, hitchhiking around the country. He wanted to hitchhike to New York, but it was December and New York was too cold for a California-raised boy, so he stopped in St. Petersburg, Florida and made it his home.

He didn’t have any friends or family to turn to, so instead slept in the bushes and contemplated his next move. The day after Christmas 1969, a kind woman named Mrs. Sherman found him and allowed him to sleep in her backyard, fed him and got him a job babysitting her daughter’s children.

“They were intrigued by me because I was from California and it was the 60’s,” said Audet. “I knew nothing of the California drug scene or anything like that, but just being from California made me hip to them, so they looked after me until I got on my feet.”

Two years later, though, Audet’s past would catch up to him. He arrived at a construction job one morning in 1971 to discover the FBI had recently left and were looking for him. He knew he had to either run or get drafted. Sick of hiding, he chose the draft, served as a combat medic for two years in the Seventh Armored Cavalry in Germany and never had to see action in Vietnam.

“I was lucky I didn’t have to go into war, but I hated the military anyway,” said Audet. “Germany was cold, the Germans hated the Americans and the women were told to stay away from us. Plus, I have a real problem with anyone telling me what to do, which created a problem in the military. I used to count down every day I was in the military until my time was up. I didn’t think I was going to make it the full two years, but then my roommate introduced me to photography and everything changed.”

Photography offered Audet something that nothing else in the military could offer – solitary. As a rule, when someone was in the dark room, no matter what the rank was, an officer had to knock before entering. Audet said that finding a sanctuary where he could escape the world for just a few moments kept him sane. But a funny thing happened while spending so much time in the darkroom working with photographs, he fell in love with the craft.

“I was interested in the process of photographing everything I saw in the military and using the camera to document how the military looked through my eyes,” he said. “I took pictures of the operations, the training, my friends, the area of Germany we were in and how the locals reacted to us. The camera gave me the opportunity to put the Army in a box and take control of my surroundings.”

In 1973, he was honorably discharged and he returned to St. Petersburg where he worked as a deck hand at a marina before finding work as a roofer. While roofing near the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus, his next move in life became clear – he needed to go to college, but not for its educational value.

“I kept getting letters from USF because of the GI Bill, but I wasn’t interested at all,” said Audet. “But then I was on that hot roof near the USF campus and I noticed how the campus buildings had these huge air conditioning units. Then I noticed all the beautiful girls on campus. I though, ‘Air conditioning and beautiful women or hot tar roofs in Florida in July? College it is.’

“Once I started classes I realized it was much different than high school. I didn’t have to go to class, do my homework or pay attention to the professors if I didn’t want to. I could do what I wanted. But once I realized that no one was going to boss me around, I stopped fighting the system and embraced it and learned that I actually loved learning. Once that happened, I wanted to learn everything about everything.”

Audet continued to study photography and also became interested in film because of its ability to add sound and movement to the world he captured on camera. In 1979 he graduated from USF with a BFA in photography and filmmaking.

“After graduation, I’ve worked hard as an independent artist and have somehow kept the same job for 25 years,” he laughed. “I do well enough to have a place to live and put food in my stomach. But I think eating is beginning to take up too much time, so I think I’m going to give it up.”

Over the last 25 years, Audet’s work as an “independent artist” has done more than put food in his stomach; it has kept him extremely busy. He helped to found the Artists and Writers Balls at the Cuban Club, Artists and Writers Cafe and Ground Zero Performance Gallery in Hyde Park, the Still and Moving Gallery in Seminole Heights, the bi-annual Cuban Sandwich Show and more. He co-founded and was a managing editor of the arts publication Tabloid Magazine, has written and produced a number of plays and films, coordinated an intervention and diversion cultural arts program called Prodigy and co-directed the USF Chinsegut Film/Video Conference held at the Tides Motel and Bath Club, which was a precursor to the HCC-Ybor City Festival of the Moving Image he recently founded, as it was also a celebration of film being shown in unconventional and artistic ways rather than solely feature and short films being shown on a movie screen.

Six years ago, then-HCC-Ybor Campus President Lois Gaston was looking for ways to help promote the HCC-Ybor Campus, which is the performing arts division of the five HCC campuses. After researching a number of art festivals throughout the area, Gaston decided that Audet and the festivals and events he has worked with were the most unique in the area, so hired Audet as a special projects manager for the HCC-Ybor Campus.

Audet founded the HCC-Ybor City Festival of the Moving Image in 2002 and has drawn thousands of people each year and some of the top independent films from throughout the world.

“It is a festival unlike anything people have ever seen,” said Audet. “We strive to be different, we strive to open people’s eyes to new experiences. That is the true essence of art, to expand someone’s mind.”

"Filmlook" is ©2008 by Paul Guzzo.   All graphics unless otherwise noted are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.