By the time I hoofed it all the way down the lane to Burns Court Cinema (506 Burns Ct., Sarasota) on Friday night, my dogs were already howling in too-high heels. I confess I agonized over every inch of the ensemble I was wearing for the opening night of the Fabulous Independent Film Festival (FIFF), because I wanted to look, well, nothing short of fabulous.
I apparently forgot what town I live in. A reality check came in the lobby of the theater as I hugged necks and kiss-kissed: At the kick-off to Sarasota's premier LGBT film festival, everyone looked perfectly comfortable in their own skin. I eyed pretty little flats and simple cotton sundresses with envy as my arches screamed, What the hell are you trying to do to us? I tried to placate them with a hefty plastic cup of chardonnay from concessions, but they weren't really having it until I ran unto Bryan Hadley. Bryan looked sharp in a teal shirt, dark jeans and black vest complete with a sparkly watch chain.
"You look beautiful," he cooed into my ear as we pressed cheeks. I was smug. There you have it, tootsies. Next question: Why is Anthony Paull waving a toilet plunger around in public?
The local filmmaker and award-winning teen fiction author has a new novel coming out in the fall, and when we all got settled in our theater seats, we were treated to a cinematic sneak peek of Desperation Lingers, co-starring Kirsten Sponseller and a four-inch prosthetic nose in the title role. The plungers made sense all of a sudden, but I won't spoil it for you. It's on YouTube, full of local flavor and well worth watching.
I had my misgivings about the opening night film, G.B.F. I've never actively sought out the teen camp genre, not even as a campy teen. However, the candy-colored flick didn't let me down. The theater was a little less than half full, but if you had an ear pressed to the door it would have sounded sold out. The room roared with laughter during the 92-minute hailstorm of off-color jokes and puns, but it wasn't all fluff. The characters dealt with serious and relevant sexuality and peer pressure issues, and underneath the thick patina of humor we all discovered a really important message about being true to yourself and not relying on others for validation (okay feet, I'm sorry).
After the applause died down and the lights came up, I wasted no time in dashing over to Clásico Café (1341 Main St., Sarasota 34236) for the after party. I suppose I thought I'd beat the rush -- boy, was I wrong. Nightlifers squeezed around nearly every table inside and out, and the bar? Forget about it.
"This is craziness," Ed Midler groaned as we vied for a bartender's attention. We finally cashed in our ticket stub for a drink, and I followed Eddie outside -- naturally, he was following the music. The Shoebox Monsters' Justin Whitmer and Patrick Finazzo held the rapt attention of maybe 30 onlookers, mostly parents and teens, in a semi-acoustic set. I thought about the film I'd just seen, and realized I wanted them all to see it, too.
Later we crammed ourselves into a group of fellow filmgoers sitting around a cafe table on Palm Avenue. FIFF founder Magida Diouri came by and snapped a photo of us, all warm, fuzzy and uplifted by both the free drinks in our hands and the film experience we'd shared.