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5/13/2004

Happytown > Happytown

Thom Butler and locally made comedy The Bros.

 

Or should we say sad town? We were as devastated as most downtown dilettantes when we found out that one of our brethren had found his way to the pearly gates. At press time last week, the news came across the Orlando cell phone wire that superhero bar fixture Thom Butler suffered a fatal heart attack May 4, too early in his 40s to be believed. Statements like "the end of an era" are too trite to even be mustered in the wake of Butler's untimely death. We even tried to laugh -- because that's what he would have wanted -- but we couldn't. It just wasn't funny.

Mostly, we remembered the good times, sniffled and drank.

Butler, an institution of downtown nightlife from the get-Go, was a kind, crazy man, unparalleled in his ability to shake it off and smile. And so it was on that very night that we found ourselves shuffling down to an impromptu memorial for the bighearted, swashbuckling madman. In a setting as rife with juxtaposition as The Lodge, the two-way tug of sentiment between celebration and mourning held perfect court; friends walked around with a floating sense of loss, often rekindling with people they hadn't seen in years, for Thom's sake.

"If you needed any proof this is a small town," said Jeff Nolan, a co-worker of Butler's in the Bodhisattva heydays, "here it is." (Bodhi's, perhaps prophetically, closed its doors just weeks ago.)

Appropriately, songs as diverse in meaning as Pearl Jam's "Alive" and the classic gag-rock of "Sit on My Face and Tell Me That You Love Me" soundtracked the wake, while the crowd slowly unglued into a respectable hum of laughter befitting a true local liquor legend. Here's to Thom Butler. He will be missed.

If you've been able to count on Orlando Weekly for anything over the last five and a half years, it's periodic assurances that the locally made feature-film comedy "The Bros." is "coming soon." Well, the movie is finally complete. And we know because we've seen it.

On May 6, the ridiculously delayed flick had its world premiere at Muvico Pointe 21. Cast members (including basketballer Dennis Scott, who executive-produced the film and plays a major onscreen role) made up about a third of the invitation-only audience; crew folk accounted for another eighth or so. That's pretty typical for such affairs, but it's a testament to the uncompromising vision of writer/director Jonathan Figg that even this inherently sympathetic crowd didn't always seem to know what to make of the movie. A rags-to-gats story about two white rappers who turn to crime to fund a make-or-break recording session, The Bros. doesn't shy away from the racial tension and violence at its thematic core. At times, the film verges on A Clockwork Orange territory; it's certainly darker than you'd expect of a movie that features cameos by Joey Fatone and Jimmy "Hitman" Hart.

It's also unwaveringly profane, but that hasn't stopped Figg from selling the thing: When we caught up with him at an after-party at the nearby Metropolis club, the auteur revealed that he's in the final stages of negotiating a DVD deal with the newly merged Artisan/Lions Gate company. The disc should be out by early fall, Figg said, though he's pushing for some form of theatrical release before then. In the meantime, he's been hired to adapt a Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel. And of course, he's moving to Los Angeles, which is what all good locals do when they get a whiff of success.

So long, bro, and thanks for the half-decade of exclusive updates. What the **** are we supposed to write about now?

Note to Democrats: Making fun of Kevin Beary's superinflated sense of self-importance -- and gut -- is good times, but please keep your slams up to date.

The other day, an e-mail from Democratic party chairman Doug Head came into Happytown™ HQ, lambasting the sheriff for an oil painting of himself that apparently hangs in the sheriff's posh new digs on John Young Parkway. "He apparently thinks he is Napoleon, and needs a portrait!" the e-mail huffed.

Like everyone else with a brain, we're tired of Beary's cowboy routine and tendency to call a press conference every time deputies bust a two-bit pot ring (which of course has nothing to do with this being an election year). Plus, we wondered if you, the taxpayer, might have helped foot the bill for this piece of "art." So we called the sheriff's office. We called Beary's Democratic opponent, Rick Staly. And then, in between gulps of scotch, we did a little research -- and discovered the Orlando Sentinel wrote about said 30-inch by 40-inch oil painting in February, 2001. And it was donated by the artist, who wanted to paint important people in hopes of one day making money at it.

The painting is humorous. Beary is seated on his desk, looking royal, yet puffy, with a picture of Gen. George Patton on his right and an American flag on his left. And, we noticed, the artist may have been overly kind to the sheriff's famous belly. In the words of Doug Head: "That's why it's a painting, instead of a photograph."

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