Farewell Animal House
Fri, Oct. 15 6pm-9pm
David O'Keefe Studios
12 N. Blvd of Presidents
St Armand's Circle - Sarasota
Animal House Sketch1:
One of the funniest movies in American cinema history will become part of the fine art world when Tampa-based artist David O’Keefe releases his interpretation of “Animal House’’ next month. An official unveiling is planned for 6 p.m. Oct. 15 at O’Keefe’s St. Armand’s Circle gallery and the public is invited to attend. Fans are encouraged to dress as their favorite character from the movie, hors d’oeuvres and spirits will be served and there will be opportunities to win some of O’Keefe’s art.
The idea for the painting started in March when an Ohio family came to St. Armand’s on spring break, bought two of O’Keefe’s best-known works and decided there had to be an “Animal House’’ tribute. Ed Bitler was in St. Armand’s with his wife, Ginny, and 13-year-old son, Hayden, “And my son saw the “Caddyshack’’ in the window and said, ‘That is so cool, let’s go in.’ I was hooked on that one and we walked a little further and we saw “The Godfather’’ and he said, “You can’t just get one, you’ve got to get both of them.’’ Bitler did just that and those two pieces are now hanging in the basement of the family’s Hudson, Ohio, home, where they are perfect for the game-room décor. “It was such an impulse, but it was a good one,” Ed Bitler said recently. The family started talking about what other movie they would like to see O’Keefe paint, and Hayden came up with “Animal House.’’ His dad agreed, “That’s the one, that’s one of our favorite movies. And it turned out to be a David favorite too.’’ Bitler called O’Keefe and O’Keefe said he’d be damn glad to tackle the hilarious 1978 comedy.
“Animal House’’ is about a misfit group of fraternity brothers who challenge the administration and snobbiest frat at small Faber College in 1962. It helped launch the careers of several actors, including Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen and Tom Hulce, and started a new “gross-out’’ film genre. The movie made its way into the hearts of a generation with lines like “Damn glad to meet you,’’ “Toga! Toga!’’ “Thank you, sir. May I have another?’’ and “Food fight!’’ Toga parties were held on college campuses everywhere and the film continues to draw young fans. The United States Library of Congress has called “Animal House’’ “culturally significant’’ and the American Film Institute put it at No. 36 on its list of the 100 best American comedies.
“I first saw the movie when I was in high school and loved it. It was probably the perfect movie at the perfect time, because I was at that age where I loved juvenile humor,’’ O’Keefe said. As he thought about how to present the film and its ensemble cast, O’Keefe decided to paint them in the classic Baroque style. Baroque is O’Keefe’s favorite art period and he has used the style before, most notably in his “Much Ado About Nothing,’’ with characters from Seinfeld. The focal point of the oil-on-canvas painting is John "Bluto" Blutarsky, the character played by John Belushi, who was riding an unparalleled crest of fame when the movie came out. “It’s Belushi’s movie and he is the prominent character in the painting,’’ O’Keefe said. O’Keefe placed him on the steps of the college’s administration building, in a stance from a famous scene where Bluto and others put a horse in Dean Vernon Wormer’s office. All of the film’s main characters are depicted in the painting, along with some of the funniest gags, like the horse, the mayor’s daughter in a shopping cart and the “little black bag’’ that keeps cropping up in scenes. “I hadn’t noticed the black bag before, but after Ed (Bitler) told me about it, I re-watched the movie and decided it had to be in the painting,’’ O’Keefe said.
Bitler also remembers first watching the movie in the late 1970s. Later, “I was a Phi Kappa Tau at Ohio State and we lived on that movie. Our fraternity was not as bad, but I guess we had our moments,’’ Bitler said. Bitler, who owns EB Fastener Group, Inc., a company that provides nuts, bolts and other fasteners to various industries, including automobile makers, will be attending the October unveiling. He has seen David’s working sketches and said, “I think they look great and I’m excited to see what it’s going to look like when it’s done.’’
“I hope it goes over as well as Caddyshack and the Godfather did, it fits right into his lineup,’’ Bitler added.
As a past editorial illustrator for more than 25 years, O’Keefe’s sardonic caricatures and humorous illustrations have appeared on the covers of Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Mad Magazine, The Village Voice and within the pages of Time. Today, David O’Keefe Studios distributes his paintings and sculptures worldwide and operates the gallery at 12 N. Boulevard of Presidents, St. Armand’s Circle, Sarasota , FL , 34235 . His art can also be found on the web at davidokeefe.com, on Facebook (David O’Keefe Studios) and Twitter (davidokeefeArt.)
For further information about the Oct. 15 event or to arrange interviews with O’Keefe, please contact Rena Charles at (813) 254-5056.