You may not recognize his name, but there's a good chance Doug Rhödehamel's handiwork has given you some innocent chuckles. A mixed-media artist and product designer who devotes his mature graphic sensibility to flights of childlike whimsy, Rhödehamel is responsible for the nearly 100 installations of faux fungi -- mushrooms fashioned out of paper bags -- that have sprung up at Orlando-area homes, businesses and public grounds since January 2000. In August of that year he had his first proper exhibition at Stardust Video & Coffee, decorating its walls with coat hangers he had recovered from local parking lots and mounted on stark white backgrounds. Affixed to each piece was a short story crafted by a local writer and inspired by the hanger's distinctive shape.
The reaction to the closet-clearing exhibit was extremely positive, so Rhödehamel is back at Stardust for his new "Frankenshow," which opens with an Oct. 4 reception and remains in place through Halloween. The collection's simple but endlessly malleable concept is to take common objects and give them the mad-scientist treatment -- to Frankenize them, if you will.
"I just found myself coming up with these Franken-ideas for the last four years," Rhödehamel says. And at some point, he had an epiphany: "'Wait a minute. If I made more of these, I could put them in a show.'"
That minimalistic, gently joshing thought process is front and center in the exhibit's collection of (what else?) 13 Karloffian items. There's the "Frankendollar" -- bits of a sand dollar stitched together to form a new, Darwin-defying animal -- and the "Franken-banana," a potentially vicious fruit (note the protruding bolts) that's been clamped to a board for safety's sake. The "Frankenpuppet," meanwhile, is an ungodly amalgam of miniature body parts that should denote home and comfort to Tim Burton fans.
Rhödehamel has commissioned no accompanying narratives this time, though he has tagged each piece with a brief description that pays stylistic homage to 1950s horror.
"They're like the announcements in movie trailers," he explains, his voice slipping a few notes into an impression of matinee masculinity. "'Girls, don't come alone! Bring your boyfriend to protect you!'"
Here's the best part. The meaning of "Frankenshow" goes only as deep as its graveyard-green surface.
"It's just plain, stupid fun," Rhödehamel says.
I could use a little distracting stupidity right now. How about you?
Holding up his own end as a scare-season toastmaster, author Owl Goingback is organizing a gathering of horror writers, publishers, artists and other notables for an all-day event Oct. 20 at the Borders Books & Music store in Winter Park. Hugh B. Cave ("Legion of the Dead; The Evil") tops the roster of 30 visiting scribes; related festivities include makeup demonstrations and storytelling sessions presented by Ghost Tours of St. Augustine. Regular schmoes like you and me are invited to join the literary types later in the evening as they take in Universal Studios' "Halloween Horror Nights XI." But be forewarned: I can't guarantee the well-being of anyone who takes it upon himself to follow Cave or Goingback around, tugging on their shirtsleeves while impatiently inquiring, "Scared yet? Scared yet?"
Scriptwriter, film producer and Full Sail graduate Oliver Assiran called me last week to announce that shooting will begin Oct. 26 on "Gorno," a full-length dramatic feature he's co-authored with his business partner, Les Norris. (Norris, the movie's director, used to sing lead in the punk band Radio Baghdad.) According to Assiran, the movie -- to be shot mostly on 16mm film, but with a little Super 8 and digital video thrown in -- follows a 16-year-old through the dark underbelly of suburban society.
"I think this will probably be one of the most controversial films almost ever," Assiran offers, his enthusiasm momentarily overtaking his syntax. "It asks the question if children are inherently evil, or if society has pushed that upon them." (Ever been in the cereal aisle at Publix? I'll vote for the former.)
Assiran tackled a different side of American culture in a film he wrote and co-produced last year, a short titled "How to Pick Up Girls If You're a Comic Book Geek: The Movie." Finished but never shown, the short should come out on DVD this year, he says. Gorno, naturally, is a far more elaborate affair: Its monthlong shoot and postproduction are budgeted between $15,000 and $20,000. Assiran says he raised the sum from investors he knows in Philadelphia, where he once promoted parties and raves. Somebody tell craft services to lay in a big supply of cheese steaks and bottled water.
Queer as film:
If you missed them during last June's Florida Film Festival, there are encore screenings of the documentary "Bombay Eunuch" and the romantic comedy "Big Eden" in this year's Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, presented Oct. 4 to 14 at the Tampa Theatre. (The latter film also enjoyed a three-week reprise at the Winter Park Village 20; three strikes on this one and you're out, so to speak.) Also on tap is "Scout's Honor," the documentary about the discriminatory policies of the Boy Scouts of America, which almost found its way onto the Florida Film Festival schedule, but was instead delivered to Orlando television viewers as a June installment of the PBS series "P.O.V."
Newness and nostalgia coexist in the Oct. 8 showing of "The Wedding Video," in which Norman Korpi, the first gay roomie on MTV's "The Real World," invites nine cast members of various seasons to his nuptials and ends up with a filmed document of their perpetual backstabbing. Some people never get any nicer ... luckily for us.
The Tampa Fest event most worthy of a road trip is the Oct. 10 Florida premiere of "L.I.E.," director Michael Cuesta's talked-about portrait of pedophilia and teen disaffection. The movie, which has yet to open in Orlando, has inspired some shocked and/or otherwise awestruck ink in the major markets where it has played. In particular, a write-up a few weeks ago in "The New Yorker" lauded the movie's execution, but practically yearned for Cuesta and company's obvious skills to have been applied to nearly any other subject matter. Talk about praising with faint damns. It's the most controversial film almost ever.