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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 6 years ago

Why I'm voting for Pete

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by: Matt Orr

I love rainbows, lollipops, sunshine and a good shit show train wreck. In fact, I love a good showing of shit wrecking of train so much that I'm pretty sure I'm going to endorse Pete Theisen for the Sarasota City Commission on March 12. Now, I know the 217 of you who voted for Theisen in 2009 and the 88 people who voted for him in 2011 will probably jump for joy, because this is likely the only endorsement from a media outlet he'll get. For the other 12,390 of you who did not vote for him in 2009, you might be doing this right now.

I understand. The first time I heard him speak, I did the same thing---but go with me on this, okay?

I love art. I love Sarasota. I love creativity. I love to laugh, and based on what I've seen in Theisen, I actually think he could be a brilliant performance artist, one who sits among the ranks of John Waters and Damien Hirst as he takes us on one of the most unusual political rides in Sarasota history. He's playing a game so wildly insane it makes the parking meter debacle look as if its ills were designed by a Harvard Ph.D. Last week Susan Nilon invited Pete on her radio show to talk about some of his stances on city issues such as live music, jobs for our grads and well, you know, everything else we seem to constantly debate but never resolve. During the interview Pete floundered as best he could with the softball questions and then accused Nilon of "grilling him." During commercial breaks I would try to piece his words together and wrap my mind around the internal reality he was attempting to weave. I imagined what the studio must have been like during those commercial breaks (and here comes the part I love) ... then Pete said he was recording the interview and it could be seen on his YouTube Channel. Seriously, a dream come true.

Dear readers. This YouTube Channel was like discovering Valhalla. In my opinion it's either brilliant or insane, but regardless it's so disturbing laughable it would make even Susan Chapman crack a smile. In these videos you can hear Pete talk about arresting (well, actually imprisoning) venue owners who play music too loud. Rather than evening music events, he suggests restaurants should do more breakfast concerts ... and his most creative solution is to offer headsets to bar-goers so they can listen without bothering the condos. Honestly, I'd like to be the first in line to see the headset solution. Can you just imagine walking by Mattison's at 1 a.m. to see a room full of people dancing with headsets on? It would be a silent dance party and frankly, it would be amazingly surreal.

Now, speaking of surreal, I want to show you some of my favorite videos by Pete.

Here's Pete's first video. Frankly, I think he's charming. He's lovable like Ziggy and even his Marvin the Martian villain voice is perfectly in character. The suspenders and Post-It note he's wearing on his chest are fashion choices that say, "I'm my own guy. So what?" At 1:40 he mentions he "won't be giving away money for nothing to out-of-towners." I don't know exactly what that means, but I like the sound of keeping money local. At 2:08 he gets totally #bawse and declares with seething facial contortions, "I will vote 'no' on every stupid proposal." After a pregnant pause he looks down and forces the viewer to the edge of his verbal cliff, waiting for examples of what "stupid proposals" he won't vote on ... he looks up, his mood has changed and gives us no answer. The dude is confident. He does not believe in hand-outs. Like a Sarasota version of Chuck Norris, he's said what he has to say and he expects you to do your own homework to know what he means. I like that in a man.

Pete's like the Honey Badger. He just takes what he wants, even if that includes making an entire room of people feel wonderfully uncomfortable. What I love about this video is that the pre-video dialogue is open for interpretation. I imagine Pete taking his camera out while Dan Lobeck says, "Pete, now is not the time to film. For the love of God, please put your camera away." But just like the Honey Badger, Pete goes for it. He pans to Dan, who appears to be grinding his teeth, but then flashes his winning smile. As the conversation continues we learn they are at a public (or is it private? We're not sure) "Control Growth Now Committee" meeting to talk business. The camera takes two entire pans of the visibly upset room. Theisen licks his lips (for real). Just like the Honey Badger, he seems delighted. I like the first pass of the room, but the second pass is where the magic occurs. People avert their eyes and look away, but the lady to Dan's right gives a look that says, "Get the effing camera off my face before I jump across the table." It's 55 seconds of genius.

Pete's commercial for his "Pizza With Pete" party has been viewed 34 times. 32 of those times were probably by me and the other two times were by, I assume, Dan Lobeck and Pete. What I like about this video is how it becomes very clear Pete's a happy guy because he hums as he walks. I think that is sweet and charming, actually. As I watched some of his other videos, I noticed he hums in many of them. I like that he wants to bring song to Sarasota, even though his stance on the noise ordinance would suggest otherwise.

Do you remember that awkward little girl from middle school who threw a birthday party, only to have no one show up except you? Well, that's sort of like what Pete's Friendraiser Pizza Party was like ... except you weren't there. What I love about this video is how raw it is. For 10 solid minutes we watch Dan Lobeck, center screen, eating yummy pizza and carrying on a private conversation with Pete. The remaining 12 minutes we get to watch Dan Lobeck's back as he eats next to Pete. It's sorta like the Hokey Pokey, only without music, other people, context or fun. What's ultimately interesting about this post is how Pete felt it was relevant to his campaign's success.

After watching these videos ad nauseum, I've concluded this clip is smart foreshadowing to the collection's climax. Pete, or should I say, Future Commissioner Theisen, sings "Adeste Fideles" as he suits up in a Santa outfit. Like Mr. Rogers sang as he donned his sweater and sneakers, Pete seems to delight in spreading cheer to all. My only critique is he might have fluffed the pancake of Santa hair a little bit before setting it atop his head.

Right now, you may be doing this ...

Making people think is important for any political candidate, and sometimes a society needs a true "WTF did I just see?" moment that forces us to dig deep and actually start thinking about the needs of our community. This video certainly provided that moment for me, as I hope it will for you, too. We see Pete put on a Halloween mask and suggest he's going to the "Developers' Halloween Party" where he's sure to get some candy. He leaves no context as to why he would be going to take candy from the developers but by gosh, that's where he's going dressed as a skeleton. As the mask is secured, a plot twist occurs that's so campaign-a-licious it would make any crisis management team happy to know they will be gainfully employed if Pete's elected.  We suddenly realize Pete is not alone, and there are at least two other people in the room. Although their identities are a mystery, I personally like to think of the accomplices as Susan Chapman and Dan Lobeck. In my mind, it's Chapman who begins smashing an axe into Pete's head (especially after a recent gaffe in which she seems to wish harm upon a local writer). Skeleton hands appear from screen right and left as Pete repeats the words "yes, yes, oh, oh, hmm, yes, yes, yes" for most of the video. His effusiveness may be uncomfortable to watch, but it's important to see it to the end. The final, epic turn to this artful masterpiece is when Bumble the Abominable Snowman rises behind Pete in a moment so random and glorious that Scorsese would bow to its bravery. Bravo for making Sarasota sit back and think, "WTF, really? WTF did I watch?"

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