I was a quasi punk teenager when I first traveled to Hyde Park to experience “art”. Sure, I’d done the Ybor thing, but this was high end stuff as far as I had experienced it. A live performance of actors was way more than seeing Black Flag do 3 songs then run off stage. This was School of Night. I honestly don’t remember the skits, but I do remember Jeff and another actor doing a scene from a Sam Shepard piece ( I think it was from True West).
As I grew older, I took advantage of the opportunities to experience Jeff’s larger performances with troupes like American Stage. During this time, I was introduced to Jeff through a mutual acquaintance. He was humble, brooding. Everything I had pictured an artist to be. I was jealous.
I thought him an older but kindred spirit, not a celebrity. He was an artist. I got a glimpse of a genius. Someone who was so comfortable with his art; perhaps tortured in the fact that he was such a craftsman of his art that he could perform it in a burgh such as Tampa. He trusted that there were like minded souls who also parked their tent in this god-forsaken mosquito ridden peninsula of peninsulas a genuine art scene would evolve. I know I cooked food with that same passion. I regret I didn’t stay true to my own passion…
I for one apologize for being so shortsighted I didn’t realize it sooner–yes, I wanted a dynamic, brilliant local scene. And there is one. Theatre, food, dance… it’s all there. Maybe not how I envisioned it because I wanted brilliance such as Jeff’s to be national news, and in my youth I lost my vision.
However, in the twilight of my own perspective, and in the sunset of the passing of Jeff Norton, I reflect on that first night in a little corner bistro at Howard and Azeele, and pray that the baton of pure passion and art will continued to be passed.
God speed Jeff Norton, god speed.
Austin: Why don’t you just try another neighborhood, all right?
Lee: What’sa’ matta with this neighborhood? This is a great neighborhood. Lush. Good class a’ people…”
From True West
(ed. note) This post contained two videos of Jeff, which have since been removed from Youtube. I respect their decision