When A Cigar Is Not Just A Cigar

Ah, to be in Ybor again – I mean the fabled Ybor of crazy art parties and percolating creative ferment and much drinking and inspired carryings-on. That’s at least how I imagine it was – I came here too late to experience all that. Our offices used to be in the thick of it – also before my time – but I kind of think that after certain legendary parties the staffers who sometimes stayed very, very late at the office might have awoken to something like the vision that was walking down El Pasaje Thursday night: a giant head with white foam-rubber ringlets and a come-hither maw, beckoning, or rather bullhorning to a chorus line of six inflatable cigars. Gumby-esque phallic symbols moving in a quasi-unison fashion that was part Rockettes, part Keystone Kops, the cigars wiggled and wobbled their way to the giant smoker head and then stopped, dropped and rolled at her command — until six comely cigar girls wriggled free from their cigar-ments and sashayed off. It was all the work of seriously silly performance artist Pat Oleszsko, here for opening night of the 5th annual Ybor Festival of the Moving Image, the brainchild of the past (and present) master of Ybor fun and games, David Audet. It was both treat and bittersweet to have just seen Oleszko in Victoria Jorgensen’s film A Moving Feast, which recounted the days when such free-wheeling fantasias were a matter of course at the USF-spawned Chinsegut Film/Video Conference. Artists from that coterie, like Oleszko, were in the film and in the audience, recalling a time when artistic possibilities seemed limitless. Tonight, for a while, the whole scene made you wonder: Could it happen in Ybor again?