“College Life”
Gainesville, Florida
We All Had A Real Good Time
((( UF )))

buster o’connor (illustration)
dave hogerty (photograph)

by Diane Julin
Alligator Staff Writer

Sleepy. Yes, sleepy is a word that accurately describes Gainesville. After all, there’s no subway, no organized crime, not even a short skyscraper. There are no gala world movie premieres or celebrity balls. In fact, the only occasions to which one can wear black tie and tails in Hogtown are the Gainesville High School prom and the university’s Halloween Ball.

This town is strictly blue jeans. The plain kind.

When UF closes for break, you can’t even get stuck in a decent traffic jam. And forget eating out — most restaurants close for “remodeling.” The others simply close without making any excuse at all.

But wait a minute. Are we offending somebody with this depiction of Gainesville?

Sleepy?! SLEEPY! Gainesville’s NOT sleepy!

“It has quiet ambiance,” says the mayor.

“This town is laid back, mellow,” says the co-director of a Gainesville Theater Company.

“We’re not downtown Chicago,” concedes a top UF official. “But we’ve still got charm.”

Part of the city’s charm, Gainesville residents say, is its wealth of interesting people. You want variety? Have we got variety — a Whitman Sampler of people: Frisbee champions, evangelists, cult members, academics, surfers, farmers, jazz lovers, marijuana growers, brain surgeons, New Wave musicians, art junkies, Rastas, and foreigners from all over the world. And that’s just for starters.

There are liberals, lesbians, conservatives, communists, skaters, ROTC soldiers, gays, transvestites, and hippies who wished the sixties never ended. Southerners who wished the Confederacy never surrendered, and scores of weirdos who defy classification, except weirdos. And that’s still only a few.

To get a quick introduction to Gainesville’s multi-faceted personality, the new-in-town should visit the front lawn of UF’s Library West, a comfortably shaded patch of greenish-brown, otherwise known as the Plaza of the Americas.

On a typical sunny afternoon at the Plaza, students are sprinkled on the grass in various stages of undress. Frisbees are dipping, gliding, and soaring. A massage salesman is doing a leisurely trade. Moonies are quietly soliciting membership. Hare Krishnas are serving up drum beats, vegetable surprise and Krishna philosophy for lunch. A concerned student group is distributing “Don’t Nuke the Whales” literature. An unconcerned student group is jeering a bible-waving evangelist. A few people are actually studying.

What brings such an assortment of beings to a small North Florida town surrounded by tiny rural communities? Residents say it’s got to be that good old Florida sunshine mixed with the dynamic atmosphere of a university community. Nobody knows whether so many different people came here because of the openness and creativity in Gainesville, or whether they are responsible for it. Probably a little of both.

One thing, though, is fairly certain. Without UF, the city’s largest employer and biggest influence, Gainesville would be nothing more than your typical North Florida motor lodge of a town.

In other words, a folksy little town that’s nice enough to drive through (albeit slowly because the cops like to catch big city hot-rodders) but you wouldn’t want to roller skate there.
Lucky thing for Gainesville the city fathers stole the university away from nearby Lake City in 1905. Otherwise, this story would be about Lake City. But since it’s about Gainesville, the all-important question is:

What in the Hell is Gainesville, Florida, anyway? For one thing, it’s a place where so many people smoke pot that Gainesville and UF Police generally overlook those who discreetly partake at concerts, in theater parking lots, in bars, or wherever else the tokers happen to be (the police force has to assign priorities, says Colonel Joe Bason of GPD, and frankly, they have bigger fish to fry).

Gainesville also is a place where the typical restaurant offers sandwiches, wine, and folk (often Jimmy Buffett-like) singers to all those wearing a shirt and shoes (pants are understood).

Gainesville is a place where old businesses fail and new ones sprout up overnight; where transients with hard luck stories of every genre come to hang out; where one of the city police station buildings is hand painted in candy-colored palm trees.

It’s a friendly city, too. People here don’t think you’re totally bananas if you try to strike up a conversation with them on the street. And you can call the mayor by his first name if you want to. At least that’s what Courtland, uhh, Mayor Collier says.

In short, all the comforts of a small town without the small town mentality is what you find here in Gainesville. So say the people who wouldn’t or haven’t lived anywhere else.

But with Gainesville being so far from the big hot spots of the nation — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington — some people claim Gainesville dances to a different beat, usually one that’s long gone out of style in the rest of the country. Take disco for instance. Remember? The rage of the ’70s. In some parts of Gainesville, people still actually disco.

One UF professor who moved to Gainesville from the northeast says he felt completely cut off here from the world. That is, until he got a subscription to his beloved New York Times is two days old by the time it travels from New York to his front stoop. Gainesville is at least two days behind the rest of the nation anyway.

But Marshall New will come to the city’s defense when someone stick his big city nose in the air and labels Gainesville a backwater town. New is a long-time resident and the co-director of the Hippodrome, a regionally known, non-profit professional theater based in Gainesville. New makes periodic jaunts to New York and Chicago to see the newest plays and films, but insists there’s no “information gap” here.

“The cultural community here is the best,” he says. “The most photographers, painters, sculptors, and actors you could ever find. (Gainesville) is liberal and culturally turned on.”

Still, every community has its conservative elements, and Gainesville is no exception. As some newcomers will notice immediately, Gainesville has no porn, no strip club, and no adult bookstore.

The last porno proprietor was run out of town, or at least out of business, back around ’78. More recently, letters poured into the City Commission protesting the new adult entertainment movie channel Escapade that was being made available by University City Cable TV. Orders for a hook up to the channel, however, far outnumbered the hate mail.

All things considered, prudishness is rare in this community. Hey, this city is the site of the annual UF Halloween Ball, that infamous outdoor celebration characterized by public sex, nudity, and drug consumption. Just read the police reports for full details.

In this city, males and females live together in all combinations, in all types of lodgings. The gay and lesbian communities here are unabashedly vocal. And the students go unashamedly half dressed, whatever the weather. With all this, who needs adult bookstores?

Despite all Gainesville has to offer, there is no denying these cold, hard facts: there aren’t nearly enough movie theaters in town, and no broadway plays. The closest thing we have to opera is a barbershop quartet. None of the restaurants are world-renowned. And the downtown is something to sneeze at, being only about two blocks long.

Pshaw, says Mayor Collier, though not exactly in that word. “Maybe you’ll find better entertainment in a big city, but I doubt you’ll find a better quality of life.”


“Deep Down In Florida”
“Where the sun shines damn near everyday.”

Muddy Waters w/Johnny Winter
((( university of florida )))

Muddy Waters w/Johnny Winter — Mucozo Murphree Hall Gargoyle Johnny Hines 3AM Sunday University Avenue Blues
Tom Petty — Pikes on obnoxious display, “Breakdown” Swinging Sally, Gator Girls, 35-3 over FSU
Harry Nilsson — “Lime in the Cocoanut” John Baltz, the Mini Masseur. A $2, after-work massage, and a cold Heineken for the little lady.
Paul Simon — “Mother & Child Reunion” Push, pull, and scream with Midwife Nancy Redfern in the old house near the duck pond.
Pat Benatar — “Hell Is For Children” Trouble Downtown when the white supremacist bikers, and the Socialist Party blacks clashed over their differences of opinion regarding America’s relationship with Iran.
Bruce Springsteen — “Fever” (Black In The White) The Vietnam Memorial in the dead of a Washington D.C. winter. (1982) The first snow the wall had ever experienced.

february 16, 1982
vol 65 no 75

Since its unveiling last November, the V-shaped memorial has inspired much criticism. Many took offense at the black wall sinking into the ground, while the other (All) American monuments stand virgin-white, and rise into the heavens.

But in the dead of a Washington winter, while the ivory towers disappear in the overcast sky, one monument has the strenth and presence to survive. The names carved into the mirror-like, black granite wall — the names of more than 57.000 Americans who died in Vietnam — break through the snowy White scene more noticed and more honored than any of the other monuments shivering on Constitution Avenne