ST. PETERSBURG — In a weirdly fitting tribute to its eccentric namesake, the Dalí Museum kicked off a 24-hour read-a-thon to celebrate what would have been Salvador Dalí's 109th birthday, which is today.
At 11 a.m. Friday, a YouTube video flickered on the screen and museum director Hank Hine appeared, reading The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. (Hine would have done the honor in person but was out of town for his mother's funeral.) For the next 20 minutes, Hine, who was wearing a Dalí-inspired ant T-shirt with a bust of Dalí nearby, read from the 400-plus pages of the book that captured the surrealist painter's thoughts about his inner musings from childhood on.
Over the next 24 hours, notables around the Tampa Bay area were scheduled to come to the microphone in the museum's meeting room and carefully maneuver their way through Dalí's sometimes tricky prose.
Peter Tush, curator of education at the museum, took the next reading, all while seated in a plushy red chair that looked like lips. A table of props — from a grasshopper hat to loaves of bread — sat nearby, and readers were free to use one or consider making their own. Vickie Brunner, family events coordinator at the Dalí, did just that, appearing for her reading in a foxlike hat with a yellow leash around her neck (you'll have to read the book to catch that one, she allowed).
In all, 80 readers were scheduled to take their turn at the mic. One noticeable cancellation, though, was St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who had been scheduled for the 12:30 p.m. slot but was replaced by Franco Ripple, producer and host of The Current on CBS Radio Tampa Bay. Ripple volunteered at the last minute, said the museum's deputy director, Kathy White.
Other notables who signed up included Howard Rutherford, chief executive of the Pier Aquarium; St. Petersburg City Council members Leslie Curran and Karl Nurse; artist Bob Stackhouse; former Times book editor Margo Hammond; Times columnist and bureau chief Ernest Hooper; and Eric Davis, artistic director of freeFall Theatre.
Though the reading began with little fanfare, a more festive toast was scheduled at midnight that was to include cava, a Spanish sparkling wine, and Dalí moustache cakes made by the Cafe Gala crew. A mimosa toast was set for 10:45 a.m. today.