TAMPA — Tara Hartman waited in line for more than eight hours Tuesday, clutching a worn copy of Footloose in her hands.
"I think I've owned this DVD for 15 years," said the 21-year-old University of South Florida student. "Kevin Bacon is timeless."
She brought along the movie just in case an opportunity for an autograph arose.
After all, she was about to spend an evening sitting mere feet from the man.
Nearly 900 people headed to USF's Marshall Student Center Tuesday night to hear Kevin Bacon speak about his philanthropic efforts, acting experiences and how he came to embrace the game named for him.
Bacon stars in the Fox television show The Following but may be best known for his movie roles, including Animal House, A Few Good Men and Footloose.
Those hits spurred two college students in the early '90s to create the party game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where players must connect any actor to Bacon within six steps.
"I was horrified by it," Bacon told the audience. "I had worked so hard to try to have a career that was taken seriously . . . here I was, all of a sudden, a party game."
Once Bacon realized the game was not going away, he decided to embrace it. He helped create sixdegrees.org, which connects local causes with celebrities.
"We are all connected," Bacon said. "The things we do effect people on the other side of the world and the other side of the block."
He demonstrated the type of things celebrities can do to help local causes Tuesday afternoon when he dropped in on a training session for nonprofit professionals preparing for Give Day Tampa Bay, a 24-hour fundraising competition on May 6.
"I came from the airport and essentially did nothing — took a few pictures, said hi," Bacon said. "Through social media, just by doing that small thing, we can raise awareness."
Sponsored by the Center for Student Involvement's University Lecture Series, Bacon filled in for Friends star Matthew Perry who canceled because of scheduling conflicts.
To the delight of many, Bacon spent an hour and a half speaking, with much of the time devoted to answering questions from the audience.
Questions ranged from who his favorite actor to work with is — Meryl Streep — to how he decompresses from a day spent as a dark character — meditate, watch basketball.
"I thought it was awesome," said USF student Malina Majeed. "He seems like such a nice, down-to-earth person."
Dylan Barr, a 20-year-old student, only really knew Bacon from his role in X-Men: First Class, but attended the event Tuesday night for bragging rights.
"I want to have a Bacon number of 1," Barr said.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3401.