Bill: You, along with Tom and Gunnel at Edge City, have been on the cutting edge in Riverside and Springfield for
quite some time. Did you go to high school in Jacksonville?
Stephen Dare: Yes, I was in the first graduating class of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. I was a triple major:
theatre, visual arts, and writing. As far as I know, I'm the only triple major from Douglas Anderson.
|Above: On spoken-word night at the Boomtown Theatre, Stephen Dare (standing) enthralls the audience
like a modern-day Oscar Wilde. Seated at far right is Karen Suarez, former President of the Florida
|Above right: Chris Hutson, Bill Ectric, and Alan
Justiss were regulars at the Boomtown Theatre
Bill: Tell me about this picture (above left).
Bill: Tell me about J.P. Thompson.
Stephen Dare: J.P. Thompson was from Baltimore. He brought jazz into our poetry mix: bongo players, saxophones,
and guitar. He also brought the cute photo editor from the Florida Times-Union, Missy Amman. Missy was
responsible for getting this photograph into an exhibit called From the Hip. Fusion Cafe promoted the arts and
worked with disaffected youth (Editor's note: In 1993, the Institute for Public Media Arts sponsored From The Hip, a
visual diary of community service. They paired 280 young photographers and writers from across the country to
discover and record what young people are doing in their communities and how they define service).
A group of poets performing naked in front 300 people in Jacksonville, FL? This happened at the Fusion Cafe in
Jacksonville's "Five Points" in 1990. The ringleaders of this display of radical talent and hubris were poet Robbie
Cluesman and entrepreneur Stephen Dare. Dare ran the Fusion Cafe for three years in the early nineties. He left
Jacksonville in the mid-nineties to travel the world, returning in 1999 to create other venues for artists and performers,
including The Loft, and more recently, Boomtown Theatre on Main Street in the historic Springfield section of
Jacksonville. Hospitality Consultant Alan Austin wrote in the Florida-Times Union that "the comments on
jacksonville.com's dining bulletin board that liken Boomtown to a restaurant in New York's SoHo aren't too far off the
I asked Mr. Dare a few questions...
Stephen Dare: The photo was taken in the early 90's and is significant because of the people who were present
that night. Front and center, in classic rant profile, is Tony Gankarski, who is now a contributing writer for Folio
Weekly. Also present that night were Al Letson, who now has his own radio show on NPR; Alan Justiss, recently back
from Los Angeles and Gainesville; P.J. Thompson, who added post-beat jazz to the Fusion Cafe's spoken word
events; and others. The art you see there on the walls is by Tom Hager and Chrissy Pierce, who both have studios
here in Jacksonville. I gave Tom Hager one of his first shows and he's gone on to win 2nd prize at the 4th Florence
Biennale in Florence, Italy. He's had exhibits in Arles, France, Boston University, New York City, and a bunch of other
places. He used to display his work out on the sidewalk at Five Points with saran wrap over them to protect them
from the weather. (Editor's Note: Tom Hager's very first show was at Ed Wilson's Metropolis in 1988).
Bill: Why did everyone perform naked that time at Fusion?
Stephen Dare: I wanted a poetry scene. First, I enlisted the Literature Department poets from FCCJ (Florida
Community College at Jacksonville). One of their members, called Milton, worked with me to bring them together
for a reading at Fusion. But they were not prepared to deal with a type audience, where you had to struggle to be
heard. So they were discouraged. Then along came Robbie Cluesman. He was 17 years old when he decided to be a
poet. He was already into Bukowski. It was his idea to perform naked.
Bill: He must have figured, well, if we have to compete for attention...
Stephen Dare: Three hundred people showed up! We never had trouble attracting an audience after that. It was
also around this time that Alan Justiss returned to Jacksonville.
Bill: Alan Justiss is the one I kept hearing about from a kid named Chris Faupel who always hung out at Five Points.
Faupel was a film student, and I had a small part in one of his films. He kept talking about Alan Justiss.
Stephen Dare: Let me tell you something about Alan Justiss. He can be rather abrasive and, as you may know,
somewhat inebriated much of the time. He told these stories about meeting Charles Bukowski in Los Angeles and
we didn't know quite what to think. Well, Robbie Cluesman moved to France and ended up working at Shakespeare
and Company, the famous bookstore in Paris. He got to know a lot of the kids, teenagers, whose parents were part
of the older crowd in the sixties, like Henry Miller, Ginsberg, Anais Nin - and the thing is, all these young people
asked about Alan Justiss! They had read his work and they thought of him as one of the old guard - almost like the
“last beat writer” or something.
Bill: Did Alan Justiss perform naked?
Stephen Dare: Uh...no. Not that particular night. But his escapades would make a whole other chapter in the saga
of Jacksonville poets.