Blissful Lotus celebrates local artists often censured by mainstream galleries.

Orlando artist Tina Foote's paintings reflect women in erotic situations.

ORLANDO – Adeline Rivera remembers that when she was growing up on Staten Island, she often had strange visions that haunted her.

“It started when I was about eight years old,” she said.  “I started having dreams that were coming true – which was freaky.”

When she turned 16, she sought out books on ghosts, the supernatural, and the paranormal, and discovered something interesting: the chapters on extrasensory perception, which involves receiving information not gathered from physical senses, but rather sensed within the mind.  Sometimes referred to as a sixth sense, Rivera recognized what she was reading about in herself.

“There are a lot of things about ESP that really opened my eyes,” she said.  “The more I read, the more I realized, ‘I could do that,’ and ‘I could do that.’ “

It wasn’t an easy thing to recognize, though.

“My mom was evangelical, and she kicked me out of her house when I was in high school,” Rivera said.  “I lived in my car for two years.”

Today, Rivera has a home in Orlando, where she reads people’s fortunes.

“It’s something I’ve been doing for 21 years,” she said.  “I use my crystal ball, or I have my set of Tarot cards, although a good reader doesn’t need anything.”

She has no bitter feelings about her past, calling it “life lessons. I’m self-sufficient now.”

She’s also ready to help others, including couples who want to improve their relationship.  That’s why Rivera attended the EroticBliss Party, held on Saturday at the Blissful Lotis boutique in downtown Orlando, where she told the fortunes of couples and individuals who wanted to know where their romantic life was headed.

“This is about generating intimacy between couples and keeping them alive,” Rivera said.  “You don’t have to fall into the doldrums of romance.”

Blissful Lotus, she said, is the ideal place for a celebration like this one.

“One of the things that keeps me coming back here is it’s a very positive environment,” Rivera said.  “In terms of single women, it helps them with their confidence levels.  It’s been very transformative for them.”

The EroticBliss Party was something else: an artistic night, and a celebration not just of erotica, but erotica as art.

“This is a great way to start your Saturday night,” said Sean Ramsay, who operates the Blissful Lotus boutique along with his wife, Stacey Murphy. “This event goes from 8 o’clock to 11, and every couple of months we do this.”

The Blissful Lotus boutique hosts EroticBliss Parties that celebrate sensual art.

By 8:30 that night, the erotic boutique on Orange Avenue had attracted a large crowd of people who were there to drink wine, get their fortunes read, learn about Henna art, and check out the paintings on the wall by Orlando artist Tina Foote – a crowd that Murphy said exceeded their initial expectations.

“These events have been going really, really well,” she said.  “In October when we did this, we put a table outside because the crowd was overflowing.”

It was also a happy event for Foote, who said it gave her an opportunity to present her work to a larger audience.

“Right now I’m working mostly in pastel, and getting into oil paintings as well,” Foote said.  “All the paintings are sensual women, in emotional situations.  Some of them are erotic, and touch on erotic situations.”

But they’re not intended, Foote said, simply for shock value or to be controversial, but for self-reflection.

”For me, they are extremely therapeutic,” she said. “There’s a lot of bondage. It kind of reflects the limitations put on us, or that we put on ourselves. Most of the paintings have a lot of emotion behind them, sadness and fear. There are stories behind all of them.”

Foote was raised in Upstate New York, and moved to Orlando in 1997. She now has a studio in her home, and has shown her work at galleries in Tampa and Atlanta.

“I’ve been painting women since I was 14,” she said. “By painting women, I’m wanting to create more of a story.  Most of them are more emotion than erotic – but they always seem to lead into being erotic by nature.”

Her artwork, she added, is also a passion for her.

“I can’t live without it,” she said.  “I can’t breathe without it.  I have to get my thoughts and feelings out.”

It’s also, Murphy said, about countering galleries that prejudge art like this as being crude or offensive — and forget there are other people who disagree.  Blissful Lotus wants to be a forum for artists who often can’t get their works shown in more traditional galleries for censorship reasons.

“Our goal is to host artists who have very sensual and erotic art,” Murphy said, “and it’s been very popular. What’s unfortunate, though, with sensual and erotic art is there are some galleries that will not show it. Many of the artists want to have a place for shows, but don’t.”

To learn more, call the boutique at 407-704-3357, or log on to www.theBlissfulLotus.Blogspot.com. The shop is at 1810 N. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando.

To get a Tarot card reading from Rivera, call her at 407-435-3767.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Tea Party Chair recalls the hate speech she endured during her own campaign.

ORLANDO – One of the first things that Peg Dunmire thought of when she heard about the tragic shootings in Tucscon, Arizona that critically injured a local congresswoman was the final day of her own campaign for Congress last November. On that single day, Dunmire and her staff and supporters watched uncomfortably as four men followed them from one event to the next.

It was election day, and Dunmire — the Florida Tea Party’s candidate for the state’s 8th Congressional District — had posted her campaign schedule on her Web site that morning.

The tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona prompted Peg Dunmire to recall the eerie events on the final day of her congressional race last November, when four men followed her to several campaign events.

As she and her staff traveled from one event to the next, they noticed the same four men following her everywhere they went.

“They got my schedule because I had released it that morning, where I was going to be on Election Day,” Dunmire said.  “They went to all my events.”

Finally, the staff got nervous enough that they contacted police. An officer approached one of the men to find out why he was following the candidate.

“You know what they said?” Dunmire recalled.  “They said, ‘Because she’s not a legitimate candidate.’ I think elections decide that.”

Saturday’s shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others at a supermarket parking lot in Tucson has set off a national debate about anger, violence and heated political rhetoric in American politics.

It’s not yet clear if the man arrested for the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, had any clear political motive, but the case has put a spotlight on the issue of inflammatory political language, and spurred a number of lawmakers to question how they can protect themselves at public events — with a few promising they’ll carry weapons themselves from now on.

Another lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Carolyn  McCarthy, D-N.Y.,  announced she would introduce legislation aimed at banning the high-capacity ammunition clip used by the gunman in the Tucson shootings. McCarthy won a seat in Congress in 1996, three years after her husband was shot and killed, and her son seriously injured, during a shooting on a Long Island commuter train.

Dunmire, the chairman of the Florida Tea Party, said she understands how ugly campaign speech can get, noting that the stalkers who followed her on election day were symptomatic of anyone who disagreed with her views or platform, and responded as if her candidacy posed a threat.

“I ended up being subjected to the rhetoric of hate,” Dunmire said.  “It happened to me here. We need to understand this hostility is pervasive.”

On the day she got stalked, she recalled, “I wasn’t intimidated, but a lot of the people around me were.  Perhaps it should have been a little more intimidating when I think about what happened to Representative Giffords, because my sons repeatedly warned me that there are a lot of crazies out there.”

Still, Dunmire said the solution isn’t to push for new laws, including new gun control measures similar to the legislation Rep. McCarthy has proposed, or a suggestion by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., on CNN that he’d draft a bill making it a crime to use words or images that looked violent or threatening to public officials.

“My concern is the opportunists will use this (assassination attempt) as a justification for taking away more of our freedoms, and clamping down on freedom of speech,” Dunmire said.

Candidates and incumbent lawmakers can’t turn every political event into a heavily armed, screened and guarded fortress, Dunmire said.

“Does this mean TSA-type body searches in order to just see your congressman?” she asked.  “This is what we don’t want to happen. The role of the government is to secure our rights.  The role of the government is not to make us safe.”

Dunmire ran for the seat then held by Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson. Both candidates lost to the Republican nominee, Dan Webster.

On Monday, Grayson issued a statement about his friendship with Giffords, who had served with him on the House Committee on Science and Technology.

“I’m going to let others comment on what this means for America,” Grayson said of the shootings.  “I just want to say what it means to me.”

He noted that Giffords’ D.C. office was one floor above his, and “I saw Gabby dozens, if not hundreds of times, during our two years together.  And nearly every time that I can remember, she was smiling.  Gabby is one of the most cheerful, charming and engaging people I have ever known.  She’s always looking on the bright side.  She has something good to say about pretty much everyone.  Bad news never lays a glove on her.  She loves life, and all the people in it.  No matter what is going on in your life, after fifteen minutes with Gabby, you’ll feel that you can touch the stars.”

Grayson noted that like himself, fellow Democrat Giffords faced a tough re-election battle, although she narrowly won.

“I always thought that if each of her constituents could spend that fifteen minutes with her, and see what she is really like, then she would win with 99.9% of the vote,” Grayson wrote.  “You would want her as your congressman, because you would want her as your friend.  I know nothing about the man who shot Gabby, and what was going through his mind when he did this.  But I will tell you this – if he shot Gabby out of hatred, then it wasn’t Gabby he was shooting, but rather some cartoon version of her, drawn by her political opposition.  Because there is no way – no way – that anyone who really knows Gabby could hate her or hurt her. She is a kind, gentle soul.”

He added, “My heart goes out to Mark Kelly, Gabby’s husband, and the many, many people who love her.  Gabby, we don’t want to lose you.  Please stay here with us.”

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Disney Historian Jim Korkis recalls Disney anecdotes, including the 1952 presidential campaign.

ORLANDO – When Jim Korkis was a teenager, he’d already become a huge fan of Walt Disney, his movies and legendary characters.

But one thing Korkis did that a lot of other kids his age weren’t doing was reaching out to the people who created all that Disney magic.  While watching “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” TV show in the 1950s, Korkis used to write down the names on the credits at the end of the program. And then he went a step further.

Jim Korkis talks about his book "The Vault of Walt" at the Orange County Public Library in downtown Orlando.

Living at the time in California, “I would look them up in the Burbank phone book,” Korkis said.  “I would phone these guys up.”

Then he’d ask if they were available to explain how they came to work for Walt Disney and made all those wonderful animated pictures.

And it worked.

“Eighty percent of them were really nice,” Korkis recalled.  “About 20 percent thought their friends had put me up to it.”

He scored a big coup when he managed to convince Disney legend Jack Hanna to sit down for an interview.

“The very first animator I interviewed was Jack Hannah, who was the director of a lot of Donald Duck cartoons,” he said.  “I was 14 years old.”

Today, Korkis lives in Orlando and spent more than a decade working as a cast member at World Disney World.  He’s also the author of “The Vault of Walt,” a book available through Amazon.com, which as he noted recounts a lot of anecdotes and stories about Walt Disney that simply haven’t made it into earlier biographies.

On Saturday, Korkis talked about his book, Disney history, and the public’s ongoing love of everything related to the Disney name at the Orange County Public Library in downtown Orlando.

“I have a huge collection of Disney books,” he told the packed crowd.  “Do we really need another Disney book?”

Korkis noted that he has more than a dozen Disney biographies in his own collection – but he felt compelled to write another one because he’s collected so many stories over the years from Disney animators, employees and cast members that he had a treasure trove of great ones to share.  He even divided the book into four sections – on Walt Disney himself, the theme parks, the movies, and then miscellaneous stories – and still felt like he had enough left over for a second book, which he’s working on now.

“These are stories that are fascinating,” he said.  “I had so many stories that I couldn’t put them all in one book.” 

Jim Korkis' book "The Vault of Walt" covers all aspects of Walt Disney -- the man, the movies, and the theme parks.

As part of his presentation, Korkis brought along videos of some of the early pioneering television commercials that Disney animators worked on – such as Tinkerbell introducing Peter Pan Peanut Butter that spreads so gently on bread, “and even on crispy potato chips.”

Or Br’er Rabbit from the movie “Song of the South” hiding in an American Motors Rambler, a car that offered the perfect escape from Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear, during both a heavy snowstorm and a hot summer day, because the auto had all season air conditioning.

“It’s the lowest price air conditioning system in America,” the narrator claims.

“Aren’t these charming?” Korkis said.  “And the Disney company has no copies of them.”

Many of these commercials were given to Korkis by the animators he interviewed over the years.

“I met an awful lot of these people, and some of the commercials came from their personal libraries,” he said.

The commercials didn’t just sell products like cars and peanut butter, but also politicians.  The 1952 presidential election was between Republican Dwight Eisenhower and Democrat Adlai Stevenson, and as Korkis noted, Walt Disney and his brother Roy were staunch conservatives who were eager to help Eisenhower win.  Since the Republican Party had come up with a phrase, “I Like Ike,” the Disney animators put that into a commercial, which included a jingle.

The animation shows a patriotic-looking parade of Eisenhower supporters singing “You like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike,” and midway through, Stevenson is seen riding the other way on a donkey, while the crowd sings, “And Adlai goes the other way.”

“This commercial would run sometimes over 100 times a day for two weeks,” Korkis said.  “And of course, Dwight Eisenhower won.”

It’s anecdotes like this, he said, that should not only be preserved in books like “The Vault of Walt,” but also shared with others.

“We’ve got to get these stories out there and write them down,” he said. “If you don’t tell people that story, they can’t share that story and communicate it with others.  If you don’t tell people, they won’t know.”

Korkis is known by many Disney fans as a Disney historian – a term he felt compelled to define.

“One of the questions I often get asked is what the heck is a Disney historian,” he asked. “It doesn’t help you get a date!”

Korkis said it’s similar to a library’s archivist – someone who gathers material, then catalogs and preserves it.

“What a Disney historian does is take that material and connect the dots,” he said.  “Stories are how we structure information and transfer information.”

He found, as he went to work at Disney, that the stories just kept coming – more and more of them all the time.

“I started to realize the more I was talking to Disney cast members, a lot of these stories had gotten lost,” he said.  “A lot of this stuff never got documented.”

Until now.

To order a copy of Korkis’ book online, visit http://www.amazon.com/Vault-Walt-Jim-Korkis/dp/.

 Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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