People and places that define Orlando
Left: Rick Warren and Chris Casler, who started the Florida Crusaders with the hope of producing a reality TV series. Right, top and bottom: Players on the Florida Crusaders.
Photos By Norma Lopez Molina
Hoping to Score on TV
Two filmmakers start a semi-pro football team with the intention of making it the subject of a reality TV show. By Dave Seanor
You never know what you might find on craigslist.
Just ask Orlando filmmakers Chris Casler and Rick Warren, who used the online advertising service to recruit players for their minor-league professional football team, the Florida Crusaders. The resulting 50-man roster includes a 36-year-old running back who credits football with helping him survive the Anacostia ghetto of Washington, D.C.; the coach’s son, who served four years in prison for drug trafficking; a guy who got shot six times in a bungled drug deal and now aspires to be a doctor; and a Haitian immigrant. Oh, yeah, don’t forget the ex-Marine who’s a male stripper turned stand-up comic.
While they may not have attracted the attention of college recruiters and NFL scouts, these more colorful Crusaders pretty much fit the profile sought by Casler and Warren. They formed the team, which practices in Winter Park and Lakeland, with the sole intent of creating a reality
Warren, 58, hatched the idea after producing several reality features for Spike TV. That genre of television revolves around conflict, and even a self-proclaimed football know-nothing like Warren recognized the game as a caldron of hostility. He enlisted the help of Casler, 61, a photographer and collaborator with Warren on a handful of independent film projects.
Their unfamiliarity with football makes this duo the unlikeliest of team owners. Neither one played as a kid. Neither one had attended a game until the Crusaders played an exhibition in January.
“Rick bought me a copy of Football for Dummies for my birthday,” says Casler. “It’s been very helpful.”
They have been filming the tentatively titled Second Chance Football at practice sessions as well as players’ homes and workplaces (including dawn-stakeout locations for day labor). In early February, a demo tape was screened at a gathering of potential buyers in New York. A licensing agreement for five episodes would provide enough capital to move the project forward, says Casler.
He and Warren believe the trials, tribulations and aspirations of their players, who each paid $250 to join the team, will have even more appeal than those of the characters in such popular reality programs as Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch.
“We’ve got football. A lot more people are interested in football than mackerel fishing,” says Warren, taking aim at Deadliest Catch, though that show’s about catching Alaskan crab.
Meanwhile, there are games to be played—the Crusaders are in the Southeast Football League, composed of 20 Florida teams, ranging from the Osceola Rattlers to the Pompano Beach Yellowtails. Yet as of early February the Crusaders were without a home field. Winter Park rejected their bid to play at Showalter Field.
“We’re Winter Park’s dirty little secret,” says Warren.
If the secret gets out as a reality TV show, Winter Park might have missed the chance to become the next Jersey Shore.
Tempest in a C-Cup
A bra art show at CityArts won’t be as revealing as its organizer once imagined. By Jay Boyar
The idea was simple: to hold a student art show, called Boob-alicious, in which much of the art would be decorated bras.
On opening night, some of those brassieres would be worn by students, who’d have nothing else on above the waist. And just for good measure, there also would be people covered with body paint and little else.
These plans were “a marketing move,” says M.C. Santana, interim director of UCF’s Women’s Studies Program. “We wanted it to be really mainstream”–that is, attention-getting as opposed to academic. She was hoping to raise awareness about breast cancer, while encouraging self-expression and “empowerment.”
Then came the, ah, tweaks.
Santana herself had second thoughts about the show’s provocative title, ultimately opting for something more demure: Pink Art. Then downtown Orlando’s CityArts Factory, where the exhibit will be held, nixed any body-painting plans involving nude models.
“We have a lot of children, actually, that are starting to come to our 3rd Thursday [Gallery Hop] event,” says Shanon Michael Larimer, executive director of CityArts Factory and the Downtown Arts District, referring to a program that will coincide with the show’s opening night. “So we just are really cautious…about nudes.”
And somewhere along the line, it was decided that the bra models would have to wear clothing under their support garments.
“The bras nowadays are really low-cut, and we didn’t want it to be about the breasts,” says Santana. “We wanted it to be about the art.”
Except that, actually, it is about the breasts—specifically, breast cancer awareness.
But, hey, it still sounds like a fun show. And at least no one’s burning those bras. Plus, admission is free and the show is for a good cause: All proceeds from the sale of the art will be shared by the school’s women’s studies scholarship fund and the Keep a Breast Foundation.
Opening night is March 18, from 6 to 9 p.m, and the show runs through April 10. For further information, visit womensstudies.cah.ucf.edu or cityartsfactory.com.
Back to School
Candice Accola, a Lake Highland grad, plays a catty high schooler on The Vampire Diaries. By Jay Boyar
When Candice Accola is performing in a scene on The Vampire Diaries—playing high-school student Caroline Forbes—she often thinks about Orlando.
Specifically, the 22-year-old actress thinks back to the days when she was a real-life high-school student at Lake Highland Preparatory School. In fact, she says that reflecting on “the dynamics of the girls” in her old classes helps her to figure out how to play her mean-girl character on the CW television series.
“In every high school there’s going to be cliques,” Accola explains during a recent visit home from Atlanta. “Some people are a little more snarky than others. They say one thing to your face and then another thing behind your back. I’ve definitely had experiences with those kinds of girls, and now I’m playing one.”
Accola is the very picture of all-American girlhood. Shiny blonde hair. Big, sincere eyes. Gentle, Suzy Creamcheese smile. Dressed in a soft pink jacket, pencil-thin jeans and stylish gray boots, the articulate actress looks more like a popular cheerleader on a shopping expedition than the catty outsider she plays on TV.
Accola grew up in Edgewood, south of Orlando. Her parents and teenage brother live on Lake Jessamine; her father, Dr. Kevin Accola, is a top cardio-vascular and thoracic surgeon in Orlando.
At Lake Highland, Candice played Daisy Mae in a middle-school production of Li’l Abner. But her focus in those days was more on music than acting.
“When I was 8 or 9 years old, I came home and told my mom that I was starting a girl group and that we were going to be the next Spice Girls,” she recalls in a voice that’s both girlish and precise. That group, called Girl Zone, sang at retirement communities and holiday parties.
In her early teens, Accola found an agent in California. Then, in the middle of her junior year at Lake Highland, she moved to Los Angeles. Six months later she had a deal for a CD called It’s Always the Innocent Ones. (She finished high school through correspondence and graduated with her class in 2005.)
That CD led to touring as a backup singer with Miley Cyrus and to roles in such films as Juno and on such shows as How I Met Your Mother. When she snagged one of the leads in The Vampire Diaries, which is in its first season, she moved to Atlanta, where the series is based.
Her character on the show is not a vampire and, in fact, doesn’t even know that vampires inhabit her town. That, among other things, may change.
“What’s exciting about Caroline is that there’s so much room for her to grow,” Accola says. “And there’s room for me to grow with her.”
The Real Things
For Orlando’s Ray Kilinski, collecting authentic Coca-Cola memorabilia provides the pause that refreshes. By Jay Boyar
Some people collect baseball cards. Others save stamps, coins or comic books.
For Ray Kilinski, Coke is it. Or, rather, Coke memorabilia.
Since the early 1970s—when he stumbled upon a stack of decorative Coca-Cola serving trays from the ‘50s in an old, abandoned barn—the 55-year-old Orlando graphic designer has been hoarding all manner of Coke-related flotsam and jetsam.
He now owns more than 1,000 items, most from 1960 or earlier. Many are lovingly displayed in a Coke-themed room of the home he shares with his wife, while others adorn a backyard deck area.
Relaxing at home over mini-cans of Coke Zero (carefully placed on Coke cocktail napkins), Kilinski reflects on his life as a collector. Asked why he was so attracted to those trays in the first place, this gentle giant of a man gets a faraway look in his eyes.
“I liked how they looked,” he says, as if recalling his first glimpse of a rare bird or a Mondrian. “They were colorful.” Beyond that, the trays, like most of the items he collects, were used in advertising, his chosen field. He’s also fascinated by the historical aspects of these items.
“I’m always wondering who leaned against my [vintage] Coke machine,” he says.
Kilinski is a proud member of the nonprofit Coca-Cola Collectors Club (cocacolaclub.org), which boasts about 4,000 members nationally. His collection includes such varied Coke-abilia as playing cards, clocks, straws, menus, pencils, a calendar, a paperweight, a popcorn bucket, a record featuring Eddie Fisher (star of Coke Time on radio and TV) and a paper cup from the 1964 World’s Fair depicting the Coca-Cola Pavilion.
• A fully functioning vending machine from the 1950s that Kilinski bought about 20 years ago for $1,200 and now estimates would cost $5,000, “if you can find one.”
• A syrup keg from the early 1900s with a label that reads “cocaine removed.” (Early Coca-Cola contained cocaine.)
• A cigarette lighter. Kilinski says many like it “were given out to salesmen who sold the most Coke to their stores.”
• A pair of drawstring bellbottoms from the early 1970s, styled in a bold checkerboard pattern. Red squares featuring “Enjoy Cola-Cola” in white letters alternate with white squares emblazoned with “It’s the Real Thing!” in black letters.
Also in Ray Kiliniski’s collection is a battered, bright-yellow Coke toy truck, given to him by his parents when he was a boy.
“I wasn’t a Coke collector then,” he muses. “Maybe it was meant to be.”