"There's just no Plan B. It was gonna be this or nothing," recalls O'Keefe. "Or maybe a sign painter."
Then, two years ago, the Trib announced its first round of layoffs. O'Keefe's talents became a luxury item. In the blink of an eye, this middle-aged father of four with a penchant for elasticizing reality found himself in the midst of his own horrid cliche, a regular Wile E. Coyote in mid-air atop a fizzled Acme rocket.
The most ostentatious show of faith is O'Keefe's "The Godfather," the studio's visual centerpiece featuring the major goons and brains behind the Corleone family. Sticker price: $90,000.
But Curtiss says the real magnet will likely be the more accessible inventory. O'Keefe's artwork has been transferred onto puzzles, T-shirts, and even Studio wine labels. "The Godfather," for instance, is pasted on bottles of "Horse Head Red."
"There isn't a person who comes in that doesn't leave with a smile," says Curtiss. "We want them to be able to take something home."
Meanwhile, back in Brandon, far from the business he admits to knowing zilch about, O'Keefe looks like a goofy character emerging from one of his own paintings.
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