Local Celebrities Line Up For Petty Premiere
By Alice Wallace
Gainesville Sun - Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The red carpet was nowhere to be seen, the celebrities wore V-necks rather than Versace, and yet the Gainesville premiere of the Peter Bogdanovich documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers still had an air of excitement as a couple hundred fans turned out for the four-hour film.
"I think people are really enthusiastic," said Mary Klauser, a representative with Petty's management company as she passed out tickets at the Royal Park theater.
The film, called "Runnin' Down a Dream," had already been premiered in Los Angeles on Aug. 2, and it capped the New York Film Festival Sunday night to a sold-out crowd.
But Monday was the first time any general audiences had seen the film, and it was scheduled to be debuted in 27 cities across the country.
But Gainesville was the only city in Florida to premiere the film, and it was the only city in the country to have a two-night run.
Among the local celebrities who attended Monday's premiere were Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, who is Petty's cousin; Petty's brother Bruce Petty; keyboardist Benmont Tench's sister Rachel Tench; cousin Arvid Olson; and Randall Marsh, who originally played with Petty in their Gainesville band Mudcrutch.
Marsh, who has spent many years in California but just recently moved to his hometown Bushnell, said he saw the movie in its rough form in L.A.
He said he can't imagine anyone doing a better job on a film about an American band than Bogdanovich has done with the Heartbreakers' story.
"He really nailed it," Randall said. "I was very impressed with it. It's a great film on many levels."
Marsh also talked about the fact that Petty as recently reunited the band Mudcrutch, which was the band Petty was involved in before heading to L.A. Marsh said he and Petty, along with the old members that include Gainesville native Tom Leadon, sat down over the past several months and recorded a new album that will probably be released early next year.
"Tom just felt like the time was right," he said, saying it was great to get together with the old band and "just start playing."
Rachel Tench gushed about the Heartbreakers as she arrived at the Royal Park theater Monday, saying she couldn't be prouder of them, and her brother Benmont.
She said she hadn't actually seen the movie before Monday, but she did spend much of the summer compiling old family photographs with Benmont at her home, which is the same house that she and her brother grew up in, and where Mudcrutch did a lot of its early recording. "So I hope I made a small contribution," she said with a smile.
Longtime friend of Petty's Keith Harben arrived at the theater carrying old photos of him and Tom growing up in Gainesville.
That black and white photos depicted the skinny, blond Petty posing with his friends, one of them featuring the cursive signature of "Tommy Petty" on the back.
"I was there the day he came home after seeing Elvis," he said. "I traded him some Elvis records, and from then on, he focused on music."
Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan arrived at the theater with her husband, Tony Malone, and said she can't help but be a huge Petty fan since she grew up in Gainesville.
"I've been a Tom Petty fan forever," she said.
"There's nothing that says Gainesville more than Tom Petty."