Tara Hartman, a junior majoring in criminology, blew off class and work Monday for a chance to fulfill her childhood dream.
At 11:30 a.m., she and her friends lined up outside the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Ballroom for the 8 p.m. lecture featuring the final University Lecture Series speaker of the semester: actor Kevin Bacon.
“This is my childhood dream come true to see Kevin Bacon,” Hartman said. “I am a dancer, so I have always wanted to be just like him. I wanted to take an opportunity to possibly get a chance to learn from his life experiences.”
When Bacon took to the stage Tuesday, he immediately won over the ballroom with a simple “Go Bulls” before throwing up the horns. He spoke about his charity, perseverance and the challenges he faced during his over 36 years in acting.
While the Center for Student Involvement set up 900 chairs in the MSC Ballroom, it was clear that the packed room was comprised of more than just USF students.
Fans came from all over, some were even dressing up for the occasion.
Bryce McVay, 27, a University of Central Florida graduate who bears a resemblance to Bacon, attended in the maroon tuxedo worn by the actor in the infamous dance scene in “Footloose.”
Though McVay is a fan of Bacon and his films, he was more interested in hearing Bacon speak on his philanthropy, SixDegrees.org.
After a family member was diagnosed with cancer and a friend lost a battle with addiction, Bacon said he began searching for more to life and looking for a way to give back.
Inspired by opening his refrigerator and seeing Paul Newman’s face on a jar of sauce, Bacon said he realized he could use his celebrity status to give back, creating a charity similar to Newman’s.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do with it,” he said. “I just knew I wanted to start something. After talking to several people, I realized I wanted to connect celebrities to people who wanted to do good.”
The philanthropy took its name from the popular game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” that attempts to connect the world to the actor within six links.
When Bacon first heard of the game, he said he was almost offended and thought the fans who played along must have thought it impossible for such a lowly actor to be connected to well established actors such as Lawrence Olivier in six degrees or less.
But the idea behind the concept, he said, was what drives humanity: being connected to other people.
“Before we had an idea of connectivity, before Twitter and Facebook, we always had a sense of being connected,” he said. “That’s what we do. We connect to each other. Some may say these devices separate us, when really they connect us.”
In 2007, Bacon created SixDegrees.org, an organization that connects celebrities to small grassroot charities, in an effort to spread awareness and create a bigger connection to the community.
“There are people who are working in their communities and they’re hands on,” he said. “Those are the kinds of charities we’re interested in.”
Bacon said he encourages celebrities to take the time to check out the local charities in any area they may stop in to help shed light.
On his visit to Tampa, he said the moment he stepped off the plane, he visited the Tampa charity, “Give Day Tampa Bay,” a one-day online giving challenge, led by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the Florida Next Foundation to raise support for local nonprofits and grow philanthropy in the region.
During his lecture, Bacon stuck to discussing his philanthropy, but during a Q-and-A session, he addressed what he is best known for – acting.
Bacon said his beginning was a humble one and his story was as cliche as they come: He went to New York with a suitcase and a dream.
“The reason I became an actor was so that I could walk in another person’s shoes,” he said. “Being myself was never interesting to me. I wanted to lose myself in this other guy’s skin. Acting gives me a chance to empathize with a lot of people’s lives.”
Bacon said he doesn’t watch a lot of his movies over and over again, only once or twice so he doesn’t remember the lines and movie moments like many of his fans do. Instead, he said he remembers the real moments in his life that happened while creating them.
“When I think back at filming ‘Tremors,’ I do not think about the big worm underground,” he said. “I think of my wife being nine months pregnant and the birth of my daughter.”
One thing that has changed since he first began his career, he said, is his humility and finding the ability to put aside his ego and look for parts that are complex and offer more than screen time.
“I don’t want to always be the guy who only takes a job based on what it can do for my career,” he said. “I decided to take out of the equation the size of the part or the size of the budget offered and just look at the character and the purpose. I kind of hate to say this, but if they don’t have the money, but the part is what I am looking for, I will still do it.”