James Franco Fours Hours Late to O, Miami Event

Categories: Books, Culture
Photo by Robert Campbell of Beached Miami
With Franco delayed, thank goodness for Tony.
Last night, the New World Center was packed, more girls than boys, a younger vibe than older, not a lot of color, but a great mix of couture. This was a big night. Everyone needed to look dapper. Put on your best threads, those new shoes, that pretty party dress, girl--James Franco's in-the-hiz-house. Well, sort of.

The event, Poetry and Persona, was part of O, Miami, a month-long poetry festival, which has been successfully inundating Miami with literary arts all through April. Last night's event featured James Franco reading poetry along with his teacher and mentor, Tony Hoagland, while moderated by Campbell McGrath, a local king of prose.

The problem: James Franco missed the event. O' WELL. Yes. James Franco missed the event, sort of, but we'll get to that in a bit. The show must go on, and indeed it did.

Dave Landsberger opened up the night, as if there is such a thing as an opening act at a poetry reading, but apparently there is in the surreal world of O, Miami. Landsberger, a capable and playful Chicago based poet (also former scribbler for Miami New Times), delighted the crowd with a few charming poems, setting the tone for what would be a special night.

As Landsberger exited, the dashing P. Scott Cunningham walked onto the stage, which was occupied by three empty chairs. Cunningham, the face of O, Miami, the virtual master-mind, along with Pete Borrebach, behind all of which is O, Miami, began to explain the aesthetics and mission statement of the month-long poetry festival.

In a charming and concise manner, Cunningham thanked the numerous partners and arts groups that helped bring O, Miami to fruition. He joked about the name of the festival, sharing some of the ideas they kicked around. Ink /Jet. The Condo Poetry Festival. Ultra South. New Craft. Our favorite: Verse City. And perhaps the funniest: The Foot Festival.


Around this time we had heard Franco wasn't in the building. Cunningham smoothly admitted it. He could have stalled, kept us in suspense, but to his credit he didn't. He explained the problem with Franco's plane, complications due to the president's visit, and the weather, but Franco was on the way. No biggie.

Campbell McGrath and Tony Hoagland, undeniably two of the best contemporary poets in the country, came out and occupied two of the three chairs on stage. One chair, one lonely chair with a seat cushion promised the best ass that would ever sit in it, would get its heart broken. C'est la vei, as the French would say. "Who cares," someone whispered in the mezzanine.

Indeed, for Campbell McGrath and Tony Hoagland were in the house. Some would say, if you cut through the glare of fame, this night was not about James Franco, it was about the professional poets, not the amateur.

And so Campbell McGrath stepped up and introduced Tony Hoagland as "a unique mix of compassion and confrontation." To which he is...


One could form an exploratory committee into the nature of Tony Hoagland. He's so simple, yet complicated. He's a curious sage. An honest politician. A teacher that's a student. He's peacefully tormented. A hater filled with love. Wounded, but charming. An introverted extrovert. A writer's writer's writer. He's arguably the best poet in the country. No big deal though, really. No one anywhere is that big of a deal, except the president. And the night went on. Tony stepped up, dressed in black on black, and read for a good 30 minutes.

He read from "Dickhead":

To whomever taught me the word dickhead,

I owe a debt of thanks.
It gave me a way of being in the world of men
when I most needed one, 

He read from "Poor Britney Spears":

Oh my adorable little monkey, prancing for your candy;
With one of my voices I shout, Jump, Jump, you little whore!
He read and read and no one was disappointed.

"Should I read the race poem, or the sex poem?" he asked.

"Both," the crowd responded.

"I'm not reading the sex poem."

There is hardly a more honest, straightforward, accessible, empirical writer than Tony Hoagland. However, as far as observational writers go, there is one just as good, maybe better, and his name is Campbell McGrath.


Creative writers are taught to follow their mistakes. As it became apparent Franco was not in the building, Campbell McGrath took it upon himself to improvise. Trying to buy some time, he capably read from his own work. He read "Lincoln Road" and "The Leatherback," two observational poems about Miami. He triumphantly read from "Shannon: A Poem of the Lewis and Clark Expedition." Tony Hoagland, and this was worth the price of admission, looked absolutely enamored watching Campbell read.

But alas, the bad news. O, Miami co-creator Pete Borrebach took it upon himself to come on stage and break the story: James Franco's plane, due to Obama being in town and weather, was detoured to Orlando, and it didn't look good. He might Skype the reading in. He might make it down to sign books. No one knew. Just hang tight.

Of course many people immediately walked out upon that news. But many didn't. In fact a couple of hundred people hung around when everyone learned Franco would make it down, just to sign books, not to read.


With all due respect to Mr. Franco, and this is fair criticism, if he didn't have his paws in 50 different pots, things like this wouldn't happen. Tony Hoagland flew in the day before. Franco was flying in at five o'clock, on a commercial plane, friday night, rush hour, a day the president was in town, the start of rainy season.

This was supposed to be an intimate night with one of the most celebrated, hard-working, interesting figures of his generation. This was a chance to perhaps deconstruct the mystery, perhaps view the dark side of the moon. And that was taken away. O' Snap. Shit happens.

To his credit, Franco showed up, he didn't have to, not flying in on some Spider-Man Green Goblin doohickey, not spiraling down from the chandelier as some pre-teens actually were looking for, seriously. He showed up tired, about four hours late, a little disheveled.

TwitPics by @ItsJustDouglas and @JamesFrancoPer
Four hours late, Franco signs books and gives out comic strips at New World Center.
He signed his short story collection Palo Alto. He gave out an autographed comic strip he created. It was cool. It had a McSweeny's vibe and made for a neat souvenir. Don't get us wrong, James Franco is definitely cool. It is impossible not to respect his ambition and reach and talent. Nothing but love for the dude.

The 200 or so people who hung around were absolutely happy. In fact, if one could've harnessed the giggles of some of these pre-teen girls, they could've powered the city grid for a day. The whole night is probably best summed up by an innocent anonymous 15-year-old girl walking out the door. "Ok, like, oh-my-god," she said, after getting her book signed. "That was like the best two seconds of my life."

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Location Info


New World Center

500 17th St., Miami Beach, FL

Category: Music

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Kristina Holland
Kristina Holland

He seems like a sweet guy and he might have had a lot going on the day before... I doubt anyone has a copy of his schedule. Aside from him being a person and not just a "famous" guy, he was doing this event for the love of art and not for any other purpose... Give an overwhelmed fella a break :)


O'Miami's James Franco event failed and absolutely scarred an otherwise successful inaugural festival. There, someone said it. You can't promote that night as a triumph. It was stressful, and in many ways a failure, not a hiccup, not high drama, a failure.


he was sad he missed it. he didn't need this bummer. he needed a pick-me-up!


Franco is a cool down-to-earth guy who is on his game. He defines hustle and grind. He is not only a well-respected actor, he is also in school with many projects going on. The only reason he flew in late is because he has shit to do, excuse my French. The point is better late than never, he showed up and that’s what counts. Fans got to see him, and get some signed copies of his book, which is really good. Although he ran late the night wasn’t just about him, and if you didn’t want to wait to see him no one was stopping you. All in all James Franco is a cool guy who shouldn’t be “hated” on. I’ve had the privilege of meeting him, and I must say he is a cool guy who many people can learn a thing or two from.


it wasn't Franco's fault, he showed up, didn't have to. The poetry festival did awesome things. Poetry is awesome. Promoting poetry is awesome. That night was awesome!


Also, he wouldn't sign at all if you didn't cough up money for his book. So exactly who ended up benefiting from this farce? He frowned throughout most of the signing, was indifferent to most of the fans and appeared to despise being there.


you're an idiot. he's over-reaching. if he wants to be taken serious as a writer and poet and scholar, you don't leave 500 people who paid $30 waiting four hours, tarnishing the integrity of an awesome festival's grand prize night.


That night was not awesome. For most, the O' Miami event that stood out from the very beginning was James Franco. And it wasn't about him simply showing up to sign autographs and then snapping a picture with the boys for the Knight foundation blog and their grant board. The night was supposed to be about one of the most celebrated figures of this generation sharing the stage with his teacher, reading poetry for the first time ever in a public forum, bringing poetry to the people. Not executing that is a failure. Almost every other O' Miami poetry event, in many ways, simply preached to their own choir...


he was stuck on a non moving plane for hours...he wasn't at a party. He was exhausted. but did those people in line care about that? he had to be the showman so he did it. couldn't have been easy. I'm sure while he was on the plane he was reading all the negative comments about him being late.

I am sure he did not have Obama's itenerary!


"With all due respect to Mr. Franco, and this is fair criticism, if he didn't have his paws in fifty different pots, things like this wouldn't happen. Tony Hoagland flew in the day before. Franco was flying in at five o'clock, on a commercial plane, friday night, rush hour, a day the president was in town, the start of rainy season."

He was irresponsible. If you showed up four hours late to your workplace and then behaved as if you were irritated at having to fulfill your job commitment you would most likely not last at said job. Many people paid money (though I'm sure Mr. Franco would have no concept of how $20--$30 would be a sacrifice) predominately because they wanted to hear a hollywood celebrity read his work during the festival, perhaps get a picture or an autograph, maybe a smile. Apparently we must now feel sorry for this poor unfortunate billionaire who goes wherever he wants, when he wants and excuses any rude or inept (read Oscar performance) behavior because he is "exhausted". Pardon me while I don't hold the same empathy for this arrogant schmuck.

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