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Best of 2013: Sunday Favorites: Diamonds and Dirty Movies

Published Saturday, December 28, 2013 12:07 am
The product of a patriarch: my grandfather's dirty film.

PALMETTO -- I’ve never met my grandpas, but, then again, I haven’t met a lot of people that I’ve written about in this column. I’ve always felt a connection to history. But, somewhere along the way, I never stopped to look at my own family’s journey.


After I eventually took the time to do so, I realized I hardly know anything. But, on my 30th birthday, I was given two gifts that put me directly in touch with some of the details of my own heritage and helped me to feel closer to the things that, until recently, I didn’t know were important.


Two gifts: a diamond solitaire that was once set in a ring worn by my grandfather on my mother’s side, Ben Sutton. The other, two low budget movies that could best be described as softcore pornography that were directed by my grandfather on my dad's side, Bob Favorite.


These gifts, while wildly different, share not only an obvious link, but they came to me at a time in my life, when I’ve started to think about what my kids, if I ever have them, will think about my mom and my dad – their grandparents.


Given to me by two completely different people, the gifts pushed me to make it the focus of this column, and learn more about my grandparents.


Bob Favorite was a cinematographer who owned a production company in Jacksonville. Specializing in commercials and still photography, Bob eventually traded in his commercial work for filmmaking; a decision he hoped would bring in more fortune and fame.


His first film was “The Brides Wore Blood,” a vampire tale shot at Flagler College in St. Augustine, one of the oldest cities in the nation. The film, which has since found some new life after achieving minor cult status, sent Bob in a new direction after it failed to garner widespread attention.


His next venture was a little more risqué; he made two low budget softcore adult films. The first, “Indian Raid, Indian Made”, was a spoof of the treatment of Native Americans. “Riverboat Mama” was Bob’s second foray into the genre, a tale of debauchery and high-stakes gambling that also featured such famous names as Morganna, the kissing bandit, Art Schill, and Chuck Davis -- whoever they are.


The movies made me realize, my grandpa held some very special views of women, but never quite understood all the things that make a good porno. Even though Bob was making films that couldn’t be shown at the average multiplex, he held true to his moral standards by banning cussing in the films.


I came to know these movies because a friend gave me copies of both flicks for my birthday. What’s interesting is that my friend, who is also a pervert, thinks they are terrible excuses for porn. But that didn’t lessen the impact of the gift, or the surprise that I’d be discussing and thinking about my grandfather's work, years after his death.


We are all connected to the past, especially our own, whether we realize it or not. Like the other gift I received for my birthday, the diamond that once belonged to my mother’s father, was set in a ring he wore in place of his wedding band.


Ben, my other grandpa, nearly had his knee blown out in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII. The doctor wanted to amputate his leg, but Ben refused. He was in a veteran’s hospital for several years working through his rehabilitation. As part of the process, he decided to try watchmaking, a profession that would allow him to sit with little chance of straining his injury. Once the rehab was complete, he opened Sutton Jewelry on 8th Avenue in Palmetto.


Department stores eventually put mom and pop establishments, like the one owned by my grandfather, out of business. After the jewelry store went belly up, Ben spent the remainder of his working career repairing watches and mending jewelry at Maas Brothers, the main Florida retail giant at the time.


I’m not sure of the real significance of the diamond my grandpa wore on his ring finger, or why it was important to him, however, it meant something to my mother. Three years after Ben died, my mom, Bonne’ Sutton, turned 30. As a present, her mother, Alice Sutton, gave her a diamond solitaire necklace made from my grandfather’s ring. Bonne’ felt it fitting to present me with that same gift on the eve of my 30th birthday.


The two gifts represent something about two men I’ll never know. They are relics of my family, of my history, but also objects that I can actually touch...but not in a weird way. I also wonder what my kids, again, should I ever have any, would discover about my mom and dad. More importantly, if I am ever lucky enough to be a grandmother, I hope my grandchildren take the same kind of enjoyment out of learning about me, as I did about my grandpas.

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James Sexton April 17, 2014
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