When award-winning gay filmmaker David Purdie was about to be born, his father rushed out to buy a movie camera to document his son’s arrival. In like fashion, when Purdie heard in 2005 that his childhood playground, AstroWorld, was going to be demolished, he bought a Sony Handycam to salvage his memories of the iconic Houston amusement park.
“My father’s home movies are the best thing he left us,” says the Houston native. “The second I heard that AstroWorld was going to die, I knew I had to do this. I spent the final month filming interiors, and I went on the final day it was open [October 31, 2005],” he says. “Then I went out the next week and starting filming the demolition from the freeway. I had no idea I would get hooked on filming the demolition, but I went back almost every day until May 2006.”
From all that footage, Purdie and a friend, film editor Radkey Jolink, fashioned a three-minute film, Astrowhirled, which won first prize and $200 in the 2008 Aurora Picture Show’s annual Extremely Short Films (under three minutes) juried competition. Astrowhirled has since played a dozen times on the silver screen at the majestic River Oaks Theatre.
“It was great to see it up in lights on the marquee,” he says.
“After the movie was said and done,” Purdie explains, he took a vacation—to Galveston, another favorite childhood destination. “Astroworld and Galveston were the two places I can remember going to bed at night, knowing the next day I was going there! It was huge!”
Something he had never done, though, was stay at the island’s historic Flagship Hotel, which stood on the Pleasure Pier that stretched a thousand feet into the Gulf of Mexico. Last summer, Purdie and his friend and Montrose neighbor, Ruth Schulte—deciding to live large—checked into Room 217 for a weekend playcation at the Flagship. From the balcony of their room, Purdie videotaped a panoramic view of the oceanfront.
In the next couple of months, they returned four or five times, always staying in Room 217. Purdie kept a video diary of their activity, including dinners at the legendary Balinese Room, which had been an elite private club and casino in the 1940s, and shopping for souvenirs at Murdoch’s Bath House and Mermaid Pier—“It was the OutSmart of gift shops in Galveston,” Purdie explains.
Tragically, all three landmarks were destroyed when Hurricane Ike hit the island last September. “We had no idea when we checked out of Room 217 for the last time that it would all be gone,” Purdie says.
Once again in possession of unique historical footage, Purdie made a short film, which he called Galvest-Gone! In June, it placed third at Aurora Picture Show’s competition, ahead of submissions from across the globe.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, to commemorate the first anniversary of Hurricane Ike, ‘’Galvest-Gone!” plays on the big screen at River Oaks Theater, prior to a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with an acting troupe known as The Beautiful Creatures performing scenes during the movie.
The screening marks the first anniversary for Purdie and partner Rob Boyte, who met in Montrose, just hours before Hurricane Ike made landfall and began sweeping through Houston into East Texas.
For 18 years, Purdie has been a waiter, including his current stint at Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen on West Gray, but making his living as a filmmaker could be in his future. “I don’t see myself stopping!” he says. “More and more people have been asking me if I could [film events] for them.”
In addition, Purdie cut a longer film from his AstroWorld footage, which he titled Disasterworld. It was shown throughout April in continuous loop at ArtCar Museum on Heights Boulevard.
Not too long ago, a management company asked Purdie to film the retirement of one of its longtime employees. “It’s now available on DVD,” he laughs, soaking in the enjoyment of his new venture and where it might lead.