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Front Porch

Bring a tiara for a good time

By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
Published August 15, 2003

Pull up to Jules Burt's house in Plant City and she's out the front door to greet you in a blonde whirl.

It's a glamour thing. The earrings sweeping the shoulder. The big hair. The big wigs. The hairdresser at her beck and call, whether she's painting cows in Las Vegas or making bottle-cap mirrors on a local daytime TV show.

"Honey, it's all about the hair," she quips, half-kidding.

This honey is wearing her blonde hair in a damp bun styled in the shower and tied with an '80s scrunchy. Decidedly, very, very unglamorous, but that's cool with Jules.

She makes you feel right at home, right away, under any circumstance.

Jules' heart is as big as the entire state of Florida, including the Panhandle.

First, a Diet Pepsi.

"Sorry about the plastic honey, but I love plastic. Love it," she says, an emerald-green tumbler puckered with plastic bubbles in her outstretched hand.

Jules' home is all about friends, family and decorating like a drama queen. It's about art, too. But that's another story that already has been told about Jules the artist whose crazy-fun paintings of tiara-wielding divas have adorned the TV sets of Friends, Charmed and Veronica's Closet.

Jules moved back to Plant City last year after more than a decade in Atlanta where she worked as an artist and art dealer.

She missed Florida, she said. And the other Burts: three sisters, a brother, her mother and a gaggle of adoring nieces and nephews.

A bunch of them live 10 minutes away in what Jules calls "Burtville," a 12-acre "plot of land" where she grew up and can't seem to get out of her system. Her late father, Royce Burt, was principal of Turkey Creek High School for 33 years; her mother was the physical education teacher and majorette sponsor at Plant City High School for 31 years.

"Florida is home," she said. "I knew I could paint from anywhere. I had to get my feet in the sand."

Jules lives in Walden Lake, a subdivision not far from State Road 60 in Plant City. She bought her plain-faced modern house with two porches and a nice back yard a year ago.

"It was just meant to be, this house wasn't for sale 30 minutes before I made an offer," she said.

Now the house is a suburban palace brimming with art by people she loves, including Mary Procter from Tallahassee and the late folk artist Howard Finster from Georgia.

Jules never met a smashed bottle cap she didn't like; they dimple her mirrors and lamp shades by the thousands. Truth be told, she's got the guys at a local bar collecting them for her. She plans to cover all of the furniture on her front porch in bottle caps.

Know this about Jules. She hates brown.

Hates it, hates it, hates it.

Her bedroom is an ode to red velvet.

Her house is a monument to everyday stuff made glamorous.

Observe the jewel-encrusted '60s hair dryer with a reading light. A vibrating Lazy Boy she picked up for 25 bucks at the local Salvation Army. The chandeliers she makes from '70s-salvaged thrift store junk and sparkly doodads.

She also knows how to paint Dollar Store glasses with big, wild, scarlet flowers. Her "Lolitas," she calls them. She makes coffee mugs, too, the ones as big as cereal bowls you've seen Jennifer, Lisa and Courtney sipping from at Central Perk.

She badly wants her own decorating show.

And the idea isn't so far-fetched.

Bed, Bath and Beyond has recently come calling.

Her Artrageous! segments on the local NBC show, Daytime, are so wacky that producers asked her to co-host for a day in March when Debra Schrils was out sick.

Picture Mary Engelbreit in leather, Martha sporting a wig, Nigella draped in a feather boa.

A domestic goddess, Jules Burt is not.

Peek in her refrigerator at the Greek salad she's just coaxed a restaurant friend to whip up for the neighborhood block party in a few hours.

She explains with a straight face that she'll just tell everyone she made the salad herself.

"Do I cook?" she asked rhetorically. "Oh, no, honey, but I do know how to make tomato pie."

Jules is 41 but says she feels 16.

Hang around awhile and you'll feel like a teenager, too.

Or maybe a Rockette.

Jules lives with her little Maltese, Zippy, who is forever chasing after his beloved, an elusive West Highland terrier named Zena who lives across the street.

Stop by and sit a spell.

What to wear?

A tiara. Jewels. A cloud of hair spray.

And honey: leave that '80s scrunchy at home.

[Last modified August 14, 2003, 09:48:54]

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