Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ernest Hemingway Look Alike Contest 2008

90 miles from Cuba.....
So Dad (short Hemingway look-alike on the left, the tall one on the right won the contest later that night) made finals of the Hemingway Look Alike Contest held at the world-famous Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West, Florida. If you've got white hair and a white beard, chances are a Key West local may pass by and say,"Morning, Papa" at any time of the year. But every July, Sloppy Joe's holds the annual contest, and it is a privilege to be a Papa. Previous winners judge the contestants and it is quite an exclusive club.

This would be Year Number 4 for Dad, and Sloppy Joe's has a streaming camera set up on the stage 24/7/365 so you can always see what's happening at the bar at any time of the year. As I was watching the camera on Thursday night, all I could do was cross my fingers and wait for Dad's moment of only 15 seconds to speak about why he should be the next "Papa." After all, the winner of this contest is interviewed on Good Morning America every year.

Thursday Night Semi-Finals
Well, he got up there and took just a few moments to point out that, it really didn't matter what he was going to say since no one would remember him because the next contestant after Dad is notorious in his 19 years of competing to be the complete shock value of the contest, and always generates a tidal wave of booing. The crowd cheered and laughed for Dad, and out of 100 contestants on Thursday night, apparently the Papas DID remember him, because when the announcer called his name as a finalist for Saturday night, I about fell out of my chair! My hands were shaking, and I believe I was screaming, Roma the Stray Dog was jumping up and down, Puppy the Cat stared at me with complete disappointment, and my boyfriend was giving me a hug -- I jumped onto the computer again, and bought a last minute ticket to Ft. Lauderdale, rented a car, and reserved a hotel room (which last minute in Key West for this contest ain't the cheapest!). My flight left 8 hours later at 6:00 in the morning.

Flying Solo
I flew solo on this trip as our dog, Roma, just got spayed so Jason had to stay home to monitor. I was able to see our family friends, Bob and Mildred, and with Dad and Jean Ann, it was a fun Friday night in Key West -- although HOT. (It's Key West in July!!!! Key West automatically means curly hair, so pardon my 'do).
Sloppy Joe's Bar runs the Look Alike Contest every year from Duval Street, and from all of the application entries, the contestants choose to take their 15 seconds to talk on Thursday or Friday. From those two nights, 24 are selected to move onto the finals on Saturday night. It dwindles down to 6, and then to 1. Each night, the bar is packed, and with no air-conditioning, good luck -- there's hundreds of people in the bar, cheering for their "Wanna-Be Papa."

Hemingway's Still Alive -- Just Took My Picture With Him!
Saturday afternoon is an absolutely fun and hilarious day -- all of the contestants gather at 12 noon for the pictures -- this consists of a bunch of white-haired bearded men gathering around metal bulls (in honor of Ernest Hemingway's love of bull fighting), and the crowd can donate to the Hemingway Society scholarship fund, which allows them to get a picture sitting on the bull with the Papas surrounding them -- absolutely hilarious! Dad is in the red t-shirt and beret with the sunglasses. (Or, I could say, Dad is the guy with the white hair and beard, can't miss him).

The Running of the Bulls... in Key West?
The Running of the Bulls then commences immediately following the picture-taking -- that's right, these old guys take the 4 or 5 metal bulls and roll them around the block that the bar is on -- the thousands of spectators in tiny Key West are running after them, and regular tourists are pushing the seasoned Good Morning America crew out of the way, just to get a shot of the entire scene.

The Big Saturday Night Finale
So the big Saturday night finally came -- this was the night for Dad to share his reasons why he should be crowned the next Papa. As they called his name, my legs felt weak, my hands were shaking, and I was worried that he didn't have enough people screaming for him (after all, it was just Jean Ann and me, and two other women who just happened to be in Key West at the same time as the event and who weren't rooting for anybody in particular -- I asked them to cheer for Dad, I might have even bought them a drink to win their loyalty). Finally, Dad was up on Saturday night, and made the crowd laugh as he mentioned a woman fainting on Thursday night when he began to speak (a woman who was slightly overwhelmed with the alcohol did pass out at the same time Dad began to speak on Thursday), and he took a short part of his 2 minutes to make the crowd laugh and cheer. But he was again followed by the same guy from Thursday night who is pure shock value, and Dad made sure to mention that again to remind the Papa Judges to be prepared.

VIDEO of Dad's Speech (Click the PLAY Button to hear a FUTURE PAPA) 

Closer Every Year!
Unfortunately, Dad didn't make the final 6, but he is getting closer and closer...!! It is tradition and commitment every year for these guys to come on down to Key West and celebrate white hair, white beards and the Original Papa -- and it's such a blast, that you get quite the cast of characters! 

OPEN INVITATION!! Dad participates every year so if you want to cheer for him, plan to take a vacation to sunny and fantastic Key West. The history is amazing and the island is beautiful, and you will have a great time. You don't need to be a drinker (although that does help) since there are plenty of other things to do: jet skiing, scuba diving, museums, and not to mention the famous Ghost Walk Tour (that will not disappoint, I promise. Don't forget to bring your digital camera with a flash).

THANK YOU to all who did a virtual cheer and who also took a shot of good ole Jack Daniel's for Dad on Saturday night -- remember, every July Dad goes to Key West to participate. If you're interested in growing Dad's cheering section, email me and I will give you all of the details and event times, locations, best places to stay... Key West is a beautiful and fun place, don't be surprised if you leave your vacation trying to think of the many different ways to quit your job and move down to Key West and be a member of the Conch Republic...

The 2008 Papa -- Tom Grizzard, being interviewed by a crowd of reporters 

I know you're going to visit Key West one day so... in the past I've stayed at the: 
  • Speakeasy Inn (ask to stay in the loft over the storefront; there is no other room around there, so you walk through a small courtyard to get to the steps to take up to the room. This inn used to be an old cigar factory) 
  • Eden House (has a pool there and is much needed in Key West. I must have jumped into the pool 4 times in 2 days) 
  • DO NOT stay at some fancy hotel!! You're in Key West and you should stay at an Inn or a Bed and Breakfast, it's the only way to enjoy Key West -- don't like my suggestions above? Go to http://www.keywestinns.com/
For fun activities:
  • Sloppy Joe's Bar -- It's a Key West tradition since 1933. 
  • Captain Tony's Saloon -- This is the actual bar that Ernest Hemingway visited from 1933 - 1937. 
  • Hemingway Home -- The actual home-turned-museum, in Old Town Key West, where Hemingway lived for 10 years -- the house has approximately 60 cats, and these cats have extra toes -- they look like they are wearing mittens. Ernest Hemingway was given a 6-toed cat by a ship's captain, and some of the cats still living at the Hemingway Home are direct descendants of the original cat. 
  • Jet skiing -- head anywhere on Duval Street, there are a ton of kiosks everywhere to give you information. OR, you could head to Mallory Square and there is a pier where there are places to go jet skiing around the entire island, stop at a sand bar, etc. 
  • Ghost Walk Tour -- Take the late tour, put comfy shoes on, and bring your digital camera. You will walk by graveyards, funeral homes, and houses that function as bed and breakfasts that have quite a creepy history.
Roma the Dog -- aka Sloppy Joe's Key West Party Animal

Typical Key West Homes

See you next year, right?!