Search the Archive
Articles with Tag…
KONK REACTOR column
[Published in the KONK Life newspaper on July 19, 2012.]
Conchs and long-time locals all have their tales of our Island’s past, recalling such famous scions of Key West history as Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Shel Silverstein or Bum Farto. Those of us with a shallower history here also have memories of departed icons of the Island. Generally they’re more touristy ones — but icons nonetheless. Here’s a batch of them that have disappeared from our streets over the last decade or so…
The Cookie Lady. Marilyn Kellner sailed into Key West in the 80s and quickly started baking goodies and selling them from her bicycle at Mallory, accompanied by tacky poetry and calls of “Get your coook-keeees.” She helped found the Cultural Preservation Society that still manages the Sunset Celebration. And you may not have heard about it, but it was a fire in her kitchen that led to the destruction of the Copa on Duval (in the old Monroe Theater building) in the 90s.
The Cookie Lady now lives in Cleveland and works as a graphic designer. Her book of poetry and recipes is still available, and she’ll autograph it if you buy one and send it to her. (And the remains of the old Copa are now the largest Wyland art store on earth.)
The Conch Shell Man(at the Southernmost Point). Bishop Albert Kee – the guitar-slinger pastor who took over for his father at the Southernmost Point, would blow conch-shells at passing tourist trains and sell souvenirs to the masses. As a boy he would dive for conchs right offshore from the point until they were declared endangered, but he later made (imported) conch salad at Goombay. Generations of tourists and locals alike remember his friendly style.
Bishop Kee passed away in 2003 and the stand left with him. Several years later, during the debates surrounding the sculptures at the Southernmost Point, a City resolution called for a Bishop Kee memorial statue nearby. Seward Johnson, the world renowned sculpture offered to donate $10,000 toward it. I suppose that evaporated along with the removal of Johnson’s other sculptures from the Point.
The Iguana Guy. Todd Heinz wasn’t the first or last guy to offer tourists and locals a chance to handle and pose with docile iguanas, but his Godzilla was probably the biggest one. After years of showcasing Godzilla and other iguanas at Mallory and on Duval, he ensconced the big lizard in front of Capt. Billy’s (now Red Fish Blue Fish) for some years.
Up until a few years ago Todd could be found at the Smallest Bar (on Duval). But he met a tragic end on his scooter – I think it was right on Duval (but I could not find the details as of “press time” for this story).
The Iguana Girl. Though not as well known, Jonna Lybrand and her friendly iguana Lantz (see IguanaGirl.com) trekked the streets of Old Town and thrilled multitudes of children (of all ages) who were dumbfounded that a young girl could handle such wild creatures. To this day pictures of Lantz undoubtedly grace refrigerators “back home” all over the world.
Jonna eventually went off to college and now lives up near Mickey Land. Lantz continued to live comfortably in Key West until she developed an internal tumor and had to pay a final visit to our illustrious (soon to be reality TV star) Dr. Doug Mader. Jonna later adopted a hedgehog and a blue-tongue skink.
Love 22. No idea what his original name was, but Love 22 (see Love22.com) spent a lot of time in Key West. Not only at Mallory and on Duval, but he was the Grand Marshal of the Fantasy Fest parade one year. I remember him hanging out on the UF campus over 30 years ago, and he’s been all over the world giving away his $22 bills and lots of numerological advice. But he loves our Island and may have spent more time here than almost anywhere.
Love 22 now enjoys the medicinal weed of Santa Cruz, California. He’s about 75 now but is once again running for President as a write-in candidate. He claims that nobody else has run for the office more than he.
Kwelvis (Key West Elvis). Blake (not sure of his last name) spent many an hour in front of the Sloppy Joes web cams and other prime spots on Duval. His outfits – often fine-tuned to a Key West vibe – could easily match those of The King. The tourists loved him, and he even came close to upstaging the Naked Cowboy in Time Square on a visit to New York.
Blake took off for Arizona and eventually ended up in Georgia. Not sure what exactly he’s doing these days, but I know he enjoys art and seems to have gotten religion. More power to him.
You don’t have to be an old timer to have memories in this town. And you don’t necessarily have to write the great American novel — or play — or song — to be remembered….
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.