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Tribute: Captain Tony Is Dead-a Smoke And Drink To His Soul!

 
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MJL
Oscar


Joined: 07 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:39 pm    Post subject: Tribute: Captain Tony Is Dead-a Smoke And Drink To His Soul! Reply with quote

Another part of old Key West has passed on to history. Captain Tony is dead. If you were lucky enough to meet him in life it is fairly certain you drank with him. Tony was one of those larger than life characters whom you meet from time to time who lived a fascinating life and whose stories sounded like bullshit until you realized he actually lived the stories he was telling.

Key West has lived so many lives it has become natural for it to transition from one era to another. The people change, the buildings remain behind as moot sentinels of past events. Many who remember the Key West of the 1970s, remember a much different city and perhaps a better place. Unlike the freak show city of today that combines social rejects and corporate greed into a hollow shell of a city that Key West used to be; the Key West of the 1970s was a city in transition. It was moving from the sleepy southern fishing village of the past to a city that now makes its predominate income off the tourist trade. Families; unwilling to raise children in the den of sin that the Old Town was becoming, moved out and the seedy t-shirt shops, trashy porno vendors and the freak show crowd moved in. People who had lived in Key West a summer passed themselves off as Conchs. By the time the new bridges to the Keys were completed in the 1980s the city was losing its soul.

Happily, there was Captain Tony. Tony was a genuine soul. He was one of those persons you meet from time to time who inspires, challenges and makes you examine your life in comparison. I met Tony at some point in the early 1980s although, I seem to have an earlier memory of him from the early 1970s. Tony was smooth and rough at the same time. He was a study of contrasts. He was both greedy and one of the most giving persons I have ever met. My first firm memory of Tony was as the owner of a saloon. The saloon, of course was his name-sake; Captain Tony’s in Key West, Florida. Tony could be gruff and he could be tender. I have seen, witnessed and been the victim/benefactor of both of his sides. He would buy you a drink and dress you down for your opinions. That is how he was. He was a wonderful, walking, talking, genuine, real-life person of a man. He farted, belched, chain smoked cheap cigarettes, smelled of garlic and sweat, drank cheap booze, lived life and dispensed advice on every subject from sex to politics. I liked Tony. I loved Tony. Hell, I wanted to be Tony. He was the walking talking epitome of the concept that if you live long enough you will see the world turn around. For a very long time Tony WAS the soul of Key West; wild and untamed he was unpredictable but endured like this chunk of land stuck in the Florida Straits. Now Tony is gone. Like all men Tony had come to the end of his time and I pray has gone to his reward, although I have to wonder if he will linger in Key West to continue on as its soul; unseen but felt, guiding, wild and benevolent.

I read that Tony had died and felt bad. Not bad for Tony but for Key West. Key West is so disgenuine, so synthetic, so forced-fun that it is obnoxious. It has turned from a funky little southern fishing village filled with characters to a disgraceful ersatz facsimile of the worst side of reality. It has become the evil opposite of Disney World; debauched, debased, disgusting and in the end fake. The cruise ships pull in every morning and vomit out another 1000 ugly Americans ready for their dose of paradise from the recently arrived locals. Tony was one of those persons who brought the level of bullshit down to a reasonable level and now he is gone. I can only pray that Tony is rewarded for his hard work and that Key West can redeem itself before it is too late and loses its soul entirely. Take a page from Tony’s life. Live life; drink, , gamble, be a hero, be a villain, be a good guy, smoke but leave the planet wanting more and for God’s sake leave a void that cannot be filled when you exit the place.




Riderless Horse For Captain Tony. Tony Was The Key West Chief of Police At One Point.



Conch Republic Army Honor Guard On Duval Street




Conch Republic Army On Parade On Duval Street With Field Piece To Salute Tony



Flowers to comemorate Tony in the shape of his saloon.



Tony is gone but not forgotten. He made an appearance at his own funeral is albeit in spirit only!

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/flor...ry/753541.html

Keys legend 'Captain Tony'

Key West's colorful legend and former Mayor Anthony 'Captain Tony' Tarracino loved to tell stories. He died at 92.

BY CAMMY CLARK

cclark@MiamiHerald.com

KEY WEST -- Captain Tony's adventurous and colorful life was about the stories.

Key West legend Anthony Tarracino created them as a passionate gambler, shrimper, charter boat captain, gunrunner, mayor, romantic and father of 13 children, now age 22 to 72.

He told his stories with great zeal, especially to the ladies, at his bar, Captain Tony's Saloon, where bras hang from the ceiling and Jimmy Buffett used to sing for a few bucks and Budweisers.

On Saturday, the stories flowed from Tarracino's wife of 38 years, Marty, and eight of his children who gathered at his bedside at the Lower Keys Medical Center during the hours before his death at 2:15 p.m.

Captain Tony was 92.

''We laughed and we cried,'' Marty Tarracino said Sunday. ``I know for a fact he heard us. It was great closure for him, and for us, too.''

Tarracino spent his last week in the hospital for continuing heart and lung problems, missing several events planned in Key West for the unveiling of a book called Life Lessons of a Legend. Brad Menard, a school superintendent from Iowa, wrote it after he met Captain Tony and became enchanted with him.

But for most of his nine-plus decades, Captain Tony didn't miss out on much.

''He had not one regret,'' said Marty Tarracino, who met him at his bar. ``He really lived his life. It was a great ride.''

Tarracino was born in the tough town of Elizabeth, N.J., where his father was a bootlegger. He became a gambler and got involved with a mob, whose shady dealings led to at least one near-death beating.

''He was little in stature, only about five-four, but he was wiry and tough from when he fought his way up from the ghettos of New Jersey,'' said Wendy Tucker, a former Miami Herald reporter who is ghostwriting his autobiography, tentatively titled The Breaks.

In 1948, with $18 in his pocket, Tarracino moved to Key West, where he did his part to put the island city on the world map.

''Every journalist or writer who came to Key West wanted to talk to Captain Tony because he was such a colorful character,'' Tucker said. ``He was even in papers from Japan.''

Marty Tarracino said a highlight of his life came in 1989, when he was elected mayor of Key West.

''He says the hookers put him over the top, but I'm not going there,'' Tucker said with a laugh. ``I think people voted for him because of his love of Key West and wanting to try to keep Key West the way it had been. He fought to save the sunset [festival] and tried to keep development from encroaching.''

LOVING WOMEN

Captain Tony, who had four wives over the decades, loved the company of women. He was quick with a compliment and with an invitation to Las Vegas. He was playfully hitting on women, even during the last years of his life while breathing from oxygen tanks. He fathered the last of his 13 children at age 70.

''I always asked my mother why he waited until 70 to name a kid after him,'' said Tony Tarracino Jr., nicknamed TJ. ``TJ stands for Tony Jr. I guess he knew No. 13 was coming, and waited for the last one.''

That reminded TJ of a story his father told women in his older years about being born the same year as the Model T Ford.

'He'd say, `You know, ladies, I'm like the Model T. My tires are worn out, my headlights don't work, my horn doesn't work, But ladies, my clutch is still working,' '' TJ recalled.

TJ said that instead of playing catch, their father-son bonding time involved Sunday trips to Key Largo to gamble on a cruise boat.

''We'd bring enough [oxygen] tanks for him to make the round trip and stop for pizza on the way back,'' TJ said.

Even in his 90s, Captain Tony loved to go to his former saloon to tell stories -- and to ''sign body parts'' for adoring female fans.

''He needed to see the public and the public needed to see him,'' Marty Tarracino said. ``I think making people happy was his greatest goal.''

MADE INTO A MOVIE

His tales included running guns for Cuban mercenaries during the Bay of Pigs invasion. His role was captured in a 1991 B movie called Cuba Crossing that starred Stuart Whitman as Captain Tony.

TJ said his father's best quality was his compassion, whether it was helping out a struggling singer like Buffett or simply making everyone feel important.

Buffett's 1985 song Last Mango in Paris tells the story of Captain Tony's larger-than-life exploits.

The chorus: ``He said I ate the last mango in Paris/Took the last plane out of Saigon/Took the first fast boat to China/And Jimmy, there's still so much to be done.''

The song goes on: ``Our lives change like the weather/But a legend never dies.''

''My dad said in his last couple of days that life is nothing but memories,'' TJ said. ``I'm sure he's up there playing blackjack, doubling down on a jack and king and getting an ace -- calling it the breaks. He'll live on through the stories.''

A public viewing is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Dean Lopez Funeral Home on Simonton Street in Key West.

On Saturday, an 11 a.m. funeral Mass at St. Mary Star of the Sea church will be followed by a 1 p.m. reception for family members and his many friends at Captain Tony's Saloon
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:29 pm    Post subject: A legend has passed! Reply with quote

A legend has passed!

A very big thanks to MJL and this wonderful tribute to a real character, a true legend, and one of the Conch Republic's dearest citizens. God Bless You Tony!
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