Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Captain Tony Years (Rhoades)

“Captain Tony Years”
Comes One Night to
The Tropic Cinema

Interview by Shirrel Rhoades

“You only make the trip once. You get no second chance,” said Captain Tony Tarracino, namesake of the famous saloon here in Key West. But it turns out Captain Tony (1916 - 2008) does get a second chance.
A new documentary titled “Captain Tony Years” will be getting a special “sneak peek” showing on the evening of April 9th at the Tropic Cinema. And in the film Captain Tony speaks his mind, sharing his philosophies, stories, and memories of the old days in Key West.
Filmmaker Jeremy Hyatt had a unique access to Captain Tony Tarracino just before he passed away. Turns out, Hyatt’s dad was Captain Tony’s attorney. And through Albert L. Kelley, he met this 92-year-old rapscallion who maintained that “The closer to the Equator, the greater the sex drive.”
A saloonkeeper, fisherman, gambler, gunrunner, and one-time mayor of Key West, Captain Tony Tarracino has been called “arguably the city’s most beloved resident.” Stuart Whitman played him in a movie (“Cuba Crossing”). Jimmy Buffet immortalized him in a song (“Last Mango in Paradise”). And he claimed four wives and 13 children.
Today, Tarracino is remembered by a Captain Tony Days celebration around his birthday in August. In behalf of the family’s estate, Al Kelley organizes the street fair and the films that comprise the annual event.
“I owed it to Tony and his family to show this film first in Key West,” says Jeremy Hyatt.
Himself a 5th generation Conch, Hyatt graduated from Full Sail University with a Bachelor Degree in Film and Television. He and producer Bobbi Degnan brought down a film crew to record these storytelling sessions with the legendary Captain Tony.
“Tony’s stories have more to offer than anything that could have been fictionalized,” says Hyatt, a cherub-faced thirtysomething director. “Tony was truly the world’s most interesting man.”
Hyatt sees his old friend as a fascinating contradiction, “a man who ran guns but was anti war. He always sided with the underdog.”
Hyatt describes the 1:15 minute documentary as an emotional rollercoaster. “The stories he tells makes you laugh, think, cry.”
With cameras rolling, Tony Tarracino gives an oral history of the island. He tells how running from the New Jersey mob he landed on Duval Street with $18 in his pocket. “There was gambling, there were hookers on every corner,” he describes those wild-and woolly days. “I was home.”
With Jimmy Buffet as his campaign manager, he won the mayor’s race in 1989. He jokingly commented, “We won by 31 votes and I always thanked Jimmy because I think it was his 28 hookers that did it.”
As mayor, he preserved Sunset Celebration and sought to limit Key West’s growth. “Of all these years I think I was always a politician in a way,” he says in the film.
He saw Key West as “a refuge for eccentrics and renegades who had found their way to the southernmost point of the continental United States.”
The stories are preserved here. “I use to go to Cuba when the boys owned it,” he laughs as the camera pictures him with sunny vistas in the background. “Meyer Lansky and the mob.”
Before the film reaches its end credits, he has offered comments on everything from fishing to foreign policy.
“I am giving you stuff no one else has,” Tony inscribed a book’s flyleaf for Hyatt. “I’ll make you a millionaire.”
Singer Don Middlebrooks’s songs are featured in “Captain Tony Years” -- among them “Advice from an Old Sailor,” “Bike Ride Around the Island,” “Tailspin,” and “Goodbye Captain Tony.”
The Tropic Cinema’s special showing of “Captain Tony Years” is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 9, preceded by a champagne reception that allows you to meet the young director.
Does the film have a message? Jeremy Hyatt looks thoughtful for a moment and then says, “Captain Tony’s philosophy was that you’ve gotta live life to its fullest. And he did.”

1 comment:

Paula Angelique Hafner said...

This sounds like a good one. I have been learning about Capt. Tony and his adventures. Quite the life!