Sunday, May 06, 2001

Sunset with a twist 'only in Key West'

By Jim Knippenberg
he Cincinnati Enquirer

        KEY WEST — They have a catch phrase down here that pretty much covers everything: Only in Key West.

        Glance down the bar and catch sight of a large black lab scrunched on a bar stool, lapping up a doggie dish full of Miller Lite. Only in Key West.

        Naked parasailing. Only in Key West.

        Lunching at My Blue Heaven with a chicken pecking at your flip-flops. Only in Key West.

    •, for descriptions of acts, photos and history.
    • for an overview including accommodations, restaurants, attractions and activities.
    • so you can find it all.
        A drag queen dressed as Jon Benet Ramsey singing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Only in Key West.

        Nowhere do you hear the phrase more than every night when Key West presents the sunset at Mallory Square. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at the far end of Duval Street, Key West's main drag, it's a patch of concrete and tangle of docks that nightly comes alive about an hour before sunset.

        Alive in a big way, with street entertainers, food vendors (lots of conch fritters), souvenir booths, cocktail carts (a cold beer is a must) and tourists packed elbow to Adam's apple.

        The daily celebration — loosely organized by the Cultural Preservation Society — is different every day because no one ever knows which acts will contribute to the nightly drama. Usually there are 10 or so and they all pass the hat at some point.

        Here are the Tricky Dogs, three Jack Russells named Chico, Comet and Twinky. Now they're jumping through the Flaming Loop of Doom, except the flames are painted cardboard. Now they go into the Doggie Dive of Doom through a double loop, except they decide to walk around it.

        “Be careful, some people say Twinky bites,” trainer Rick Martin says. “Some people say this whole show bites.”

        Not far away, Casey Moore, in a straight jacket and wrapped with padlocked chains, is promising to get out in two minutes or less. He does, but not without abusing the audience: “It's 80 degrees, I'm hot, I'm wrapped in a straight jacket, steel chains and 10 pounds of padlock and you give me $1? You from Scotland or something?”

        Overseeing it all is the Silver Statue, a guy painted all silver and dressed in a silver body suit and cap. He stands there not moving a muscle. Even when Rexie Wonder Dog comes over and lifts a leg.

        Nearby, a guy in badly fitting overalls is juggling three stalks of celery, while the Statue of Liberty, spiffed up in a green sequined gown and equipped with a fake arm to hold the torch, roams the crowd.

        On any other night, you might have seen Pat the Bike Guy doing tricks on a 13-inch bicycle; Mark Riggs, fire-juggling on his 10-foot “Suicycle of Death”; Dominique the Cat Man with his tightrope walking kitties, or Dennis Rielly, the Southernmost Bagpiper, taking requests.

        It's that catch phrase thing again: Only in Key West.

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Starstruck casts meet Wilson
Discover Anna Maria, the land that time forgot
Edison museum pays tribute to famous inventor
Ride Florida ferry into Island Time zone
Sanibel visitors savor beauty of Old Florida
'Something magical' about the Everglades
- Sunset with a twist 'only in Key West'
Ybor City restaurant serves spicy taste of Spain
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Dining out prom night should be fun for all
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From P&G to punch lines
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Guide dogs get free eye exams
Lopez-Cobos can look back on 15 eventful years
Make Mom breakfast in bed
Pineapples always welcome in her home
Reality check
Three grandchildren thrive with Mom, Pop
Get to it