A few months ago I was in Key West and happened to overhear a conversation that could have occurred nowhere else. An art gallery owner was chatting with a writer about a mutual acquaintance. The gallery owner mentioned that this person claimed to have attended the very first of the island’s annual bacchanals known as Fantasy Fest back in 1979.
“Now remind me,” drawled the writer. “Was he the nun with the enormous plastic phallus? Or was he one of the dueling Joan Crawfords?”
What is the weirdest place in America’s weirdest state? There is a strong argument to be made for the town frequently referred to as “Key Weird.” This is, after all, the home of a guy who routinely bikes around town wearing nothing but a G-string and a homemade stovepipe hat. It’s a place where the U.S. Department of Agriculture got into a legal snit with the operator of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum over permitting for the home’s many six-toed cats. And it’s the place where a legal dispute developed over a cache of valuable emeralds that one treasure hunter testified he found in the Gulf of Mexico by following a map he bought for $500 from a guy in a bar.