tampabay.com

Sun also rises for Papa's double

It's taken 10 years for a Palm Harbor man to win this contest.

By NICOLE HUTCHESON
Published July 24, 2007


Every July, throngs of ruddy faced men with beards travel to Key West with one hope in mind: winning the coveted "Papa Hemingway" look-alike contest.

In its 27th year, the competition has become one of the most popular events during the annual Hemingway Days Festival. Why else would anyone brave a wool turtleneck in our July heat?

This year, Larry Austin of Palm Harbor beat 122 other contestants for the top honor.

Come to find out, a snowball beard and a penchant for cats isn't the only thing this 64-year-old insurance agent shares with Ernest Hemingway.

 

Is this your first look-alike contest?

Yes. This is the only look-alike contest I've ever been in, but I have been in this one for 10 straight years.

 

Why'd you get involved in the first place?

Some friends of mine that are real party animals saw an article regarding this Hemingway look-alike contest down in Key West. I've always worn a beard, so they thought I looked like him. They said, "We'll go down with you and have a bunch of people support you." I thought, "What the heck, why not?" The very first year I made it to the finals. Everyone kept coming back, thinking maybe this year I'd get it. And this year I did.

 

What's the prize?

A bust of Hemingway. Two tickets to go anywhere in the U.S. with Continental Airlines. A $100 gift certificate for Sloppy Joe's Bar and a complimentary stay at the Doubletree Inn in Key West.

 

Of course we have to ask: What's your favorite Hemingway book?

The one I enjoyed the most was The Old Man and the Sea. It was quick reading, and I also had to do a book report on it.

 

A book report? When was that?

In high school. I also read For Whom the Bell Tolls.

 

So have you read any of his books since high school?

No. laughs

 

So, what do you have in common with Hemingway - besides the obvious resemblance?

He loved to hang around with his buddies and have a cocktail or two. And I'm very gregarious, enjoy my buddies and love drinking with them.

 

Hemingway was pretty unlucky in matters of the heart. How about you?

I've been very fortunate. I've been married once (to wife Cari, 62) and this September will be our 35th wedding anniversary. Hemingway had a lot of money. I can't afford to get divorced, nor do I want to.

 

Why do you think Hemingway continues to be a cultural icon? I mean, there aren't any huge Edgar Allan Poe or Ralph Emerson look-alike contests going on.

Not only was he a great writer, but he was flamboyant in the way he lived. He enjoyed life and just did a lot of things and had a lot of adventures.

 

Did you do much to prepare for the contest, besides perfect the look?

A little. You have to get up there and talk a little bit. But getting up and talking before a bunch of drunks is a difficult thing to do.

 

What did you say?

To tell you the truth, I can't really remember.

 

Dare we say you partied like a Hemingway?

That's right.

 

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at nhutcheson@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8828.