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Beauty, ugliness in the tie of beholder

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© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 22, 2001

So, what do you tell the people in the courthouse when you are caught with something extremely objectionable in your possession?

"I found it."

That's how my colleague Chase Squires, also known as The Kid Who Wants My Job, explained one of several monstrosities he has appeared with draped around his neck.

Only on this one, others agree.

It all began a few weeks ago when Kiefer Village Jewels, a downtown Dade City jewelry store with a knack for attention-getting promotions, ran an Ugly Tie Contest, with a Festina watch as a first prize.

It has been done before, by Kiefer's among others, and I briefly considered entering before it dawned on me that, A) it would take days to find out where my neckties are, since I don't wear them very often, and, B) the only really ugly tie I own is obscene, at least it would be considered so by the folks who run downtown Dade City and Kiefer's would have been unlikely to feature it on their sandwich-board sign.

But Connie Ashmore, who is Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper's judicial assistant, thought the contest would be a great chance to get a watch for her husband, Davey.

Her problem was similar to mine. Davey doesn't wear ties, not even obscene ones given to him by old girlfriends.

"So," I asked her, "was it Squires' predilection for really ugly ties that led you to him?"

"Exactly," she answered.

Reporters like Squires, who spend a lot of time around courthouses, almost always wear ties (the guys anyhow) in what I have always suspected was an attempt to blend in against a background of lawyers and bureaucrats.

Unfortunately, the unwritten rule about neckties doesn't specify that they have to be attractive, or even non-nauseating, a loophole through which Squires, a Rush Limbaugh groupie and look-alike, jumped at the first opportunity.

But he really does swear that the tie he loaned Ashmore is one that he found in the courthouse parking lot about a year ago and not, like most of the rest, one of those he found at yard sales and in Goodwill stores on the 10-cent rack.

"I can see it now," said Dave Hevia, co-owner of Kiefer's. "Some guy's lawyer told him that if he wanted to have a chance in court he had to wear a tie and, after he got that one and was ruled against, he probably took it off and threw it in the parking lot.

Hevia let his customers and passers-by judge the contest, and the Ashmore-Squires entry was almost edged out by a brown and orange-striped beauty.

I thought seriously about running a picture of the winning tie, but Hevia has it attached to his sign, causing passers-by to complain that it makes them dizzy.

"It's sort of a blue tie with gray stripes and this really yellow-yellow band and black polka dots" is the way Ashmore described the winning entry.

At least this one went more smoothly than Hevia's last promotion, the distribution of 437 cubic zirconias and one $700 diamond during the Dade City Christmas parade last December.

The idea was that everyone with a stone would come in to have it appraised, thereby creating traffic at Village Jewels.

What he didn't count on, apparently, is the popularity of cubic zirconia in Dade city. Nobody wanted to take a chance at being disappointed in learning they had a real diamond.

Okay, I'm joking, but a $700 stone is lying in somebody's dresser drawer, and that's funny.

I'm still waiting for a Kiefer's promotion that I can get in on. I avoid parades because I have an inordinate fear of tiny majorettes and city officials identified with misspelled signs on the sides of cars.

And, as stated, there was no hope for me in the ugly necktie contest.

Now, if I can just get them to hold an ugly Hawaiian shirt contest . . .

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