Greetings from the Gulf: September

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Meet Larry; he’s like totally the bomb

By John Morton

Can you copyright creepy behavior? Can you apply for a patent for all things preposterous?

In case the answer is yes, my buddy Steve Kammer and I sure missed the boat in the spring of 1976 when we first ambushed dozens of beach walkers on Siesta Key. It was then that we debuted the annual annoying behavior that we believed made us legends for life.

Ides of March, make way for the Idiots of March. April fools, indeed.

Before I continue, those guys on the Impractical Jokers TV show owe us big time. We beat you to the punch, fellas, right here on Crescent Beach. You are ripping us off.

In those good ol’ days, we’d dare each other to wield insane scenarios to whomever would happen to be walking by. For example, fans of the Triscuit snack food may recall its 1970s jingle: “… a Triscuit, a Triscuit, made only by Nabisco.”

One of us would approach them and ask, a box of Triscuits in hand, if they’d like to try a delicious cracker. Before they could answer no, the other guy would spring into action from a nearby lounge chair and unload an over-the-top rendition of that Triscuit song, complete with choreographed gyrations.

Folks, I’m not proud of any of this. But I’ve been your columnist for going on two years, and I think it’s time for full disclosure.

And it only got worse.

Remember the Baby Fresh jingle for the infant wipes? Yep, that was in our repertoire.

Then there was the Ice Bird – some prehistoric contraption that shaved ice into snow-cone form, from where you’d pour upon it some sludge-like liquid sugar. I sure hope this wasn’t from where the Daiquiri Deck got its inspiration!

Anyway, Google the Ice Bird ad and enjoy the hell ride down memory lane.

While holding snow cones from the old concession stand at the public beach, we’d scream that jingle – “Ice Bird, Ice Bird, you’re such a nice bird!” — at people as they walked by, with them usually displaying a nervous smile in return as they held on tight to each other’s hand and picked up the pace.

I doubt many of our victims are still alive. Looking back, we only hope we didn’t speed-up the process.

For those who may still be around and remember this, I suggest you reach out to me. Some apologies in life need to be done in person.

Eventually, we gave it a rest. No one could match the dirty work we had delivered, and we retired as Siesta superheroes.

And then, 40 years later, along comes Larry Frankel to blow up our resume.

In two short years here, he has recorded more than 500 “kills” as the Siesta Photo Bomber. He even has an Instagram page loaded with his moments of divine interruption. And it gets several thousand views per day.

“I’m a sunset runner. I began with a quarter mile per night and now I’m up to 5 miles,” said Frankel. “Well, there are so many people at sunset taking group photos along the shoreline that it was only inevitable that I accidentally ran in front of one.”

It would happen so often, he decided to have fun with it and gesture toward the camera. And a bomber was born.

“At first I’d have people yell at me,” Frankel said. “One person threw a football at me, and another actually kicked me in the butt.”

But then, as only social media can do, the tide began to turn. Many of the friends on Siesta-themed Facebook pages began sharing their moments of Larry mayhem. Next you know, it was a badge of honor to be photo-bombed by him.

“Now, I’ve got people approaching me, waving me in when they see me running by,” Frankel said. “It’s all now the other way around.”

It’s almost as if they are, in return, photo-bombing his nightly run. “I’ll get stopped as often as 25 times on a run,” Frankel said.

And while many people ask on Facebook if anyone knows the name of this mystery man, Frankel said he was ready to share his identity to the world through this column.

“Sometimes people ask me if I’m Scooter of the Beach,” said Frankel, who does bear a resemblance to the social-media-star lifeguard at the “magical” green tower. “I’m not so sure Scooter wants to hear that.”

Fame is not Frankel’s goal. Having fun is what he’s after.

“Ninety-nine out of 100 people get it,” he said of his antics. “They’ll even tell me what an honor it was. I’m having a blast with this.”

Meanwhile, my buddy Steve and I need to cope with the reality that there’s a new clown prince in town. Had only today’s technology been around during or heyday – our silliness could have been recorded in iPhone foreverness.

Then again, cell phones can also dial 9-1-1. Maybe our timing was just right.

(John Morton is managing editor of Siesta Sand.)

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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