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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Partying pirates share legendary tales from Gasparillas past

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla sure are a motley krewe.

For every buttoned-down businessman who transforms into a swashbuckler for a day, there's a story worth its weight in gold.

Did you hear about the krewe member that disappeared several hours after a parade only to be discovered by his wife asleep in the bushes outside his home?

Or the 1986 tale that involved a collision between a golf cart driven, by a krewe member, and a Port-o-Pottie that resulted in a DUI?

But rarely do Ye Mystic Krewe members pillage and tell.

“No one divulges what takes place behind the scenes,” chuckled Jim Ferman, who was captain from 1984 to 1986. “Mystic, obscure, opaque, secretive, those are all words associated (with the Krewe of Gasparilla).”

But five former krewe captains lifted the veil of secrecy — slightly — during “Gasparilla: Tall Tales & Scandalous Stories” at the Henry B. Plant Museum.

An enthusiastic crowd was on hand to listen to past Captains — Ferman, Hal Mullis, Preston Farrior, Norman Stallings Jr., and Jim Robbins — share stories from Gasparilla, Tampa's oldest and largest parade dating back to 1904.

The partying pirates will get their sea legs back Saturday during the annual Gasparilla Invasion, Parade and Pirate Fest in Tampa.

During Tall Tales, Farrior shared the story about the disappearing krewe member.

“I get a call at 6 a.m. from the man's wife saying her husband wasn't home,” recalls Farrior, who was captain from 2006 to 2008. “I told her to give me 30 minutes and I start calling his friends.”

Farrior had no luck locating the lost krewe member, but his wife did. She found him in fast asleep hours later in some bushes on their front lawn.

“We do tend to over relax sometimes,” chuckled Farrior.

Robbins shared a story involving NBC's Meredith Vieira. The television personality showed up unexpectedly at the Tampa Yacht Club looking for some pirate booty of her own. Former krewe member Logan Lane was so exited to see her he popped out his pirate teeth and handed them to Vieira, who put them right in her mouth.

One of the evening's most titillating tidbits involved Ferman and newsman Willard Scott in their underwear inside a Maas Brothers bathroom.

I'll leave the rest to your imagination,” Ferman said with a laugh.

Being krewe captain isn't all about booze and beads.

Captains also are responsible for the parade route, guns, cannons and ensuring pirates and spectators enjoy a safe and fun event.

Ferman described the captain's gig as “firmly schizophrenic.”

“The captain has to ride a lot of different horses,” he said. “You're CEO and COO of a very complicated public festival rivaling Mardi Gras.”

Finding musical acts that appeal to ages 20 to 95 also is on the agenda.

One year, the Robert Goulet was the scheduled performer at Curtis Hixon Hall. When Goulet became too inebriated to take the stage, country singer Jimmy Dean, who happened to be in the audience, grabbed the mic and finished the show.

“It was just a happy circumstance that he happened to be there and had the gumption to jump onto the stage,” said Mullis, a krewe captain from 2004 to 2006.

All the captains agree, the best part of a being in a krewe are the parades.

When you're on that float, and thousands of people are screaming for your attention — and your beads — there's nothing else quite like it, Mullis said.

“It's as close to being a rock star as you're ever going to get.”

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