Chicago brothers believe in Jose Gaspar
Brothers Dave and Mike Fitzgerald are loving husbands, respectable businessmen and mild-mannered Chicagoans -- most of the time.
But in the early 70's, the brothers transformed into the "fearsome Cassanovas" Capt. Bjorn Beerwort and -- Col. Dave.
"We live for the serendipitous experience of interacting with people you've never seen before and will never see again," said Dave, a hair dresser and painter who now lives on Bayshore Boulevard and a member of the Krewe of the Kavaliers.
"It's the laughter, the spectacle, the entertainment," said Mike, as he pulled one of a number of silk kerchiefs from his coat pocket to hand to a damsel he met on Oregon Avenue.
Mike, who travels from Chicago every year for the parade, and Dave spend at least half an hour perfecting their pirate makeup alone before donning period overcoats, silk scarves and layers of jewelry to complete a look worthy of Jose Gaspar.
The makeup they use to blacken their teeth tastes just like M&M's chocolate -- they say. But really, it doesn't.
The key to a perfect Gasparilla experience is a combination of champagne for breakfast, rum and coke with lime for lunch, and a "big drunken spaghetti dinner" with friends, Dave said.
And there must be beads and merrymaking to honor the pirate who started it all, a man who absolutely existed despite all evidence to the contrary, Dave said.
"He was a menace. A murdering marauder who pillaged and plundered in the pursuit of pleasure," added Mike, as he swaggered toward the parade in his oversized pirate boots. "Not a nice guy, but if he inspired all of this, we don't care."
- Anastasia Dawson