Every year, at Christmas time I think, our school would put on a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta and one of my favs was "The Pirates Of Penzance" which gave me the title for this post. As it was an all boys school, female roles in these operettas had to be played by the prepubescent males - although I'm not sure how Mr. Donnelly managed to find himself a female role every year as he was in his 50's.
I guess he just liked to dress up.
Anyway the subject of pirates is uppermost on peoples minds at the moment as down the road in Tampa, tomorrow sees the start of a huge festival called Gasparilla which celebrates the legend of one Jose Gaspar, a pirate (maybe) of these parts.
We here in sunny pirate free Buttonwood Bay have our own celebrations to remember Jose and given that we aren't in a position to build a pirate ship or do much else which requires huge quantities of water, we had a pirate themed dance on Wednesday night with a parade to come tomorrow. Who says we don't live on the edge here. What ?
Mixing Gilbert & Sullivan with a bit of good old British pantomime tradition, suspect or not, some of the men went as wenches and some of the women went as pirates.
At least I think that's what went on. Probably best not to ask.
So here is a wench (Debby) and a pirate (Mary), although as we can plainly see, both women are, well women.
It was all good clean fun, as my parish priest used to tell me.
The music was a mix of country and western meets the 40's, 50's and 60's but then it is hard to fill an evening with pirate related songs. Buttonwood Bay residents don't want to do sea shanties and climb the rigging with plastic swords in their mouths - man, I'd have paid to see that though.
No, the DJ knew his audience as as long as there was a song you could line dance to thrown in every few minutes, he knew he'd not be lynched - or made to walk the plank.
Line dancing ? What's that all about ? Dozens of people starting off like regimental soldiers on a parade ground at arms length apart and then slowly moving from side to side and backwards and forwards with mostly overlapping foot movements all done with a precision that puts Riverdance to shame. That's not dancing is it ??!!
At other times, Fred & Ginger wannabes would be gliding around the extremities of the dance floor no matter what style of music was being played at the time.
This was particularly bizarre, and somewhat unnerving, during the twist dance-off which just happened to be won by a couple of women based on the volume of audience applause.
And they say old people are conservative !
Everyone had to bring their own nibbles and drinks and as I went around the tables taking photos, I saw everything from hard core spirits to strange flashing glasses filled with God knows what. Our friends, Marty and Eldy, at our end of the table had brought some Baileys so I was a happy pirate in more ways than one.
The DJ was doing his best to keep our brain cells moving as fast as the feet on the dance floor. So between every few songs he'd ask a trivia question and stand back so as not to be trampled by the onrushing hoards of walkers and oxygen tanks as potential winners would fight to get to him.
The questions were either sport or music related and the one constant was that they were all from sepia days when you bought your music in sheets and got football results relayed via semaphore from grounds around the country.
I didn't stand much of a chance although names like Perry Como and The Andy Griffiths Show were known to me but only just. Where I really had no chance was on football questions as although I enjoy the modern game and even know a few quarterback names, I know sod all about ye olden days of American football when the ball was still round !
But first and foremost it was a dance and here we see Clair and Mary - dancing.
I learned that if you have an ear ring on your left ear, you are a swarthy manly pirate type. If you have it on your right ear, you've either dressed yourself in a rush and made a major fashion faux pas or you're slightly to the right of Dale Winton and prefer Liberace to Johnny Rotten.
Of course if you wear ear rings on BOTH ears, then you ARE Dale Winton.
The dance was pirate themed but the quantity and quality of costumes varied enormously. Many wore nothing. Nothing pirate related I mean.
Most wore a mix of bits and pieces garnered from local stores as well as clothing they had created themselves.
A very few went the whole nine yards, or fathoms or whatever, and wouldn't have been out of place as extras in a Hollywood swashbuckling B-movie.
I'd fallen into the category of 'not really gone to a lot of effort but still wanted to be a part of it all' and even this was mostly thanks to Marty and Eldy who had given me a pirate headscarf (or bandana or buff or whatever you want to call the thing) which, combined with my beard that I'd allowed to grow to a decidedly scruffy length just for the occasion, at least made me feel like I wasn't totally out of place.
At these events I often feel as out of place as a college graduate at a Paris Hilton fan club meeting. But sporting my colourful buff and hiding behind my facial undergrowth (or overgrowth), I felt a confidence that didn't entirely come from copious swigs of Baileys.
The highlight of the evening came with the contest for the best pirate and wench.
Now as I've mentioned before, this wasn't a clear cut male/female divide as females stepped forward as pirates, a few of the wenches clearly needed a shave and of course there were those who appeared in both lineups !!
It was a very confusing night and if you care about such things, I'll let you scan the participants and work out who was what.
I planned to go along the line taking a close up of everyone but this soon became impractical due to the way the contest was being judged. Every participant was individually pointed out and would get cheers and much applause relative to their popularity and costume.
It soon became evident that those who stepped out of line and waved a sword or in some way encouraged the crowd would get louder cheers and applause. I think it comes under the heading of "milking the audience" and some were better "milkers" than others.
In any case these unexpected movements played merry hell with my photographic technique as in a dimly lit room, the autofocus had a hard enough time finding a point to focus on without these points leaping around like high school cheerleaders.
I just gave up and enjoyed the spectacle.
In time honoured fashion, it came down to an almost final 5 and then down to a final 3. I have to say the cheers were equally split amongst them. In fact they had to go around them again to get repeat cheers before the eventual winner was picked. Here is the final 5 lineup and the pirate in the middle became the winner.
I'm not sure what swung it for him.
Maybe it was the sword. Maybe it was his hook.
In any case he was the pirate king for the night although I'm not sure what, if anything, he got as a prize.
Beads seemed to be the favourite handouts, followed by t-shirts and so I think we can safely say it was done for fun and not for any financial gain.
My personal favourite was the gent below as for one thing, his face was just 'piratey'. He reminded me of John Neville in the title role of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
Yes I know that wasn't a pirate movie but I can't make him look like Johnny Depp so go with me on this.
But 'The Baron' didn't win and so in my opinion the contest was fixed. Booooooo.
Then it was time for the wenches to come forward and the cheering and clapping procedure for each contestant was repeated.
Sadly (or maybe thankfully) I missed the shot when one of the 'male' wenches made a bold and somewhat desperate move for attention when it came to his turn to be singled out.
He stepped forward, pulled down his already low slung red and white striped shirt and exposed his chest clearly hoping to gain more cheers and louder applause. He got the desired result but I'm sure many aged female residents got little sleep that night as the image of his hairy chest would've remained long after the party was over.
This is a photo of the final 3 and the winner was the wench on the left.
Again I didn't agree as for me, she was a bit too posh. Call me traditional but I think anyone who has a parrot somewhere on their body, male or female, deserves to win any contest.
Squawk, who's a pretty loser, squawk.
Being a Buttonwood Bay dance, it ended at 10pm as hot cocoa and slippers were waiting at homes everywhere.
Now I'm not one for putting photos of me on this blog. I'm not even used to having photos of me TO put on this blog. But lets face it - how often will I get the chance to be photographed wearing a pirate buff ?
My t-shirt was themed as well as it was one I'd picked up in St.Lucia a few cruises ago and showed the islands of The Caribbean.
Ergo I was, drum roll please, one of the "Pirates of the Caribbean." I hear the groans already.
I handed my camera over to Clair and asked Debby to join me and this is the result.
The St.Lucia lettering and map of the islands got chopped off but hey, it doesn't matter.
The Gasparilla Dance was over for another year........or should that be y'arrrrr.