Back in 1981, when the emphasis in Coconut Grove was definitely on the "nut" part, Glenn Terry and seventeen other Grove residents hit upon a most festive holiday-season idea: They'd form a "Mango Marching Band" (instrumentation: conch shells and kazoos) and enter Miami's King Orange Jamboree Parade.
The very traditional Orange Bowl Committee's reaction: "Don't call us. We'll call you."
Undaunted, Terry and friends simply created their own parade, the King Mango Strut. In the early years, the parade route was only three blocks long. Marching units were imaginative, do-it-yourself satirical salutes to everything and everyone who'd done anything notably bizarro that year. (An early-Nineties Bobbitt Brigade snapped hedge clippers and tossed cocktail wieners to spectators.)
Aside from the relevant objects of derision, little about the post-Christmas procession has changed. This year's Strut hits the pavement this Sunday and, as usual, will run along the Grove's Main Highway. In fact the route is still just three blocks long. And the marching units are still the same irreverent paeans to political incorrectness. But this year, finally, the Orange Bowl Committee called.
"Ironic, eh?" chortles Wayne Brehm, a principal parade organizer since the mid-Eighties. "The person asked, 'Would you like to put one of your better groups in the King Orange Parade?' We're thinking about sending over the Marching Monicas."
Expected to be the Strut's major attraction, the Monicas will feature the winner of a preparade Monica Lewinsky look-alike contest, who will receive valuable prizes such as a replacement blue dress from the Gap, free DNA dry-cleaning services from Coconut Grove Laundry & Cleaners, and a supply of cigars. The winner will be accompanied by all runner-up Marching Monicas plus Ken Starr, doling out subpoenas, Linda Tripp seeking a gullible new pal, and local band Roadkill, playing "Devil with a Blue Dress."
Other planned parade highlights include the Port of Miami Phantom Employees, a Titanic Dead Floaters Synchronized Water Ballet Company, and the Victims of Viagra. Of course the perennially popular and poignant Marching Freds, now in their fifteenth year of militantly demanding respect, will be there too. "The group's gotten smaller in the last few years," Brehm sighs regretfully, "but we hope for at least a few folks carrying signs reading, 'Fred Is Not a Four-Letter Word,' and 'Better Fred Than Dead.'"
Judges will select Little Miss Mango at another preparade pageant scheduled for 1:30 p.m. And organizers promise, as usual, the competition will end with all contestants tying for first place.
What's not so usual this year is the queen of the King Mango Strut: Tricycle-riding, beer-swilling, chain-smoking Queen Draino, a.k.a. Dwayne Sawatzki, is back ... more or less. The 67-year-old Grove street citizen, who had reigned as Mango Queen for fourteen years before abdicating two years ago in the wake of various drunk-and-disorderly incidents, actually died last spring. Strut organizers, however, do not expect Draino's death to interfere with his participation in the parade. "We're gonna put his tricycle on top of the car, and a Bud, and a bunch of Marlboros," Brehm explains. Additionally Draino's signature flip-flop sandals will be turned upside down as a tribute, "like they do in the armed forces with the commander's boots, and we might put a brassiere on his ashes."
On another sad note, the original Mango Marching Band will not be performing this year. "We stopped awhile back," Brehm explains. "We're a bunch of old middle-aged guys. Our false teeth got in the way of the kazoos." This is why, he stresses, "we really, really want new marchers this year, especially some of those loons from South Beach. Once a contingent of guys dressed like flamingos showed up. People loved it."
The King Mango Strut takes place at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, December 27, along the Grove's Main Highway. Admission is free. Call 305-445-1865.