By Chuck Strouse
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We walk up to the outside shower stall made from rough-cut, 80-year-old cypress wood that Lucky salvaged from Sullivan's barbecue restaurant. The place, opened in the Twenties and sold to the government in the mid-Seventies, stood a few yards away from his home.
Lucky and Maureen sometimes bathe here. "I just want you to know we have inside plumbing if you don't want to use the outside shower," he reassures. "We have inside bathrooms, inside showers, and everything, all right."
The stall also serves as a backdrop for the swamp man's, um, models.
At this point, Lucky instructs me to remove my shirt and enter the stall. He snaps several pictures. "Look away," he says. "That's good. You have a nice profile."
Am I about to enter a real-life version ofDeliverance?
I put my shirt back on, and the tour progresses to a bathtub stationed next to a dried-out marsh surrounded by the lush landscape. Portable burners powered by two propane tanks sit beneath the tub. Here Lucky pampers his muse and soul mate, Maureen. "Imagine watching the sun go down, sipping a glass of red wine, taking a bubble bath, and you are in the Everglades," Lucky says enthusiastically. "How many people can do that?"
We move on to a three-foot-high sandbox connected to an above-ground swimming pool. Like the stall and the bathtub, this setup is a backdrop. "I like to call it my beach-girl scene," he says.
Just a few steps away is the fanciest outhouse in the Everglades, according to Lucky. He opens a wooden door next to an open safe that appears to be loaded with real dynamite. Inside is a completely tiled bathroom with a working porcelain toilet and sink. On one wall, bookshelves are lined with all kinds of reading material. A guest book filled with signatures sits on the sink. Next to the toilet, in a rack, are several three-ring binders. They contain pictures of Lucky's female models.
One binder is labeled "Legs" in black marker; another is marked "Breasts" in the same manner. Lucky opens the latter. A photograph depicts an apple lodged between two breasts. "Imagine if you were starving," Lucky proffers. "What would you reach for first?"
The exterior of the outhouse is decorated with hanging tin pots and tubs in various sizes, as well as framed eight-by-ten-inch prints of Lucky's subjects.
After a quick tour of a henhouse and greenhouse that were wrecked by Hurricane Wilma, I inquire about the grave next to the mailbox. "It's really a sad story," Lucky intones. "There was, quite a few years ago, a newspaper guy out here who had misquoted me in the article, and that is where he wound up.... You're not going to misquote me, are you?"
Lucky laughs. "There is always a variation to the gravesite story," he says. "One time our daughter Cheyenne came out and she had brought over her new boyfriend. When he asked me who was buried there, I said, öMy daughter's last boyfriend.'"
Louis Herbert Cole II was born July 27, 1947, in Whiteville, North Carolina. Five years later, he and his family moved to Miami Springs, where he grew up and lived until 1994. He graduated from Miami Springs Senior High School and attended Miami-Dade Community College.
When Lucky was around six years old, his uncle Paul M.F. Walker introduced him to the wonders of the Everglades. In 1957, Lucky met his eventual lifelong friend and Loop Road scion Ben Wolfe. "I never got the swamp out of my system," Lucky says.
Wolfe, an Inverness, Florida native who moved to Miami in 1932, worked as a bartender at the Pig and Sax restaurant on the MacArthur Causeway and as a mob bookie. Several years later, Wolfe tended bar at the Happy Hour, a long-gone watering hole located at Douglas Road and Coral Way. It was at a campground on Loop Road where Lucky, then a boy, first met Wolfe. The barkeep was speeding across "the big open prairie" at an amazing clip and kicking up a lot of dirt, Lucky recalls.
The dust cloud got closer. "It was Ben, all right," Lucky says. "He was driving his brand-new 1957 Ford Thunderbird across the prairie at 70 miles per hour."
In the late Seventies and Eighties, Lucky owned a trailer that he kept on Wolfe's Loop Road property, just a mile west from the current Chez Cole. He met Maureen Mabelle Corson in October 1979. One weekend she was washing her muscle car while wearing just a black bikini and wedge sandals near a wine and beer bar on Payne Drive and Ludlam Road in Miami Springs that today is Murphy's. Unbeknownst to Maureen, the bar patrons were taking advantage of the free peep show, according to Lucky. "She was oblivious to what was going on around her," Lucky remembers. "It was just rude. It was sleazy. So I walked over to let her know what these guys were doing."
Lucky would take Maureen, a petite Toronto native, with him on weekends and holidays to Loop Road before they moved there permanently fourteen years ago. It took her some time to adjust to her husband's outdoor fix. "My idea of roughing it was room service," she relates.