Glenn Terry is the creator of the King Mango Strut parade, an eccentric, satirical, and politically relevant parade initiated in 1982 and indigenous to Coconut Grove (although Terry also helped launch Wynwood's version just a few weeks ago).
Terry's efforts to bring cohesion to the eccentric South Florida community don't end there, though. In 1981, even before the first King Mango Strut was strutted, Terry created a holiday video that was aimed at putting the loving soul of Coconut Grove on display.
Terry explained that he had just come back from Los
Angeles when he began filming his Christmas special. He'd tried to make
it in Hollywood as a screenwriter, and hadn't quite given up on his film
dreams, even upon landing back on SoFla soil.
"[In California,] I did play a zombie that crawls out of a grave," Terry said. "I did have the closing line in the movie Demonoid
where I deliver a package to the leading lady and a hand comes out of
it and kills her. So I came back here looking for creative outlets and
so I made movies, little short films, and I showed this one on all the
[local] cable TV stations at the same time on Christmas Eve, and The Herald wrote a nice article about how this was my Christmas card to Miami."
of his satirical King Mango parade, Terry's Christmas special pokes fun
at more traditional television Christmas specials.
"It's sort of like a parody of the holiday Christmas special TV show. I don't know if they even have those anymore, but they used to. Pee Wee Herman had one about 20 years ago," he said. "So we went mostly to bars in Coconut Grove, and the short blurb is, 'Two guys roam around the Grove looking for the elusive Christmas spirit.'"
Basically, Terry and his buddy go into a number of bars and ask patrons if they know any Christmas songs and if they'd be willing to sing them for the camera. "And they say, 'Yeah.' So they sing them. And the songs are rewritten, so 'Silver Bells' becomes 'Pretty Shells.' And 'White Christmas' becomes 'Green Christmas.' And then I got some people at Scotty's Landing -- I would just grab people I knew, or just walk up to strangers and say, 'I have this video camera. Would you sing some Christmas songs for a show I'm making?' And people would do it."
He even roped his mother into the caroling action. "Some of it's kind of weird. Some of it's kind of family," Terry said.
After its first showing, he put the film away and didn't touch it for another 26 years. He stumbled on it again about four years ago. "I said, 'I should do something with this,'" he said, "and I got in touch with some folks at Books & Books. I said, 'Can I show this at your store?' ... A number of people showed up. So then I did it again a few years later, and every other year I call them up and say, 'This is Glenn Terry, can I show my Christmas movie again?'"
He says he gives out door prizes every year -- mostly posters and t-shirts from the King Mango Strut extravaganza. "There are usually a couple of kids in the audience, so I give them the mic and ask them what they want for Christmas and embarrass them a little bit. So it's fun."
New to this year's Christmas Special night will be a gift exchange. "I encourage everyone to bring a strange gift that costs three dollars or less. You can get some pretty good things at garage sales for three dollars," he said.
What's become a quirky community tradition started as a somewhat self-centered stab at fame, Terry admits. "I still had stars in my eyes from Hollywood and I thought I'd get noticed for my cute little show," he said.
It seems like Terry's dream of fame and fortune has been replaced by a wish to spread Christmas cheer in the community. Can it be that he finally found that elusive Christmas spirit after all? (C'mon, it's Christmas time -- we're allowed to be cheesy!)
Glenn and Dave's Christmas Special will play tonight at Books & Books in Coral Gables at 8 p.m.. Admission is free; guests are encouraged to bring weird wrapped gifts under $3 in value.
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