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Q: What is a Parrot Head?
A:What is a “Parrothead”? as stated by Gary Buffett
No one really seems to be able to give me an honest answer as to what the definition of the word “PARROTHEAD” is. I get the same basic answer from everyone, and the base of that definition always includes that those who are Parrotheads are fans of musician, songwriter, and storyteller Jimmy Buffett.
I would like to expand a little bit on that concept. To me being a Parrothead is not just being a fan of Jimmy Buffett’s, it means adopting, or at least being a fan of the lifestyle that he talks about in the body of his work. This includes not only acting the part (going to the shows and dressing up (or “down”, depending on who you talk to) for the “part” in grass skirts, coconut bras, and other parrot related paraphernalia), but also includes reading his books, watching his movies, sharing his ideals on life, business, and the environment.
Other activities that these fans (myself included) of Jimmy Buffett’s are involved in include: naming their children after Buffet and his children (Savannah Jane, Sarah Delaney, or Cameron Marley), subscribing to Buffett’s newsletter The Coconut Telegraph (it’s basically a “what’s happening” list of what’s going on in the world of Jimmy Buffett, and it lists Jimmy’s concert dates, merchandise, CDs, clothing, new performers that he’s discovered around the globe in his travels, and other interesting Jimmy Buffett related factoids), and some, if not most or all of the activities that occur at any of his concerts is absolutely awesome.
At his shows, we Parrotheads are known to do some pretty outlandish and off the wall things such as putting large shark fins on our vehicles, writing Jimmy Buffett related sayings or slogans from his songs or books on our vehicles, and some of us display our license plates-which also have sayings or slogans from his songs or books on them. Right now, I know of only two states in the union that have license plates specifically for us Jimmy Buffett fans-Virginia and South Carolina. Yes, I live in Virginia, and yes, I display my Parrothead license plate proudly year round!
When we’re not going to Buffett’s concerts, we live “normal everyday lives”, but some of us own pets such as parrots, parakeets, cockatoos, cats, and dogs that are named after Jimmy Buffett or characters in one of his books or songs. Some tend to spend extravagant amounts of money on Jimmy Buffett related paraphernalia like CDs, books, clothes, videos, etc. We even have a national annual convention that takes place (usually in the Fall) in Key West, Florida called “The Meeting of the Minds”, and most of the visitors there are members of local Parrothead Clubs, clubs from across the United States (and one U.S. territory), as well as clubs from around the world (from some notable countries such as Canada, Australia, England, and France-naming a few).
The event is a weeklong celebration of Buffett’s life, music, writings, and there are sometimes performances by Jimmy himself, his band members (called “Coral Reefers”), and artists in the Trop Rock industry, many of whom are featured artists who get a considerable amount of airplay on Buffett’s Sirius Satellite Radio Station Radio Margaritaville. (Key West is considered to be the “official” center of Trop Rock music because Buffett used to live there and wrote many of his greatest songs there.)
There is even a complete culture in the Parrothead community that consists of changing the spelling of words and the pronunciation of words that are common in the English language. In our new day and age of computers and the Internet, people have abbreviated the forms of words like LOL, which stands for “Laughing out Loud’, and we Parrotheads are no exception to the rule. Much of this vernacular consists of substituting certain letters, like say an “F” with “PH” (Phins, Phar, Phriend, etc.) on our web pages, in our e-mails, or in our texts to family and friends.
I have (as well as some of my friends on my social networking sites), have even gone to the extreme point of actually adding these words to our spell or grammar checker on our PCs. Some of our Internet acronyms are based on the “PH” concept, or are derived from Jimmy Buffett songs such as PU (Phinz Up-which is a term of well wishing, endearment, or love in the Parrothead world-almost like “ALOHA” is in Hawaii, as it also has many meanings in addition to the three already noted-depending on who you talk to). Other Internet acronyms that we have are: LMAOWMPU (Laughing My Ass Off With My Phinz Up), ROTPLMAOWMPU (Rolling On The Phloor Laughing My Ass Off With My Phinz Up), GGAIAPOW (Great God Almighty I’m A Piece of Work), and M-Ville (which represents the word Margaritaville and the title of one of Buffett’s most popular songs).
We Parrotheads are known to communicate with and understand other Parrotheads who can communicate in this same fashion, and in our lexicon, our children are referred to as “parakeets”. We even refer to ourselves as Fruitcakes, in honor of the Jimmy Buffett song by the same name which details what it’s like to be different than everyone else. I can be at one of his shows and think I’m the strangest person there, but there is always someone at these shows who is stranger than I am, but oddly enough, in the Parrothead community, this is merely deemed as being “normal” and “part of the ‘in’ crowd”. I can also be at the same show and feel completely alone, yet surrounded by friends who are as likeminded as I am.
One thing that I am completely guilty of is going overboard with being a Parrothead, and what I mean by this is that I have jokingly claimed on the Internet that I was Jimmy Buffett’s son (Google “GARY BUFFETT). It started out as merely a gag to market and sell a book that I had written that was a comical base on Buffett’s life, times, and music. Before I knew it, the thing snowballed and has turned out to be a pretty good thing, although I’ve had to put up a disclaimer for the world informing everyone that I’m not really Jimmy’s son. However, as I see it, all Parrotheads are family and are related in some way, shape, or form. I can go on my Facebook page and my other accounts and find people who I have never met or seen, yet we have friends in common-usually in the Parrothead community (friends of friends).
But who is Jimmy Buffett and why do we Parrotheads “flock” to see him or purchase his merchandise? Many of you out there may not realize this, but Jimmy Buffett has this whole other side of him that a lot of people aren’t completely aware of past the songs Margaritaville and Five o’Clock Somewhere. I’m not talking just about the tours and his music, the dressing in Hawaiian shirts and whatnot, but I’m talking about the other aspects of his life. For example, he has written two children’s books with his oldest daughter Savannah Jane (The Jolly Mon and Trouble Dolls), and has written other such novels as Tales from Margaritaville, Where is Joe Merchant?, A Salty Piece of Land, Swine Not?, and his autobiography entitled A Pirate Looks at 50.
His books have all pretty much been on The New York Times Bestseller List since they came onto the market, and he holds a title that only a few other authors on planet Earth could only boast to have done: Jimmy Buffett has had both a novel and an autobiography on The New York Times Bestseller List at the same time. There are only seven other authors in American literary history who have ever accomplished this and had this prestigious honor. This list is exclusively comprised of such notable and world renowned authors as Mark Twain (one of Buffett’s favorite author’s I might add) and Ernest Hemingway (another famous Key West resident).
Buffett is also into other things as well, like acting and producing movies. He’s a very successful restaurateur, businessman, and he’s been known to make soundtracks for some of those movie projects that he’s been involved in. His first movie that he appeared in was called Rancho Deluxe with Sam Waterston and Jeff Bridges back in 1975. He was a stand in stuntman in that film, and also made an appearance in the movie and contributed a great deal to the soundtrack of that movie. His movie career credits include (some you may have heard of or actually seen): Hook, Congo, Cobb, Hoot, From the Earth to the Moon, and Repo Man. He’s even appeared as a musical guest two times that I am aware of on Saturday Night Live, on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Live With Regis and Kathie Lee, has made several appearances and performances on The Today Show, as well as The Tonight Show, and the Canadian late night comedy show popular in the 1980s called SCTV (Southern Canadian Television-a show that was on late Friday nights where such comedic icons as John Candy, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, and Joe Flaherty got their start in show business).
Most folks also don’t know that Jimmy Buffett has performed with Elmo from the Muppets in Elmopalooza!, and even made a song with him called Island Amphibian. He’s been doing charity work for several years for such organizations as Save the Manatee, helping post Hurricane Katrina cleanup for the city of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, as well as donating two boats specifically designed to help clean up the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill in the Summer of 2010. He has long been an advocate of saving the environment, and many of his Parrothead clubs have it as a mandatory requirement in their club charters that they do something to help benefit the environment or others in need such as litter pick up, environmental stewardship, and Toys for Tots.
Jimmy has even had several of his songs in numerous movies and television shows such as Hollywood’s Magical Island: Catalina, Anger Management, Arachnophobia, Always, FM, Summer Rental, The Slugger’s Wife, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Coast to Coast, The Firm, Hoot, and Urban Cowboy. He even produced, performed in, and did most of the soundtrack for his 2006 movie Hoot which was based on friend and fellow Floridian author Carl Hiaasen’s book by the same name.
In addition, Jimmy is also an entrepreneur and very successful businessman, owning the Margaritaville brand name with products that range from golf bags, t-shirts, flip-flops, sandals, sunglasses, key chains, liquors, and even foods. His Margaritaville Café’s and casinos are located in various locations throughout the world and he even owns a couple of record labels (Margaritaville Records and Mailboat Records immediately come to my mind), and an Internet/Satellite radio station called Radio Margaritaville. (Yeah, they play his music, but other artists as well such as Bob Marley, The Sauce Boss, Warren Zevon, Littlefeat, as well as a vast cornucopia of Trop rock artists who are up and coming, and even from other genres.)
As I see it, Jimmy Buffett is basically a modern day renaissance man, and one question that is oftentimes presented to me about being a Parrothead is “Gary, where and when did the term Parrothead actually originate?” There are several legends in the Parrothead community that speculate on this, but one legend in our community that I personally subscribe to is that the term originated in Ohio in 1985 at the Timberwolf Amphitheater at the King’s Island Amusement Park near Cincinnati (and Cincinnati is said to have had some very wild Buffett shows, as well as live recordings like Buffett’s live album called Feeding Frenzy in 1991).
During this performance (the one at the Timberwolf Amphitheater), Buffett remarked about how everyone in that audience was wearing parrot hats and Hawaiian shirts and how many folks continued to “flock” to his shows the way that fans of The Grateful Dead (referred to as “Dead Heads”) would. Timothy Schmit, a member of the rock band The Eagles was playing on stage with Buffett and his band during that show that night and is the one who is actually given credit for originating the term “Parrotheads” when he elaborated on Buffett’s statement, and “Here We Are” (the name of another one Buffett’s songs where he celebrates and thanks his fans-us Parrotheads) 28 years later and the name has remained.
WHAT IS A PARROTHEAD?
They never fail to ask when we appear in mass,
What makes you wear those crazy clothes and imitate an ass?
The answer isn’t simple but them again it is,
It’s really just a frame of mind around Jimmy Buffet’s biz.
Its sitting in a traffic jam and picturing a beach,
A far off island in the sea that’s just beyond your reach,
A flowered shirt, a crazy hat, a cheeseburger in your hand
A beach chair at an awesome park with a Trop-Rock music band.
By day we may be doctors and lawyers and don a 3-piece suit.
By night the margaritas flow and grass skirts look so cute,
With sailing songs and steel drum beats the stress can melt away,
And if you haven’t tried it, don’t knock it, as they always say.
We celebrate the pirate life, the hula girl and rum,
A bunch of crazy drinkin’ folk we have been called by some.
Dancing barefoot, squeezing limes, it is a tropical circus,
But hold the bashing and keep in mind, we Party with a Purpose.
So welcome to this phlocking – we hope that you’ll be kind.
Beyond the beaks and feathers you’ll certainly no doubt find
The greatest bunch of people that take charity to heart,
That welcomes anyone with an urge to play a part.
Fins Up Everybody!
Carol Ewold, President
Santa Barbara Parrothead Club 2009