News flash: This isn't Mardi Gras
In 1991, two sociologists studied flashing at Mardi Gras. They analyzed hours of revelry and reached interesting conclusions.
This year, the Times tried a similar study of Gasparilla: Is the sight of flashing for beads, which peaked a few years ago, extinct?
One reporter's conclusion — yes.
There was unintentional exposure. In some scanty outfits, just dancing or jumping did the trick. But no overt flashing.
One old man wore this shirt: BOOBIES MAKE ME SMILE. He didn't get flashed. He looked like a kid on Christmas who didn't get the toy he wanted.
Those sociologists found 700 episodes of exposure in 30 hours of Mardi Gras. Flashing there, they said, is not just debauchery. It's commitment to a market economy. At Mardi Gras, beads are valuable. People flash for the same reason they pay $8 for beer at a football game. That's what it costs there.
One of those sociologists came to Gasparilla once. "A pleasant, cute little festival," said John Kilburn. "A little tame." This isn't bad, though.
On Saturday evening, a 3-year-old boy toddled down Tampa Street. He looked longingly at red-and-blue beads on a woman who approached. He wanted them. All he had to do was point.
Stogie smoke defines the day
No need to hunt the odor that defines Gasparilla. Stand in one spot long enough and it will find you.
Pockets of cigar smoke are everywhere on Bayshore Boulevard, as pirates fire up one of the few Tampa traditions older than Gasparilla itself.
Unlike cigarette smokers, who instinctively drift to the back of any crowd in self-exile, stogie smokers march through the masses on parade days, chests puffed, lips puffing. Nudge past one on the sidewalk and it's like inhaling a well-done porterhouse.
"It is naughty, pirate, adult euphoria," said Angye Fox, a cigar-chomping damsel from the Unsinkable Krewe of Molly Brown. "Where else can you dress up like a pirate, smoke cigars and hand out beads to strangers and not get arrested?"
This year, for the first time, official vendor Gaspar's Gold Provisions Co. commissioned 1,000 hand-rolled West Tampa stogies to sell on the route. Most pirates are savvy enough to bring their own.
"You talk about Rough Riders, hell, that's all we do," said member Jim Mordue. "Anyone that smokes cigars will smoke probably two to three today."
Or, in the case of Rough Rider Jay Collins, eight to 10. Hey, Gasparilla only comes once a year.
Besides, last week was the children's parade. There, Collins said, no one smoked at all.
Pouring, even as the sun shines
Gasparilla tastes like lukewarm rum and Coke out of an Alabama accent's 2-liter. "See, we didn't bring the 'shine liquor," he says, "because we didn't know if it was legal down here."
Gasparilla tastes like Pinnacle Gummy Vodka and Cran-Apple out the hose of a CamelBak. "We're not doing anything illegal," a pair of shades tells me.
I say I just want a sip.
Muscle tees surround her.
"We're getting set up," they say.
Gasparilla tastes like hospitality with a hint of suspicion, as my cup fills with a chilled, pink elixir I'm told I must finish before leaving their sight. "Take it!" I hear.
"Take it like a shot!"
Gasparilla tastes sour, sappy, strong. I get a parting hug. The shades get advice: Don't die.
Gasparilla tastes like fire water and Vitamin C, poured from a thermos by a backwards cap.
"It's from concentrate," he apologizes, as his friend offers a second option.
"We were at the store yesterday and we asked for booze for breakfast," says cardboard pirate hat, pouring a brown, milky substance called a Macadamia Nut liqueur.
Gasparilla tastes like maple syrup and regret.
But out comes a third bottle.
"Honey whiskey," they say.
Pirate life? Not a good fit
10 a.m.: Don long pirate dress, crinoline, corset, tricorn hat, parrot, eye patch. Festive! Comfy!
10:40: Corsets aren't meant for driving.
Noon: After an hour trying to park with boned girdle pressing, must brave portable toilet. No depth perception as I gather layers of netting, almost dropping several bracelets in the can.
12:10 p.m.: Girls all around in hot pants, fishnets, studded bras, bandanas tied into "shirts." How do I feel? Like I wasn't supposed to take this literally. Like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls at the Halloween party, full bridal gown and zombie teeth, everyone else in lingerie and animal ears. Feel like Smee.
12:16: Can't see, nearly walk into scaffolding.
12:18: Old lady says I'm "so cute." Other girls walk by in black lace underwear and garters, no pants.
12:24: Someone runs into my tricorn hat.
12:25: Someone runs into my tricorn hat.
12:25:30: Someone runs into my tricorn hat.
1:23: Steam from Chicken on a Stick stand seeps into my soul. I am so hot. Petticoat itches my thighs. Parrot drunkenly droops off tricorn hat.
1:46: Lift petticoats to avoid pile of vomit.
2:07: Lost in terrifying crowd, one eye blind from patch, sweating all over. Never dressing up again.
2:50: Someone offers beads. I decline.
The bead barter banter never stops
The parade route became a stock market.
Everyone had something to offer. Beads, flesh attention. They solicited what they had. Beckoned for what they wanted.
And all of them with their own sales pitch:
• "The louder you scream, the more beads you get!" — Parade float announcer.
• "Come on! I have no beads!" — Brittany Kleinpeter, 22, of Tallahassee, clutching a fistful of beads behind her back.
• "Give it to me, old man!" — Cam Stacy, 21, of Pittsburgh, Penn.
• "Beads for boobs!" — Eric Thomas, 21, of North Palm Beach.
• "Right here! Right here!" — Mary Henika, 54, of Tampa.
• "Who wants a sexy Spaniard?" — Guillermo Ortuno, 21, of Madrid, Spain.
• "Tampa!" — Carly Batten, 23, of Tampa. "BAYYYYY" — everyone within 50 feet of her.
• "Mami, quiero beads!" (Cutie, I want beads) — Camilo Garzon, 19, of Bogota, Colombia.
• "You! Beads! Now!" — Clara Kruger, 23, of Orlando
• Connor Harmsworth, 18, of Lithia, bartered for bead attention not by shouting for them — but by buzzing a vuvuzela.