Shell Shocked: The Pine Island Sound perfume party
The 40th anniversary of Sanibel’s independence takes place this month. It was barely fifty years ago that Sanibel was a colony of Miami Beach and handled its overflow.
But as we all know, there was an undercurrent of revolt amongst Sanibel’s natives years before the actual revolution. The battle cry “Taxation without representation is so dj vu” was initially murmured and then shouted from Sanibel’s highest mountains.
Miami Beach was run by the Calvin Klein dynasty. The ruling class’s primary objective was for its visitors to wear Calvin Klein swimsuits and look fashionable after a splash in the ocean. Calvin Klein the First, the reigning Miami Beach monarch, would make occasional visits to Sanibel to try to encourage the natives to wear his newest fashions rather than their traditional suspenders and overalls. We need to remember that as a Miami Beach colony, Sanibel was well behind other burgeoning resort areas and catered only to those traveling to Sanibel for the baths.
The fact that Sanibel had no baths served to remind modern generations how misinformed the general population was about Sanibel. And then came the infamous day of the “Pine Island Sound Perfume Party.” The rebellion was just beginning to swell when a flotilla of twenty Miami Beach yachts attempted to dump tons of Elizabeth Taylor perfume into Sanibel’s several stores.
Barbie Doll, the owner of Sanibel’s only perfumery at the time, refused to accept the shipment of perfume because she would have been required to pay a perfume import tax. Everyone in Sanibel knew that the proceeds from perfume taxes would be used by Calvin Klein the First to pay for his camel racing sports arena. Barbie was able to recruit some fifty Sanibel residents to raid the Miami Beach yachts and pour all the perfume into the Sound.
This infuriated Calvin Klein the First. He mobilized an army of well-tanned lifeguards and had them march to Sanibel to quell the uprising. When Paul Revere Bailey got a whiff of the suntan aroma from the approaching lifeguards, he got on his sea turtle and rode up and down Periwinkle shouting “the lifeguards are coming, the lifeguards are coming.”
The Sanibel militia sprang into action. The hand-to-hand fighting was fierce as the Sanibel militia kept sliding off the severely greased up Miami Beach lifeguards.
The turning point of the Sanibel revolution came in the summer of 1973 when the Miami Beach lifeguards were washed out to sea when they succumbed to the dreaded red tide. General Francis Bailey declared victory on the steps of the Pirate Playhouse and convened a constitutional convention. A declaration of independence was framed by the new government’s founders.
It began: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for Sanibel to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with Miami Beach and to assume its rightful place among travel destinations, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Miami Beach lifeguards are reptiles and need to be discouraged from disseminating body odor to the masses.
“Four score and seven years ago our Sanibel ancestors brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in Timbers, Doc Ford’s and Bailey’s, and was dedicated to the conceit of tyranny and the moon over the mountain.
“We come to bury Miami Beach, not to praise it. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred in their Margaritas. To dine or not to dine, aye there’s the rub.”
And so it was that forty years ago; Sanibel was incorporated and celebrated its independence. Its first mayor, George Washington Bailey, was sworn into office and uttered these immortal words:
“That old black magic has me in its spell. That old black magic that I know so well. And down and down we go. Round and round we go, caught in the spell of freedom and liberty. The only thing we have to fear is a southern wind that brings back the nagging aroma of sweaty lifeguards. But we the Sanibel people have learned to boogie and hulahoop and have nothing but a bright future ahead.”
Our revolution is by now ancient history. Sanibel is at the top of its game as an independent, incorporated city and as Harry Connick, Jr. said, “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.