Hemingway Look-Alikes Compete in Key West

Greg Fawcett, center front, gets a congratulatory smooch from Matt Gineo, right, after being crowned the winner of the 2012
Greg Fawcett, center front, gets a congratulatory smooch from Matt Gineo, right, after being crowned the winner of the 2012 "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest Saturday, July 21, 2012, in Key West. Photo by Andy Newman.

Ernest Hemingway was not a small man in any sense of the word. At six-feet tall and 200 pounds, his legacy looms large over the world of twentieth-century literature and over the tiny subtropical island of Key West, Florida, where he lived and wrote and drank and fished in the 1930s.

Pittsburgh resident George D’Angelo is five-foot-four inches tall and weighs in at about 145 pounds, but that’s not stopping him from entering this year’s "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest at Sloppy Joe’s bar in Key West. The 33rd annual contest is part of the Hemingway Days celebration taking place July 16-21, 2013 in conjunction with Hemingway’s July 21 birthday.

The contest begins with preliminary rounds at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 18 and 19, with the finals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Previous contest winners, including 2012's Greg Fawcett of Cornelius, N.C., will judge this year’s gathering of stocky white-bearded men from all over the world.

Hemingway Days events also include readings and book signings, an awards ceremony for a literary competition directed by author and Hemingway granddaughter Lorian Hemingway, a museum exhibit of rare Hemingway memorabilia, a "Running of the Bulls" inspired by the annual event in Pamplona, Spain (but featuring man-made bulls), an arm wrestling contest, and a three-day marlin fishing tournament.

To prepare for his shot at being crowned “Mini Papa” (an unofficial category of D’Angelo’s invention), the retired Air Force fighter pilot and colonel has been going back to Hemingway’s books, including A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway's war novels resonate with D’Angelo, who flew the F-4 Phantom II fighter-bomber on bombing missions over Vietnam after graduating from Duquesne University in 1965.

Later he earned a Ph.D. in international relations, and he worked in the areas of conflict prevention, humanitarian affairs, and peace-keeping operations at the United Nations from 1995 to 2004. The founder of the International Day of Peace Vigil, which calls for worldwide spiritual observations annually on September 21, is also active in trying to establish a U.S. Department of Peace.

On this week's Hemingway Days-inspired vacation to Key West, D'Angelo is reading A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s memoir of living in France between the World Wars. D’Angelo is most struck by “the whole idea of the American ex-pat artist community in Paris. They were all so close. It must have been so exciting,” he says.

Almost as exciting as a bunch of Hemingway look-alikes crowding the Sloppy Joe's stage in honor of the great writer and his legendary Key West lifestyle.