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Colorful Clearwater - Beach Bumming

Published:   |   Updated: February 6, 2014 at 10:24 AM

A late-afternoon visit to the sunset celebration at Pier 60 delivers a riot of sights and sounds.

My wife Kelly and I aren’t what you’d consider beach people, probably because we’ve reached the age where less wrinkling is preferred over suntans. Nonetheless, living only a few miles from Clearwater Beach and possessing a major in psychology, the opportunity to do some superlative people watching now and then is irresistible.

And so it was on a recent Saturday that we finally found a parking space about two-iron distance from the Clearwater Pier, better known locally as Pier 60. We headed for the pavilion that fronts the 1000-foot pier where, weather permitting, street performers entertain from 4 to 8 p.m. each evening this time of year. The pier itself is wide enough to handle display tables on each side, reminding one of a flea market as you stroll past jewelry, leather goods, novelties, souvenirs and of course the mighty fridge magnets. Near the end of the pier you can pay a buck to pass a gate and watch the fishing action (or lack thereof).

But we came here to gawk rather than battle a bonito or buy a bracelet, and a steady procession of onlookers once again didn’t disappoint. While oddities are the norm when roaming Pier 60, several stood out this day. One gal – let’s call her Tawdry Hipburn – seemed quite blasť about her skin peeling in layers from too much sun and exhibiting a bikini the width and sheerness of hummingbird wings. A fellow – let’s call him Mitchell N. Mann – wore a too-short t-shirt that didn’t even remotely cover a spillage of tummy fat the size of several radial tires.

Even so, as always it was the beautiful people who stole the show: gorgeous women with perfect figures in color-matching togs; Adonis-like men with Schwarzenegger physiques clad in fashionable attire. And it’s just plain fun admiring lovers holding hands, families with kids prancing about, people carrying ice cream cones or walking their doggies.

But back to the pavilion performers ... Daniel and Q, a husband-and-wife team called the Acromaniacs, drew a big crowd. Daniel jumped through a hoop and later over the heads of six small children. At the end of the act, he announced that he’s trying to earn enough money to pay for his grandmother’s operation. “Hey, if she wants implants, she wants implants,” he quipped. Roughly half of the audience dropped a dollar or two into a tip bucket circulated by Q while the freeloaders blithely slinked away.

All performers work only on tips, which is the norm at similar sunset celebrations like famed Mallory Square in Key West. Other than the obvious presence of tip containers before each of them, none seemed pushy about it. As one performer confided, “Getting stiffed is part of the gig – if you show attitude about it, you won’t last long here.”

A dapper dude in a pirate outfit (Capt. Jack) posed for pictures. Musicians did their thing on the pier such as a shirtless violinist standing next to a sign that read, “Danger: No jumping or diving off pier.”

A sax player in a colorful Rasta hat drew our attention and we said hello. He smiled, pulled the reed from his mouth, introduced himself as J and handed me a business card. “I first started playing here three years ago when I knew only one tune,” he said with a wide smile. “Now I can play lots of songs and do appearances at parties, weddings and other events.”

A Clearwater police officer stood near the pier entrance, watching the festivities. “This is a nice family beach and we want to keep it that way,” said Officer Raymond Croze. Nearby we stopped Brian Teagarden and Amelia Rosser at they strolled by, a couple from Connecticut. “We always come here when in town because there’s always so many cool people around,” he said.

He’s right. Maybe we shouldn’t be so judgmental. Pier 60 is a forgiving place, a mall with no walls and the alluring backdrop of a teal-green Gulf of Mexico. Besides, to others I could easily be a source of amusement as well due to slow movement and a body shape reminiscent of a manatee. The fact I often drink from a hose and eat lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang’s doesn’t help matters either. Just don’t point if you see me at the pier.


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