Archive for July, 2012
Years back, a tough old salt told me the story of the Silver King Fish at the bar we both frequented. John’s long gone now, but he was part of a charming era of Miami’s history, a time of movie stars, gangsters, gambling, and lavish weekends 90 miles away in Havana. The fifties. John worked on the charter boats that took yankees and Midwesterners fishing off the coast of Dade and Broward counties.
He would relate how he would establish rapport with the passengers with charming joviality. He explained that it was important to make the passengers feel like we cared about them and we made them feel special. As they approached the teeming schools of king fish the “vacation fishermen” would begin to get strikes. John would select a middle-aged fellow and help him land his catch with a big gaff hook. Another Miami con had begun. “Oh my God!” John would rasp out in well-practiced disbelief. “What’s the matter?” John would reply “I can’t believe this!” in the roar of a grizzly. Again “What, what?” At this point it was the tourist that had been hooked as well as the fish. “I would yell out ‘This is a Silver King!’ “said John, acting out how he would stroke the flapping fish, his face contorted in amazement and voice rising in crescendo. “Can I eat it?” came the naive query. And here’s where John would utter the Academy Award winning words: “Good God, man. Are you crazy. This is a grand trophy.”
From the bridge the captain would also express amazement. “There hasn’t been a Silver King caught in these waters in over thirty years!” He would come down and erupt in an animated dance and the celebratory exhilaration would mesmerize all aboard. Unseeable dollar signs would reflect in John’s and the captains eyes. The bump initiated, the hammer closes. Touchdown. Taxidermy time. A tidy sum would be extracted, contract signed, and all eyes beamed in glory for the tourist’s good fortune. John and captain would earn their usual commission. And pictures were taken(no film in camera of course) to be sent back to Oklahoma or wherever he was from.
They had to hope the fellow did not see the hundreds of “Silver Kings” being pitched up to the filleting tables when they came into the docks. But if he did, “Hey a contract is a contract,” John would explain “ and there were also the rules of the sea to be upheld.”
A time or two the fellow turned out to be a lawyer or a doctor and John could see a little “I’m not going for this” trouble coming. And here’s the art of the real con man. Conning your way out of getting caught. “Look,” John would begin with sincerity. “ It’s been your trip to Florida. And you were really thrilled weren’t you? The fish will arrive in six weeks and you’ll have it as a forever memory to share with friends, family and grandchildren. So in a sense it really is your “Silver King. See?” The man could now appreciate it looking at it that way and they’d shake hands and sometimes the fellow would come back next year. I heard the story many times. Every one a little different. And I never minded paying for the drinks as he conned me with his stories.