July 24, 2005

Florida Mailman Wins Hemingway Look-Alike Contest

KEY WEST, Fla. -- A Florida mailman credited his persistence with winning Key West's annual Ernest Hemingway look-alike competition, beating nearly 160 snowy-haired men resembling the Nobel Prize-winning U.S. writer.

Bob Doughty, 61, of Deerfield Beach, Fla., a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier clad in a wool cable knit turtleneck, said his favorite Hemingway book was "The Old Man and The Sea."

He won the contest, held late on Saturday, on his 13th attempt. "Longevity and patience. Keep trying," he said.

The 25th annual Hemingway Days festival, in this island city at the tip of the Florida peninsula, celebrates the July 21 birthday of Hemingway, born 106 years ago.

At this year's event, competition organizers welcomed Richard Hemingway, 44, of Davison, Michigan, onstage as the fourth and youngest child of Ernest Hemingway, who committed suicide in 1961, in Ketchum, Idaho.

"I was born five days before Ernest died," said Richard Hemingway, who recently started using the writer's last name after being known as Richard Steel.

He said he learned at age 43 that Ernest Hemingway was his father. His mother, a one-time Key West resident and friend of playwright Tennessee Williams, told him the news shortly before she died.

Ernest Hemingway secretly married his mother while living in Cuba, likely while also married to fourth wife Mary, and supported her financially, said Richard Hemingway, who described himself as a machinist, amateur inventor and poet and song writer.

His mother passed on advice from Ernest Hemingway, telling Richard Hemingway not to study great classical literature.

"He believed it would keep writers from developing their own style," he said. "I stayed away from the great books of literature."

While in high school, Richard Hemingway read "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," by J.R.R. Tolkien. "I would have taken writing more seriously if I had known Ernest was my father."

Richard Hemingway entered the Hemingway look-alike contest last year but did not make the finals.

This year's look-alike hopefuls included men from South Africa, Hungary, Ireland and Puerto Rico, who descended on Key West to participate. Hemingway, who lived in Key West in the 1930s, wrote "To Have and Have Not" as his only novel set in the United States and in Key West.