Trop Rockers from Norway, Poker Run, The Birdman Flies
^listen to “Raise My Glass To The Upper 48” while you read the blog!^
Wow! So much has gone on since my last blog, I’ll try to condense things.
Lets see.. Renn Loren and Jocky (say “Yocky) arrived in the U.S. from Norway, of all places. Renn is a great songwriter and fabulous guy, who originates from Hawaii. Exactly why he ever settled in Norway about twenty years ago, I never grasped a hold of however. Perhaps a blessing in ice, shall we say, as Norway is far and away the strongest economy in Europe, by far. Renn and Jocky landed somewhere on the mainland of Florida and stayed with Renn’s longtime pal, Ned Daniels up in Punta Gorda. After about a week they headed down and stayed with me for several days, then off to another location nearby.
They played at Smokin Tuna with a group of local musicians, featuring a couple of guys I played with, Richard Crooks and Ericson Holt, on drums and keyboards, then also Bo Fodor on lead guitar. A wonderful sound emitted from the stage and I was happy helping to put everyone together prior to Renn and Jocky’s departure from Scandinavia. Kind of a twist on what I regularly do and I did find it fun! It should be also noted; Renn and Jocky constantly talked about how much they appreciated Charlie Bauer’s hospitality as well. It was fun having two Trop Rockers in from Norway. From Norway! Who would have thunk?
During their stay here, which in total was over a month, we ended up doing a lot of things together as well, outside of music. Together with my old friends and their new friends, Rick and Cindi Hogan, we also went on a few expositions out on the water here. One was Marvin Key and another was Pick Nick Island. Marvelous days on the water indeed! It was such a pleasure to see the joy and excitement of two people who never experience a tropical climate and water where they come from.
We also had the 40th annual Poker Run, which was started by Phil Peterson’s Harley Davidson dealership in Miami. This event usually draws about thirty thousand bikers and friends to town, many of which don’t even come on motorcycles, but arrive for the festivities nevertheless. Those who participate in the run itself, leave from either of the two Peterson Harley Davidson dealerships in Miami and Cutler Bay (southern Miami/Dade County). The Poker Run takes them through the magnificent Florida Keys. Island hopping, key to key and having designated stops at particular establishments all along the way. The drive through the Keys has been consistently reviewed over the years as being one of the top ten scenic drives in the United States. Who am I to argue with that? You have the Atlantic Ocean on your left and the Gulf of Mexico on your right. In 1997 I wrote a song for my then band, The Rabble Rousers, called “Poker Run”. One of the lines went “Got the Atlantic on my left, the Gulf on my right, thirteen fifty cc’s between my theighs…”
This year’s Poker Run was a fun event, as always, although I will say that the crowd seemed a slight bit down from last year. The bikes, as always, were stunning!
The establishments on Duval and off, appreciate the Poker Run as well. The bikers really support the community. Sure, they come in and have parties in the bars, however they also stop by other establishments as well. I recall back when I was in the art business; the gallery always had an excellent weekend. I recall selling a few high ticket Giclees myself back then. Plus, the people in the service industry, the bars and restaurants, always look forward to the Poker Run. These folks tip at worst, fairly. They are great! The next blog will cover tipping more in depth and have instructions
It’s with a very heavy heart that I pass on the following Key West News: Mark Bergen, a.k.a “Birdman” or just “Bird” passed away this last week. “Bird” and I worked together when I first arrived on the island at Wyland Gallery. Naturally, this put us in close, constant contact over the duration we worked together, which was over a year, I’d say. I never heard anyone call him Mark, I don’t think, save for his girlfriend Sharron perhaps. They called him Birdman because he and Sharron had an African Gray Parrot, which was a large bird in itself. It was funny working with Bird and I always got a kick out of it. We always got on great. He was always honest and really had no room for those without ethics. Sometimes he would vanish from the gallery and everyone would ask “Hey! Where’s Bird?”. Turned out he had slipped over to the Small Bar, just a few doors down, and grabbed himself a libation, in the best of Key West traditions!
After a long time Bird decided that he wanted to pursue other endeavors and he left the gallery. He picked up a job selling ocean sails and sunset cruises in booths on the street. Bird was a natural at it and did well at it. However, as long as I knew him, (four years) poor bird never seemed to have any money. I’d bump into him in a bar and he’d always speak of himself in the third person. “Well, do you think you might buy the Birdman a beer?” All you could do was laugh and buy him a beer!
It’s a funny thing in Key West. A lot of tourists come here to see a specific musician. ”Yeah! We just arrived and our first order of business is to see Michael McCloud play at Schooner Wharf!”.
Bird had the exact same appeal with people and I've seen it on many occasions. People would arrive in Key West and look up Bird! A guy who sold them tickets for a sunset cruise and actually hooked up with them later and personally showed them the fun side of Key West, escorting them to the places he knew they would like from his conversation with them. It happened all the time. “Hey Chris! Hey! I want you to meet my friends Bill and Joanne. They are in from Tulsa and it’s great that they met you as you’re a Key West musician and an interesting person!”. We’d hang out for maybe a half hour and then Bird would be off with them to another bar. Every time these people would return, they’d be sure to look Bird up!
Once Bird asked me, “Hey Chris! I have these friends coming to town and they are getting married over at the Pier House tomorrow. Could you play for their reception at The Pier House? I did, naturally and in talking to the bride and groom, they told me “Oh, we’ve always come here and hooked up with Birdman! This is our fifth time!”.
Bird was the ultimate Key West Ambassador, if there ever was one.
Bird enjoyed his drinks and that is one of the endearing qualities he had. He often was banned from Captain Tony’s, which was a funny thing unto itself actually. At one point, it was “banned for life”, however common sense prevailed and it was repealed. When Bobby D and I played there he’s always ask if he could sing “Creep” with us and sometimes “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. He did well at them too! Never out of key or anything! Plus, the crowd, whomever they were, loved it.
Birdman may never had money, but he always managed to keep a roof over his and Sharron’s head, whom he loved very, very much.
I saw him about two weeks ago, across from the Green Parrot. I was riding home from picking up groceries at Fausto’s. I always stopped to talk to Bird when I’d see him and this was no exception. After the usual greeting, Bird told me he was trying to get some sort of assistance, as he had been diagnosed with cancer of the liver. We talked a little and I wished him the best. A week later I learned he passed away after having fallen into a coma. I was very sad to learn that I had lost a friend. Whenever I either thought of Bird, or bumped into him, he brought a smile to my face. What an incredible epitaph, something we all should strive for indeed.
Key West lost perhaps it’s greatest ambassador. Mark “Birdman”/ “Bird” Bergen was a true Key West character, if there ever was one. Godspeed Bird. I was always proud to say you were my friend.
Photo by Al Subarsky
Photo by Kenneth Hines
Bird was a Key West character through and through. He would be the first to raise his glass to the upper 48, while having no intention to ever leaving the Conch Republic. Fly on Bird!
(Special thanks to Al Subarsky and Kenneth Hines for the pictures of the Birdman)
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