Years of attending the Ft. Lauderdale boat show can make you an expert people-watcher—and a casual zoologist.
Bill Prince has classified the colorful characters that make up the age-old boat show. Are you on the list?
T his Lauderdale boat show will be my 22nd, and all indicators point to a spectacle that’s bigger than ever. Along with many of you at a Big Time Boat Show like Lauderdale, I hop from one venue to another using the shuttle bus. With meetings all over the place, I end up on the bus a lot. And over the years, I have classified a number of colorful species of boat show attendees on the bus. Are you among them?
Guy Harvus “Bud” Maximus: Friendly and gregarious, this Brobdingnagian species uses his oversized belly as a status symbol, making no attempt whatsoever at fitness or good taste. One elbow is permanently cocked in the Budweiser position. Dressed in an untucked Guy Harvey, Tommy Bahama or Columbia fishing shirt, belted khaki shorts, worn boat shoes and a scorching sunburn, he will drop $20,000 on a new radar and chartplotter for his 65-foot convertible without hesitation. He misses no opportunity to confidently spew misinformation about every boat the bus passes during its painstaking two-mile, 45-minute journey from one massive show venue to another.
Polo Horsus Enormous: This is a younger, thinner species first discovered in the mid ‘90s, adorned in tight-fitting pants and cartoonish shoes. Their most readily identifiable markings include a tight solid-color shirt holding up a gigantic Ralph Lauren horse, which looks like it could devour its wearer at any moment. Often speaking in thick accents, they stop to have their photo taken beside every Lamborghini on display along the docks. They have little money of their own, although some have family fortunes which they may someday inherit. (This might end the ridiculous Lamborghini poses.) Flocking to the most garishly styled Italian and wannabe-Italian sport yachts, the male is often accompanied by a female with no discernible facial expression and a caboose that could push a coal train up a mountain in a blizzard.
Mangusta Della Scapula: This species has a shorter life expectancy than most and boards the bus wearing a white cotton t-shirt with a drawing of a large, flashy yacht across their shoulders. They copulate on board the yacht splayed across their backs; they are crew. Despite having a salaried job and unburdered by housing or automobile expenses, this species seems to have less money than Polo Horsus. Thanks to “Captain Lee,” the cable TV-viewing public now thinks they know much more than anyone really wants to about their sordid lives. But most of the specimens I have observed in the wild are much less interesting than those displayed on the TV broadcast on Bravo. November is a busy breeding time for this species, as they gather by the thousands in south Florida. They do much of the hard work behind the scenes at the boat show and richly deserve a free, air-conditioned bus ride.
Nametagus Blueblazerus: Portly and pale by nature, they can be seen perspiring with one thick ankle sticking into the aisle on the bus as people file past in search of a seat with no gum on it. Their dogs are barking, and the cat’s in the cradle back home in Tennessee. They are salesmen. They peddle LED lights, fake teak or family cruisers. They dread the show and drown their sorrows on the distributor’s dime each night. But this species is adaptable, as their colors allow them to abandon the show environment and fit right in at any car dealership or pharmaceutical convention if survival instincts take over. Unremarkable-Looking Guy Wearing $30 Khakis: Unworthy of a fancy Latin moniker, he shares 5 percent of his DNA with each of the above species. Sometimes observed with a ketchup stain on said pants after devouring a boat show lunch. (That’s me.)
These species rarely meet in the natural world but come together on the boat show bus once or twice per year. They mix with less-dominant species including the tan, modified female Inflatus Bosomus and the easily startled Pusha Babystroller Intous. All play important roles in the artificial ecosystem that is the Big Time Boat Show.