Parrot Heads by the hundreds live to be Buffetted
By ROBERT PATRICKBRADENTON -- At 57, with homes in Aspen and Palm Beach, Jimmy Buffett is a long way from the beach bum who relies on a blender full of Margaritas to help him "hang on."
Buffett, who has a new album coming out this summer, is the head of an empire that includes a chain of restaurants and gift shops, a radio station, and a Los Angeles-based record company.
There are Margaritaville hats, shirts and watches, Cheeseburger in Paradise-themed Adirondack chairs and a signature line of 42-foot boats that can cost $1 million.
But to his die-hard fans, some of whom gathered poolside at the Holiday Inn Riverfront in Bradenton on Sunday, Jimmy remains a tropical-weight Peter Pan: "ageless and timeless," said Joy McGhee, 43.
McGhee was one of almost 300 members of the Sarasota Bay Parrot Head Club at the hotel for a weekend-long celebration of the club's eighth anniversary.
On Sunday afternoon, some were still feeling hung over from their Buccaneer Bash the night before, but spirits were high.
Parrot Heads are "probably the happiest people you'll ever meet in your life," said club president Dave Carpenter, 42, who says the local club -- one of more than 200 nationwide -- has 500 members.
All 285 tickets for the birthday party were sold out. Members came from as far away as Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Indianapolis.
"We like to tell people we're spending the weekend with 200 of our closest friends," Joy McGhee said.
Parrot Head clubs are extended families, support networks and an instant network of like-minded friends for new arrivals in the area.
Parents bring up their children -- known as Parakeets -- in the Parrot Head lifestyle.
When McGhee and her husband Michael, 58, went to Laughlin, Nev., they didn't worry that they had no family or friends there -- they had a Parrot Head Club get-together to attend.
But Parrot Heads want people to know that they do a lot more than just party.
Some of the poolside group on Sunday weren't drinking alcohol, and some don't drink at all, ever.
Members stress their environmental and charity work. Saturday night, the Parrot Heads raised between $5,000 and $7,000 for the Pelican Man Bid Sanctuary, Mote Marine and Reef Ball Foundation, Carpenter said.
Club members built a new, bigger parrot cage for the Pelican Man Bird Sanctuary, and have raised money to fight Alzheimer's and cancer.
There's "no organization that can turn out
Last modified: June 14. 2004 12:00AM