A dozen years ago, I was asked to come up with something for CityBeat's annual summer preview "Hot Issue." At the time, easy-groovin' singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett was the king of Cincinnati's summer concert scene, selling out his shows in minutes and routinely winning the "Best Concert" award in CityBeat's "Best of Cincinnati" readers' poll. So I figured that, five years into CityBeat's existence, it was time to weigh in on the Parrothead phenomenon.
I've told the story of the backlash a few times in the past (apologies if you've heard it before). After the article was published, I received the most hate mail I've ever seen for a story appearing in the paper. My colleagues printed out the emails and wallpapered the area around my desk; it covered a good quarter of that room in the old CityBeat building on Seventh Street.
I expected some of it (and probably deserved some of it, too; as a young punk-ass writer, I was an even bigger dick then). But the sheer amount of correspondence was kind of a shock. I soon discovered it was the result of a cheap Buffett fan website that literally told its members to attack.
In the vein of anti-abortion activists publishing the names and home addresses of doctors who dare provide abortion services, the site ran Mike Breen's home address.
I probably would have filed a police report were it not for the fact that the site ran the wrong Mike Breen's home address. Some other poor Mike Breen in Cincinnati probably received a few house-eggings and tree-TPings (hopefully nothing worse).
I sent the site owner a polite note advising them that they had the wrong Mike Breen's address and invited them to publish CityBeat's business address for anyone who'd like to chime in with a letter. (They already had our email up there.) Eventually, they removed the innocent man's address.
Out of the 300 or so emails of protest sent, about 10% simply suggested that Buffett concerts are just good fun and I shouldn't criticize how people get their ya-yas out (fair enough). About 5% were supportive of my comments. Around 2% said they were indeed Parrotheads, but found my article amusing and felt the pilers-on were being stupid and taking it all too seriously (my favorites).
The rest of the emails were the opposite of Jimmy's good-time, laid-back vibe. Most just called me rude names (totally fine). Some wished death on me (not cool!). The only one I remember with any kind of clarity was the note that said, "I hope your children are raped by drug dealers in Over-the-Rhine and get AIDS and die" (come near my family and I WILL cut your balls off).
Included in many of the death-wishes and "Fuck you, asshole!" comments were a few people who trumpeted Jimmy's great contributions to charity. I applaud that, as well as the efforts of the Cincinnati Parrot Head Club, who also work good deeds into their good times. Buffett and I also share a lot of the same political/cultural/social views (I can find no evidence, but I'd be willing to wager that Jimmy's NOT anti-gay marriage and he is definitely a Democrat). I also thought it was kind of funny/cool that Jimmy got booted from an NBA game for passionately (and good-naturedly) sticking up to the refs that were giving his team (the pre-LeBron Miami Heat) the shaft.
I also thought it was really cool that Jimmy found Bill Paxton's fairly scathing parody of him (as "Coconut Pete") in the Broken Lizard film Club Dread to be hysterical. (On the DVD commentary track, the filmmakers say Buffett asked for permission to perform some of the parody songs on tour.)
Here's Paxton doing Coconut Pete's hit "Pina Coladaburg":
I'm unsure how Jimmy feels about South Park's much rougher treatment in the show's own parody (pictured above). (For the record, I think the spreading of quotes from and footage of Buffett fans being bigoted is really unfair, in a Breitbart kind of way.)
So, as I've matured, I've found at least five things I like about Buffett. If I drank, I bet he'd be fun to have a beer with and talk politics and sports. (Drop me a line, Mr. Buffett; I'll be designated driver!)
There are still tickets available for tonight's Buffett concert at Riverbend, which would have been impossible to imagine 12 years ago. When the Radiohead concert earlier this summer was announced, I had a chat with our publisher about how fast it would sell out. When it didn't, we bemoaned the fact that Buffett's show would still sell out in minutes. It didn't.
Is the Parrothead era over in Cincinnati?
Here, from the May 25, 2000 edition of CityBeat, are the "Ten Things I Hate About Buffett." Feel free to chime in with your Buffett support and call me a few names if you'd like. (But threats will be taken seriously this time around and if you come near my family … well, see above.)
I sincerely hope that, if you're going, you have a great time. Just be safe! I have to imagine that cops see Buffett visits as a good chance to make a few extra DUI arrests.
Like death, taxes, Who reunion tours and Wolfen sequels, one certainty every year in Cincinnati is a local summer appearance by the master of mediocrity, Jimmy Buffett. If you live here, it's as inevitable as the changing of the season: Buffett brings his plastic palm tree and awful music to Riverbend, and thousands of morons flock to see him.
We've resisted writing about this "phenomenon" in the past. It's kind of like making fun of Kathie Lee Gifford or Kenny G — it's just too cheap and easy. Of course, CityBeat is nothing if not cheap and easy.
So, here, we bring you the only press you will ever read about Jimmy Buffett in this publication. Unless, of course, there's a shooting spree in the middle of the concert or Riverbend sinks into the river.
10) His music It's sorta tropical, sometimes Country-ish, sometimes "silly," and always boring. It's music for people who don't like music: background, laid-back fluff. It's easy listening for Boomers.
9) His lyrics
"Blew out my flip flop/Stepped on a pop top/Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home."
"So he took her to this movie called Body Heat/She said, 'The Junior Mints were mushy and the sex was neat.' "
"Fruitcakes in the kitchen/Fruitcakes on the street/Struttin' naked through the cross walk/In the middle of the week."
"Evolution can be mean/There's no 'dumb-ass vaccine.' "
8) His album titles A White Sport Coat & A Pink Crustacean. Last Mango in Paris. Off to See the Lizard. This guy makes "Weird Al" look like Oscar Wilde.
7) He recorded a cover of "Purple People Eater" "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" is bound to be next.
6) He likes to sue aspiring restaurateurs Buffett's lawyers have gone after entrepreneurs for calling their new bistros things like "Margaritaville" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise." Hey, if they're that stupid ...
5) He was a fratboy No doubt. At the University of Southern Mississippi. Shocker!
4) He wrote and staged a musical (Don't Stop the Carnival) Rock stars shouldn't do that.
3) He tricked Brian Wilson into recording one of his songs "South American" on Wilson's Imagination record. Hasn't this man been taken advantage of enough?
2) His CDs don't even make good coasters I proudly own one Jimmy Buffett CD — 1999's Beach House on the Moon, which I use on my desk to set my drink on. Damn things keep slippin' off.
1) Parrotheads Fans of Buffett use his summer concerts for an excuse to get completely obliterated and "partay." It's like Mardi Gras with tasteless people in stupid hats and Hawaiian shirts. Not so amazingly, his strongest cult is here in Cincinnati. Like we need some other cultural crisis to be embarrassed about.