Now that our visitors have settled in a bit and fallen in love with our beautiful beaches, lakes, ponds, and woodland areas, I think it’s time to introduce them to some of Montauk’s more colorful characters, hopefully without scaring them away, although that wouldn’t be such a bad thing either.
In every small town in every city in every state, people who frequent the same gin joints tend to get nicknamed. Sometimes they’re simple, like Smiley (been there), or insulting, like Thunder Thighs (done that, still there), or Scoop (over it).
But our beloved Montauk is anything but simple. We have quite a few nicknames for locals out here, and if you come across them this summer you should really know how to address them properly to fit in and avoid getting whacked or sent to the bottom of the lake.
Let’s see, first there’s Squarehead, a construction contractor who’s said to be pretty good at his work. Actually, his head isn’t even square; it’s more of an oval shape, with a bit of fuzz on it.
We also have Tommy Two Shoes, which sounds like a Mafia guy but I don’t think he’s equipped anyone with cement shoes and thrown them to the bottom of Lake Montauk lately. With his young kids usually in tow, he seems to be a good father. And he does wear two shoes, but so do the rest of us, so I’m not sure where that nickname came from.
Tommy the Lep (for leprechaun) is a wild-looking Irishman with a mass of red, curly hair down his back that sometimes turns blond in summer, which makes me think he’s spending a bit too much time in the sun instead of working as hard as the rest of us.
Joey Flapjaws, who I noticed got quite a neat haircut last week and looked pretty spiffy, will talk to anyone and give them a sermon, as he claims to be a former priest and likes to down raw eggs for some reason. It can get pretty quiet out here in winter so that’s always entertaining — and gross enough to make you choke on your beer!
He does like to preach though, and give him a pulpit and you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth! Let’s just say it’s not always priestly and usually involves a fish tale or five.
I’m sure I might be called something other than my name, but not to my face, which is good because I’d prefer not to know what people call me. To my face, I’m called Scoop, which is rather corny, but, whatever, it comes with the newspaper territory.
When I was younger I was called Marilyn Gook because my two brothers thought I was a drama queen. I was also called Java Jaws, which I like to think was because of my wide smile, but it could have been because I flapped my jaws a lot and talked too much, which is a laugh and a half, as Debbie the Lep (another Irish transplant) would say, because these days I prefer to be more of a listener, although my friends and family would debate me on that.
It’s a good thing I’ve quieted down or I could have become known as Jannie Flapjaws, and I don’t know if Montauk could handle two of us. When I was young I considered becoming a nun (stop laughing), so maybe Joe and I have a lot more in common than flapping jaws.
We also have a man named Hollywood, a good-looking waiter who knows how to charm the ladies. Another guy is called Frankie French Fry. I’ve not a clue how he got that, but I don’t think it has anything to do with his love of French fries.
Bing lives across the street from me, and while I haven’t heard him crooning any Christmas carols lately, he is quite a whistler.
Lewis and Clark are always on an adventure or tinkering with some loud mechanical equipment. MacGyver is good with his hands and could probably fashion a fishing boat out of duct tape. We also have the Lone Ranger and Tonto, both swell fellows, neither of whom look like the real thing. Tonto looks nothing like Johnny Depp, and the Lone Ranger, well, he wears a poncho and a cowboy hat, even in warm weather. If we put an eye mask on him he could pass for a ranger in Babylon, maybe.
We have Bulgarian George, for where he’s from, and Bald George, a name that you’ll see is obvious upon meeting him. He, too, has quite a few fish tales up his sleeve.
My husband has had the misfortune of finding a couple of dead guys over the years, one of whom was a transient man who moved to Montauk several years ago and went fishing on my husband’s boat. As my husband steered the boat into port, he thought the guy was sunbathing and sleeping. After docking the boat, he shook him to wake him. The guy had a good sunburn but was dead, earning my husband the nickname Captain Kevorkian, which is kind of scary since I live with the Captain.
I better start sleeping with my eyes open.
Janis Hewitt is a senior writer for The Star.