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Hemingway Adventure

Key West, Florida (third day)

Key West, Florida, USA 
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The public pays up to see Pauline and Ernest's Key West home.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureThe commercialisation of Hemingway is not a new phenomenon, nor was it something he actively discouraged. In the early 1950s he gave his name and, one presumes, his creative talent, to an ad for Ballantine Ale. ‘I would rather have a bottle of Ballantine Ale than any other drink after fighting a really big fish,’ he enthused.

Even in Key West he was already aware of his celebrity potential. In a joky piece written for Esquire in 1935, he told readers:

The house at present occupied by your correspondent is listed as number eighteen in a compilation of the forty-eight things for a tourist to see in Key West ... between Johnson’s Tropical Grove (number 17) and Lighthouse and Aviaries (number 19).

To discourage visitors while he is at work your correspondent has hired an aged negro ... who meets visitors at the gate and says, ‘I’se Mr. Hemingway and I’se crazy about you.’

Today his house has moved up to the top of the charts and visitors are met at the gate with a charge of $7.50 for adults and $4.50 for children and a sign reading ‘Do Not Pick Up Cats’. The cats are, to be honest, a bigger attraction than Hemingway. There are over sixty of them strolling, sleeping, washing and occasionally leaping about the house and grounds in proprietorial fashion. They are reputedly descended from Hemingway’s six-toed cats and the sure sign of this is that half of them are still polydactyl ­ that is, they have a bit to spare in the toe department. Some have six, others seven or even eight. They lighten up what is otherwise a pretty lifeless series of rooms, and they give the guides something to talk about.
Key West, Florida, USA 
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Key West, Florida (third day)
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Key West, Florida
  • Book page no: 141

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