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Capt. Tony Tarracino; Saloonkeeper, Mayor, Eccentric of Key West

Anthony Tarracino, who was mayor of Key West, Fla., for two years, had also been a bootlegger, gambler, boat captain and saloonkeeper.
Anthony Tarracino, who was mayor of Key West, Fla., for two years, had also been a bootlegger, gambler, boat captain and saloonkeeper. (2001 Photo By Rob O'neal -- Associated Press)
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After the war, he returned to New Jersey and made good money gambling on horse races. But he ran afoul of mobsters and, according to Manard's book, was beaten and left for dead at the Newark city dump. Mr. Tarracino fled to Florida and hitchhiked to Key West on a milk truck.

For 35 years, he ran fishing boats -- always called the "Greyhound" -- out of Key West. He claimed to have been a gunrunner in the 1950s and to have ferried arms, CIA agents and mercenaries to Cuba and Haiti. He said he was briefly jailed after smuggling refugees out of Castro's Cuba.

He ran Capt. Tony's Saloon from 1961 to 1989, when he was elected mayor. His principal achievement was to preserve Key West's daily sunset celebration, at which acrobats, buskers and performing animals appear in an impromptu street theater.

"You know what's shocking to a lot of people?" Mr. Tarracino said. "I'm a good mayor."

But when he lost his reelection bid in 1991, he didn't seem to mind, saying, "I had my time in the sun."

Mr. Tarracino was married four times and had 13 children, the first when he was 20 and the last when he was 70. He outlived his first three wives, Mimi, Mae and Shirley, and one son.

Survivors include his fourth wife, of 38 years, Marty Tarracino; 12 children; 13 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

For years, Mr. Tarracino had a diet of pizza and chocolate bars, smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes and drank 12 cups of coffee a day, chased with the occasional beer or whiskey.

"When I die, an era's over," he said in 1990. "But that won't happen soon. Only the good die young."


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