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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Remains of the Gay

During my very first trip to Key West back in 1984 I was told I had to go to Atlantic Shores for Tea By the Sea. I was staying at the world famous (and it really was back then) La Te Da on upper Duval Street. La Te Da had it's own Sunday Tea Dance and I mistakenly thought that was where I supposed to go to have fun. Which I did.

I did make it to Atlantic Shores during the daytime, however. Right in the middle of Spring Break and the placed was jamming with gays, frats, locals of all descriptions, left over hippies, and nudies galore. You see Atlantic Shores was a clothing optional resort located at the southernmost end of Simonton Street on the ocean in a funky 1950's motel gone askew! There were so many people that I left after a couple of hours of people watching and tanning. It was just overwhelming.

You had to walk past the economical motel rooms from the South Street entrance then through the gravel parking lot (which served as Key West's only drive in movie theater on Thursday nights) to the elevated pool, deck, bar, and pier. Later the owners added a walk-up snack shack.

It wasn't until later visits to Key West that I actually got to go to Tea By the Sea.
Tea started at 8:00 PM every Sunday and lasted until 11:00 PM. You could hear the music for blocks around even though Key West has a noise ordinance that is supposed to forbid such noise. Sometimes the place jammed like there would be no tomorrow and other times it whimpered. Sometimes there would be a sudden drenching rain and everyone would try to gather inside the covered bar area waiting for the showers to pass.

Two of the things I remember most about Tea By the Sea was the deck bouncing up and down as people danced and walking out on the pier looking at the sky, the water, the twinkling of lights on the ocean and the stars above (I swear on a clear night you could see all the way to Key Largo or all the way past Saturn or Jupiter).

I eventually succumbed to the lure of Atlantic Shores and became a regular tanner. Like many locals I would go there daily and rent a lounge chair and bake my skin for hours every day. I would buy lunch and start cocktailing way before I should have. The place was intoxicating on many levels!

I had to stop the daily tanning when I decided to sell real estate full time. And then I stopped going to Tea By the Sea. A couple of years ago it was announced that Atlantic Shores would close and be torn down only to be replaced by luxury condos. There were some legal battles over development rights and they eventually got resolved in favor of maximum development. Surprise!

I took the two sunrise photos of the remains of Atlantic Shores today, July 26th. The sign is the only remnant left. All of the buildings and the pool and deck are gone. The gay resort is gone. Progress!

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.