Florida Keys News
Friday, April 27, 2012
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Green Parrot Bar painting is as good as new

One of the Green Parrot Bar's most prized icons has been restored since being vandalized Saturday night, and the tourists who took a Sharpie to it will probably not be punished, according to police reports and the bar's co-owner.

"Smirk," the beloved 1975 painting by former bartender Saul Paul Stewart that's worth $5,000 to $10,000, was defaced with several tourists' signatures, but a bar employee had wiped it clean within 24 hours.

Bouncer Tim Grandy called 911 at 11 p.m. to report the vandalism.

Two of the offending tourists, both from New York, were found on Duval Street and brought back to the bar, where they told officers and bar employees that a "young, blond" woman handed them a marker and told them to sign their names on "Smirk," saying it was a "Key West tradition."

By the time employees noticed, many others had signed their names too.

"As best as we can tell, this woman or women, who were in here as part of Conch Republic Days fundraiser, were handing the markers out and telling people to do this," Green Parrot co-owner John Vagnoni said. "And we have these tourists saying, 'Hey, I've never been in this bar before and there's already signatures on it.' The cops didn't feel comfortable arresting them based on that, and neither did we."

Officers documented the incident, but listed it as a civil matter on the incident report, which means they likely will not investigate further.

Green Parrot patrons, who celebrated Smirk's 37th birthday a week ago, were outraged by the graffiti.

"Everybody really stepped up and took interest and brought a sense of communal ownership to the cause," Vagnoni said. "The comments on Facebook were all of the pitchfork and torch variety."

Buco Pantelis, former owner of the now-defunct Waterfront Market and Green Parrot employee, did the cleanup.

"Buco did an incredible job," Vagnoni said. "All we really have is a description of the women [or woman] and we don't really know who they are, but maybe all is well that ends well."

The inspiration for Smirk stems from an image of a London schoolgirl in the April 1974 edition of National Geographic, according to the bar's website. Stewart created the painting to add some culture to the then-sparse bar walls.

Smirk has become so popular that actress Jamie Lee Curtis once tried to buy it, according to the website.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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