Former Coconut Grove Resident and community leader Glenn Terry and curatorial assistant Ashlye Valines discuss life in the Grove during the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the history of the infamous King Mango Strut Parade held in the Grove every year. Terry was one of the founding members of the parade, which started in 1982 and has become a nationally known phenomenon.
This interview was conducted for the exhibition Place and Purpose: Art Transformation in Coconut Grove, 1968-1989 and took place on February 11, 2021.
Ashlye Valines: Where were you born?
Glenn Terry: I was born in Miami, a long time ago. I’m 73.
Ashlye Valines: When did you move to Coconut Grove?
Glenn Terry: Well, when I became an older teenager, it became clear that all the neat stuff was happening in Coconut Grove. Because I was a budding hippie in the mid-60s, and the flower children gathered there and serenaded each other and smoked dope in Peacock Park, I thought, “Well this is pretty interesting.” [We] flew frisbees, danced around.
Then when I went to college in Gainesville, University of Florida, I’d come back for the summer, come back for breaks and my friends and I would gravitate to Coconut Grove, which seemed like the most interesting place to be. Especially if your drawn to creative things and the arts, which I am.
Ashlye Valines: What were some of your favorite places in the Grove? Are there any places that you miss?
Glenn Terry: Oh, I miss them all. So much of its gone, but, you know, things change. Before hippies there were beatniks, and there were the vestiges of a beatnik bar called The Last Word on 27th Avenue near US 1. I used to go there. It was like a coffee house for folk music. And then, in the Grove there was just a lot going on, a lot of public events that were, sort of, spontaneous. Like, one day I went down to the bay just to hang out by the water and Richie Havens was there with a guitar case. And he took out his guitar and sat down on something like a soapbox and just started playing. It was just an impromptu concert, and I said, “Wow this is really magical.” The movie Woodstock had come out couple years before in 1972, or so, and Woodstock was mid-69. Anyway, I said, “Oh my god! I’m sitting at the feet of Richie Havens and he’s playing music for thirty-five of us.” I said, “This could only happen in the Grove.” Sometimes I’d go to the Playhouse for plays. There were folk clubs there. The Grove Cinema showed experimental and foreign films. They would have, like, double features, a different one every night. There were a lot of bars with live music, so, there was a lot to do for a young single person like myself. `Lot to do. And we were by the ocean, by the bay. A lot of us didn’t have a sail boat, you had a friend with one, so, we’d go sailing, we’d have parties out on the bay, we’d dive into water filled with luminescence that sparkled when you splashed the water. There were just so many amazing things about the place but mainly it was just it’s liberal artistic atmosphere and its proximity to the water.
Ashlye Valines: Did you know any of the artists who worked in Coconut Grove?
Glenn Terry: Well I knew local artists. I didn’t know famous people or anything, I’d go hear them. Once the Channel Two TV people said, “We have an artist coming down to give a concert on Saturday afternoon. We need some people for the audience.” So, I went down, this was around 1977 or so, and they let us into a studio and we sat on hay bales and this guy named Jimmy Buffet came in. And he sat on one of them and gave a concert, sort of like the Richie Havens thing except Jimmy was on a hay bale. And I had heard a song of his; he had had a hit song called Come Monday by them and that was pretty cool, it was very cool, but the live music was just fine. Bobby Ingram was a Grove legend who passed away a year ago, he was in his 80s, but he lived a whole musician’s life through the Grove. When he started out, he was a duo, he sang with David Crosby who later became very... still is very famous, you know, the singer with The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and Bobby knew him well. So, when he was in town playing with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, he’d come to the Grove, and go over to Bobby’s house and visit him. Twenty years ago, and these are all old musicians I’m talking about to you, Neil Young would be out there washing his car because he was a big car guy, you know, and Bobby just knew all these people. He went on a sailboat trip with Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash because Bobby knew how to sail boats and he knew so many people. So, I would hear, like, secondhand stories from Bobby. I lived across the street from him for the last 15 years [I was] in the Grove. I moved up to North Florida last year, but I lived in the Grove for about 40, 45 years. So, a lot of artists and musicians came through the Grove, mainly in the 60s and 70s. David Crosby, for instance, he lived in the Grove way back when, and a lot of them got their start there. Bobby ran a folk club downtown on Main Highway, and people like Jimmy Buffet played there, and Crosby played there, and Fred Neil played there. Steve Martin performed comedy there. In Steve Martin’s autobiography, he recognized the night he performed in Coconut Grove. He got the audience to go crazy and then he said “Oh, well, you know, enough of this place. I’m tired of this place. I’m out of here.” And he just walked down through the crowd and they followed him out to the street. And he did comedy in the street and walked down the block just doing crazy comedy. A writer from Miami Herald was in the audience and he wrote the first glowing article about Steve Martin, the comedian, that took him to his first level of success. So, a lot of things started in the Grove, but, its changing now and it’s been Gucci-ized and there aren’t so many creative people there anymore because the atmosphere has changed, and artists can’t afford it anymore. It was a sleepy fishing village for many, many years. From its inception in the early 1900s all the way up to the 1960s and little wooden houses started getting torn down and turned into condos, and big mansions, and big concrete ugly boxes, cutting down trees. So, I know things change and I’m fortunate to have lived there during that period. That being said, there’s still many wonderful people and wonderful things in Coconut Grove. I’m happy about that.
Ashlye Valines: Were there any fine arts studios or galleries during the 60s and 70s in Coconut Grove?
Glenn Terry: Sure, sure. Artists came to show their work, and, on the average, we had, maybe, a dozen galleries there. They had, like, gallery night were the galleries were open at night, and there were musicians on the street and people would go from gallery to gallery. That occurred for a number of years. There was a people’s gallery next to the Coconut Grove Playhouse just north of it on Main Highway and when I moved to the Grove in the mid-70s, early 70s, that was still open. I’m not remembering the name of it, but it was created by artists for artists. And artists could go in there and show their work, they could make art, they had a ceramic studio, they had a gallery space to show your art, and right behind it was a woman named Penny Praig. She’s gone now. She was a stained-glass artist, she made big stained-glass art, but in the Grove, you could afford to live there and make art there and be around people who encouraged that type of thing as well. And the Grove Art Festival, that was a big deal. The Grove Art Festival used to have Grove artists in it, used to have Miami artists in it, that’s completely changed over the years. Now they have 350 artists in the Grove Art Festival and maybe 2 will be from the Grove, maybe 5 will be from South Florida. It’s a big commercial event, I don’t go anymore. But, things happen, good things still happen. Some people were tired of the Grove Art Festival and what it had become, and they started their own art festival called the Gifford Lane Art Stroll. It’s kind of a secret, but once a year, this one street, just north of the tennis courts across from Coconut Grove Elementary School, that one street has its own arts festival. And everybody that lives on that street parks their cars in other places and their front yard become areas for 50 artists to show their artwork. I’m an artist; I showed my artwork in the show for the last 15 years and its free. Its everything that the Grove Arts Festival isn’t. Some of the artists aren’t the best… but, so what? They’re people doing their best, showing of what they create and there’s magic in the air. There’s live music being played about every 100 feet. They give out cucumber punch that’s pretty crazy, pretty toxic. It’s a wonderful thing and it’s kind of a secret in the Grove. Probably where 300,000 people go to the Grove Art Festival, maybe 3,000 got to the Gifford Lane Art Stroll. It’s kind of hard to find too. Anyway, I guess I’m saying that there’s little secrets in the Grove that, if you live there, you get to know them and enjoy them, appreciate them.
Ashlye Valines: So how did the King Mango Strut Parade begin? How did that come about?
Glenn Terry: Well, we used to have this big deal parade called the Orange Bowl Parade led by a guy called King Orange and that started, like, 1930s or so, and I was a kid. I was growing up in, like, the 50s, and my parents would take me down there. It was like New Year’s Eve, certainly a holiday parade, like the Rose Bowl Parade, and we’d just sit on Biscayne Boulevard and watch these floats go by, and they were so bright and colorful. Pretty women, marching bands, it was just amazing. I’ve always loved parades and then in the mid-70s, they started a festival in the African American part of Coconut Grove, called the West Grove. They started a Goombay Festival and I went to the first year and it was a festival for people, African Americans of Bahamian decent, which there are many, and they had a parade. And they had the Nassau Police Marching Band and Goombay dancers and Goombay bands. And the parade only had, like, three or four units in it but it was great, and they attracted us like lemmings. I was marching behind them, dancing in the street, and I was one of the few white people there having a great time, and I thought, “This is great! I’m gonna be in this parade next year. I’m gonna have my own group.” The problem is, I’m not a musician. I’m kind of a clown, but not a very funny one, which means I’m not an actor, but I started a band called the Mango Marching Band, a marching band for non-musicians. And we played conch shells and kazoos and wore Hawaiian shirts and straw hats and we entered the parade, and we just had a great time. We just played When the Saints Go Marching In, Stars and Stripes Forever, and the people loved us and it was just really fun to be in a band in a parade, or just to be in a parade doing anything probably. And so we marched in this parade, had a great time, and then we decided, “ You know the Orange Bowl Parade needs us,” and we applied to be in the next Orange Bowl Parade, which was like, 1979, 1980, whatever it was. And we went through this whole application process, and they rejected us, and I was kind of downhearted by that, but I thought, “Aw, to heck with that! I’ll start my own parade!” And I called up the police department, [because] people said the cops have to be onboard for that, so I called up the Miami Police Department and I said, “Who is in charge of parades?” And they said” Oh, special events.” So, I went and met with them and they said, “This is how you start a parade, you fill out these forms.” So, I did all that and got permission to have a parade, but it was only like 4 blocks long. And so, we had our first King Mango Strut Parade in 1982. And our budget was $300, we just put in our own money for that and, like, we’d block off the street with refrigerator boxes that said, “No entry. Parade.” They weren’t even that big, [probably] television boxes. We put one at each end of Commodore Plaza, which is just a mile long, and we all lined up on the street. And we had to hire 3 police officers for $50 bucks each and one of them was gonna be at the back, one at the front, and one was gonna hang out. One didn’t show up so that only cost me $100, and we blew a whistle at 2 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and started marching down the road led by the Mango Marching Band and we had a great time. And the thing is, like, 4,000 people showed up to see it because we got some publicity in the Herald: “There’s gonna be a weird parade in coconut grove on Sunday afternoon.” The sun was shining, you know, the sun kept shining. You know, the parade’s gone on for 39 years and its never rained on the parade? It’s incredible. God loves King Mango, and I do too. And so, we thought it would be, like, a one-shot deal but, we got a nice review in the paper and people said, “Oh, we can’t wait until you do it next year.” So, we did it again, and we did it again, and we did it again. And that’s how it got started and if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a weird satirical parade. Makes a lot of fun of local, state and national politics. A lot of it can be just really strange and, some things you don’t understand but its real edgy humor. Most people don’t do costumes in a big way, they just come up with this crazy idea and do it in the road, and its street performance. We encouraged you not to be in a vehicle, we didn’t want anybody there waving from a car. We didn’t let politicians in the parade. We didn’t want marching bands in the parade unless they were really weird or marched backwards or did something unusual. We encouraged blues bands and rock and roll bands to be in our parade, and that’s who we got, so. Some bands would say “I’ll be in your parade if you give me $500,” and we said, “Aw, screw you. We want garage bands. We want the real people who want to be in the parade. Not to be paid to be in the parade.” And so, it just picked up momentum and I was the cofounder of it. Actually, I met a fellow named Bill Dobson who, I was told, was interested in putting on a parade in the Grove and I met him and got along great, so, we were the cofounders of the parade. Unfortunately, Bill died 15 years ago. And I was the director of the parade for 30 years. Other people run it now. The parade marched every year for 39 years, 38 years, and then with COVID coming on in 2020 we made it a virtual parade, and that was stranger than the one in the street. But the parade usually cost, like, $35,000, and the one online was free, didn’t have to raise money. It’s a noncommercial parade so you didn’t see sponsors with floats and all that other junk like most parades have. We sold t-shirts. This was the first t-shirt. That’s the logo, King Mango, that I came up with.
Ashlye Valines: Did you come up with that or did you draw that?
Glenn Terry: Yeah, yeah. I’m an artist. I’m a retired art teacher now. So here, King Mango’s stepping out and every year I came up with a different t-shirt design. I designed about 9 out of the 10 t-shirts over the years, and the posters as well. We had some pretty cool posters.
There’s a couple of posters I created. This one was our parade after 9/11, it was our 20th parade and Janet Reno was gonna be our grand marshal... that’s Janet in the blue dress. Janet was a friend of mine. So, it’s Janet and Joe Carollo, this crazy politician. I was dressed as Uncle Sam, that’s me over here. Statue of Liberty and firefighters, the flag, so it was very patriotic. That was our 20th parade.
Florida got a reputation for being stupid, fairly recently, it became Flori-duh and so this was the 2002 poster and it’s a King Mango poster, but it looks like a placemat. You used to get placemats when you go to restaurants, way back when, and they would be, like, the state of Florida with different tourist attractions. But, this has (things like) “O.J. Simpson lives here”, “the dead can vote”, “the terrorists learned to fly in Florida”, “Elian floated into Florida”, “hanging chads”, “most alligator attacks”, “most lightning strikes’, “most shark attacks.” Here’s a shark with a leg in its mouth.
Anyway, so we’d come up with these posters and we’d make money for the parade by selling t-shirts and posters and sometimes a business would throw us 500 bucks. Parades are expensive, the first one cost $200. and then, 10 years later, they were costing $10,000, $15,000 and $20,000 and whatever. It’s strange to me still that you might have to pay $35,000 to put on a parade that’s an hour and a half that closes down a road for three hours. But then, you know, you have to hire 15 cops, you have to have insurance, and you have to pay for the parking meters, and they require you to put up barricades that cost $5,000, so the price keeps going higher and higher. Makes that virtual parade look better all the time. So, we had a lot of success with the King Mango Parade and there’s a long history of silly parades that probably goes back thousands of years. I was inspired by one in Pasadena, California called the Doo Dah Parade. It started 45 years ago, and we helped start one in Columbus, Ohio that’s also called the Doo Dah Parade, that’s gone on for about 25 years. I was in that parade about four years ago. I happened to be there on the day of their parade. We started one in Orlando called the Queen Cumquat Sashay and one in Washington D.C. called the Gross National Parade, so we’ve had some spin-offs. The King Mango Parade was started by a bunch of hippies, like myself, who are now old hippies, and some of us have died. We haven’t been real successful in passing off what we created to younger generations. And that might be a sad thing or just the way things go because the younger people don’t wanna do what we did, or their looking for other forms of entertainment, who can say. We’ve had 39 years of this and that’s a great run. We lasted longer than the Orange Bowl Parade. In fact, the Orange Bowl Parade Committee marched in our parade once after their parade had closed down with a sign that said, “We started this parade,” so, that was cute. So, I guess we’re part of Miami’s history, having done this for so long and I’m proud of that. King Mango still marches on. I put on a King Mango Halloween parade up here at my new home in Gainesville and a friend dressed up as King Mango and put on (the papier-mâché king mango mask).
Glenn wearing the King Mango mask.
This is kind of my art; I make papier-mâché sculptures. I put on a King Mango Christmas concert here and King Mango did the King Mango strut across the stage and raised $400 for the local homeless shelter. So, King Mango marches on in different ways. And after COVID passes it may reappear in Coconut Grove, but that’s not a sure thing because every year it’s gotten harder to do the last 10 years. Just because we haven’t found younger people to take responsibility to put it on, it’s a lot of work putting on a parade.
Ashlye Valines: What were some of the more interesting grand marshals that you had at the parade?
Glenn Terry: Well, Janet Reno was pretty interested in coming at first but then she got cold feet and her campaign manager called and said, “We noticed your parade poster had Janet Reno marching next to a naked guy. We think that might look bad in our campaign that is going on now.” I said, “No, the naked guy’s behind her, and it doesn’t even show his privates,” and she said, “Well we’ve had some second thoughts and, I’m sorry, she can’t be the grand marshal.” So, we came up with someone else. We got a woman who had been fired as the manager of the airport because she was honest. We look for unusual people and found them. We got Austin Burke, which was a guy who would appear on tv for 40 years selling clothes, and he wore, like, eight jackets, different sizes, and said, “I’m Austin Burke. I’m going to sell you this cashmere jacket,” and he took it off and there’d be another one. He stood in the back of a Cadillac convertible taking off his jackets, this little squatty guy in his late 70’s when he did this. And then he died the next year and his obituary said one of his proudest moments was when he was the grand marshal of King Mango Strut because so many people loved him. We had a sports figure, Ted Hendricks, who is from Miami, he played in five Super Bowls. The next year I worked out a deal with Janet Reno after she lost her election, and I went out and said, “We don’t have a grand marshal this year. We’re just gonna pick somebody from the audience. Raise your hand if you want to be the grand marshal this year.” And I said” Eenie, meenie, miney, mo,” and of course Janet was planted in the audience, and then, “catch a tiger by the... toe!” And pointed to her and she stepped out and I asked, “What’s your name?”, “Oh, my name is Janet Reno.” And so, she was our grand marshal, she was great. There was a guy who electrified his front store window with electrical wires because he got tired of people breaking into his shop. Someone broke in and, unfortunately, was electrocuted, and they took him to trial, and they found out that he did it accidentally. He was just trying to protect his shop and was found not guilty. He was our grand marshal and he got a hero’s welcome too for fighting crime in his own weird, tragic, way. So, every year, we didn’t pick politicians, but we would pick unusual people that you wouldn’t expect that’d give people a nice surprise. I tried really, really, really hard to get the guy who played the creature from the Black Lagoon. He lived in Ft. Lauderdale, but he said he was too old to do it at the time. So, I can’t remember them all. I wish I could and if I did, I’d say, “Gosh, I was proud to put these people in the convertible.” They were the people that were waving. Oh, we had a stunt man who was in Thunderball, Ric O’Barry, and he blew of his thumb doing one of the stunts in Thunderball. So, he’d hold up his hand with his fake finger then pull it off and wave. They were all unusual, they made you wonder, made you laugh. So, yeah, we had a lot of fun with it.
Ashlye Valines: What are some of the most memorable groups who have participated in the parade?
Glenn Terry: Well, there was this terrorist named Osama Bin Laden, no one could find him. During the George W. Bush administration, they were hunting for him and spent millions, and millions, and millions of dollars trying to find Osama Bin Laden. So, this woman, Gina McFall, marched down the road in a big southern bell dress, and a friend of hers marched behind her and she would open a sign, like, every 50 feet saying, “We know where Osama Bin Laden is.” Then she’d pick up her dress and he would be between her legs. You know, like, there was a dummy, with a photograph of [his face] being dragged on the ground. You see, in this parade you’re performing for the audience, you’re not just marching around waving, you’re, like, performing to the people around you. We encourage interaction, we don’t allow cars because you had pedestrians. You had signs that were funny, signs that made sense, and every 50 feet you tell the same joke, basically. Ted Kennedy’s son, one of the Kennedys, was arrested for rape of a women in Palm Beach about 30 years ago, it got national publicity, and international publicity. He was defended by an expensive Miami lawyer, and found not guilty, and, so, I formed a group called the Marching Kennedys, and we dressed up like we were yacht club guys. Yacht club hats, and blue blazers, and wore white pants, white shoes. We marched down the street with a big banner out front [that said] the Marching Kennedys. We marched along drinking champagne and then I’d stop about every 50 or 100 feet and I’d turn around and yell. “Who are we?!” And they’d go, “We are the marching Kennedys!” And I yelled “And, what do we do best?!” And they screamed back, “Drop trou!” And then they’d unbuckle their belts and lower their trousers down to their knees. “Drop trou” is a phrase 30 years ago taken out of context, and you don’t see that in your average parade. We had a bunch of guys dress up like airline pilots who were flying on llamas, they had fake legs off the sides of these, maybe they were giant ducks, like flying ducks, and it looked like guys with airline captain uniforms flying ducks around the street and the ducks had wings, and it was like, “Woah, this is really strange.” People throwing fake cocaine into the crowd, dealing with the latest cocaine bust. The powder is, like, [actually] flour and all that. We had a grand marshal once of a guy who ran the parade for a couple months named Wayne Breen, we had his ashes in the parade as the grand marshal and then we threw his ashes out into the crowd but they weren’t his real ashes. His real ashes were there but we threw some barbecue leftover ashes into the crowd. You ever heard of Lorena Bobbitt? We had the Bobbitt Brigade and she was famous for cutting of her husband’s, you know, thing below the waist on a guy, and then she threw it down the street or something like that and later he recovered it and had it sewn back on and became a bad porn star. It’s just this horrible story. But we had these women, the Marching Bobbitts and they had knives and hot dogs and they would slice them and throw them out in the crowd. We had some pretty strange stuff in our parade. A fake O.J. Simpson was selling murder memorabilia, you know, bloody knives and all this other stuff. So, a lot of it was in bad taste, but a lot of it was just good humor, like, there was a mad cow disease that went around 12 years ago or so. And this group bought black and white cow costumes and they looked like cows and they were just really angry going down the street as mad cows and they’d scream at the audience and whatnot. So, the list is long, but I think from what I told you, you can get a pretty good idea of what we have done in the King Mango Parade for years, and years, and years.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas lived in the Grove forever, died at 109 years old. She left her house in the South Grove, that she had built in 1929, to the people of Florida to enjoy, and when she died about 20 years ago, we just figured it’d be turned into, like, a little museum. But the state never did, it was falling apart, and they turned it into a residence for park rangers. It’s really stupid. Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a grand marshal when she was 102. About 14 years ago, the state was making plans to cut this house into pieces and reassemble down at Fairchild Gardens, out of the Grove. If you know historic preservation you know that any structure moved from its original spot to another place losses half of its authenticity and what it means to the world. Anyway, we fought that really hard and we had a group of people dressed up like Marjory Stoneman Douglas who wore these long dresses, and big hats [like she always wore], she was a short person. Including me, we were all dressed up like Marjory and we were, like, a chorus line marching yelling, “Don’t take our house!” And my children were Marjorys too, and the Marching Marjorys were a huge success and it got a lot of publicity and we were part of the reason they decided not to move the house. So finally, they’re turning it into a museum to promote her legacy. Most of the things we did in the parade were just to make fun of stupid politics, crazy things that had happened in the world, and we liked to get people thinking about how to make things better by publicizing these things.
Ashlye Valines: What were some of your fondest memories of living in Coconut Grove, or with the parade or anything?
Glenn Terry: Well, with the parade, what I’m proudest of, is that we entertained so many people, we made so many people happy. People would say, “Oh god, it’s like taking a bath in laughter!” You could just walk from your house, your apartment, and see this parade once a year. A lot of people would march down in costumes and be in the parade and while we probably had, on the average, about 8,000 people come to see it, it’s hard to see it because it’s only five blocks long. It would be in the Miami Herald the next day. So, it was like this: 8,000 people came to see our parade, 3,000 people would read about it and laugh in the Miami Herald the next day. Then, it was picked up by a lot of other newspapers and local news media would run it on the news and, so, we entertain a million people with our crazy parade every year. And just being a part of that and being a part of the group that put it on, and being cofounder, is something I’m proud of. In Coconut Grove it can be like living in a tropical island. I could walk fifteen minutes from my house and be on Biscayne Bay. Most of us aren’t fortunate to be able to do that in Miami, but we had access to the bay. I taught for many years in inner city schools with kids that’d never seen the ocean, never seen the bay. So, I had field trips to take them to see the bay. But I just loved being by the sea, being around boats, being around creative people, people that are different. Some people would say “crazy”, but their creatives, and Coconut Grove had that, a lot of diversity too. And when I lived there, which most of my life has been in Coconut Grove, I was promoting community, bringing people together like with the King Mango Strut Parade. I had a raft race one year, I’d put on little festivals, little concerts. I helped create a little park in the South Grove. So, I just loved having so many friends, being around so many people that shared their lives, shared their love for Coconut Grove, and enjoyed being with each other. Yeah, Coconut Grove was special, you got parrots flying through the air, and peacocks, and guys walking down the streets wearing dresses and you’d think, “Oh, that’s Coconut Grove.”