1989 Winner: Richard Royston
Richard Royston could write the nation’s newest fad diet book: “The Hemingway Look-Alike Weight Loss Program: How to Lose 20 Papa Pounds in 24 Hours.” After making it to the final five qualifiers in the 1988 event, his first attempt, Richard became a quick study.
“Everybody was all dressed up in different costumes. I had a pair of khaki pants and a white, button-down shirt. When I saw those other guys, I said, ‘Hey, now I know what the drill is―to get looking like Hemingway.’” Not a world-shattering concept for a Hemingway look-alike competition, but it’s one that worked.
“That first year was fun. There must have been 500 people screaming and yelling inside Sloppy Joe’s for the finals. And the temperature must have been 90 degrees.”
Beaten, but not bowed, Richard vowed to himself and others, ”Next year, we’re going to go down and win this thing!”
And, as Paul Harvey would say, “Here’s the rest of the story.”
“My secretary’s aunt, who lived in New Jersey, knitted me a turtleneck sweater just like Hemingway wore,” said Richard. “It cost me $50, but I still wear it all the time.”
Wearing winter clothing in mid-summer tropic climes resulted in an endurance test of man against degrees.
“I lost 20 pounds wearing that sweater in Key West in July.”
Hey, no sweat. Well, maybe there’s a better way to put this―the sweaty sweater was worth it.
Richard won the top prize as Papa, and he can now write his 20-pound weight-loss secret for tons of bucks.
Armed with his wife, Gail, who merchandised his promotional picture on T-shirts and posters, and a huge contingent of friends and family who traveled to the Southernmost City, his recognition factor soared.
“My wife had it all looking like a presidential campaign,” he said, “and I can’t thank enough my support group of about 25 people who came down to help us win”
Life wasn’t too shabby in Key West for the Roystons and their friends as they congregated aboard his 53-foot Hatteras docked at Galleon Marina. The result was a victory in only his second attempt.
Born November 14, 1933, this native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. The retired chairman of Education Management Corporation first visited the Keys in 1980.
“It was really sleepy then,” he recalled. “We used to go down to Key West where my wife and I would fish all the time.”
Not that he’s a fishing fanatic or anything, but Richard has mounted 117 of his trophy catches and once boated a 400-pound hammerhead shark near the beach in Fort Lauderdale while nearby swimmers frolicked in the waters, for the next Jaws movie sequel.
Until he won the Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, Richard had no idea of the immensity of his accomplishment.
“I didn’t realize then what a big deal it was,” he said. “A friend of mine in Taiwan called me up when he saw a photo of me on the front page of a Taiwan newspaper. The amount of radio and television interviews was unbelievable. And it’s probably a much bigger deal now.”
Was he proud of his achievement?
“My garage is filled with all of the memorabilia. I’ve got a big sign that was hanging in Sloppy Joe’s proclaiming ERNEST HEMINGWAY LOOK-ALIKE CONTEST. I’ve got a million pictures.”
Curiously, Richard, who now lives in Atlanta, has never returned to the judicial role he earned after his first year of judging.
“I haven’t been back since that first time in 1990 when Fred Burnham won it,” he said. “the judges were arguing about who should be what, and some, like me, had their favorites. I said the clear winner should be Burnham, and he did win out. He looks more like Hemingway than I do.”
Chuckling as he contemplated what his high school and college teachers would think about him winning the Hemingway Look-Alike sweepstakes, Richard said, “When I won it, I said that half of my English professors would be applauding me, and the other half would be rolling over in their graves knowing that I won.”