1985 Winner: Michael Dallette
You know the difference between a barber and a hair stylist?” asks Michael Dallett, Papa 1985. “$25,” he answers with a laugh.The observation arrives as Michael describes the widely varying personalities, professions, and lifestyles of those who have won the top prize in the Hemingway Look-Alike contest.
“You know, all the Hemingway Look-Alikes are all real different guys,” Michael said. “You got a barber, hair stylist, jailers, bartenders, airplane pilots, electrical contractors, fishermen, you name it.”
Add Michael’s former profession to the mix. He’s a retired chemist. Born in Miami Beach, he attended college in the bluegrass state of Kentucky, where, as an undergraduate, he studied chemistry at Pikeville College before earning a master’s degree in political science at the University of Kentucky.
“He met his wife, Helen, in Newburgh, New York, while in the U.S. Army stationed at nearby West Point.“ After the Dalletts moved to Fort Lauderdale, Helen worked for a chemistry company.
“They asked me to go to work for them,” Michael said.
Turned out to be a good move. He later bought the company and sold it to their children when he retired.
Michael also possessed the personal chemistry to pull off a rarity in the quarter-century history of the Hemingway Look-Alike Contest.
“I won it the first year I entered,” he said.
Did he expect to win?
“I wouldn’t have entered if I didn’t think I could win,” Michael said, flashing a streak of confidence that no doubt served him well in the competition so many years ago.
Like some of the Papas, Michael pines for the old days. “The contest has changed a great deal through the years. In the original contest, including the year I won, Hemingway family members were the judges. What has happened is that it has turned into a popularity contest with guys going down year after year to party together. I’m not really happy with a big crowd of people in there exchanging sweat.”
Michael’s Hemingway fascination ranges from creative accomplishments to the star-crossed Hemingway family legacy.
“Visiting Cuba, I saw his home from a distance. That’s where he wrote my favorite of his novels, The Old Man and the Sea.
Michael liked the unauthorized biography on Hemingway, The True Gen. “Apparently, during World War II, among the war correspondents in Europe, the word ‘gen’ meant the truth―the true story.” He believes the “true gen” about Hemingway provides a picture of the author as a less than perfect guy―”a great writer, but a flawed human being. Apparently, he liked to get people drunk in bars and pick a fight with them.”
Michael met Leicester Hemingway and his wife Doris when they judged the look-alike contest in 1985―the year he won it. For sure, worlds of intrigue surround the lives of those named Hemingway―and some of the Hemingway Look-Alikes, too. Asked if he knew the whereabouts of the Mystery Papa, Tom Cosselman, who won the title three years after him, he said, “He sailed in, won it, and sailed out, and nobody ever heard from him again. Now there’s a Hemingway kind of guy!”