Insurance agent wins Hemingway contest

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KEY WEST, Fla. -- A white-bearded insurance agent from Florida won the Ernest Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, a highlight of the annual festival honoring the famed writer.

Larry Austin defeated 122 other contenders in the competition at Sloppy Joe's Bar, Hemingway's favorite watering hole when he lived in the Keys in the 1930s. The final round was held late Saturday, which would have been Hemingway's 108th birthday.

Austin, of Palm Harbor, said he shares Hemingway's fondness for Key West, cats and having a good time, though he has never attempted writing anything except insurance policies.

"When they called my name, I was in shock," said Austin, a 10-year veteran contestant who said his favorite Hemingway novel is "The Old Man and the Sea."

Contestants dressed in sportsman's attire paraded across the stage at Sloppy Joe's during preliminary rounds Thursday and Friday. Twenty-five prospective "Papas" made it to Saturday night's finals.

Ernest Hemingway's granddaughter Lorian Hemingway said the contest would appeal to her late grandfather.

"I think if he were to walk into Sloppy Joe's to see dozens of men hoping to look like him, he would be honored," she said. "In fact, I think if he might even break into tears, because the connection with him here in Key West goes so deep and all the look-alikes love this man."

Ernest Hemingway wrote many of his classic works, such as "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "To Have and Have Not," in a small studio adjoining his Key West home.
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