Humorist and longtime Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry entertained a crowd of more than 600 at the fifth annual Author Luncheon to benefit the Library Foundation for Sarasota County on Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency.
In what was billed as a “Laughternoon with Dave Barry,” the writer of 25 books (and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary) started off with some Florida-related jokes on topics from bad drivers to hurricanes, telling a true story about a 72-year-old man who somehow drove his Chevy Cobalt onto a runway at Miami International Airport (“I think I’d notice if I was tailgating a 747”) and recalling how after Hurricane Andrew his two dogs, when let out in his yard, kept trying to pass through a screen door for an enclosure that was no longer there (“It was orbiting the earth”).
He also ribbed his hometown of Miami, saying that he had moved there in 1986 “from the United States” and adding, “I know people on this side of the state are afraid to go to Miami, so I had some bumper stickers made up: ‘Come back to Miami; we weren’t shooting at you.’” Sarasota got a jab, too, for its stereotype of having only “rich, old, white people. That’s so unfair,” he deadpanned.
Of course Barry also poked some fun at himself, relating how he greatly enjoyed embarrassing his then-middle-school-aged son by driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile to his school to pick him up (“Some people might say that would scar him psychologically for life, but I say it was worth it”) and his awkwardness when meeting first lady Barbara Bush, back in 1992. “My mind told me not to say anything, but my mouth said, ‘Oh, I shop at the same grocery store as your son Jeb,’” he said. “And she goes, ‘Well, who gives a s---?’”—quickly adding, “not with her mouth, but with her eyes.”
Another barb aimed at himself: recalling how the town of Grand Forks, North Dakota, named a sewage lift station after him as payback for a column he wrote that townspeople considered insulting to cities with “Grand” in their names. He attended the dedication ceremony, in January, in subzero temperatures, and at the luncheon imitated the sound of people applauding him, with their mittens.
The library foundation is dedicated to securing the future of our libraries, and a portion of the luncheon proceeds are earmarked to sustain foundation operations. Three initiatives are emphasized: children’s and family reading programs; technology, including state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment; and a sustaining endowment to ensure the foundation’s future. To learn more about the foundation and its goals, visit sarasotalibraryfoundation.org.