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Oct 22nd
King Mango Strut Strife: Not Funny PDF Print E-mail
Written by Erik Bojnansky   
September 2009

A bitter feud between two Strut principals threatens to rain on this year’s parade

The irreverent King Mango Strut draws hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators to Coconut Grove each year. And no wonder it’s so popular. Where else are you going to see a parade with such memorable acts as the razor-sharp Bobbit Brigade, the Booger King tribute to Dave Barry, county Commissioner Joe Gerstein fleeing to Australia, or the Dick Cheney School of Marksmanship?

Those creative hijinks and countless others have given the Strut staying power. It’s even survived the event it originally sought to spoof, the strait-laced Orange Bowl Parade, which shut down in 2002 after 62 years.

But after nearly three decades of satirizing the irony, corruption, and plain old wackiness parading across the local, national, and world stages, the Strut’s own wacky future is in jeopardy. A behind-the-scenes feud involving the Strut’s only surviving original founder, Glenn Terry, and longtime participant and fundraiser, Antoinette Baldwin, has come to a head as planning deadlines loom for this year’s December 27 parade. And because the two Groveites are the sole surviving corporate officers of the nonprofit King Mango Strut, Inc., which runs the event, their disagreement has stalled preparations and funding.

Both say they’d like nothing more than to concentrate on skewering this year’s target-rich field of outlandishness: the Octomom, South Carolina Governor Sanford’s conquest of the Appalachian Trail, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s abrupt resignation. Terry muses that ex-Manson Family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, just released from prison, would make an outstanding grand marshal.

Instead they are skewering each other in e-mails and legal maneuvering.

“We have a disagreement over who should be putting on the parade, and she is holding up the funding of it this year,” complains Terry, who recently formed a new group, the Coconut Grove Players, to run the parade without Baldwin. He feels that Baldwin’s actions may force him to move the Strut to another city, or cancel it altogether.

Baldwin, a “Mangohead” for 18 years, counters that Terry is trying to take sole ownership of an organization that has been kept alive by a cadre of volunteers, including herself. She accuses him of tricking her into co-signing two checks from the corporation’s account (about $900) that covered the cost of Terry trademarking the name “King Mango Strut” for himself personally, as an individual, in the State of Florida. “He used corporate money and he made it personally his, so he can lease it, he can sell it, or he can give it to his family,” asserts Baldwin, who works as an administrator for her husband’s architecture firm. “So why should I volunteer raising money for an event owned by somebody personally? It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t think it’s right.”

“I own it, I created it,” answers Terry, a licensed attorney who for years has worked as an art teacher in the public school system. He says the $900 was his “license fee” for granting permission to use the King Mango Strut name all these years.

Since November 2008, Terry has also sought, with his own money, to acquire a federal trademark on the King Mango Strut name and logo design. He even notarized a “license agreement” he made between Glenn Terry the individual and Glenn Terry the president of King Mango Strut, Inc., retroactive to 1982, granting him ownership and control of the name, the logo, and the event itself.

Baldwin says such actions represent a conflict of interest for a board member of a nonprofit, since they allow Terry to profit from the corporation. But Terry insists he’s only trying to protect the integrity of the Strut. “I have never [profited] in 28 years. I have a job that pays the rent,” says Terry, who acknowledges he formed the Coconut Grove Players with eight other Strut volunteers in order to solidify his trademark. “She [Baldwin] keeps saying, ‘Well, you could make money.’ Maybe I could. I did create it. Maybe I have that right, but I’m not interested in that.”

Terry also complains that Baldwin has launched a “coup” and is refusing to “unfreeze” the Strut’s $7000 bank account, deposit a $15,000 check received last year from the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District, and persuade the Grove BID to contribute again this year.

Simultaneously, Baldwin is challenging Terry’s federal trademark application and the Coconut Grove Players’ city application to run this year’s King Mango Strut. She vows to file her own application with the City of Miami, on behalf of King Mango Strut, Inc., to operate the 2009 parade.

The city’s unofficial position, as described by a staffer in Miami’s special-events office, is that Baldwin and Terry should patch things up and just get on with it. Officially, says the staffer, the matter has been referred to the city attorney’s office for clarification.

A desire for Terry and Baldwin to make nice was expressed by nearly everyone the BT contacted. Even Keith Root, president of Terry’s newly formed Coconut Grove Players, wishes the two would stop arguing. “There has been a disagreement between Glenn and Antoinette, and the two of them need to resolve it. The rest of us can’t resolve it for them,” says Root, who has been involved with the Strut since its inception. “All of us just want to have fun and put on a good parade.”

The birth of the King Mango Strut was conceived 28 years ago with the coupling of its co-founders’ love of parades and Terry’s fascination with actual mangos, which were the subject of some experimental films he made in the 1970s, with such titles as Mango Madness and Last Mango in Paris.

By 1977 Terry had formed a group called the Mango Marching Band, in which the participants wore “big cardboard mangos on our heads” and played conch shells and kazoos. The band wanted to march in the landmark Orange Bowl Parade, and sent a tape to the event’s organizers in the fall of 1981. It was summarily rejected.

Undaunted, Terry joined forces with local jeweler Wayne Brehm and county-government computer specialist Bill Dobson. Together they unveiled their own parade in December 1982 -- the King Mango Strut. To fund the parade’s meager budget, Brehm and Dobson gathered donations while Terry made and sold T-shirts featuring his King Mango character. “King Mango is the coolest thing I have ever done as an artist,” Terry says proudly. “I do not want to see it messed up.”

Baldwin points out that Brehm and Dobson played crucial roles in organizing the annual parade until almost literally the day they died. Brehm, who owned OM Jewelry, succumbed to lung cancer in December 2000, though he told the Miami Herald’s Joan Fleischman weeks before his death that he hoped to break out of Mercy Hospital to march in the Strut. “There are important things in life, like King Mango Strut. Then there are the unimportant things -- like dying,” he quipped.

Dobson, who eventually became an aide to county Commissioner Katy Sorenson, died in October 2004. Baldwin remembers that Dobson, just before his death, sent her a list of essential things that had to be done to prepare for the Strut. Thanks Dobson’s dedication and his list, she says, “the transition was smooth.”

Baldwin says she became involved with the Strut in 1991: “I thought, ‘There are people on earth just like me!’” Within a few years, she was one of the key organizers. After Brehm died, organizing and raising money for the Strut fell to Baldwin and Dobson. “He and I did the whole thing for the last five years of his life,” she says, adding that Terry was primarily tasked with creating the King Mango Strut posters and T-shirts, and acting as master of ceremonies at the event.

Terry allows that he was content to sit “quietly in the background and keep this monarchy going.” And he appreciates Baldwin’s efforts. “I’d like to give Antoinette her due,” he says. “For ten years she had been our hardest-working Mangohead. I often told her she did more than was required, but she’d say, ‘That’s how I do things.’”

Other Mangoheads, however, contend that Terry and Baldwin never really got along, and that by last year the friction between them had heated to the boiling point. That’s when Terry took over as leader for the first time in decades. The 2008 parade ended with an after-party funded by the grant money from the Coconut Grove BID. Terry disapproved of the expense and had police literally pull the plug as the Will Thomas Band was playing and Baldwin, dressed as Sarah Palin, was dancing on the stage.

The two also clashed over Terry’s decision to veto certain groups who wanted to join the parade, particularly a Harley-Davidson contingent headed by CPA Barry Rubin. After telling Rubin there would be no vehicles that year, Terry took a swipe at the bikers in a column he writes for the Miami Herald. “Only one was rejected this year,” he wrote, “a group of men riding Harley-Davidsons. Do old guys riding loud motorcycles make you laugh? Their rude, obnoxious noise makes me cringe.”

Baldwin complains that Terry, instead of working with Rubin to make his group “funnier,” instead decided to reject him publicly. “What he did hurt us and hurt the event,” she says. “It made him feel good but it hurt us. We lost at least 50 people.”

Terry believes that Baldwin won’t be satisfied until she takes full control of the Strut. Baldwin dismisses the notion. “You won’t hear me saying, ‘It’s mine,’” she retorts. In an April e-mail to Terry, she even offered to resign from the nonprofit corporation and end her involvement with the Strut if Terry would agree to relinquish his private ownership of the trademark. “The Strut belongs to no one and everyone,” she wrote. “It belongs to all who have volunteered and participated throughout its 27 years of history.”

Her offer went unanswered until August 22, when Terry e-mailed her an 11-point “peace plan.” Highlights: She deposit the checks and unfreeze the Strut bank account; she consent to dissolving King Mango Strut, Inc.; they hold each other “harmless” for past actions; he keeps the trademark but licenses Coconut Grove Players use it for three years; and if all goes well, he’ll “consider” giving the Players a permanent license.

Baldwin’s one word e-mail reply: “Nuts.”

Len Scinto, an FIU professor who has helped organize the Strut since 2004, is frustrated by the Terry-Baldwin feud. “None of this stuff should be important,” he says. “There is nothing more important than the laughter of people watching the parade and those in the parade. It’s about fun and community and irreverence and all that stuff -- at least to me.” And should the dispute end up in court, with Mangoheads called as witnesses, he’ll be ready. “I’ll probably show up in an OJ mask,” he says. “And I hope someone would come as Judge Judy.”

 

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