What Jimmy Buffett sang about, he lived

Captain Tony's adventurous and colorful life was about the stories.

Key West legend Anthony Tarracino created them as a passionate gambler, shrimper, charter boat captain, gunrunner, mayor, romantic and father of 13 children, now aged 22 to 72.

He told his stories with great zeal at his bar, Captain Tony's Saloon, where Jimmy Buffett used to sing for a few bucks and Budweisers.

On Saturday, Tarracino's wife of 38 years, Marty, and eight of his children gathered at his bedside at the Lower Keys Medical Center during the hours before his death at age 92.

Tarracino was born in Elizabeth, N.J., where his father was a bootlegger. He became a gambler and got involved with a mob, whose shady dealings led to at least one near-death beating.

“He was little in stature, only about 5-4, but he was wiry and tough from when he fought his way up from the ghettos of New Jersey,” said Wendy Tucker, who is ghostwriting his autobiography.

In 1948, with $18 in his pocket, Tarracino moved to Key West, where he did his part to put the island city on the world map.

Marty Tarracino, his wife, said a highlight of his life came in 1989, when he was elected mayor of Key West.

His tales included running guns for Cuban mercenaries during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Buffett's 1985 song “Last Mango in Paris” tells the story of Captain Tony's larger-than-life exploits.

The chorus: “He said I ate the last mango in Paris/Took the last plane out of Saigon/Took the first fast boat to China/And Jimmy, there's still so much to be done.”