June 26, 2009
Kathy, Barefoot Bob & Carla
Barefoot Bobs Fantasy Fest 1993
It has been a sad week for iconic figures. As the nation mourns the tragic deaths of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, the Key West community is dealing with the loss of a couple of local icons with the passing this week of two men who had, each in their own way, a deep impact on the community and on me personally, Robert Salamone & Albert “Ski” M. Malopolski. At first glance, the two men couldn’t seem to be more different, but they were separate, wonderful threads that made up the fabric of the Key West community.
Ski Malopolski was a Conch through and through, he was well into his 60s when I first met him 18 years ago when we worked together at the Winn Dixie supermarket Deli. I was new to the island and Ski was known to all the local Conchs and he took me under his wing and served as an inspiration because of his incredible work ethic and kind demeanor. The man worked harder than anyone and took on every undesirable job, all the time with a smile on his face and something good to say about everyone.
Though we each long ago left the supermarket, I often saw Ski at Key West High baseball and football games. Just about a month ago was the last time I saw him, he proudly came over to show me a signed St. Louis Cardinals baseball program sent to him by the latest Key West big league success, Khalil Greene. The inscription thanked Ski for all his support and inspiration over the years, a well deserved sentiment shared by anyone who knew the man.
Fantasy Fest 1997
Robert “Barefoot Bob” Salamone was another wonderful, gentle, kind and amazing icon of our Island. Along with his wife Kathy, Bob opened one of the greatest bars ever to grace Key West, Barefoot Bob’s. During its run on Duval Street during the 1990s, Barefoot Bobs was home to one of the most eclectic and wonderful communities that I have had the pleasure of experiencing. When you walked into Bobs, you were immediately part of a family, whether visiting for the day or if you spent most of your waking hours in the place.
Kathy checking IDs
During the 90s, I had so many friends who either worked there or hung out there constantly. It was at the time, the most popular watering hole on the island and it was all due to the type of person that Bob was. A romantic wanderer at heart, Bob gave away more beer than he ever sold and shared a bit of himself with anyone who walked in the place. After the Duval location closed, they had a brief go at re-opening the bar at the old Hideaway location, which ultimately could not recapture their previous glory, but did offer me a chance to shoot a documentary photo project for my FKCC photo class, hence these black & white images.
You would never have confused the straight-laced, conservative, decorated Vietnam vet, Ski with the free-wheeling, fun loving, long-haired barefoot Bob and I have no idea if they ever met, but they shared a connection. After the closing of Barefoot Bobs, Bob spent some time driving Key West City Buses, the very same buses that had as their chief mechanic a hard-working Conch named Ski Malopolski. You see, it really is a small inter-connected world. I am so fortunate to have shared it for a time with two such wonderful men. My deepest sympathy to all their family members and friends.