An enigma wrapped in Spam shrouded in Spenard

NO MORE SLEAZE BAGS. No more plastic monkeys hanging off the side of your Wasilla Bad Apple. No more intermission admonitions to go out into the parking lot and father a child.

After 3,547 performances (“Absolutely that many,” he said when challenged) in two locations in sleazy downtown Spenard, Mr. Whitekeys is calling it a show.

“For the last two weeks I get to be as snotty as I want, with no filter,” Keys said, and tells the story of the woman claiming to be a huge fan who called, desperate for a ticket to one of the last shows, and then wanted to know which night was no smoking. “Lady,” Keys told her, with obvious relish, “we haven’t had a smoking night in six years.”

The phones, in fact, were ringing constantly in the Fly By Night Club the morning after Keys announced the last performance of the Whale Fat Follies, that iconic Alaskan revue featuring tap-dancing moose, spawning salmon, and the show’s signature piece, the reverse strip tease. It ranked right up there along with grizzlies and Denali on the must-see list for the Alaskan houseguest from hell, who actually had his very own song.

The heart and soul of the show was always the guy in top hat, tails, and the aloha shirt. He’s been called an enigma. Make that an enigma wrapped in Spam shrouded in Spenard, but it is true that Mr. Whitekeys has one of the most instantly recognizable faces in Alaska, and yet nobody knew his real name until he was outed in a local newspaper story about the club’s closing.

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4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. When I moved to Alaska in 1981, with an MBA and a whole lotta dreams (that came true in AK), my first job was waitressing at the Fly-By-Night, then located near Lake Hood, and Mr. Whitekeys would go through the list of names that location went by before it became the Fly-By-Night. (“Regularly going out of business for 30 years”). Whitekeys was a great boss although he doled out most duties to a manager. But he paid a good wage and staff was allowed all the spam we could eat and it was a really great place to work. There was “hilarious” hour before the city shut that down, where you could get 3-fers and when the Prudhoe Bay workers landed on Friday afternoon, they’d head straight for Fly-By and I would be carrying trays of 12 and 15 beers to tables (because Prudhoe Bay was dry). And, sadly, I was working there when the manager was killed during a robbery. Fly-By-Night and Whitekeys hold lots of memories for me and there will never be another place or person like the bar or Mr. Whitekeys.

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