By Betsy Perdichizzi 08/24/2006
Gypsy Rose Lee, who played the part of a madam in a house of ill repute, arrived in Everglades City in her pink Rolls Royce and 28 cats. She took two rooms at the Rod and Gun Club, one for herself and one for the cats.
In 1958, Bud Kirk of Goodland was the technical director for the classic movie "Wind Across The Everglades" about slaughter of the bird rookeries by plume hunters. It was written and produced by Budd Schulberg who is best known for winning the Academy Award for his screenplay of "On The Waterfront," starring Marlon Brando.

It's a little known fact that Kirk was actually the inspiration for "Wind Across The Everglades." It seems that he was on a fishing trip down in the Keys when he met Schulberg in a bar and was being pestered by a drunken rowdy. Later, over a drink, Kirk started talking about his earlier job as an Audubon warden and the idea for the classic tale was born.

Schulberg wrote Kirk's name on a matchbook and carried the matchbook for so long that the name wore off. When he had finished the script and wanted to contact him, he remembered his name was Bud - like his own name - and he thought the last name was Collier or Kirk. Schulberg wrote two postcards addressed to Bud Kirk of Goodland and Bud Collier of Naples. Kirk received both of them.

He later agreed to read Schulberg's script for technical errors and found 125 things that needed to be changed. Schulberg asked, "Are you sure, Bud?" According to Kappy Kirk, Bud's wife, Schulberg accepted all the changes... save one.

At Bud Kirk's funeral, Budd Shulberg paid tribute to him in a letter:
"How much I owe Bud is almost impossible to put into words. It's not going too far to say he may even have saved my life. We met under the most improbable circumstances 50 years ago when I was on a fishing vacation out of Key West and a storm deposited us in a rattletrap bar on the dock at Matecumbe, when a native fisherman feeling no pain drew a knife on me, then invited me to a knife fight outside.

At this delicate moment, another fisherman came over, rugged but a head shorter than my tormentor. 'OK, Wes, you've been bothering this fellow long enough. Now go on back to the bar where you belong.' To my amazement, my assailant - who looked a little like Jack Palance on a bad day - rose and went obediently back to his corner of the bar. An even bigger and happier surprise, when we introduced ourselves, was Bud's saying, 'I've read your books. Since I know you're interested in gutsy subjects, real Americana, you'd find great material where I live. There's nothing in Faulkner or Caldwell that could touch it for flaunting the accepted ways of society.'

"I stared in disbelief as I shared drinks and fascinating conversation with a man who looked like an ordinary commercial fisherman, but whose language was seasoned with references and ideas that would have seemed more suitable in a college English department than in this rough hangout in the Keys.

"Listening to Bud talk with such knowledge and poetry about the Glades planted the seeds for the film on which Bud was later to serve as our invaluable technical advisor for 'Wind Across The Everglades.'

"Over the years, I kept track of Bud for I believed him to be at first meeting - and over the years, that feeling could only grow stronger - one of the most original and enriching spirits I ever encountered. I realized I had lucked into an enduring friendship with an Everglades Thoreau, a self-taught archaeologist, Glades historian, naturalist and - most of all - a humanist."
The movie starred Christopher Plummer as the game warden, Burl Ives as king of the plume hunters with Gypsy Rose Lee, Peter Falk and Emmett Kelly, the clown. Totch Brown and Chief Corey Osceola also had parts in the movie.

Ives, playing the part of "Cotton Mouth," was supposed to carry a pet snake around in his pocket. When it was discovered that he was afraid of snakes, the job fell to the technical director to help get him over his fear. It was also Kirk's predicament to teach Chief Corey Osceola to display fear when being tied to the poisonous Machineel tree. The actors played convincing roles in the movie, much to the credit of Bud Kirk. ("Island Voices" manuscript, Caxambas Publishing)

Betsy Perdichizzi welcomes comments and questions at


İMarco Island Sun Times 2006