Eyes on the road. Concentrate.
How do people in big cities drive with all of the distractions? Massive traffic, streetlights, stores everywhere, and thousands of pedestrians. In South Beach, a lot of those pedestrians are even walking around in teeny bikinis.
Nothing like exposed skin to distract drivers.
Our distractions here in the Keys are more unique – everything from wild peacocks strutting across the highway to magnificent Wyland paintings on the sides of buildings. Even our bikini shots couldn’t be normal. Instead of sexy girls “exposing skin” and distracting us, we had Don Bailey, The Naked Carpet Guy.
Until a couple of months ago, one of the biggest distractions in the Keys used to be the iconic billboard with the Naked Carpet Guy sprawled out on shag carpeting at mile marker 95. Everyday, I’d drive by the billboard and know everything was all right because we had Mr. Don Bailey looming over us with his hand strategically placed, grinning at us as if to say, “life is great, if you have a sense of humor.”
I remember the first time I noticed he was missing. I had a car full of screaming kids, passing food to the hungry mouths in the backseat and adjusting the radio station all at the same time. Normal drive. Not distracted a bit. I even managed to answer a phone call from a mother of one of the kids, asking me where I was, so she could be home in time for me to drop her kid off.
“I’m at mile marker 95… OH. MY. GOD! I’ve got to pull over!”
The mother panicked. “Are you okay? Did you get in an accident?”
I couldn’t talk.
“WHAT’S GOING ON?”
“My Naked Carpet Guy. He’s gone. They’ve replaced him with a hammer.”
Now, you’d think the mother would be relieved her child wasn’t in a major car accident. But her reaction was just like mine… “Nooooo! They took down The Naked Carpet Guy? How could they? Are you sure?”
It was a disaster for the Keys. What’s next? Replacing Betsy, the giant lobster, with a giant tire? The Keys are known for their eccentricity. Having an enormous naked guy lying on a carpet is perfect for the Keys. Even more so, considering the carpet store isn’t even IN the Keys.
Since that horrible day, every time I see the neon green fence of Key Lime Products, I anxiously look up at the billboard and hope I will, once again, see my Don Bailey smiling down at me. I feel sort of like a little girl looking for Santa’s sleigh every night, believing, with all my heart, that he does still exist.
But, instead I see a hammer. Seriously? I mean, couldn’t they have at least replaced “my guy” with something with a little personality? I mean, didn’t the hammer people – CBT – learn ANYTHING from Don? Couldn’t they, at the very least, have a topless man holding the hammer? I miss my Naked Carpet Guy!
Honestly, I can’t believe I’m fighting to have a billboard of a Naked Carpet Guy return to the Keys. The concept cracks me up. I remember when I first saw it a couple of years ago. It irked me. I couldn’t quite fit it into my head. Who was this man? The picture was obviously dated a bit. Was he naked? Even worse, was he wearing a bikini? Why would a carpet business choose this to be their advertisement? Question after question after question.
I was so confused about the sign’s appearance in the Keys, I called Don Bailey Carpets to find some answers. Surprisingly, I was immediately transferred to Mr. Don Bailey himself. After five minutes on the phone, I was in love. His personality was as big as his sign, if not bigger. The man was a crazy, lovable genius.
Turned out, he lives in the Keys. Of course he lives here. He belongs here! He’s only here part-time, but still, he is one of us.
So, why did he take down his wacky billboard? Was he okay? How was business? More questions meant more answers. I called him and, again, I was immediately transferred to Mr. Don Bailey, The Naked Carpet guy, himself.
I not only got to talk to him, but he put Don Bailey Jr. on the phone too! I was floored – get it? This family is a hoot! They both had me laughing as they told story after story about how he made his millions, which isn’t just from carpet sales. Don Sr. said he and his brother also invested in warehouses years ago because they were so paranoid at their current jobs, “if we smiled the wrong way, we’d be fired.”
So, what happened to the billboard? He assured me he didn’t want the sign down. The contract expired and they weren’t notified. So, he’s the “first in line” for someone else’s billboard contract to expire and then he’s back up in the Keys! AND, he’s got a twist for us. When they put up the new billboard, he’s going to have a combo picture of his before and after pose! Yep, he posed again, at 76-years old, his hand still strategically placed and his “smile” as big as ever. I can hardly wait.
Until then, Jim Martz was finally smart enough to sit Don Bailey down and write about his life story. It’s already available through Amazon (Kindle Edition – the hardcover is due out sometime later this year) and it’s titled, “The Don Bailey Story: From Truck Driver to Multi-Millionaire.” I’m downloading it AND buying the hard cover to put on the dashboard of my car so I won’t miss a day without Don’s, um, smile.
p.s. Did you know that Mario Lopez even did “The Don” pose? Ladies, trust me, Google it! Thank you Don, if nothing else, for inspiring Mario!