Island Neighbor: Mary Tatarian
'Beach Bum', Author, and So Much More
Visitors to Mary Tatarian's website will see the quote, "Old Beach Bums never die, they just write books”. While we certainly wouldn't call her 'old', we can attest that this long-time islander is a lot more than just a beach bum! Many of our readers no doubt remember the vivacious woman at the helm of Pirate Pete's - the only video store on the island at the time, and many beach kids (myself included) have fond memories of playing video games there while gazing at all the movie stars on the walls. Since closing Pirate Pete's doors in 2005 after 20 years in business, Mary has become an accomplished author - often holding book signings at Annette's Book Nook in Santini Plaza. But who is she and how did she come to our island? As it turns out with so many folks who call this quirky community home, the story is a fascinating one...
"I was born in Montclair, New Jersey, where I grew up with some great parents - my dad actually immigrated here from Italy,” Mary began. "After that, I went to college at Syracuse University - majoring in English Education - which is where I met my husband, Jerry.”
This was the late 60's, and, as they were both involved with the Student Union, Mary and Jerry were able to attract a lot of famous authors and activists to speak at the college.
"We did a lot of events and bull sessions - it was a very exciting time, and we worked very hard,” she told us. "By our senior year in 1969, Jerry was Chairman and I was Vice-Chair. We also had a decent football team back then, so that was fun, too.”
After graduation, the couple moved to New England where Mary taught school for several years. Following some health scares, they decided to move to Florida in the early 80's.
"I got pneumonia a couple of times, and the last time it was pretty scary, so we decided I needed a change of climate,” Mary said. "Plus, we decided we wanted to come to Florida while we were young so we could enjoy everything.”
The Tatarian's checked out the east coast and then Tampa when a friend called and told them about a sleepy little island they just had to come see.
"As soon as we drove over that bridge, that view of the shrimp boats and the beach - that was the selling point,” Mary told us. "We moved here right away, then realized we needed jobs! So I opened my video store for the first time in the space where Goodwill is now.”
Mary would move what would become the infamous Pirate Pete's one year later, and it remained in the building where Century 21 TriPower is now until she closed its doors 20 years hence.
"When we first bought the building, it was called a 'Have A Donut', and that smell stayed in the walls for years,” she said, laughing. "I really enjoyed my store - it was hard work as we were open 7 days a week from 10am to midnight, but we had some great workers and great fun. In fact, one of the first kids we hired - this was 1986 - we still see as he is waiter now in a fine dining restaurant in Ft. Myers.”
The Tatarian's used to love having big Halloween parties, too, and Domino's Pizza (which used to be located next door where a law office is now) would join in the fun, too.
"Jerry and I love basketball, so one of my favorite things to do was to sponsor a boy's basketball team at Bay Oaks,” she said. 'We still love basketball and root for the Eagles anytime we can.”
Besides her involvement in her community, Mary was famous on the island for all the pictures of her with movie stars that covered the walls of Pirate Pete's.
"I was very involved with the Video Software Dealers Association, and we would have our annual conventions in Las Vegas where everyone would show up to promote their films,” she said. "So I got to meet a lot of movie stars and do some pretty cool things.”
One of those things was a private tour of the Playboy Mansion.
"Oh, yeah, Jerry got to come too,” Mary told us, laughing. "While I didn't get to meet Hugh Hefner, we did get a tour of the zoo and the Bunny House and got to go to a big party afterwards where there were a lot of stars.”
Another cool thing that really stands out as one of Mary's favorite memories was when she was invited to Ted Turner's house.
"Ted loved restoring old classic films and having events where you could meet stars like Donald O'Connor,” she said. "I even got to see Lucille Ball's old office and got a private tour of Sony Studios, which used to be Columbia.”
The Tatarian's even spent their 25th anniversary in Sin City, renewing their vows at the infamous Chapel of the Bells that has appeared in so many films.
"It got so where there were so many pictures of me with stars on the walls of the store, that kids would come in as we moved into the digital age and think they were photo shopped,” Mary said. "But they are all real!”
After 20 years, however, life turned another page for Mary and she sold her store in 2005.
"I've always loved to write, I've actually been writing for years and years - things like movie reviews and short stories - but the bug was always there to do something bigger,” she said. "So when I sold the store I opened a little independent Realtor's office and began to write.”
Mary's first book, Seabliss, came out in 2009.
"With Seabliss, I tried to capture the charm of island living with some suspense, adventure and a little bit of romance,” she said. "My second book, 'The Love Gypsy' was published in 2012, and my latest, 'The Duchess' Necklace' was released in November.”
Both 'The Love Gypsy' and 'The Duchess' Necklace' are written under Mary's pseudonym, Mariah Lynne. The former is about a homicide detective who ends up traveling across time to find love, and the latter is a historical time travel romance set in Ft. Myers and Miami as well as present day and 18th century England.
"Writing is mostly all I do now - I'm currently working on my 4th book,” Mary told us. "Jerry is still selling real estate and is still active in the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club. We still live in the same house we've had since 1989, and our dog, Maxwell - who used to be the store's greeter - is still around too, and even though he's 12, he still does his magic tricks.”
Maxwell has a bit of an infamous past, too - for years when Mary was serving on the board of the Animal Refuge Center, he would perform his magic show for the kids at Bay Oaks' summer program.
"This was a no-kill shelter in North Fort Myers, and they liked to come down here and do demonstrations,” Mary said. "It was easier for me just to bring Max, and he just loved being around all those kids.”
Other than publishing her novels, one of the most exciting things Mary says she's done in recent years was serving as Grand Marshal of the Shrimp Festival Parade in 2010.
"That was the biggest thrill I had living on this island!” she said. "What an honor that was.”
As far as the future, Mary says she plans to keep writing, and taking trips with Jerry to see different parts of the world.
"I love my life and I love my community,” she said. "I'm just going to keep on doing what I'm doing.”
All of Mary's books are available on Amazon.com. The Duchess' Necklace is also available at a special price as an e-book at www.taliesinpublishing.com. For more
information on Mariah Lynne see
Keri Hendry Weeg