Dennis Beaver first visited Key West in 1978. He was so taken with the quaint community, he returned to New York, sold his business and moved down. Soon thereafter, he ran into another of the island community’s residents, famed playwright Tennessee Williams.
Williams lived in Key West as an openly gay man with his partner Frank Merlo, and had a pivotal influence on the island’s literary culture. He penned classics including “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in his charming cottage on Truman Ave.
In 2011, the Key West Art and Historical Society (KWAHS) asked Beaver to organize an exhibit commemorating Williams’ centennial. The exhibit and month-long festivals that followed became popular with tourists visiting the keys during the winter months. Last December, the Tennessee Williams Museum opened in the playwright’s former home and features the largest permanent collection of Williams memorabilia available to the public.
“Because Tennessee was here so long and he wrote at least part of every major work here, it’s important that we, as locals, understand this important history,” Beaver said. “Fortunately, I don’t have to work, I just give tours. The visitors keep me on my toes, and I can’t make a mistake because they’ll catch me.”
Michael Gieda, executive director of the KWAHS, credits Beaver with preserving this important history: “Part of the story of the museum is the story of Dennis Beaver.”
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