Mallory Square's roving minstrel an upbeat troubadour
The Miami Herald, The Keys, by Ozzie Osbourne
Jeep Caillouet, a Cajun with an irresistible urge to roam, is an entertainer with many talents. And if there's something he can't do to make people happy, he teaches his golden retriever, Mo, how.
"I can't walk a tightrope," says Caillouet. "But Mo can."
Caillouet and Mo are among the performers at the daily Mallory Square Sunset Celebration, a staple entertainment event here.
Many of the performers play a circuit much like old-time vaudevillians did, with Key West as their winter base. Caillouet is highly partial to his lifestyle, performing in such places as New Orleans, Savannah, Ga., parts of Canada, and Aspen, Colorado, where he does a special clown act.
Caillouet once had a band in Memphis called Jeep and the Jeepsters. He also had an act in which he played the five-string banjo and his former wife played the washboard.
He plays the trombone and piano, juggles, does and escape act and makes balloon figures that delight children. He once got $30 for a huge Pluto he made from balloons.
"I've been playing music for 42 years," says Caillouet, 50.
He likes touring, but there are drawbacks. In 1991, for instance, a bus hit his Cadillac, which had a housing unit built on the back.
"It scattered all over the highway," he says.
He couldn't find Bucksnort, the dog he was touring with then. When animal control eventually found Bucksnort, it put him to sleep."Lots of people still remember Bucksnort," Caillouet said.
At Mallory Square as elsewhere, Caillouet depends on the money Mo collects from members of the audience as he trots among them at the end of the act. Mo gets a mouth full of bill, drops them in a bucket and hustles for more.
Caillouet prefers not to call the money tips or donations. He refers to it as "Gifts of appreciation."
"I don't hustle," Caillouet says. "If you don't take care of me, someone down the line will.
"Some performs beg for money like a dog for a bone. Not me."
Caillouet's other helper and companion is Michelle Peacock, who sets up his props.
"I'm his valet," says Peacock, a Jamaican who danced for a decade and now writes songs, sings and plays the piano.
Caillouet, who wears a bowler as a trademark, was raised mostly in the Deep South where his father worked on levees on the Mississippi, Arkansas and White rivers, so he says he comes by his wanderlust naturally.
And he says he's just getting his second wind and has no plans to retire in the near future.
Contact Jeep for performances, etc.:
P.O. Box 0521
Key West, FL 33040-0521
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