Bill Fountain claims to be the youngest of all the Ernest look-alike entrants who have won the trophy, achieving his goal at the age of only 46, a young blood compared to the normal 50- and 60-year-old Papa winners.
Five years as a wannabe paired with a simultaneous period of patience led to this victory in 1995.
“I was the young, spry Hemingway,” boasts Fountain with tongue in cheek, taking a playful poke at his cronies. “Most of them look pretty decrepit.”
Born in 1948, the young, spry, non-decrepit contender, a native of the Bayou State of Louisiana, first traveled to Key West with a fraternity brother from Louisiana State University.
“We got down here and looked around and saw these banners for Hemingway Days and the Hemingway Festival. We didn’t know anything about it, but, after I gave it some thought, I entered the look-alike contest.”
Bill didn’t win that first year, but he didn’t sweat it and kept trying, still gaining solid support from his buddies.
“The next four years, we really created a party. A lot of my friends from Louisiana and Florida came down, and we all joined up at the same motel.”
Winning the ultimate battle also escalated the perils and faux promises of the spoils of war.
“It was a wonderful thing to win,” Bill said, “and it was also a regretful thing because the party stopped after that.”
His friends tended to drift off after his victory.
“All your supporters who wanted you to win so much see you win it, so they don’t have an excuse to come back down.”
But positives outweigh the negatives of winning.
“It’s a social experience.”
Yet he’s cautious, as some other Papas preach, about getting too serious about this fun-loving event.
“To be very candid with you, there are a lot of wannabes and winners who have taken it much more seriously than us. I’ve enjoyed it, and I would assume that Ernest Hemingway would not want people to take it too seriously,” Bill said.
“We want to come down and enjoy. It’s a fraternity. We can’t take it too seriously, that’s for sure.”
Fountain’s wife, Ginny, was by his side when he won, and the only time he failed to come back as a judge was when she died after 30 years of marriage.
He has a new lady in his life who, like Ginny, loves the trip to Key West for the festival.
“I have a fabulous partner now, Robyn, who won’t marry me, but one day I’ll talk her into it!”
Despite his sometimes crusty demeanor, Bill has a heart that beats softly for family and friends.
“Both my parents are alive, and I’ve never missed a Christmas in Shreveport without them. I see them at least twice a year.”
Fountain proudly points out that Shreveport is the home of the famed Louisiana Hayride broadcast that helped jumpstart the careers of Elvis Presley, Faron Young, and Johnny Horton, who hit it big with such hits as “Battle of New Orleans.”
“I spent a lot of my youthful days in the Municipal Auditorium at the Louisiana Hayride, but I really didn’t start paying attention until the 1960s when my stepsister’s husband played guitar with Johnny Horton.”
Now living in Islamorada, the LSU graduate in public administration, semi-retired, concentrates on real estate development and managing properties primarily in Monroe county.
Fountain remains committed to the competition and the relationships that develop from it.
“I remember spending my best times standing around at the bar or sitting at the pool with the guys that have won. My all-time winner was Bob Anderson.”
Fountain has one more name to add to the Look-Alike Trifecta―Jack Waterbury.
“I think Jack has died about six or seven times, but he keeps coming back,” he said. “What a great guy! Having been able to sit around with good friends like these is what this contest is all about.
HEMINGWAY LOOK-ALIKE SOCIETY
Bill Fountain - Papa 1995