The Tale of Lobster Barbie
(back to Poetry)
When you do a web search for "lobster" and "barbie," most of the hits are on articles about barbecuing lobster. But not all.
In December, 2003, an event occurred in the Islesford (Maine) fishing community that will be long remembered. Chris Costello, known for a strong sense of humor, was sterning (acting as sternman) for fisherman Jim Bright. The AP picked up the story of what happened:
Mount Desert Island:
A female lobster crawling around off the Maine coast has cheated death at least 10 times, thanks to Barbie and a couple of Mount Desert fishermen.
As a gag, Jim Bright and his sternman, Chris Costello, outfitted the lobster in doll clothes – a blue blouse, a red-and-white checkered shirt and pink high heels – before putting her into a friend's trap in September. "It's a monotony hauling traps day after day," said Costello, "and we just wanted to break it up a little. It totally worked."
Barbie Lobster, as she is known, has been hauled up by various fishermen at least 10 times along the 26-mile channel between Baker's Island and Mount desert Rock. The VHF radios used by lobstermen would buzz with chatter and laughter each time a new sighting of Barbie was reported.
Costello made a special trip to Ellsworth to buy the Barbie clothes. The fishermen had wanted to dress up a jumbo lobster, but it was too fat to fit into the Barbie doll outfit. They choose a svelte 1.5 pound crustacean instead. "They slipped right on, just like Cinderella," Bright said of the tiny pink shoes he and Costello slipped on Barbie. Costello disagreed, saying it was a challenge to put high heels on the little lobster legs. There are four legs on each side, so the men attached the shoes to the center two. "You try squeezing Barbie shoes on a lobster," he said. "That was the most time-consuming thing."
Barbie hasn't been seen since early December and apparently was unkept at the time, with just her pink heels still hanging on. If she and the shoes survive until spring, she may be home free for another season, Costello said. "We have our spring fashions all ready to go," he said.
Singer/song-writer Charlie Ipcar noticed this and posted it as a song challenge on the Mudcat Cafe music discussion group, with the comment "Maybe there's a ballad here." This started a lively exchange during which the following poem was constructed, starting with an initial version by Amos Jessup. Charlie finally put the finishing Robert-Service-like touches on it that you see below, and eventually sang it to the tune of a Gold-Rush song (Service would have loved it).
The creativity of this crowd didn't stop there. Another clever poem, The Tale of Barbie Ellen, was devised to tune and mood of the Scottish folksong "Barbara Allen," swiftly followed by The Barbie Lobster Patrol. But to my mind, Charlie's poem is a classic, and I've loved working with it over the years.
The Tale of Lobster Barbie
by Amos Jessup and Charles Ipcar ©2003
(with apologies to Robert Service)
There are strange things true, I'm a-telling you,
Now them lobster boats in that land remote,
'Twas old Jim Bright, on a dark cold night,
Now they've never told, that pair so bold,
There was an apron neat, a blue blouse sweet,
"Now see here," said Bright, "let's do this right!
Now early next morn they was cruisin' along,
Now as winter begins, them cold north winds,