Illustration by Adam Larkum

Gulfshore Explorer


Gulfshore Explorer: Let’s Play Magnum, P.I.

Could our writer, with his mustache, Hawaiian shirt and fast red car, solve a crime at the docks here? Stay tuned.

Mustaches are a lot of responsibility.

Let one get out of hand and you’re Gene Shalit. Work it too much the other way and you’re Salvador Dalí without the panache. That’s probably why you don’t see them anymore. In fact, the only man to navigate the dangerous waters of mustaches successfully in the last 50 years is Tom Selleck. And the only reason I know this is because of my latest theme staycation.

Wait. You don’t know what a theme staycation is? Well, what a lucky break that you stumbled upon this column. A traditional staycation is good in theory: You head to a nearby hotel to take some time to unwind—maybe you get a massage; maybe you rent a Jet Ski. But at the end of three days, you drive the 11 miles back home and think, “What was that?” Within 24 hours you feel exactly as you did before.

Staycations are for people who lack imagination. Think sitting on the beach is really helping you out of your general malaise? Think ordering a cocktail from someone who thought their life would turn out differently is really going to recharge you? Nope. You need to spice it up. And so, I have created the “theme staycation.”

It comes with all the perks of a regular staycation—but with the twist of enjoying yourself as a totally different person. Check in somewhere and pretend you’re a doctor from Boston. Or a ballet dancer from Russia. Or a producer from a TV network. It’s a full-time lie on a part-time basis. And this time all it took was me watching 10 minutes of the new version of Magnum, P.I. to realize I could do it better. I could be Tom Selleck’s Magnum, P.I.

All I would need was a mustache, a pair of surprisingly short khaki shorts and someone needing my help. That and a Hawaiian shirt, a Ferrari, a friend willing to drop everything and leave his full-time job to come help me solve a crime, a Detroit Tigers baseball cap, a guesthouse on the estate of a famous author with a British majordomo, a kayak to traverse shark-infested waters, and perhaps a pair of Doberman pinchers named Zeus and Apollo. What could be simpler?

But, before we go any further, do yourself a favor and go to YouTube and search “Magnum, P.I. theme.” Have it? Play it now. Play it again1. It is perhaps the best instrumental TV theme of the ’80s. I’ve had it on a loop the entire weekend and it’s made me faster, stronger and manlier. And that came in handy because I needed to grow a mustache quick. Truth be told, I didn’t give myself enough time to do Tom Selleck justice. I live regularly in a Miami Vice Don Johnson stubble, but you really need to plan for a Magnum, P.I. Tom Selleck mustache. Like, weeks. But at least I tried2. And if you don’t have the time (or you’re a woman), I suggest you just order one on Amazon. They have an exceptionally wide variety of questionable facial hair available via Prime.

Now, I know what you’re saying: “This sounds genius.” True enough. But if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. And it turns out borrowing a Ferrari is harder than it looks. Renting one is easy, but cost-prohibitive. Luckily, several friends suggested Ferrari-owning friends of their own who would let me borrow one of their cars. Unfortunately, none of those people returned my calls or emails. Shocking.

Of course, I wouldn’t let a perfect stranger borrow my car, either. But there was no way I was going to be Thomas Magnum in my black Porsche. So, I called up Enterprise Car Rental. After all, they have an exotic car division. Unfortunately3, it turns out they don’t have Ferraris. They do have Aston Martins and Jaguars, but none of them were red. (Sigh.) So, I ended up renting a blood-red Mustang convertible. I know, but if I drove fast enough, people wouldn’t know the difference. And with the theme4 blasting through the car’s speakers, I was at least up to Matt Houston standards5.

So, I called up my buddy Lyle to see if he wanted to drop everything and assist me on my investigation. Rick Wright that he is, he did drop everything, and we headed down to Tin City. There’s a place there called Captain’s Closet that carries the official Magnum, P.I. Hawaiian Jungle Bird shirt made by Paradise Found (an actual Hawaiian shirt company). Finding the store was Mystery No. 1. It turns out Tin City is a lot bigger than I remembered. Regardless, for just $59 I was inching closer to theme staycation success. Even better, Tin City is set on the docks. And if I remember my ’80s television correctly, and I do, you could always count on some nefarious activity taking place at the docks: cocaine coming in with a shipment of bananas; bad guys holding a kidnap victim in a warehouse; an illegal chop shop dismantling luxury vehicles and exporting them to third-world despots. The trick here is to wander around and look like you belong and then at the last second yell, “HEY YOU!” Guilty parties will run.

So, there I was in my Magnum, P.I. Hawaiian shirt, mustache at the ready, watching a guy on a forklift driving past a warehouse. Cue the theme music6. Lyle (aka Faux Rick) remembered that forklift drivers on television are always guilty of something. So I yelled “HEY YOU!” at the top of my lungs and discovered an older woman was walking right behind me7. I apparently scared her so bad that she made a beeline straight to her car. But the forklift driver didn’t even flinch. (“He’s innocent,” Lyle said.) Only later did it occur to me that the old woman may have, in fact, been a young man in disguise. He/she may actually have been a drug mule. (If so, well-played, young man.)

With my work at the docks done, it was time to head into the ritzy part of town to see if an heiress had been kidnapped or if anyone was in need of private investigative services, such as planning security for a shipment of rare diamonds or protecting the young children of a Fortune 500 CEO from threats of kidnapping. I drove through Port Royal very slowly, but no one ran out into the street to flag me down8.

Of course, even though it is heaven, Naples isn’t Hawaii. I remember Judge Judy once telling me that she almost bought property on Sanibel and Captiva when she was looking to move here because “it was the closest thing to the South Pacific” she ever saw in the continental United States. At the time I thought she was going to be found not guilty by reason of insanity, but now that I think of it, she might be right. Magnum lived in Hawaii, and Sanibel and Captiva are reasonable facsimiles. It also occurred to me that celebrated author Randy Wayne White is basically our version of Robin Masters, so it seemed logical that he’d let me stay in his guesthouse on Captiva while I operated my P.I. business.

It turns out I don’t know Randy Wayne White. Or his address. But I heard that his house was gated from the water side (weird, right?), so I unloaded my inflatable standup paddleboard from the trunk and dragged it onto the beach near South Seas Island Resort. I then strapped a professional-grade scuba knife to my calf—because that’s pure Magnum9. Unfortunately, I got probably only 300 yards into the Gulf of Mexico before getting tuckered out. The seas were pretty rough, and inflating one of those boards really takes a lot out of you.

So I went with Plan B: lunch at Doc Ford’s. The restaurant chain is owned by White, so even if he wasn’t willing to put me up in his guesthouse for an indeterminate length of time, surely he could buy me a grouper sandwich and an iced tea. Growing this mustache is hard work, and I really needed some nourishment. But, in what was now becoming a string of failures, White wasn’t at the restaurant and my waitress claimed not to know where he lived10.

Oh well. That’s unimportant at the moment. What is important is how one gets tartar sauce out of a mustache. Seriously, anyone? 

1. Fair warning: You may grow a mustache while listening.
2. You get points for just trying in theme staycation.
3. This is a word you learn to accept a lot during theme staycations.
4. Play it now.
5. Anyone remember Lee Horsley?
6. No, seriously, play it now.
7. I blame the short shorts.
8. My compliments to the local police. Things seem pretty safe and secure.
9. Note to self: Strapping a knife to your calf is one of the quickest ways to feel like you’re living your best life. However, remove the knife and strap before you try to peel off your wet swim trunks.
10. Yeah, she’s hiding something.