a group of people posing for a picture
The late Eddie ‘Weenie’ Zagorda, center, with friends Jean Thornton, left and yours truly during a birthday celebration at La Trattoria by his favorite window seat. CONTRIBUTED

He was known by a few different names.

It was Eddie to many. It was the more formal Edward Zagorda on the plaque that used to introduce him as the seafood department manager at Publix. And to those who knew him way back when he was a bartender and sometime drag performer at the old Copa nightclub, he was “Edwina,” which was often shortened to “Weenie.”

That’s how I knew him. Not precisely from the Copa, but we were introduced by one of his longtime friends from the club when Weenie moved into the apartment below mine at 419 Simonton St., directly across the street from Dean Lopez Funeral Home and catty-corner from Fausto’s on Fleming Street. 

I lived there for 10 years, and Weenie lived below me for eight of them. It was a ramshackle old house containing four one-bedroom apartments. The outdoor stairs were rickety, my apartment door opened into my bedroom, the freezer door was only attached by the magnetic stripping around it and the tilted oven on the uneven kitchen floor produced lopsided birthday cakes. One set of French doors that opened onto my second-floor balcony had windows that looked straight into my bathroom, and when workmen came to repair my bathroom floor, they said my heavy-as-hell clawfoot bathtub had been about three days away from falling through the floor and landing in Weenie’s kitchen — probably with a naked me in it.

But oh, what a time it was on Simonton Street in those days.

I ended up using Weenie’s shower every morning for a week while my bathroom was repaired. He had already left for work at Publix on his scooter by the time I was getting ready, so I had a key to his house and would trek up and down the outside steps in my bathrobe (or a towel). 

I was a single gal in my 20s and 30s, coming and going at all hours, walking up the outdoor steps to my apartment and past Weenie’s kitchen window, where he stood around 4 a.m. each morning making his coffee.

My goal was to get home before he awoke, lest I hear his sing-song voice call through his window, “Girl, it’s too early for that dress you’ve got on.” (Clearly, I didn’t always make it home before Weenie awoke.)

But he was the first to know when Stan and I got engaged, as I was on my balcony, yelling down to him on his front porch, “I’m engaged.”

To which he promptly called out, “Girl, come down here and show me that ring.”

He would hold court every evening on his porch, waving at all who passed and pouring wine for those who stopped to say hello.

Sadly, Key West and the world lost Eddie “Weenie” Zagorda earlier this week. I’ll miss him terribly, but will always treasure our years on Simonton Street. Those were the days, and his presence was a huge part of what made them so great.

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.