POPULAR “Survivor 2” contestant Keith Famie has a secret dad he didn’t meet until 1995 — a gunrunner and gambler who fathered Keith with a mistress while his own wife was pregnant!
Keith — a likable 41-year-old chef from Detroit — is the son of colorful Key West, Fla., saloon owner Capt. Tony Tarracino, 84. Tony was in his mid-40s when he had a brief fling with Keith’s mom — then a cocktail waitress in her early 20s.
“I was separated from my wife at the time when I met Keith’s mom,” Capt. Tony told The ENQUIRER in an exclusive interview. “She was a very beautiful young woman and we had a very passionate, albeit brief, love affair.
“She was one of the great loves of my life. But I was about 45 at the time and she was in her early 20s. And to make things even more complicated, I was separated from my wife — but she was pregnant!
“Survivor” contestants use sand for soap and for toothpaste.
“So when Keith’s mom discovered she was in a family way, too, she went back home to Detroit to have the baby.”
Capt. Tony says he flew up to the Motor City several times to see his young girlfriend but eventually, he got word from her family that she had left the area and didn’t want to see him.
“I was deeply hurt,” he said, a hint of sadness still in his voice.
“I knew her parents were behind it — they were deeply religious people and they had been against our relationship from the start. But I was still very much in love with their daughter so I never stopped looking for her and our child, who I’d never even seen.”
He says he spent $3,000 to hire a detective to search for mother and child. “But all the leads went nowhere.”
Capt. Tony — a well-known figure in Key West who was elected mayor and even boasted singer Jimmy Buffett as his campaign manager — finally met his son as a grown man just a few years ago.
“Keith was curious his whole life about who is father was,” explained Capt. Tony — who’s done stints as a shrimper and sea captain as well as gunrunner and gambler.
Finally in 1995, a family member took Keith aside and gave him a photograph of his mother and Capt. Tony.
Capt. Tony continued: “He was told that I was his dad. Within a week, Keith contacted me.”
Capt. Tony — who’s been married three times and has 13 kids including Keith — will never forget the day his wife Marty handed him the phone.
“The fellow on the line introduced himself as Keith Famie and said he was a chef from Detroit. Well, as soon as he said Detroit a bell went off in my head,” said the spry senior and legendary owner of the famed Capt. Tony’s Saloon. “I sensed the call was important but I couldn’t put my finger on it . . . at first. I said, ‘What do you want, sir?’
“He replied, ‘I’ve heard a lot about you. I’ll be in Key West tomorrow with my girlfriend and I’d love to meet you.’ “
Capt. Tony says his gambler’s intuition told him that the voice on the other end belonged to his missing son. So he agreed to meet Keith outside of Pepe’s Cafe in Key West.
And as soon as he spotted Keith approaching the restaurant, his heart did a somersault.
“In that moment, I knew it was my son,” he told The ENQUIRER. “He was holding his hands in front of him exactly the way my father did!
“Inside the restaurant, he took out a little envelope with an old photograph in it. He asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are?’
“It was a picture of me and his mother at a wedding of some friends of ours! Tears welled in my eyes as I stammered, ‘You’re my son.’
“He hugged me and replied, ‘That’s right, Dad.’ “
A joyous Capt. Tony soon discovered some fascinating facts about his long-lost son. He thought the boy had been given up to a Catholic orphanage.
“It was only after I met Keith that I learned the truth,” said the popular saloon owner.
“He was given to his aunt and uncle, who raised him as if he was their own son. They did a mighty fine job — better than I could have done.
“Keith’s mother is still in Michigan. He’s in touch with her, but when we get together, we don’t discuss her.”
Tony takes great pride in Keith’s accomplishments. He thinks he will win “Survivor,” but adds: “Even if he doesn’t, he’ll always be a winner in my book!”
— MICHAEL GLYNN