‘The Best Dressed Man in Rockaway’

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There’s nothing aloof about a man in a flamingo-print suit.

Owen Loof, dubbed the “Best Dressed Man in Rockaway” by many, is bound to catch your eye if you pass him dancing at one of the boardwalk concessions, appearing as an extra in films or television shows like Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, singing or doing stand up at a local open mic or say, crowdsurfing at a Flogging Molly concert. But it’s not just his dance moves, talent and carefree approach to life that makes people do a double-take and smile. It’s his flashy wardrobe featuring fun, bright printed suits with flamingos and palm trees to orange pineapples to glittery shamrocks and more, that really grabs people’s attention. And the man of many suits has the personality to match the wardrobe.

Last weekend, Loof was spotted at Low Tide Bar sporting his bright orange suit with yellow pineapples while dancing as Wine With Sue played. About a month ago, the 68-year-old was lifted by two guys at a Dropkick Murphy’s/ Flogging Molly concert while wearing one of his shamrock suits, and was sent flying above the crowd as the band dedicated a song to him. He was spotted sporting a similar suit at the Rockaway Irish Festival in June. However, this all started with a couple of flamingos in 2017.

Loof showed up to Caracas on Monday evening, donning the suit that started it all, to talk to The Rockaway Times about the man behind the getup. From his pants to his tie to his jacket, Loof was covered in a sky blue print with bright pink flamingoes, topped with a white hat and white dress shoes to match, when he explained how this all began.

“I went to a sketch comedy show in Manhattan and they had an open mic, and I said, ‘gee, I wonder if I could do that. I started going to more comedy clubs to get a feel for what was going on and noticed that everyone looked like a shlub, wearing dirty t-shirts, backwards baseball hats and sneakers. I began to wonder what I could do so that, even if I wasn’t funny, I would stand out. I remember burlesque performer, Gypsy Lee Rose saying ‘you gotta have a gimmick.’ Local Anne Lyons emailed me a picture of this suit on the Kohls website. So I went to the store and it was the last one they had and it was my size. That was the first one,” Loof said.

Before he knew it, he had bright red suit with Christmas trees for the holidays, a bat suit and a pumpkin-print suit for Halloween, suits with shamrocks for all of Rockaway’s Irish-themed events, tropical summer suits, a sleek, flashy blue jacket, a floral jacket that he wears with a yellow vest and bow tie, and many more.

He soon found that with the suits, comes an unexpected perk. “When I started going out dressed like this, I discovered that this happens…,” he said, before pulling out a picture of himself wearing a gold and color-splashed jacket and matching bow tie, while standing next to a young, beautiful blonde woman he met at Irish Day in Long Beach. “These beautiful women suddenly want to take their picture with me,” he said, adding, “I never ask them to take a picture.”

But it’s not just pictures that the ladies want. “This woman I met at Long Beach asked me to dance with her twice that day. I don’t even know her name,” he said. “My friends will joke, saying, oh, did you get her number? I didn’t get her number. She was 26 years old! If she wanted to go out with me, I would be creeped out,” he said with a laugh. “It’s not about that. Do you see the smile on her face?” he said, referring to the blonde in the photo. “That’s what it’s about. I want to make people smile and make people happy.”

Loof says at an event he went to last weekend, about 20 different ladies asked him to dance, with husbands even encouraging them. “Recently a woman came up to me and said her date doesn’t dance and said, ‘will you dance with me?’ So we danced. And I told her that when I met my wife, I couldn’t dance. I didn’t want to dance, but my wife always wanted to, and when we went out, she danced with other people. I didn’t like that. So I learned how to dance so she would dance with me,” Loof said.

Loof’s wife of 45 years, Peggy, died after a long battle with breast cancer, while they were living in Hawaii, in 2016. “I miss her every day. Obviously I wouldn’t be doing this if I were married. I’m having a good time though. She wouldn’t want me sitting in the house, crying. She’d want me to be happy and I’m having a good time. But I would give this all up and stop doing it to have her back,” Loof, who still wears his wedding ring wherever he goes, said.

Loof has seemingly always had a knack for entertaining. In 2004, the Rockaway native and current resident, moved to Hawaii with Peggy to get away from the cold weather. Although he had retired after a 27-year career with the NYC Transit Authority, he picked up a second career as a history teacher in Oahu. “Obviously I was not your conventional teacher. Jokes were always a part of what I was teaching. I don’t know how much history my students will remember, but they’ll remember the jokes,” he said. His amateur stand-up in the classroom was good background experience for the open mic comedy events he later dabbled in when living back in New York City and trying to find his smile again after the loss of his wife.

That open mic soon turned into an opportunity to sing. Some may find Loof singing a song called “Sheila” whenever local band Squid is playing. The song was inspired by a woman he met while working as an extra for the recent film, The Greatest Showman. “We started going out and the second night at her apartment, she says, ‘I can’t kiss you until you get your teeth fixed.” So he did. And without an explanation, Sheila said she didn't want to continue seeing him. “She didn’t stick around to see the new smile,” he said.

However, many others around town have seen it, and it sure is infectious. Or maybe it’s the suits. Or his ability to dance and tell jokes. But whatever it is, one thing is for sure… Rockaway can’t get enough of Loof and he can’t get enough of making others smile. “I love when people tell me, ‘you made my day,’ or say ‘you’re the best dressed man in Rockaway,’ or ‘I want to grow up to be just like you.’ The dancing, the suits, the taking pictures, I’m just having fun and it’s all about making others happy.”

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