Bruce on the loose

Sharky’s beast is off to Chappy and soon to the Cape for restoration.

What the heck is Bruce the Jaws shark doing on the Chappy Ferry?! – Courtesy Chappy Ferry

It’s the stuff of nightmares: This past Tuesday, motorists and pedestrians on the 90-second ferry ride from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick were shocked to behold the mean black eyes and torpedo-shaped nose of a great white shark perched on a flatbed truck, looking big enough to gobble up a VW Bug, if not the truck itself. At the helm of the ferry, Capt. Brad Fligor knew a photo op when he saw it, and snapped a picture.

Like all great whites, this gigantic fake shark has enjoyed a wide migration. His resin-based hide was originally slapped together for JawsFest 2005 by renowned FX artist Greg Nicotero, creator of the zombies of “The Walking Dead” (thanks a lot, Mr. Nicotero!). The MV Chamber of Commerce took charge of the imposing shark figurehead, then transferred it over to the MV Museum which, wisely enough, in 2010, entrusted it to Sharky’s Cantina in Edgartown. From its stationary cafe setting, el monstro has gone viral. Sharky’s owner, JB Blau reports, “Tens of thousands of pictures have been taken of visitors posed beside our boy.”

As sometimes happens with works of art that are so photogenic and compelling — think of Michelangelo’s Pieta and Davinci’s Mona Lisa — some prickly part of the public has had its way with it. Over the years, patrons with perhaps two or more Sharkaritas down the hatch, have wrenched out the Sharky’s shark’s teeth for souvenirs. Too, the silver sides have been nicked and scratched; a restoration is in order.

Island and Cape Cod artist and marine enthusiast, Paul McPhee is on the case. He enlisted carpenter Eric Ropke to haul it to Chappy for safekeeping. Soon, however, in effect any minute now — this paper will keep its readers informed — “Bruce” (the name given to the first faux shark – and all subsequent faux’s used on the blockbuster adventure movie Jaws) will cross the Sound to Cape Cod where Mr. McPhee, like an artist-cum-orthodontist, will replace the missing teeth from the original molds designed by “Jaws” artist Roy Arbegast.

“I’ll use Epoxy on the implants, and I’ll also paint it all over, airbrush it, and finish it off with a matte clear coat,” he told The Times.

This sea dog is going to be gorgeous.

As virtually everyone knows, Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw, was shot right here on Martha’s Vineyard, three months over deadline, and three-and-a-half million dollars over budget (funny how that sounds like chump change now, even to this reporter who can barely afford lunch). Three mock-up sharks, all named Bruce, provided the thrills and chills that made us scream every time the Great White was ready for its close up, especially the one where Mr. Scheider, chumming the waters, comes face to face with the ultimate plug-ugly, teeth the size of old Caddy fins, and he stumbles into the cabin to drawl the iconic line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Mr. McPhee, reached by phone on Thursday, said only a single original bust of Bruce remains, and that belongs to a fan in the San Fernando Valley who keeps his treasure out in the yard, slung between two palm trees. Mr. Nicotero, recently offered the Valley gentleman $20,000 to borrow it to make a new mold.

The answer was “No.” You’re gonna need a bigger wad of cash.

In the meantime, Mr. McPhee believes he can complete the restoration in a couple of weeks. At Sharky’s where the bar mascot will be desperately missed, the management has filled the void with a pool table. (The plan is to put together an official pool hall in a new location).

Meanwhile, eyes to the skies over the Steamship ferry in the coming days when a gummy, battered Bruce – still ferocious after all these years – makes his way, as so many of us do, to Cape Cod to get his teeth fixed.

And, for sharkomaniacs on the Cape and Islands, this summer Mr. McPhee will be opening a store in Chatham stocked with great white gear. While there, check out the beach where, oftentimes, just offshore, a shiver (yes, that’s the collective noun) of live sharks is routinely sighted.