Benjamin C. “Dink” Bruce met Tom and Becky McGuane in Key West in 1972 through Tom’s brother, John. At the time Key West was a haven for writers. Both Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote lived there. Tom hired Dink during the filming of Ninety Two in the Shade, McGuane’s third novel. McGuane directed the movie which starred Peter Fonda, Jeff Bridges, Elizabeth Ashley and Margot Kidder, who briefly became McGuane’s second wife and is mother of his daughter, Maggie. Becky McGuane married Peter Fonda.
“I have some fine memories of Tom from the good old bad days when everybody was being kind of bad and he was a merry prankster leader of the crowd, a band of ne’er do well and unknown writers like Hjortzberg, Chatham, Harrison, (Dan) Gerber and others,” Dink told me. “Tom led everybody for a while and then everybody grew up and went in his own direction. McGuane was an influence on a certain aspect of Key West. He was very good for me. I became his caretaker in much the same way that my father (Otto Bruce) looked after Ernest (Hemingway). I took care of his boats and his cars and his wives and his kids and his dogs. It was a good ride. We all seem to have come out of it without any major scars.”
Dink was in McGuane’s employ for eight years. His first trip to Montana was in an old Saks Fifth Avenue truck. When he got here, Richard Brautigan, Jim Harrison, Jimmy Buffett, (brother of Tom’s third and present wife Laurie), Tom and he all went to the Crow Fair. Not yet at the height of his popularity, Buffett was singing old songs. Soon he would compose the music for McGuane’s zany film, “Rancho Deluxe,” shot in Livingston, starring Jeff Bridges, Sam Waterston, and Elizabeth Ashley. Buffett would also put Montana into consciousness with his number one hit song “Ringling.”