Before being the marketing director of the Key West Theater at 512 Eaton St., and the area representative of Ramshead Group, she handled event coordination for NFL players in Baltimore, Md. When she first came to Key West during a college summer vacation that never ended because she just didn’t leave, she was a well-known bartender at Fat Tuesdays with a reputation for having good looks and a genuinely happy personality. Always having been one of the prettier ones, it is no surprise that she fell into music, “like any adventurous girl, by dating a musician.”
“I haven’t had a bad experience yet,” Kelly says of her career.
“As I learned more, I got more involved and it’s something that just came naturally.”
Ramshead is responsible for such acts as JJ Grey, Arlo Guthrie and Citizen Cope, who just returned for his second set of shows in Key West on Nov. 14-15. Along with her day-to-day duties, Kelly is the person in charge of making sure that the artists are taken care of and, more importantly, that they arrive dressed and on time for their concerts. She’ll provide goodies for them, rides and even hold tissues for them at the side of the stage. She’s working what some people would consider a dream job, and she gets to do it all at the Key West Theater, which up until a few years ago was just a large empty building with nothing but a few abandoned chairs and a lot of unrealized potential. So deserted was it, that it had about as much charisma as a haunted house and now, on the flip-side, it’s alive and well with more celebrity presence than Key West has ever seen before.
“From the time the bus pulls in to time it leaves, I’m hands on,” she explains, “I see them through from the beginning to the end. Part of my job is to make the patrons happy and the other part is to make the band and tour managers happy. It’s a lot of fun and I always get good feedback from the artists themselves. Luckily, so far, there have been no crazy requests. All of the artists have been really amazing and easy to work with.”
Perhaps it’s the relaxed vibe of Key West itself, or maybe it is because Kelly is just really good at what she does.
The Key West Theater is an intimate venue that hosts a variety of performing arts that include top-tier music concerts, theatrical productions and comedy shows. It was originally built in 1848 as the First Baptist Church, and is now a perfect theater space with orchestra seating or intimate-dinner-style tables depending on the performance.
Local benefactor Tap Johnson and a concerted community effort brought the building back to life, but it would take the vision of Ramshead president Bill Muehlhauser to turn it into a thriving theater.
“In the beginning, Bill said that he could get 50 to 100 shows here a year and everyone else said that he was crazy, there was no way,” Kelly says. “Well, we proved everyone wrong. Last year we did 50. This year we are looking at about 70 shows.”
As the first organization of its kind in the Keys, Kelly and the rest of the Ramshead Group continue to look for more exciting ways to bring exclusive entertainment to Monroe County. She mentions how happy it would make them to also be in charge of the newly built amphitheater at the Truman Waterfront, despite the challenges of bringing major talent all the way to the Southernmost point.
“It’s a very hard place for a tour bus to travel to,” she says, “We aren’t part of a route. It’s at least a 3½-hour drive to bring them down here and another 3½-hour drive back. There are many artists that have never been here before, but this allows them to spend some time here and experience the island.”
Kelly’s version of island life includes your usual hot weather actives such as hanging by the pool and going for walks with her daughter, Taylor Kase. Young TK is at almost all of her dad’s shows and can even be found napping in his guitar case at times. Kelly is very dedicated to her family, and to her profession. There is no doubt that if she continues on her current path, she will have a profound impact in the theater world and also in the community.
She is the girl behind the music. ¦