Hunting for Jaws - Movie fan visits Emerald Coast to collect items for book

Mike Smith has quite the collection of Jaws memorabilia.

With the countdown to Shark Week just days away, Aug. 4-10, Destin has its own claim to fame with a little shark movie, Jaws 2.

Many scenes for the 1978 film, as well as extras, came from the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.

In recent months, Mike Smith, co founder of Media Mike’s, visited the Emerald Coast in search of bits and pieces of information and memorabilia that he could include in his book "Just When You Thought It Was Safe - The Making of Jaws 2 and the changing of Hollywood."

Smith was here for four days, far from his Missouri home.

"I'm trying to talk to as many as I can," said Smith who stopped by The Log office while in town. "After 35 years people’s memory fades.”

When Jaws 2 hit the big screen 35 years ago, "there were no cell phones back then and people used 110 Instamatics," he said. "But the people are glad to share those photos with me."

A couple of months ago, Smith had already collected about 50 photos for his book.

While here, Smith met with Janet McArdle of Mary Esther, who was an extra in the movie.

"She had a lot of screen time for an extra," he said.

He's also been in contact with Ben Anderson, the Okaloosa County Tax Collector, who actually had a speaking part in the movie.

Smith was able to collect a souvenir plastic cup that was leftover from scenes at the Holiday Inn in Navarre, which was renamed Amity Island for the film.

"This is my first big project," Smith said, noting he's putting a lot of work into it in hopes of a big payoff.

"I've got a lot of friends that are Jaws fans. I was a really big Jaws fan.”

As a youngster he said he didn't go to the movies much. However, when it was time for his 15th birthday he had wanted to see "Dog Day Afternoon." But because it was rated R, "they wouldn't let me in."

Jaws was playing at the same theater, so he went to see it instead.

"When the head popped out from under the boat, I showered eight rows back with popcorn," Smith said. "It scared me, but it hooked me. I realized the power of cinema..."

After seeing the movie, Smith said he wrote letters to all three of the main stars and received a letter back from Richard Dreyfuss's cousin. He paid $5 to join a fan club.

"Three weeks later I got a box full of stuff of autographed images and newspaper clippings," he said. "I helped to run it until it disbanded," Smith said. He was in the Scheider club for eight years.

He also started a fan club in September 1977 for Roy Scheider, who played the Police Chief Martin Brody in the movie.

"I saw Jaws 157 times in the theater," Smith said, noting he was an usher back then. "I can probably do it line for line."

As for Jaws 2, he said he's seen it about 20 times.

Smith has many other ties to Jaws. He and his best friend of 37 years, met because of Jaws. They were in the same drama class and were listening to Jaws.

"We've been inseparable ever since," he said.

He actually proposed to his now wife, Juanita, at a Jaws Festival in 2005.

"She tolerates my Jaws mania," he said.