Jimmy Buffett is accustomed to dealing with his devout fans, known as “Parrotheads.” But for his seventh and latest book, the musician, businessman and author had to get a little pig-headed instead.
In “Swine Not? A Novel Pig Tale,” Buffett writes from the perspective of a pig living in secrecy at a posh Manhattan hotel — a story that borrowed a bit from friend Helen Bransford’s real-life experiences.
Buffett knew he had to think like the animal in order to bring home the bacon by channeling the central character, Rumpy.
“It was funny getting into the mind of a pig and getting to observe humans,” Buffett told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Tuesday. “I love the first line, which was Helen’s line: ‘Humans are hard to raise.’ ”
Not a boar
Buffett, who once sang about knights who “helped themselves to pig and peach” in his 1985 song “Gypsies in the Palace,” said he got immersed in Rumpy’s character by reading about the popularity of pigs in the United States.
“Along the way I was kind of swallowed up by the pig culture,” Buffett said. “There are a lot of people who have pet pigs, like Helen.”
“They’re so smart,” Bransford added. “They’re smarter than dogs.”
Starting in 1985, there was a large boom of pot-bellied pigs imported to the U.S. from Vietnam as pets. Such pigs can live an average of 12 to 18 years. If fed correctly, their weight can be kept under 150 pounds.
Bransford, on hand with Pinkie, another one of her pigs, told Vieira funny-but-true tales of toting her pig in and out of a renowned Manhattan hotel.
“The hotel never knew,” Bransford said. “We smuggled the pig in and out. It wore a dog suit when it was on the street. It was box-trained. It went [to the bathroom] in a box under a table with a beautiful model tablecloth, so no one knew ... it was like hiding someone in your home that wasn’t supposed to be there.”
Eventually, though, there was a risk of someone — or something — squealing on her.
“It got so big,” she added. “It continued to grow. My beloved ex-husband missed the pig. So we got a skateboard and finally got out.”
The fun of the book extended to the photo shoot for its cover when the model pig — Forkie, who is Pinkie’s brother — took a couple of nips at Mr. Cheeseburger in Paradise. Buffett even acknowledged to Vieira that the pig was digitally inserted into the final cover art.
“He got a little restless,” Buffett recalled. “He got a little camera-shy. You know, I understand that. Show business puts a lot of pressure on a pig.”
But Bransford said that was all hogwash.
“It’s not that,” she said. “It’s just the pig runs the show and when Jimmy came, everybody paid attention to Jimmy and it made [Forkie] mad.”
Vieira asked Buffett whether or not he’s supposed to work with animals. Buffett’s answer was left up for interpretation.
“Well, I’ve done worse, Meredith,” Buffett replied. “Forty years out here, there have been some shameless moments, I admit.”