Fruity football fanatic surfaces years after going bananas on UF sideline

Larry Kuhn, also known to many as Bananaman, is now an Orlando doctor.


Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 11:59 p.m.
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Larry Kuhn entertains the crowd at a UF football game as Bananaman.

For fans who attended University of Florida Gator football games through the doldrums of the late 1970s, Bananaman was a human highlight reel.
A long, lean, yellow machine, this guy would come out of the stands to join the cheerleaders on the sidelines as they broke into a rhythmic, "Go bananas. Go . . . go . . . bananas."
So what ever happened to Bananaman?
That's what reader Paula Guerrein of Gainesville, a pharmaceutical sales representative, wanted to know as part of The Sun's annual "Since You Asked" series, the goal of which is to answer questions that nag at our readers.
The newspaper was able to get to the bottom of more than a half-dozen mini-mysteries and head-scratching questions. However, we could not come up with an answer to Guerrein's query.
That is, until now. Guerrein remembers the crowd passing Bananaman up and down the stands, and the cheer that always went up when he reached the stadium's top row.
She also said that as the '80s began, there was "a copycat Bananaman whose costume wasn't quite as good." Once the duplicate appeared, fans sometimes were treated to two guys in banana suits when the "Go Bananas" cheer went up.
Thanks to several telephone calls from Sun readers, we've peeled back the mystery surrounding the original Bananaman to reveal Larry Kuhn, Orlando bananesthesiologist.
Sorry, make that anesthesiologist. "It's been 25 years. How did you find me?" Kuhn asked when reached by telephone to discuss his whereabouts since the '70s.
Well, Bananaman, seems there are still quite a few Gainesville residents who haven't forgotten your antics back in the day.
Walt West, now with the State Attorney's Office here, said he went to the same high school in Titusville as Kuhn, and the two came up to attend UF together.
Kuhn's sideline career started in 1977. "I had a friend with a banana suit that he'd used for a skit in high school," Kuhn said. "The cheerleaders had that cheer. I just thought, 'Hey, let's put the two together.' "
Kuhn said he suited up and went to a pep rally before the game against Kentucky and was invited down onto the field. After that, Bill Carr, then the athletic director, issued him a press pass.
"I jumped around the sidelines for quite a few games," he said.
In the yellow suit and a pair of yellow high-top sneakers, he was hard to miss. A photo of Kuhn in his banana gear ran in the Jacksonville newspaper before the Florida-Georgia game in 1979. He ran as Bananaman in the Gator Gallop preceding UF's Homecoming Parade one year.
"I had a lot of fun with it," he admits today.
Then Kuhn entered dental school and had to spend less time on the sidelines and more time hitting the books.
"A friend, Chris Evans, did a few games after I entered dental school," he said. "He went into the mission field ,and the banana suit went to China."
Kuhn said he hasn't seen or heard of it since.
Bananaman graduated from dental school in 1985. After doing a dental residency, he went to medical school at the University of South Florida, finishing in 1990. Now Kuhn is an anesthesiologist in Orlando, doing high-risk obstetric cases at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women. The hospital does 11,000 deliveries a year.
Kuhn married his wife, Suzanne Darsey Kuhn, while in Gainesville. She graduated from UF's physical therapy program and worked in the field until 1995. The Kuhns have, dare we say it, a bunch of offspring. Their oldest daughter is a sophomore in college, and their sons are ages 16, 13 and 10.
Kuhn, who turned 46 on Monday, confesses that he was "a little fruity" back then, but all in all, life's been good to Bananaman.
Although he couldn't be more serious about his highly specialized work at Arnold Palmer Hospital, Kuhn makes no apologies for his '70s high jinks.
"Hey, I was in school for 17 more years after high school," he said. "I had to have a little fun."
Diane Chun can be reached at (352) 374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com.

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