Peter Benchley, the author of “Jaws,” got it wrong. His plot turned on efforts by civic and business leaders in a New England resort town to cover up a shark attack, lest it drive tourists away. Cape Cod recently had a shark attack — and tourists are flocking in.
“It’s a huge draw,” declared Lisa Franz, executive director of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce. Her town, in particular, is gaining fame as a shark center, where toothy beasts prowl the beaches in search of tasty seals. Day-trippers are gobbling up shark T-shirts and hats, to the bemusement of second-home owners.
The shark craze draws on both “disaster tourism” and curiosity about nature. And then there are the memories of a certain movie that first hit theaters 37 summers ago. As the mayor of the fictional Amity Island, actor Murray Hamilton wore Chamber of Commerce-style polyester suits and fretted about shark sightings driving down T-shirt and ice cream sales. To millions of moviegoers, this perspiring bureaucrat was as memorable a villain as any of James Bond’s antagonists. But who knew he was also a bad businessman?