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The extraterrestrial sits on a couch in his bare feet, as always. He looks up at a blank artist's canvas hanging crookedly on the wall. Only it's not blank. There are vague grayish shapes and blotches in the white background.
"That picture is transforming right now," Prince Mongo proclaims. "It's the resurrection of the world. The Earth doesn't have much time left. We're on the second run right now. That painting is the tunnel to life."
When will it be finished?
"It won't end until the world ends. Then I will take the people I'm going to save back to Zambodia."
It may sound like the ravings of a demented street person babbling on the sidewalk, but Prince Mongo isn't homeless. He's sitting in his $2 million Fort Lauderdale home near Las Olas Boulevard. With a pool and an elevated wooden deck on the Intracoastal-connected canal in the backyard, it's a beauty of a place. And the home is apparently just a small part of his fortune. He also owns homes in Virginia Beach and Memphis, and he skis in Vail. "He's got more money than God," says his neighbor, Bill Concha.
But when Mongo sleeps, he does it on a little mat in the family room, like a poverty-stricken college student. He wears old T-shirts and shorts and, as mentioned, never, ever wears shoes (even when walking in the snow in Vail, he claims). "I don't need money," he says. "I live off the stars and the earth and the energy of the sun."
Prince Mongo isn't tall, maybe five-foot-seven, and he's got a pretty good-sized belly. He likes to eat. When I paid him a surprise visit last week, he offered me radishes, sushi, goat's milk, vegetable soup, and a ham sandwich. I told him I'd just had some eggs. "You ever have sardines and eggs?" he asked. "They're good."
The first thing I noticed was the change in his hair. When I'd first met Mongo the week before, his hair was grayish and seemed to have some kind of oil in it. Now it was pitch black, looking windblown and sticking straight up like something from a 1980s pop band. "It does funny things all the time," he said of his hair. "Some mornings, I'm blond. Some mornings, I'm a bush. And some mornings, it's black-black. There's great power in my hair; it helps protect me from demons trying to get near me."
Mongo looks to be in his 50s, but he says he's 333 years old. Three is his favorite number it has some special significance in Zambodia, his original home nine light-years away.
"When I hit Earth, I fragmentized and went all over the world," he explains. "I then began assembling myself and still am."
His first identity on Earth was as a Blackfoot Indian chief in the Dakotas. Since then, he's had 33 wives, all of whom have died. "They can't last like I can," he explains.
His mission is to save the Earth. Right now, he's working on saving hundreds of thousands of people from the coming bird flu epidemic. Such a huge task involves meditation and the use of spiritual dusts and elixirs he's brought from Zambodia. I asked him what he thought of the Bible. "Jesus is exactly what you know him to be; he's in control of our planet too, you know," he told me. "It isn't like I'm a supreme being. I'm only a messenger."
He says he's gone to several universities including the University of Virginia, Tulane, Columbia, and William and Mary and has a doctorate, though he won't say in what. He claims that he's been living winters in Fort Lauderdale for 33 years, but county records show he's owned the home only since 1985. When he leaves for parts north, he still doesn't lock the doors. "Anybody can come in here anytime and take what they please," he says. "I don't care. I'll give anything away. People are always walking off with my TVs. I don't mind. I have a terrible phobia about throwing things away. Why throw things away when you can give it away?"
Only those with eclectic tastes could appreciate Mongo's household goods. He's got paintings all over the walls, many of which he's done himself (and he's a very fine artist). There are kites, model planes, fossils, and a few things that can only be described as dried-up sea creatures festooned about the house. Everything on the walls is crooked or upside-down. One room has so many off-kilter paintings and album covers tacked onto the walls (cool old ones like the original soundtrack to The Treasure of Sierra Madre) that I felt a bit of vertigo when I walked inside.
In his living room is a poster of himself walking across the road wearing mirrored welding goggles, a long gray wig, a rubber chicken around his neck triumphantly holding up what looks like a human leg bone. On another wall are the innards of an old piano keyboard, which he says was given to him by Liberace, an old friend. And then there's the transforming white painting, slowly coming into focus as the world winds down.