The pink ’57 Chevy in front of Ellie’s Diner will likely be granted a variance
to remain on the property along Federal Highway.
Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star
By Thom Smith
Doo-wop or don’t wop. Ellie Smela’s favorite color is pink, but she and husband, Bob, are seeing red these days. All because of that ’57 Chevy . . . the pink one that “loudly” proclaims, WELCOME TO ELLIE’S 50’s DINER on Federal Highway at the north end of Delray Beach.
For 25 years, Ellie and Bob have been serving breakfast, lunch and backroom parties on North Federal with a generous helping of vintage rock ’n’ roll.
The pink four-door Bel Air has been the landmark telling prospective customers they’ve come to the right place.
But a few weeks ago, when they received a notice from the city’s Community Improvement Department that the Chevy was an “abandoned vehicle” and had to go, they were rocked to their very soul.
The seller delivered the car by truck, and Bob drove it only once — to Fort Lauderdale and back. The transmission was slipping, so he parked it out front. “I paid a little too much for it,” Bob confessed, “but I can’t move it. It’s part of my business.”
Bob’s daily driver, by the way, is a Lexus; Ellie tools around town in a latter-day Volkswagen Beetle festooned with diner decor.
Technically, the original site plan filed a quarter century ago made no mention of the car. For one reason or another, no one at City Hall took notice until Code Enforcement Officer C.J. Lee cited Ellie’s for the “abandoned vehicle.”
However, the Smelas met in late January with Community Improvement Director Michael Coleman, and the future looks rosy. A variance should allow the car to retain its pole position.
“Mike told me what to do,” Bob Smela said.
Added Ellie, “I think it’ll be OK. We’ve got a lot of people working on it for us.”
They expect the car to be there in all its radiant beauty for the Valentine’s Day party, complete with a lover’s buffet and an Elvis impersonator.
But no making out in the back seat.
Details remain almost nonexistent, but John Paul “J.P.” Kline, the force behind Delray’s popular 3rd and 3rd restaurant, died Jan. 15 at his mother’s Boca Raton apartment. However, no one was present at the time, and the case was referred to the county Medical Examiner’s Office to determine a cause of death.
Instead of celebrating 3rd and 3rd’s third anniversary on Feb. 18, staff will observe a day of remembrance.
3rd and 3rd has no outside signs, but its fans have no trouble finding the place or feeling at home inside. The cuisine was imaginative. Artists could hang their work on the walls. Budding musicians could plug in and play.
In a message to Broward/Palm Beach New Times, manager Sabrina Milroy wrote, “True to John Paul’s style of party, I would like to ask of the people to keep coming back and hanging out with us to help us keep John Paul’s dream alive.”
Death also had an effect on the Boca West Foundation’s 2016 Concert for the Children set for April 5. Organizers of the benefit for several local youth-oriented programs were planning an “unforgettable” evening at Boca West: The 28-piece Symphony of the Americas, the Atlantic City Boys and, as headliner, Natalie Cole.
On New Year’s Day, however, they would have preferred to forget everything. The night before in California, Cole, only 65, had died. Cause of death: heart failure caused by idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension, a lung disease that was diagnosed after her kidney transplant in 2009.
Cole was participating because the beneficiaries of the concert included the Nat King Cole Generation Hope. Founded by Natalie’s sisters and Boca residents Timolin and Casey, the foundation provides music instruction, mentoring and resources to schoolchildren with the greatest need and fewest resources. The sisters grieved, but knowing Natalie’s dedication to the foundation, they began searching for a replacement, even as they made funeral plans.
Tributes were paid around the globe. At a New Year’s Day concert in Pennsylvania, a multiple Grammy winner offered a salute with a few inspiring bars from Cole’s Inseparable. “Thank you for all the great music, Natalie,” Aretha Franklin added.
Within days, the sisters had their “fill-in.”
The concert — Franklin headlining — is set for April 5 in Boca West amphitheater. Tickets are $150, seating assigned by drawn lottery. (www.bocawestfoundation.org)
The Allman Brothers Band may have broken up, but, as the Midnight Rider drawls, “the road goes on forever.” Founding member and drummer Butch Trucks, a Palm Beacher, is working to develop two new bands: the Freight Train and Les Brers.
Freight Train includes Trucks’ son Vaylor on guitar, Berry Oakley Jr., son of the late Allman bassist, on bass, and keyboard legend Bruce Katz.
Having spent Christmas at his second home in France, Trucks was slightly jet-lagged when he arrived for the band’s Funky Biscuit gig the next night.
In early development, the band also includes other family members and friends and a promising young woman from Tallahassee. They play lots of Allman hits, plus such classics as Only You Know and I Know, Highway 61 Revisited and Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone, the last featuring guest performer Heather Gillis on guitar and vocals.
“She sat in with me a few months ago in Tallahassee and, in spite of how she looks, she blew me away with her version of Ain’t No Sunshine,” Trucks said. “She has the chops but is still looking for her own voice. What I do like is that we have a 21-year-old female in a band of ugly old men.
“She is not Duane yet, but her guitar playing sure as hell is far better than Susan Tedeschi, who everyone thinks is great. I’m giving her the opportunity to play with pros, and she may help us bring in some younger crowds. We shall see.”
Nevertheless, the Freight Train will not stop April 14-16 at the Wanee Music Festival, the traditional Allman lovefest in Live Oak. The Allmans officially have broken up, but most of the members will cook with their high-powered spin-offs, and season the event with dozens of top bands and promising up-and-comers.
Of particular interest will be the debut of Les Brers, featuring Trucks, Allman percussionists Jaimoe and Marc Quinones, bassist Oteil Burbridge, former Allman guitarist Jack Pearson and Katz plus Lamar Williams Jr., son of the late Allman bassist and harmonica man Pat Bergeson.
Other ex-Allmans on the bill: Greg Allman, Warren Haynes’ Gov’t Mule and his new group The Ashes & Dust Band, Jaimoe’s Jazz Band, Oteil (Burbridge) and Friends plus Widespread Panic, Hot Tuna, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, Stanley Clarke Band, the North Mississippi Allstars and Umphrey’s McGee. (waneefestival.com)
Closer to home, Robert Plant, Hall and Oates, The Avett Brothers, Miguel, Booker T. Jones, Ween and Mumford & Sons headline the first Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival March 4-6 at Sunshine Grove, which promoters claim “will put Okeechobee on the map.” The festival, with roots in Bonnaroo, offers 24-hour music from 80 acts on five stages, RV and tent camping, food trucks and lake swimming. Music fans no doubt also will hear a lot of plugs for Sunshine Grove, the real estate development where it all will happen (okeechobeefest.com).
New best friends.
Spotted lunching at Brulé Bistro in Delray over the Christmas holidays, new celeb residents Billy Joel (Manalapan) and Kevin James (Delray Beach).
Before heading back to New York for his monthly (Jan. 7) show at Madison Square Garden, Joel welcomed 2016 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise with assistance from James, who took a futile shot at “the lights on Broadway” before declaring the piano was “way out of tune.”
Joining Joel onstage to kick off the new year were Jimmy Kimmel and Palm Beach homeowner Howard Stern.
Years ago, Lake Worth’s Bamboo Room cooked with national and regional performers and was also a choice place where local talent could hone their craft. Old-timers still recall one “songwriter’s night” when a woman interrupted a rocking version of The Wanderer with “It’s supposed to be original material,” to which the singer Dion (DiMucci) replied, “Yeah, no kiddin’. ”
Nothing like that happening lately at Bamboo. New owners came in last year with promises to revive the scene, but so far, no top acts and it’s only open Thursday through Saturday. Maybe Billy and Kevin could drop by and liven up the place.
While on the subject of old rock ’n’ rollers, a hot show is coming to the Carole & Barry Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium at Florida Atlantic University on March 18. Heading up “Pop, Rock & Doo Wopp Live!” is the “Wild One,” Bobby Rydell, one of the early teen idols. Now 73, Rydell still has his hair and again has his health after liver and kidney transplants in 2012.
He’ll be joined by The Flamingos (I Only Have Eyes for You), the Shirelles’ original lead singer Shirley Alston Reeves (Mama Said, Soldier Boy), Emil Stucchio & The Classics (Till Then) and The Mystics (Hushabye). All proof that there’s plenty of life left after 60.
A new doorman for Whitehall.
Retiring after 20 years on the job, John Blades on Feb. 28 will give up the keys to the glamorous former residence of Palm Beach developer and railroad magnate Henry Flagler. Taking over what is officially known as the Flagler Museum will be Erin Dougherty, most recently executive director of the Princeton, N.J., Historical Society.
While Blades is stepping down, his wife, Rena, will likely be stepping out a lot more in the weeks and months ahead. As president and CEO of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, her first new task will be to kick off its new Cultural Concierge Program — a first not just for the council but for the global tourism industry.
The free service will assist individuals, families and big tour groups with customized travel experiences — perhaps a group tour to the South Florida Fair, a day at the Morikami or tickets to a performance at Old School Square. Bama Lutes Deal, a county native, arts expert and musicologist who has worked with the arts and cultural communities for more than three decades, will run the program.
Rena Blades also has this thing about money, specifically when making a case to spend it on culture. The County Commission is considering a bond issue or a 1 percent sales tax increase to pay for road and facility repairs and to improve county cultural attractions such as Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, the Norton Museum of Art, South Florida Science Center and Aquarium and Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society.
“Nationally, 98 percent of proposed tax increases that include cultural funding are passed,” Blades said. “The public knows how valuable it is. Plus every tax dollar spent brings in an additional two from the business community.”
In New Jersey it was named the museum most worth traveling to, but we’ll have wait a while to see if the Silverball Pinball Museum, soon to open in Delray Beach, will merit a “cultural” designation. The offspring of the legendary Silverball Museum on Asbury Park’s boardwalk is incubating in the old Pineapple Groove site, just behind Johnny Brown’s.
No feeding quarters into slots of nearly 200 pinball and other arcade machines packed into Rob Ilvento’s Jersey operation; they are played and paid for by the hour. The setup is similar to Delray’s other wizard hall, Vintage Pinball, which is accessed through the cigar shop at 916 SW Fifth Ave. It offers a $10 daily pass. Let the games begin.
Just in time, the Force awakens. Thirty-nine years after the Millennium Falcon first raced through hyperspace, it’s back with Luke, Leia, Chewie and Han Solo. So what if Harrison Ford is 73. He still cuts a heroic figure.
And the Force doesn’t stop with the new flick. On March 4, at Mizner Park Amphitheatre, Ford as Indiana Jones will fill the screen in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The screening, marking a blockbuster opening weekend for the 10th annual Festival of the Arts Boca, will be enhanced by the Florida premiere of the score by a live orchestra. Festival conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos will lead the University of Miami’s Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra.
The following evening, Kitsopoulos conducts The Symphonia, Boca Raton in the festival’s first-ever opera, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, in English. Sunday’s bill features trumpet by Herb Alpert and vocals by wife Lani Hall.
The music continues March 11 with 13-year-old Balinese piano prodigy Joey Alexander and his trio performing An American in Paris with Kitsopoulos and The Symphonia. It wraps March 16 with violinist Joshua Bell performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons while conducting the Lynn Philharmonia Orchestra, Jan McArt narrating.
Not only music, the festival has always featured food for thought. Washington Post columnist, CNN host and author Fareed Zakaria (March 7) will discuss “Global Trends & Hot Spots”; author, neurobiologist and MacArthur “genius” Dr. Robert Sapolsky talks about “The Biology of Good and Evil” (March 8); and Dr. Jay Winter, author and historian, takes on “The Enduring Legacy of World War I and Its Impact on the 21st Century.”
For tickets and information, go to www.festivaloftheartsboca.org.
Services on Feb. 14 at most liturgical churches will feature traditional Lenten hymns, but at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lake Worth vespers will give way to music for lovers, with a candlelight concert by the South Florida Harp Trio — Charlene Conner, Stacey Berkley and Nancy Ann Gillian. A reception will follow, featuring chocolate desserts with hints of Bailey’s, Moscato d’Asti and California zinfandel. ($25 in advance, 582-6609)
Write Thom Smith at email@example.com.