Sunday, March 16, 2014

How we got to Myrtle Beach- From the first two pages of my memoir by Dino Thompson.


   Folks are always asking how we got to Myrtle Beach.
   All their worldly possessions, me in a baby-blue bassinet, wedged into the back of a two- tone Lasalle, we were migratin south from the shuttered shipyards of New Port News. Snakin down two-lane Ocean Highway 17 on our way to the Florida boom when the Greek meat-balls and feta cheese ran out and we pit-stopped for gas, lunch and a diaper change in a tiny resort crossroads called Myrtle Beach. 

   We pile out the car and push through the art deco door of the Kozy Korner Cafe.

   A Broderick Crawford lookalike in french cuffs and an expensive suit, uglied up with a wide amoeba tie and fake gold tie clasp, gives me a cute-baby poke and escorts us to an aluminum booth with flip-down seats. 
   Broderick turns out to be the owner, a Charleston-born, cigar-chewin geechee-accent Greek who goes by the not-so-Greek name of Tom Haley.
   He introduces hissef to my Cypriot-born ole man who goes by the not-so- Greek name of Tony Thompson.
   “Where y’all headed?” asks Tom, napkinin off his two-tone shoes.
   “On our way to Florida,” Tony says.
   “Whaddayou plannin on doin down there?”
   “Find a business, start a new life. We heard things were good there.”
   Tom waves his manicured hand. “Gotta goin business right here. It’s for sale.”
   Tony glances around. “I only have fifty two hundred dollars.”
   Tom smiles, slaps the table “Whaddayou talkin? Thas the price.”
   “Any other Greeks live here?” asks Tony.
   “Yea. . . there’s Papa Chris, George Anthony, Louie Achilles, John Gravis, Baroutsos, Charlie Kordas and . . . plentya Greeks.” 
   “Mind if I look around?” Tony says, as a red lipstick’d waitress packed in a snug uniform and a toothy hey-how-yall smile, slips the pencil from behind her hairnetted ear to take our order. An hour and a handshake after meetin Tom Haley, Tony’s introducin himself to the waitresses and cooks. “Hello, my name ees Tony. I’m the new owner.” 

   Tony informs my mom who's spooning some green goup into my mouth. She slaps her head, crosses herself. “What d’you mean you bought this restaurant? I don’t even know the name of this town. There’s nothing here. No customers, no nothing.” 
   Tom points a manicured finger out at the deserted street. “Whaddaya mean nothin here? We got four restaurants, two gas stations, a movie theater, drugstore, dimestore, bingo parlor, auction house, train depot, the Lafayette Manor, and don’t forget the Pavilion. . . In the summer the town’s fulla people.” 

   Mom’s suckin air, tryin not to cry. “Where are we going to live?” 
   “Upstairs apartment comes with the deal.” 
   So an hour after lunch, mom’s upstairs throwin out the last tenant’s trash, knee-scouring the apartment with Ajax and tears, movin us into what’s gonna be our Myrtle Beach home for the next thirteen years.
   That's how we got to Myrtle Beach.
     

Friday, January 17, 2014

Another reason to remember the Ocean Forest Hotel- its Architect.

MEMORIES: Every October brings back demolition memories of the Ocean Forest Hotel and wonders at what might've been. This past October I re-printed a blog homage to the hotel. Forty years ago this October, the Magnificent Castle on the Ocean was imploded by Hudgens and Company of Atlanta. The owner of Hudgens confided to me the Ocean Forest was the finest constructed building he had ever examined. Over a roast of oysters at Morse's, he told me. "This hotel needs renovation, not demolition." He then turned over a placemat and laid out the economics and showed me he could gut the interior, create new larger rooms, redo the original lobby decor, make a few exterior alterations and bring back the landmark to its original splendor and the 12-acre ocean front property still had room for further development.

ARCHITECT RAYMOND HOOD is why the Ocean Forest Hotel was the finest constructed building Mr. Hudgens had ever examined. Hood was one of most revered high-rise builders in the world. His extraordinary visions created...


  • Chicago Tribune Building opened in 1924 is listed as a Chicago Landmark.
  • American Radiator Building opened in 1924 which Fountainhead author Ayn Rand once called the most beautiful in New York. It's on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Ocean Forest Hotel opened in 1926 and 1927 demolished in 1974.
  • New York Daily News Building built in 1929 designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
  • Masonic Temple in Scranton built in 1930 is the city's cultural center.
  • McGraw-Hill Building built in 1930-31 is a NY landmark.
  • Rockefeller Center built 1930-1939. Comprising 22 acres, 8,000,000 million sqft of buildings, four acres of gardens and is still one of the world's most vibrant city centers and visitor attractions.
All but the Ocean Forest Hotel live on.



Sunday, January 5, 2014

A thank you to Brent Rainwater who left this world.

Time to pay our respects to a loyal customer/friend of Flamingo Grill.
We met Brent the first week Flamingo Grill opened. He sent a handwritten letter complimenting our chef on our lobster bites and béarnaise sauce.

From Florence S.C, Brent Rainwater might as well have been from Florence Italy.
I was born in a pot sink, learned to walk and talk in a cafe, have au jus coursing through my veins but Brent's passion, his knowledge, his wicked enjoyment of food made me seem a culinary illiterate. He befriended some of the world's celeb chefs and his dining experiences were otherworldly...Lutece, Per Se, Alinea, Prudhomme's, Emeril's.

And I thought I was hip to movie history until Brent and I butted heads while he and his sweet wife Anne dined on Peppercorn tuna, Steak Oscar, cajun oysters and extra sides of bearnaise. I'll miss swappin foodie philosophy and movie history with Brent.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Excerpt from Dino Thompson's memoir: Greek Boy- Growing Up Southern


Folks are asking me how I got to Myrtle Beach...here's the answer.

Mom and dad took over the restaurant September of 1946. All their worldly possessions, me in a baby- blue bassinet, wedged into the back of a two-tone Lasalle, we were migratin south from the shuttered shipyards of New Port News. Snakin down two-lane Ocean Highway 17 on our way to the Florida boom when the Greek meat balls and feta cheese ran out and we pit-stopped for gas, lunch and a diaper change in a tiny resort crossroads called Myrtle Beach. We pile out the car and push through the art-deco door of the Kozy Korner Cafe.

Charleston-born, cigar- chewin geechee-accent Greek who goes by the not-so-Greek name of Tom Haley.  He introduces hissef to my Cypriot-born ole man who goes by the not-so- Greek name of Tony Thompson.
“Where y’all headed?” asks Tom, napkinin off his two-tone spats.
“On our way to Florida,” Tony says.
“Whaddayou plannin on doin down there?”
“Find a business, start a new life. We heard things were good there.”
Tom waves his hand. “Gotta goin business right here. It’s for sale.”
A Broderick Crawford lookalike in french cuffs and an expensive suit, uglied up with a wide amoeba tie and fake gold tie clasp, gives me a cute-baby poke and escorts us to an aluminum booth. Broderick turns out to be the owner, a Charleston-born, cigar- chewin geechee-accent Greek who goes by the not-so-Greek name of Tom Haley.
He introduces hissef to my Cypriot-born ole man who goes by the not-so- Greek name of Tony Thompson.
“Where y’all headed?” asks Tom, napkinin off his two-tone shoes.
“On our way to Florida,” Tony says.
“Whaddayou plannin on doin down there?”
“Find a business, start a new life. We heard things were good there.”
Tom waves his hand. “Gotta goin business right here. It’s for sale.”
Tony glances around. “I only have fifty two hundred dollars.”
Tom smiles, slaps the table “Whaddayou talkin? That’s the price.”
“Any other Greeks live here?” asks Tony.
“Yea. . . there’s Papa Chris, George Anthony, Louie Achilles, John Gravis, Baroutsos, Charlie Kordas and . . .plentya Greeks.” 
“Mind if I look around?” Tony says, as a red lipstick’d waitress packed in a snug uniform and a toothy hey-how-yall smile, slips the pencil from behind her hairnetted ear to take our order. 

An hour after meetin Tom Haley, Tony’s introducin himself to the waitresses and cooks. “Hello, my name ees Tony. I’m the new owner.” He informs mom. She slaps her head, crosses herself. “What d’you mean you bought this restaurant? I
don’t even know the name of this town. There’s nothing here. No customers, no nothing.” Tom points a manicured finger out at the deserted street. “Whaddaya mean nothin here? We got four restaurants, two gas stations, a movie theater, drugstore, dimestore, bingo parlor, auction house, train depot, the Lafayette Manor, and don’t forget the Pavilion. . . In the summer the town’s fulla people.” 

Mom’s tryin not to cry. “Where are we going to live?” “Upstairs apartment comes with the deal.” Hour after lunch, mom’s upstairs throwin out the last tenant’s trash, knee-scouring the apartment with Ajax and tears, movin us into what’s gonna be home for the next thirteen years.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

This December marked our 28th year at Flamingo Seafood Grill.
We look forward to 2014, to enjoying longtime friends and meeting new.
In a tornado of silly, cruel, petty, depressing and 24-hr negative news... it's the fascinating, kind, upbeat and gracious folks who have passed through our doors who
continuously renew our smile and recharge our emotional batteries.
Wishing you prosperity of the soul this coming year and whatever else you do...
Non illigitimi carborundum!
Dino Thompson

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Government Shutdown.

We'd be a helluva lot better off if we fired every damn petty senator and congressmen and replaced them with the first 535 names in the phonebook.

We'd then have decent, mostly hardworking folks who've worked for a living, ran businesses, made payrolls and got along with others.


Friday, October 4, 2013

HOMAGE TO THE OCEAN FOREST HOTEL by Dino Thompson


HOMAGE TO THE OCEAN FOREST HOTEL
People called it The Million Dollar Hotel, The Castle
on the Ocean, The Wedding Cake Hotel. Most us locals just called it…The Hotel.

 


   Why should anyone care about the long-gone hotel? Because it was the splendiforous white castle on the north end of town we called… The Ocean Forest Hotel. It loomed large over the beach on a 30-foot-above-sea-level plateau and...


 
It was much more than just a hotel.  It was a spectacular architectural remnant of the most ambitious attempt to “Create the most desirable haven of rest and recreation in the world…the most complete playground ever contemplated.”

 
   Those high-filootin words were the voice of the visionary developers describing their grandiose venture. The venture, called Arcady, was named after a place in ancient Greece where men found peace and solitude in their natural environment. The natural place they chose for this dream was that ribbon of sand we would know as Myrtle Beach. Greenville’s John T. Woodside and his brothers were the originators and constructors of that vision.

 

The Dreamers
   Land acquired in 1925, the hotel and golf course were finished in 1928. These were the leading actors in a breathtaking 60,000 acre resort and ocean swept production. The founders of this grandiose dream went all in with their lives, money and reputations. The '29 Crash would lop the economic legs off their attempt at creating a coastal paradise. 

   The Woodsides lost more than their shirt. They lost their six textile mills, (the largest textile mill under one roof in the entire world). They lost their financing, their fortune, their 17-story Woodside National Bank, their magnificent hotel, and their nowhere-else-on-earth dream. They lost the entire coastline of Myrtle Beach, 12 miles of pristine shoreline garnished with 30-ft sea-oated sand dunes, twisted live oaks and windswept myrtles.

 
Arcady was to be the most ambitious resort haven in the entire country. And it would have.   Seventy-five years later nothing touches the concept or the finished product.

 
The Hotel
   The main entertainment entrée was…The Ocean Forest Hotel.
   This white-brick 10-story sandcastle designed by famed Chicago architect, Raymond Hood, boasted 202 ventilated rooms, indoor & outdoor pools, lighthouse spire, salt or fresh running water, colonnaded marble verandas, magnificent Georgian ballrooms, 20-foot chandeliers crafted by Europe’s finest crystal makers. They offered ocean front dining, outdoor entertainment, men & women's exercise clubs fully-equipped with spa, steamboxes, free weights, pulleys, cables, pommel horse and shake-the-fat-of-your-booty machines. There were maple bowling lanes and an indoor and outdoor Olympic-size pools. Hotel bathrooms offered hot, cold and saltwater baths. The tower offered Myrtle Beach’s 1st radio station as well as gambling rumors. The ground-floor arcade provided men’s and ladies clothing, coffee shop, jewelry store, drug store and hoity-toity salons…The hotel even provided ice water piped into each room.
   And this was in the 1920s.

  

Ownership
When completed, control and ownership of Arcady would be turned over to the members. No part of the project could ever be sold. The first 500 family memberships would be sold at heady $1,250, which would give them, “…the privilege to build and occupy homes in a specially favorable and restricted section, if they so desire.”

 

Ocean Forest Golf Course & Clubhouse
   Guests and members could opt for use of the Robert White designed 27-hole golf course and stay on premise in the 60-room Georgian clubhouse and inn. The golf layout designer would become the PGA’s 1st President. The all-male golf course would be frequented by actors, politicians and the legendary likes of Sarazen and Snead. A few cigar smokers and gimlet drinkers lounging around that same clubhouse conjured up a need for a magazine dedicated to sports and leisure. They would name the publication Sports Illustrated  

  

Outdoor Amphitheater
   Also overlooking the ocean, nestled beside the south side of the hotel, they built an acoustically-correct, open-air amphitheater. Locals called it The Marine Patio. You could savor the dance music of all the famous big bands…. Carmichael, Dorsey, Basie, Spike Jones, Harry James, Lennon Sisters, with the silvery ocean in the background. Those who couldn’t afford the ticket, would blanket-sit on the moonlit sand dunes and ogle the comins and goins of snazzy dressed couples sippin illegal cocktails.    
   When the band kicked in beach-listeners would sand-boogie barefoot to a hip swing tune.


It’s whispered Ayn Rand’s Peter Keating of Fountainhead was based on noted high-rise architect Raymond Hood who designed the Ocean Forest Hotel.

 
The Architect.
   The designer of our wedding cake hotel was MIT grad Raymond Hood. He also created the Gothic Chicago Tribune Tower, the Daily News building in New York, the McGraw-Hill building, the black-brick Radiator Building which became the Bryant Park Hotel. Raymond Hood was also the senior architect for Rockefeller Center and the RCA Building.

Outdoor Amenities
   Other play-toys offered were red-clay tennis courts, skeet & trap range, dieticians, Near the golf course was an open-beam-cypress horse stable which housed 40 rent-a-rides. Also on the recreation menu was archery, miles of hiking, hunting, riding trails and of course 14 miles of sailing, sunning and fishing along a pristine ocean front lined with windswept myrtles and cabana’d beaches. And within walking distance, 6 freshwater lakes paralleling the Atlantic were there for canoeing, bass fishing and moonlight trysts.

   Amenities which were to come, were a separate golf course for ladies, separate courses for the children, boys and girl camps, nurseries for the infants, beach and bath house, wildlife sanctuary, and Yacht Basin carved out where the current Yachtsman Hotel sits today.
   Nothing on our Grand Strand or any other strand was conceived quite that grand.  

  
Summer Stock Theater
Great Gatsby-ish après-theater cocktail galas, glistening with parfait gowns and pastel’d tuxedos capped off the theater productions. The South’s only theater-in-the-round boasted names like Veronica Lake, Sinatra, John Ireland, Tuesday Weld, Shelly Winters, Diana Barrymore, Eddie Bracken, Tallulah Bankhead, Jeffrey Lynn, Zazu Pits. The celebs, pols, and money movers graced the stage, gambled in the tower, sipped perfect manhattans in the Brookgreen Room and prowled the verandas in linens and silk.

 

For most of my life its fabulousity has never been exceeded. It was our social universe and the biggest, baddest, most imposing structure for 200 miles. It was our Coliseum, our Taj Mahal, our Parthenon. Ask any local yokel directions and the answer went something like…"Be bout a mile past the Ocean Forest."

 

Marine Patio, Ballroom and Brookgreen Room
   Most all us local boys fastened our first cummerbund, ogled our first cleavage, kissed our first bare neck, sipped our first cocktail, heard our first champagne cork pop and danced our first cheek to cheek foxtrot in the Ocean Forest Ballroom or Marine Patio. Twas an elegant brownfaced bowtied bartender served me my first cocktail, a nutmeggy brandy alexander, at age 6 in the swanky Brookgreen Room, while I listened to violin stroller, Eduardo Roy, bedazzled in a Liberace-ish
neon jacket. 

   We were a Baptisty dry state back then but the Ocean Forest was the closest thing we had to royalty so the local constabulary cut them serious slack. My dad said it was painted with invisible paint, the sheriff just couldn’t find it.

 
Friday the 13th of Sept 1974
   I never ride past without it looming large over my memory. Imagining it refurbished... seeing linen-garbed, pomaded dreamy couples sipping perfect manhattans on that perfect veranda in front of windswept myrtles on that perfect stretch of cabana'd beach.

   50 years after its immaculate construction, on that sunny but tragic Friday the 13th, the last castle of the Woodside brothers’ dream was tumbled into twisted rubble by Hudgins and Company demolition. Fade to black. A perfect implosion…an imperfect ending.

   We crouched behind the sand dunes and cried for our Castle on the Sea.
   Even the head of the demolition company told me the hotel should have been renovated. That it was the finest construction he had seen. They auctioned off the woodwork, crystal and glitter, even the cups and saucers and room keys. They then buried the broken bones of the once magnificent hotel in what is now Cagney’s parking lot.

   All that's left of what shoulda been our Breaker’s, our Greenbrier, our Fairmont, our Plaza hotel… are just a few artifacts, some postcards, concrete roads, the Pine Lakes Golf Course and Club House and pangs of what mighta been, coulda been, shoulda been.

In my mind it's still there. Cause I want it to be.

 
Dino Thompson- Author of Greek Boy- Growing Up Southern