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


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.


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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chains- Damn em ta hell

Biggest restaurant changes in last 35 years…
Sloppy dress…Unruly kids...Non smoking…Obesity...Celeb chefs…Finger food…Raw food…Fancy pizzas…$3 Bottle water…$5 coffee…and CHAINS.
Back in my long ago there were none here...then along came HoJos.
   Back when quarterbacks called their own plays, presidents wrote their own speeches, and ham steak with pineapple ring was on every menu, usetabe every food joint was somebody’s mom and pop. Only time you used the word “Chain” in a sentence was to describe fences, bikes and pervy sexual positions. Cruise the 2-lane main drag back in the day and you knew who was who.
Lotta joints had their own names blinkin…
Lee’s, Oliver’s, Raimondo’s, Lloyd’s, Floyd’s, Christy’s, Cluie’s, Eyerly’s, Haley’s, Larry’s, Harrell’s, Hare’s, Tony’s, Vereens, Selvey’s, Morse’s, Moody’s,
From my open car window, going sixty, I could rattle off the names of the other owners as they neon’d by. They were all legends of the summer. The pioneers who came in loaded-down sedans. The ones who created from nothing. The ones with the balls to throw all their chips in one pot. All gone to the dining room in the sky.

Charlie Kordas at Seven Seas
George Anthony at Mayflower
Tony Carnaggio at Tony’s
Capt Juel’s at The Hurricane
Louie Achilles at the Broadway
Wimpy Anderson at Aunt Maude’s,
Tony Coury at the Rip Tide
Charles Fleishman at White Heron
Chris Moshures at Excel & Mammy’s Kitchen
Warren Cromley at Rice Planter’s
Sam Diminich at Roma
Eli Saleeby at Brass Rail
Johnny Burroughs at Peaches Corner
Sammy Vereen at Wayside
John Loud at Clipper Ship
Alex Karetas at Seaside
Spero Bogache at Ocean View
Cooter Jennings at Sloppy Joes and the Bowery,
Papa Chris at Mammy’s
Chris Drosas at The Colony
Lee Letts at the Pink House
Lattie Upchurch at Outrigger
Tony Thompson at Kozy Korner

   Now, goin sixty, your eyes blur with same-ification. One chain after the other on every highway. When did unique become bad, same good? 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Health Food

Stopped by the Health Food Store today waiting for my wife to stock up on some Vitamin D3. While I waited I ogled my time away watchin unhealthy, weirdly-garbed, sandle'd people seeking the fountain of youth with Vitamins A thru Z. They were being  tumerac'd, ginger'd, fish oiled, wheatgerm'd, zinc'd, selenium'd and horse chestnut'd.

All I could think of is... just come to our restaurant and have a healthy cut of salmon, side of asparagus and a glass of heart-healthy red. Or say f-k it and have a NY Strip topped with crabmeat and béarnaise sauce and a dirty martini.

Vitamins A thru Z ain't gonna keep us from dying.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Thanks for the memories

Wanted to take a moment to thank you for all the heartfelt notes, calls and personal visits  you've shared about Cagney's. Means the world to know it was a special place to work and dine for so many of you. It certainly was a special place for us.

Here's an interesting note.
In 1974, we bought the stained glass after they demolished the Red Springs, NC Baptist Church (built in 1911). Two years later we re-assembled a beautiful window which fronted the entrance to our Cagney's kitchen. A month ago, one of the members of the old church approached us to buy the window back. they wanted to build a special spot in the new church and back light it.

The gorgeous window has returned to it's original home!

Life goes on...
Thanks again for your friendship and memories.
Your old busboy/sweeper
Dino Thompson

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Since Cagney's has closed my partner and I have had the pleasure of serving many of  Cagney's regulars at our sister restaurant, THE FLAMINGO SEAFOOD GRILL.
For 30-some years my partner and I took turns working one night at Cagney's, the next night at Flamingo Grill.

No we both work every night at Flamingo Grill.
We've been "business dating" for 37 years, now we're married.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


I’ve had mighty tasty meals in joints with names like…

Black Cat, Chicken Shak, Donut Diner, Forks, Eats, Grubbs, Mammy’s, Punk’s Place, Hook’s, Hoar House, Skeeters, Sloppy Joe’s, Terminal café , Bearded Clam, Knife & Fork, Three-Spot Grill, Chat n Chew, Whistling Pig.

   And not-so-tasty meals in tight-ass tablecloth joints with names like Le Bon Repas, Bon Appetit,
Le Belle Cuisine, Auberge du Soleil, Legends, Par Excellence, Paradise, Parthenon, Penthouse, Pinnacle, Primo’s, Top of the World and House of Good Food.        

   So what’s in a name? Does a nifty moniker guarantee success or insure flopdom?

  • Would Cary Grant have made it big as Archibald Leach? Roy Rogers as Leonard Slye? Ice-T as Tracy Morrow, Francis Gumm as Judy Garland? Muddy Waters as McKinley Morgenfield? I don’t tink toe Buckwheat.
  • I mean how much 7-Up was sold before they nixed the original name, Lithiated Lemon? Trader Vic’s was first called Hinky Dinks.
  • Couldn’t give a piece of Pantagonian toothfish away til they renamed it Chilean Sea Bass.
  • Rose’ wine was dead as Nehru suits before they called it blush.
  • Order snow crab and you might get toad crab, just as good but not such a euphonious appellation.
  • Lake trout ain’t trout and has never been near a lake, it’s silver hake from the ocean. Orange roughy useta be call slime head.
  • How many hifulters could actually fork a mouthful of pig thymus glands into their mouth if some clever cook hadn’t re-named it sweetbreads?
  • Order marsh rabbit in Baltimore and you’re gonna get muskrat.
  • I ordered spotted dick in Europe just to hear myself say it and I always picked Drop-Your-Drawers-and-Run chili at a local cook-off.
  • How many shirts would you wear with Ralph Lifshitz logo’d on the front?

Lifshitz is Ralphee Lauren’s real name.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Slowly Emptying Cagneys

We've started moving things out of Cagney's. Every item, every piece of woodwork has its own unique story.

Lamps, barber poles, animal heads all seem to be sayin..."Hey, where you takin us? This is our home." I keep apologizing to inanimate objects.

Friday, January 4, 2013

From Dino Thompson
It's been a couple months since we dimmed the stain glass lights at Cagney's.
We're trying to get past it, but certainly not over it.  First I want to thank all our friends who so generously shared their thoughts, memories and sadness about Cagney's closing. It's been a tough emotional ride because it was such a huge part of our creative lives and our joy of serving others.

And of course a galaxy of heartaches to leave behind such a wonderful group of men and women. What an honor and privilege to have worked with so many fine and decent young people, many of whom blossomed into extraordinary men and women along side us. It's been a joyous ride to be a part of their lives.

Come see us at Flamingo Grill...We're still dedicated to putting a tasty smile into your evening and experiencing the joy of being of service to others and seeing friends.