Celebrate Crazy Gregg Day


You’ve got a great reason to party today – one of the best! A few weeks ago I was ‘eavesdropping’ on Twitter and read a fascinating conversation between @Csensewatchdog and @RobertPerugini who were reminiscing about Fort Lauderdale. They were talking about a place called Button on the Beach which I’d never heard of. But Google has…

The ‘father of the spring break’ was a man known as Crazy Gregg Newall. He came to Fort Lauderdale in 1953 when he was a student, several years before the spring break craziness started in full swing.

He said that in those days there were just a handful of students that used to come to Fort Lauderdale. There were only a couple of bars (including the Elbo Room of course – that has been there forever). But he enjoyed it so much that he returned the next year, and the next, each time bringing more friends with him who all spread the word.

In 1957 he moved here permanently. And he had lots of memories about spring break. He recalled that once, at the eastern end of Las Olas, he saw a hammerhead shark that had been liberated from Bahia Mar propped up on a park bench wearing a hat.

I’d always thought that the scene is Where the Boys Are with the swimming pool in the bar was a figment of someone’s imagination but Newall recalled that at the Marlin Beach Hotel there was indeed an underground bar with a wall that was the glass side of a swimming pool where water ballets were performed. (Although interestingly, he says that the scenes that were supposedly inside the Elbo Room were filmed on a Hollywood set).

Newall ran the Elbo Room bar for a many years and then, along with some partners, started the Button on the Beach – a bar in the old Holiday Inn at the intersection of Las Olas and A1A. At first he was disappointed that business wasn’t too great during the day – the kids were all working on their tans – so he had the airplane banners announcing free beer for kids from one certain school. Of course, the other schools were outraged. So the next day, he’d do the same for a different school and so on and so on and so on. This made him realize that inter-school contests were a great business idea. They would play the national anthem at the beginning of contests and had all the school songs on tape. All very patriotic and good clean fun.

And the more the kids enjoyed partying in Fort Lauderdale, the more they came back bringing all their friends with them. There seems little doubt that it’s thanks to Crazy Gregg that Fort Lauderdale was put firmly on the map.

It wasn’t long before the wet t-shirt contests began. Then (he said) the girls said that was fine for the boys … so the wet willie contest was introduced where girls would throw buckets of water over the guys standing there in just their boxer shorts. And then…

Along came the banana eating contests which, Crazy Gregg said, were completely innocuous. Couples would peel a banana and then eat it from both ends, face to face.

According to Gregg, it was all good clean fun but eventually the city disagreed. The club’s DJ, John Torregrossa, was arrested for promoting lewd behavior. This was the beginning of the end of spring break. There was a newspaper report in 1984 about the banana eating contests. ‘Inserting the peeled bananas in one another’s short shorts, the couple gyrated and contorted their bodies through a series of suggestive positions. They took turns twisting legs around a partner’s waist, neck or face‘.

Well, I’m sorry Fort Lauderdale, but that was it? Now I know that I’m from England and therefore by definition a bit liberal about these matters but that was all? I was a student in the mid-seventies and it’s a good job that the City of Fort Lauderdale didn’t see what we got up to. Blimey. That was what got the city’s knickers in a collective twist?

Gregg continued to be crazy. But in 2002, his doctors told him that the party was almost over. Just a few weeks before his death in 2003, in front of over 200 of his former employees and longtime friends, Newell was the guest of honor at an “Aloha” party at The Parrot Lounge where Mayor Jim Naugle issued a proclamation declaring October 22 as “Crazy Gregg Day” in Fort Lauderdale.

So, there you have it. That’s your excuse for partying today. Banana anyone?

Posted by Las Olas Boulevard in : News,

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    Set midway between Fort Lauderdale Beach and the fabulous Las Olas Boulevard, this quiet and secluded complex is right on the waterfront and enjoys charming Mid-Century Modern features. Fully moder...
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    Las Olas Boulevard - there's no other place quite like it. Las Olas offers you the very best in dining, antiques, shopping, fashion, the arts, history and much more.

    Las Olas Boulevard is located just seconds from the beautiful Fort Lauderdale beach and enjoys the wonderful South Florida weather. When you visit us on the boulevard, why not come by boat? The Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi will bring you right here.

    We have lots of special events which take place throughout the year and some of the nicest people you'll ever wish to meet are right here. If you're planning a destination wedding, there's no better place.

    The boulevard has a lot of history too. Stay at the Riverside Hotel - built in 1936, or visit the Stranahan House Museum and see where Fort Lauderdale itself began. Enjoy breakfast, at any time of day or night, in the historic Floridian diner. See the Elbo Room, the place featured in Where the Boys Are - the iconic Spring Break movie made in 1960.

    Las Olas Boulevard has something to suit all tastes, all ages and all budgets. Dance the night away or enjoy a quiet drink in a relaxing bar. Experience fine dining in one of our many restaurants, or grab a pizza, sandwich, panini or salad. Enjoy cuisine from all over the world right here. And don't miss the treats we have for you - chocolates, ice creams, frozen yogurts, candies, pastries - all made right here on Las Olas. Eat at a sidewalk café, people-watch, visit our world-class museum of art, take the kids to the science museum for a day of fun, sit and watch the water traffic go by on the New River ... there's so much to do.

    Shop for the finest goods - and bargains too. Our stores sell everything from diamonds to dresses, from gowns to garlic bread!

    We have all your needs taken care of on Las Olas. We have a pharmacy, dry-cleaners, a deli, dressmakers, gifts, quality cigars ... in addition to pampering services if you're looking for a massage, a manicure or a magnificent haircut. We even have our own Sunday farmers' market.

    We haven't forgotten the business traveler. If you're in Fort Lauderdale for business, you'll find every service you need on the boulevard and what better place to work? Many of our restaurants have free wifi so you can check your email and write your blog as you sip an Italian coffee and enjoy a snack in a sidewalk café.

    We'll look forward to seeing you on Las Olas!