Las Olas Back In Town

by Bernard McCormick Tuesday, March 13, 2012 1 Comment(s)

One of South Florida’s noticeable entertainment losses of the last few years was the closing of O’Hara’s on Las Olas Boulevard. That was part of the Riverside Hotel’s expansion disaster, where half of what had been the boulevard’s liveliest block was knocked down to make room for new construction that never happened.

O’Hara’s, owned by Kitty Ryan, had become a popular weekend and nighttime venue. It featured top local entertainment, usually jazz groups, but with an occasional mix of music – such as mini big-bands playing the stuff that made legends of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and other bands from the '40s and '50s. O'Hara's was not a big place, and those horns blew the doors off.

It also altered some careers. Troy Anderson first did his Louis Armstrong imitation, complete with trumpet, as a way to draw customers when he was working the day shift as a bartender. One weekend Kitty Ryan gave him a Sunday afternoon gig, and that was the beginning of something big for Troy. He and his Wonderful World Band have since worked New Orleans and more recently Europe.

When O’Hara’s closed, a lot of Las Olas fun closed with it. Now, however, some of that may be coming back. Sunday at Mangos, just a block east of the former O’Hara’s site, owner John Day teamed with Frank Loconto for an afternoon session which promises to be the start of a beautiful friendship. John Day has long been known as a singer, musician and joke teller. In fact, that’s how he got into the restaurant business some decades back. He was working on a boat and doing a little spot entertaining at a nearby inn. He began to draw crowds and decided he should strike out on his own.

Most people forget, or never knew, that Frank Loconto was part of the Lane Brothers, a group which originated in Boston and came to Florida. Frank, managed by his wife Phyllis, is more recently known for his "County Line" interview show on BECON-TV, sponsored by the Broward School Board. That show specializes in public affairs. But Sunday people at Mangos were reminded of how good he is at his original calling. A gifted singer who can do the classic songs made famous by Sinatra, etc., he is also a smooth and relaxed stage presence. He banters with the audience, recognizes people in the crowd (he knows everybody) and in general puts on a fine show. His inaugural audience included people such as Bea Morley, known locally as the former owner of popular entertainment venues, such as the Mousetrap and Le Club International. Someone at Sunday’s show described it as “a night club in the afternoon.”

John Day and Frank Loconto plan to do this Sunday afternoons, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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