Talking to Legends: Denny Laine Edition

Denny Laine is coming to Boca.

Editor’s note: Long time readers of this blog know that I am passionate about music.
While I like a wide variety of music, my favorite is classic rock— the music I grew up with.
As the co-owner of a local newspaper (the Delray and Boca Newspapers), we are often pitched interviews with musicians who pass through the area playing at local venues ranging from Funky Biscuit in Boca or The Arts Garage and Old School Square in Delray Beach.
When time permits– or if I simply can’t resist– I jump at the opportunity to talk to some of my musical heroes. So far that has included Martin Barre’, guitarist for Jethro Tull, Jesse Colin Young and of course the Mighty Max Weinberg of the E Street Band who has become a friend. Don’t miss Max’s upcoming show at The Arts Garage Nov. 30, it will be awesome.
Last week, I had the pleasure to talk with Denny Laine the guitarist for Wings and The Moody Blues two bands I love. I thought I’d share our conversation.

Denny Laine has had an amazing life.

He spent 10 years working with Paul and Linda McCartney as the lead guitarist for Wings, played on a bill with Jimi Hendrix, was a member of the Moody Blues, toured with Chuck Berry and sang lead vocals on a number one hit: “Go Now.”

He also was a band mate of the legendary Ginger Baker, co-wrote (with McCartney) “Mull of Kintyre” which became the best- selling single in U.K. history and has spent his entire life doing what he always wanted to do—play music.

But when you ask Laine to talk about the legends he has worked with he’s almost reluctant to talk—- not because he isn’t friendly (he is) but because he’s afraid of leaving others out of the conversation and he doesn’t want to slight musicians he knows and admires. He has worked with members of The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Hollies, ELO and more.

But he will give you some cool tidbits such as:

“Paul is great to work with. He’s easy. We knew each other for years before Wings so when he formed the group it was really easy to work together. There was a comfort level and a great rapport.”

He and Paul went to a London club to see Hendrix play and came away impressed. But did he ever talk to Jimi about the guitar? You know two great guitarists just talking shop?

“Not really, Jimi was very nice but knew his band mates Mitch (Mitchell) and Noel (Redding) better . Jimi was shy but friendly. But no we never did get around to talking music.”

As for the mercurial Ginger Baker, the legendary Cream drummer, Laine knew him well and performed in a group called Air Force with Ginger.

“He was a great band mate,” he says. “I know he has a reputation, but he had a big heart and was great to work with. He was good person once you got to know him.”

Laine who will turn 75 at the end of the month is still playing, writing and touring.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer will visit Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, Saturday, Nov. 16 for a show at 8 p.m.

For tickets visit https://www.funkybiscuit.com/e/denny-laine-trio-74178440713/

Denny in his Wings days.

We spoke to Laine recently from his home in New Jersey. He told us he will be moving to Florida this winter in search of sunshine and warmth.

He also mentioned that South Floridians will be able to catch him live more often now that he’s relocating. He plays three types of shows: a solo act which includes songs and stories, as the Denny Laine Trio (the Funky Biscuit show) and as part of a band called the Moody Wings, a nod to his two most famous bands.

While he’s written a slew of songs and still writes, Laine sees himself first and foremost as a guitarist. His distinctive sound can be heard on classic albums including Band on the Run, Back to the Egg, London Town and early Moody Blues material, work that earned him entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

“I’ve been playing in bands since I was 12 and I still feel like I’m growing as a musician,” he says. “I always have a guitar with me and I still have the drive to improve and evolve.”

Laine says he listens to a wide variety of music—jazz, blues, rock and that he’s exactly where he wants to be:  playing music in front of fans.

“I’ve had a great life,” he says. “Lots of things just seem to come to me which is great because I didn’t want to do anything else with my life.”

As for hit songs, he says there’s some magic involved.

“The songs have to be good and as musicians we know when they are,” he says. “But there’s so much more that must happen. There needs to be promotion, you have to know what do with the song in the studio and when you perform it. I knew ‘Go Now’ was a great song, but a hit? I don’t know. We were touring with Chuck Berry when that song came out. All of Chuck’s fans must have bought it, because they heard it and it became number one. It was a thrill for us.”

So what can the fans in Boca expect?
A variety of songs spanning Denny Laine’s career—Wings material, Moody Blues songs and solo material as well.

“It’s a fun night,” says Laine. “Because we just love playing live.”

 

 

 

A Golden Age For Restaurants

Suzanne Perrotto has been cooking up magic in Delray since 2008. First Brule’ and now Rose’s Daughter.

We went to Rose’s Daughter, a new restaurant in Pineapple Grove recently.

In a word, it was amazing.

Inventive dishes, fresh ingredients, cool vibe: check, check, check.

A few weeks before, we ventured to Elisabetta’s, the new restaurant that now inhabits the space once occupied by the acclaimed 32 East.

The Delray/Boca culinary scene is something to savor and taste.

We are chock full of great restaurants featuring the work of innovative chefs who ply their magic in spaces that are often breathtaking.

But I often wonder if we take full advantage of the culinary talent in our midst. Despite being relatively small cities,  Boca and Delray is a foodie paradise. Scores of truly terrific restaurants dot the landscape.

Yet, whenever I see a national magazine or web story about “foodie” destinations I tend to see yet another story about Asheville’s farm to table scene or Nashville’s culinary innovators.

We have our own culinary talent and we ought to celebrate them.

Rose’s Daughter and Brule’s Suzanne Perrotto, Caffe Luna Rosa’s Ernie DeBlasi, Michael Haycock at The Grove, Ron and Rhonda Weisheit of the TwentyTwenty Grille, the brilliant chefs at La Nouvelle Maison and the list goes on and on. I  also must give special recognition to Frances Touboul for consistent excellence at La Cigale.

It’s a golden age—especially for those of us who have been around long enough to remember when there wasn’t much around.

Personally, I have deep appreciation for the entrepreneurs driving some interesting concepts. The group behind El Camino, Park Tavern and Cut 432 and the creative team behind Elisabetta’s, Louie Bossi and City Oyster are to be commended. It can’t be easy to develop restaurants around such varied cuisine.

So we have a lot to be thankful for and a whole lot to build on.

And now that we have the hotels–which seem to be opening rapidly—we should drive the destination marketing and amp up the food festivals and events.

We should also strive to create opportunities for food and beverage entrepreneurs and expand the foodie footprint beyond pricey Atlantic Avenue and East Boca.

After all, according to WalletHub, the South Florida region was ranked the third best area for foodies in the United States.

We can build on this.

I think it will happen. It’s a great opportunity for our community.

 

The Art Of Continuing Education

 

A wonderful shot of the Portland Lighthouse commissioned by George Washington. One of many incredible photos of New England splendor.

Every now and then I get the chance to speak to a young person about their lives and their career aspirations.

They all seem to be in a rush and I suppose that’s good. I was too when I was twentysomething. In time, you learn to slow down. In fact, you long to slow down.

The young people I meet with all want to be connected to people who can move them ahead and that’s cool.

I did too.

And if I can, I try to help them, but with one condition: that they listen and learn from the people they meet along the way.

Careers are often described as a ladder and we are urged to climb ever higher— rung by rung.

But life is more like a meandering path, with starts, stops, new roads, a bunch of obstacles, oceans, mountains and hopefully time to stop and reflect.

So I urge those who seek my help to build relationships and be open to learning—those relationships will enrich you in ways that defy description.

It’s OK to ask for help or request that a door be opened, but if you don’t pause to learn from those around you, ultimately you are cheating yourself.

I’m fortunate and very, very grateful to have a number of special people in my orbit who I continue to learn from as I slide well into middle age. I’ve learned that you are never too old to learn and in many ways the older I get, it seems the more questions I have and the more knowledge I need to help me navigate life.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I have made a special friend in retired Delray and Boca fire chief Kerry Koen.

Chief Koen was very helpful to me during my term in office, which ended long ago. But he has been even more helpful to me as the years have passed.

I’m not sure that he knows it, but Kerry is a wonderful teacher.

He’s well-read and has traveled to places that resonate with me. He always brings back beautiful photographs for me and others to look at over long Friday afternoon lunches that cover a whole range of subjects from history and politics to cities and society. I feel special that he takes the time to show me and to teach me what he’s learned and what he’s seen. It’s a gift. And it’s priceless.

A collection of his wonderful photos—some look like paintings—are available for all to see until Friday, Oct. 25 in the front entrance of the Boca Public Library, 400 NW Second Avenue.

“Autumn in New England” depicts my favorite part of the country in all of its colorful splendor. It’s a spectacular exhibit.

Recently, members of a breakfast group that I sometimes visit, broke with routine and re-located from Ellie’s Diner to Tom Sawyer’s in Boca so that we could accompany Kerry for a personal tour of the exhibit.

Over breakfast, we talked and joked about the usual stuff before we followed Kerry to the downtown library where for 30 minutes or so we were transported to New England.

Make sure to visit, it’s worth your time. The photos are breathtaking.

Meanwhile, I made sure to schedule my next lunch with Chief Koen. I want to talk about local and national politics, history, management, cities and a whole range of things with a wonderful friend, teacher and man.

I have a whole lot left to learn and even more to do.

 

 

Mother To Son: A Poem for Libby Wesley

Ida Elizabeth Wesley

She was known by some as the “mother of Delray Beach.”

To others she was the founder of the Roots Cultural Festival, the namesake of a plaza on West Atlantic Avenue and a legendary retired educator who touched so many young lives.

To most people she was simply Libby.

To me, she was a guardian angel and I adored her.

Elizabeth Wesley passed away last week and I feel this loss deep in my bones.

It’s a big loss for Delray Beach because Libby was more than an icon, she was an inspiration, a visionary, a community leader and a role model.

She made her biggest impact on the youth of our community because she believed in them and that’s why her Roots Cultural Festival featured oratorical contests and other events that showcased the intellectual talents of local children. She was proud of her community and she wanted the world to see the potential that she saw in every child.

She was a big believer in education and was always teaching.

She was a big believer in community so she was always seeking ways to bring people together and strengthen Delray Beach.

Libby led with love, like all the great ones do.

Many people have their own Libby stories. And I’ve heard a few of them over the years. The common thread was that she made you feel special. Everyone felt special and loved in her presence. That’s what the great ones do, they move you and inspire you to do more, be more and love more.

Here’s my Libby story.

I got to know her when I was a reporter writing about the Roots Festival but our relationship deepened when I was elected to the city commission.

From the beginning of my term in 2000, Libby would speak of a “covenant” between city government and its citizens. I have to admit I wasn’t totally sure what she meant, but she asked the commission not to break the covenant and told us that we needed to work together to move the city forward. As a government, we shouldn’t move forward without considering the needs of the people. All of the people.

We met frequently and at every meeting I would learn something. Our meetings were often emotional—at least they were for me. I can’t say I experienced that with too many other people but something about Libby touched me very deeply. It was her depth of feeling. Her concern for others. Her insights. Her inherent goodness. It was also the way she spoke and the way she looked at you.

She was in a word: remarkable.

And I loved her very much. We all did.

I felt privileged to spend time with her. And I knew that with every meeting she would impart a lesson and I would be better for having listened.

She was close with so many of my friends—Bill Wood at the chamber of commerce, Lula Butler at the city, Joe Gillie at Old School Square.

She inspired all of us and our friends and children too.

For places to grow and for positive change to occur, they need to be shaped by people like Libby Wesley. Communities need people who are in it for the long haul and who lead with love.

We were so lucky that Libby came here from Defuniak Springs to lead and inspire us.

When I left office in 2007, Libby came to see me and she gave me the best gift ever.

It was a cassette tape of her reciting the Langston Hughes poem “Mother to Son,” a hopeful poem about not giving up. She softly sang that poem to me two years earlier after a tragic shooting took the life of a young man. The shooting challenged our community in ways I can’t begin to describe. She held my hand during those trying times and told me it was going to be OK. I guess I looked uncertain, so she said it again and I believed her.

Two years later, as I left office she signed off on the tape by telling me that she loved me like a son and that yes I had kept the covenant.

“You know that you hold a special place in my heart,” she said in a follow up email that I looked at after she passed. “That is why you were chosen to be one of my “children by love.”

She had many, but I still feel so lucky to have been one of her children. Mrs. Wesley could have had a million sons and it still would have been special.

What a gift she gave to me.

What a gift she was to Delray Beach.

Here’s the poem.

It’s beautiful.

So was Elizabeth Wesley.

Mother to Son

BY Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—

Bare.

But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Remembering Bob Currie

Bob Currie

A number of years ago, I had lunch with a retired city employee who said something that resonated deeply with me.
She told me that while Delray was a wonderful town, we didn’t know how to say thank you to people who contributed greatly to our community.
I’m afraid that might be true.
So many good ones get away without formal recognition.
It’s not right and we should do something about it.
In fact, one of the reasons I write this blog and one of the reasons I invested in a community newspaper was to say thank you to special people who have enriched our community.
We lost Bob Currie last week and he was one of those special people. Very special.
Delray owes him a heaping debt of gratitude because his accomplishments are vast and his influence was widely felt.
If you like our public library, Bob is one of the people you should thank. He served on the library board for years and was dedicated to making sure we got a new one on West Atlantic.
He lived near the beach and was dedicated to the Beach Property Owners Association whose leadership adored and respected him.
He was passionate about Pineapple Grove and dedicated thousands of hours to the district, giving special attention to the design of projects in the neighborhood and to the gateway arch. I was with him the night it was first lit. We sat with half a dozen volunteers at a nearby restaurant and toasted the future—a future that people like Bob envisioned. He was a believer. A true believer in this town.
He was passionate about historic preservation and was immensely dedicated to the restoration and success of Old School Square.
He loved the “bones” of the place taking special delight in the Crest Theatre.
He loved the people who were similarly dedicated to Old School Square, especially founder Frances Bourque. He adored her and she loved him.
Bob gave so much of his time to the betterment of what I believe is Delray’s signature civic project.
Bob was a talented and experienced architect. His firm’s stamp can be found all over Delray and throughout South Florida and parts beyond.
Bob’s dad was an architect too and he was deeply devoted to the field.
He loved to paint, golf and travel.
He was smart, not afraid to argue for a position and earned his place as the dean of Delray’s architectural community.

Bob was a throwback to a time when dedicated volunteers made Delray Beach a very special place. They were long term players, deeply committed to Delray and able to work with others. They were interested in the big picture. Hence Bob’s interest in Pineapple Grove, the beach, OSS, the downtown and historic districts.
I miss those days.
Delray misses those days.
And Delray will miss Bob Currie.
He was a wonderful man. We were blessed that this is where he landed and that he decided to give his time and talents to Delray Beach.
Rest In Peace my friend.

Thank you….

Passion & Belief

“You need more to eyes to see, more brains to think, and more legs to act in order to accelerate. You need additional people with their own particular windows on the world and with their additional good working relationships with others, in order to truly innovate. More people need to be able to have the latitude to initiate—not just carry out someone else’s directives.”—John P. Kotter

Want to build a great team?

You need passion and you need to believe in the mission.

Passion and belief are what move people.

Always have, always will.

And moving people is what organizational success is all about.

I’ve been thinking a lot about culture these days.

Workplace culture, community culture and national culture.

I’m not talking about music or art, but culture in the sense of what it feels like to be part of a company, an organization, a neighborhood, a city, a state and a nation.

There’s a saying that culture eats strategy for lunch and I believe it.

Heck, I’ve seen it.

But if you marry the two—a good culture with a sound strategy—you’ve got magic.

I’ve seen that too.

Culture trumps good fortune, it overcomes money issues and it will get you over just about any obstacle.

I’ve been thinking about these things in the context of a recent panel discussion I attended at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus in which CEOs and executives from four local companies Celsius, MDVIP, Vitacost/Kroger and Body Details talked about the importance of engagement, culture, flexibility and pleasant work environments and how those things grow business by attracting and keeping talent.

Of course, they also talked about Artificial Intelligence, growth strategies and automation, but the executives—representing a beverage company, a laser hair removal company, an e-commerce platform and a health care company– all talked about the importance of the human touch—of developing a brand and value proposition that cares about people.

I can speak with a bit of knowledge about Celsius, which is one of the companies in our portfolio where I work.

We are proud of the company and the team and have invested heavily—both emotionally and financially– in Celsius because we believe in the brand’s mission which is to provide products (beverages, powders and coming soon—drum roll please…. protein bars) to help people “live fit.”

It has been a long and winding road to NASDAQ and to widespread international and national distribution with more than its share of peaks and valleys. But when you believe in the mission and the team—and we always have—you don’t give up and you will find success. It may take some time, you will suffer setbacks but you will make progress and we have.

Celsius CEO John Fieldly is a young guy and I often think about the pressures that are on him as the leader of a publicly held company that does business across the globe and with some of the world’s largest retailers.

As an insider/outsider at Celsius I’ve glimpsed their culture and the team is tight-knit and passionate about the mission. You have to be because the beverage biz is incredibly competitive and crowded too. Celsius has always been able to punch above its weight because the team is bought in to the mission which is creating products that help people live healthier lives.

Vitacost has a similar mission and Marketing VP Guy Burgstahler says the company has benefitted greatly by relocating to attractive space at BRIC.

Body Details CEO Claudio Sorrentino understands that social media is ubiquitous these days so he doesn’t sweat his employees indulging as long as the work gets done. The company also has Champagne Tuesdays where for the cost of a bottle of bubbly they celebrate things large and small. It helps to build camaraderie.

Andrea Klemes, Chief Medical Officer for MDVIP, says her company lets people work from home one day a week which has boosted morale and retention. The company was started to improve the experience patients have with their doctors—and as an MDVIP client I can personally attest that it would be hard to go back to a “regular” practice once you’ve experienced the VIP experience.

I have long believed that cities have cultures and values and if they are frayed or violated you pay a heavy price.

The new city manager in Delray—George Gretsas—has a wonderful opportunity to rebuild the culture at City Hall. Employees need to be empowered, staff needs to be feel valued and the community as a whole has to feel like it’s working on building a better city if that is to occur.

You have to stop majoring in the minor for good things to happen. The community has to come first and you have to be willing to think about doing what’s right versus doing the expedient. And you have to create a culture where it feels safe for people to invest their hearts, minds, time and emotion.

Is it easy?
No.

But it’s not impossible either and this is one area of life where trying scores you points.

Make it safe to fail. Make it safe to have an idea and say it out loud.

Celebrate success. Share credit. Give credit.

Be thankful. Be kind. The little stuff matters—a whole lot.

Creating and protecting a great culture makes all the difference.

Passion and belief are what move people.

Always have, always will.

Boca Lead Is A Revelation

Pastor Bill Mitchell traded a successful career in real estate for a spiritual mission. Boca is benefitting from his wisdom.

I’ve become a huge fan of Boca Lead, the monthly speaker series hosted by Pastor Bill Mitchell at Boca Raton Community Church.

Every month, 400 plus people gather to hear a positive message designed to help them live a better life, run a better business and build a better Boca. The demand is so strong that Boca Lead added a dinner series with a debut last week that attracted more than 200 people.

It’s an inclusive group—all faiths are made to feel welcome—and the message is not only smart it’s extremely relevant. My good friend Karen Granger turned me onto the series when she invited me to sit with her colleagues at 4 Kids. I owe her a debt of gratitude, because Boca Lead has become an important part of my month.

As a result of Karen’s intro, our company is buying a table most months so we can be inspired to lead, mentor and build a better community. We all have a role in making that happen.

In its 5 year existence, Boca Lead has attracted over 5,500 different people to the monthly talks and now with dinner sessions the audience is sure to grow and deservedly so, because in a word it’s awesome. And we desperately need to apply the lessons being taught every month.

I’ve gotten to know Pastor Mitchell since attending my first Boca Lead and I’m incredibly impressed by his insights, devotion to the community and his work across the globe. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are remarkable people and talented communicators. The ability to command a room month after month—to inspire, motivate and get us to stop our busy lives so that we may focus on what’s really important is truly something special to witness.

Every month, I don’t think he can top the prior month, but he seems to do so.

This month was no exception.

The title of the talk was “Drifting” which will soon be an e-book. I just finished “Shifting” another e-book by Pastor Mitchell that I found riveting. Again, the message is universal and this Jewish guy from New York can relate to the insights and better yet, can apply the principles to my life and business.

Drifting talked about how distractions, a lack of integrity and another assorted noise lead us astray.

The talk ended with four suggestions for building community—a subject I have been passionate about for as long as I can remember. A sense of community attracted me to Delray Beach, pushed me into a stint in public service and has kept me engaged since moving to Florida in 1987.

Pastor Mitchell posited that in order to build community you need four elements:

Proximity—you can’t build community from afar, people need to be brought together. But that’s just a start. We can all live in the same neighborhood, work at the same company or attend the same school but if we don’t mix we can’t build community. So proximity is a must, but it’s just a start.

Hospitality—is necessary to build community. We need to break bread with people, extend them courtesies, and invite them into our homes and lives if we are to grow close.

Relationship—we need to work on building relationships with our neighbors in order to build community. It’s not enough to just wave hello, we need to work on forging real relationships.

Peacemaking—this one fascinating. It’s not peacekeeping, it’s the ability to make peace not the ability to keep people from hurting each other. This is so important in a community. It struck me that we are lacking peacemakers in our world today and in our local communities too.

As Pastor Mitchell walked us through the list, a thought crossed my mind.

Social media—which pretends to build community does not possess any of the four community building blocks.

It’s not proximate, you can sit in your pajamas and spew venom on Twitter without ever having to face the target of your wrath, there’s no means of providing real hospitality other than maybe sending an emoji, social media doesn’t really foster real relationships beyond a post here and a reply there and finally social media does not seem to have any mechanism for peacemaking. People start a lot of wars on Facebook, but I have yet to see them make peace.

Now admittedly, I am a social media user. I enjoy Facebook for allowing me to share photos of my dogs and stay in touch with old friends and classmates. But I don’t enjoy seeing the posts about my town that seek to divide, label and malign. There are a whole lot of them, entire pages devoted to ripping the town apart.

Truth be told, I think it has harmed our sense of community and nearly destroyed civic pride. That’s a lot of damage to overcome.

We are not the only city that has suffered this fate and the fact is America is incredibly and maybe hopelessly divided at this point in our history. It’s a sad time, it really is.

I don’t see how this ends or how we can magically unwind some of the abhorrent behavior we’ve all witnessed.

But there was a time, it now seems so long ago, when I and many others viewed Delray Beach as an oasis in a desert. A place where you always felt the best was yet to come and that every problem could be solved.

Please don’t tell me it didn’t exist, because I experienced it and so have others. I have witnesses and these days most of them shake their heads when you mention the current state of affairs.

That doesn’t mean that we were conflict free, we surely weren’t.

Worthing Place, Atlantic Plaza part 1, the Jerrod Miller shooting—and on and on the list goes. There was a time when African Americans could not safely cross Swinton and couldn’t use the public beach but….despite those serious challenges there was this feeling that we could work things out, that we could and would somehow find a way forward even in the face of tragedy.

When I think back on how past controversies resolved themselves, I see Pastor Mitchell’s four pillars of community building come to life. Differences were solved because people got together, built relationships, extended hospitality and made peace.

C. Spencer Pompey was a peacemaker extraordinaire.

He knew the power of relationships and hospitality and so he got people together and eventually we opened up our beaches.

We were bitterly divided over development after Worthing Place so we got together and worked on a Downtown Master Plan.

When a developer wanted to put 10 pounds of you know what in a five pound bag on Atlantic Plaza, the city commission brought in designers and the community to try and find a plan that everyone could embrace.

Sometimes the efforts produce solutions (Mr. Pompey succeeded) and sometimes they fall short (the developer walked away from the plan the designers and community produced) but the effort always seemed to matter. You were extended credit for trying. You built relationships by coming to the table and working on issues large and small.

This kind of peacemaking doesn’t seem to be happening online and it’s destroying us—rapidly.

I’ve been going through old files in a sometimes futile effort to de-clutter my life.

I recently stumbled across a flier called the Atlantic Gazette that absolutely ripped me and some of my friends to shreds. It was anonymous and really ugly. You get these things when you are in public life or even if you just venture an opinion or an idea. I guess it comes with the territory.

When I was young and new to the game, I would cringe at this stuff. But I learned that despite the best efforts of critics, most people never saw the fliers, email blasts or in one case the banner flown over the beach.

Life went on, the people who know you laugh it off, the critics tell their friends “see, I told you so” and soon it’s on to the next subject.

But today, social media is ubiquitous. It’s hard to avoid the toxicity.

Joni Mitchell urged us to get “back to the garden” in her classic song Woodstock.

Pastor Mitchell reminds us that we need to get back to proximity, relationships, hospitality and peacemaking before it is too late.

Can we?
Will we?
What if we don’t?

For more information on Boca Lead. To view past talks (highly recommended) and for ticket information please visit http://www.bocalead.com

Bullies Make Lousy Leaders

People matter.

Leadership matters.

You can’t have sustained success if you don’t get the right people in the right seats on the bus.

It’s a simple concept, but oh so hard to make happen in the real world where personalities, egos, politics and styles so often clash. And these days it seems that compromise has become a dirty word and so we often end up in an endless cycle of gridlock.

At the heart of conflicts we can usually find a difficult personality—maybe an egomaniac or a narcissist or some other type of charmer.

Sometimes they are dolts and I’m guessing we can all think of a few. And sometimes they are brilliant visionaries or technicians who are wildly talented but fundamentally lacking in emotional intelligence—the most important kind.

What happens next is sadly predictable. Because of their talent or their ego, they are often able to ascend to great heights but they inevitably crash and burn because their deficiencies in dealing with other people eventually become a fatal flaw.

Unfortunately, they often leave a whole lot of damage in their wake.

I was thinking about this phenomena last week when I read a slew of stories about the rise and fall of We Work founder Adam Neumann who only days ago was riding high atop the world’s most valuable start-up only to see the value of his vision plummet and to have the very people who threw money at him take him out.

Why?
Because Mr. Neumann– clearly a genius on so many levels–flew too close to the sun. He talked about being president of the world (not making that up), engaged in questionable self-dealing with his own company and smoked marijuana on planes which annoyed pilots and unnerved investors.

And then it ended, before his company could launch its long awaited IPO. Oh and they lost billions in value along the way.

A similar fate befell the egotistical founder of Uber, countless politicians at all levels of government and to some extent Steve Jobs, the legendary Apple founder who was bounced from his own company before becoming the rare (somewhat) humbled egomaniac to come back and have a successful second act.

The problem is these types of personality types leave a ton of damage in their wake.

The key is to try and recognize these types and prevent them from getting into positions where they blow up people, cultures and institutions.

The challenge in stopping them is significant because their swagger, sense of entitlement and boundless self-confidence often lands them coveted positions. In America, we have this myth of the white knight that will show up and solve all of our problems. Yes, talented leaders can help to solve a host of issues, but (and this is a big but) nobody can do it alone.

You can’t run Uber or We Work by yourself, you can’t lead a city by yourself and you can’t lead a nation by yourself either.

You need a team of empowered people who work well together, trust each other, root for one another and believe passionately in the mission. And you need a leader who shares credit and is willing to take responsibility when the going gets rough and it always gets rough. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, you need troops and troops won’t follow an egomaniac, a bully or a narcissist forever.

The egotist may get far, but he or she won’t last. The behavior gets old. At first, it happens slowly, then all at once.

We Work’s Neumann was the charming rogue before his indulgences sunk him. Uber’s Travis Kalanick was the maverick who delighted in putting a thumb in your eye before his over the top “bro” culture saw him bounced from his creation and we’ve all seen politicians whose hubris (fatal arrogance) cost them elections and in some cases their freedom.

It never ends with a parade and when these beauties leave they are never remembered fondly.

The truth about real leaders is that they make you feel safe when they are there, they inspire people to do more, be more and they plant seeds that blossom long after they leave. They develop others who carry the mission further.

This is not an argument against disruption, we need innovators who can show us a better way. But too often disruption means destroying institutions that matter. We risk a lot when we start to pull threads without stopping to think why those threads were sewn in the first place.

It’s not a choice between disruption and stewardship—you can do both. You can innovate and make sure to take care of the organization you’ve been tasked to lead.

You can be a disruptive bully or a servant leader. But you can’t be both.

One style works and leads to transformational and positive change, the other style leads to failure. History never remembers the bullies with affection.

 

 

 

 

Things We Loved In September

Stephanie Immelman is the new CEO of the Delray Chamber.

Things We Loved In September

Bahamian Relief efforts. It was great to see the community response to Hurricane Dorian. The efforts were heartfelt and needed.
Boynton Beach will hereafter be known as the city of romance.
Elitesingles.com has named six South Florida cities to its most romantic cities list.
Boynton Beach tops the list with Boca landing at number 6 well ahead of number 17 West Palm Beach. No sign of Delray in the rankings….sigh.
The rankings are based on data compiled by more than 150,000 people who use the website.
Tech Power
South Florida Business Journal’s 2019 Tech Power List includes a bunch of local names. Here they are:
Joe Russo, who spearheads Palm Beach Tech and the 1909 incubator which has a location in Delray, Felecia Hatcher of Code Fever, Gregory Van Horn of Launch Potato, ShipMonk CEO Jan Bednar who went to FAU and got his start at FAU’s Tech Runway, Dan Cane of Boca’s Modernizing Medicine, Rob Flippo of Boca based Mobile Help, Boca’s Adam Rogers of Ultimate Software, Sam Zietz of Touchsuite and  Rhys Williams of Tech Runway were on the elite list. Very cool.
Food and Beverage
Vino Wine Bar in Boca.
Magnificent wine list, wonderful pastas and great apps.
Don’t miss the chicken piccata and the gnocchi.
The Tropical Salad at Papas Tapas…try it. You’ll love it.
I adore Five Spice. Just great tasting food.
Grand Luxe is always a fun time. Best fried pickles around.
Pizza Craft in Fort Lauderdale was a fun outing for me and my buddy Chuck Halberg. Great calamari, good thin pizza and very nice servers.
We are big fans of Baciami in Boynton Beach which is owned by the Pellegrini family who live in Delray. They also own Il Bacio and Prime.
If you venture north to their beautiful restaurant don’t miss the chicken rollatini, eggplant and if you really want to indulge they have the best NY style cheesecake which is homemade.
Interesting to see the legendary Tom’s Place BBQ open a store in the Boynton Beach Mall.
Beer Trade Company in Delray is underrated. It’s a relaxing hangout with good food and a vast array of beer choices. Some good ciders too.
Heartland Rock
We had a chance to catch the legendary BoDeans when they played the Broward Performing Arts Center last month.
The band, well known in the 80s and 90s, still sounds great.
They should have been bigger.
Check them out on Spotify. We recommend “Idaho”, “Still the Night”, “Stay On” and “Closer to Free” as a primer. If you love rock, this Wisconsin based band will hook you.
Enjoyed The Spy on Netflix.
The true story of Israeli spy Eli Cohen was riveting and featured a great performance by Sacha Baron Cohen in a very different role for him.
My dad had a book on Eli Cohen when I was a kid and I often found myself picking it up and delving into the story and photos. Don’t miss it.
Really pleased to see Boca based fitness drink Celsius take off.
It was an eventful month for the Nasdaq traded company. The company purchased Finland based Func Foods for $25mm and also introduced a BCAA line of drinks that will be out soon and available on Amazon and at fine retailers.
The company that I work for is the largest shareholder in Celsius and I’m a former COO of the company. We are very proud of their growth and their talented team. The future is very bright.
Congrats to The Arts Garage for their fine work and for being recognized by the School District for their art education efforts. Marjorie Waldo is a rock star.
This from the Delray Parks and Recreation Department:
“Sending a big congratulations to our one and only Senovain Stephens. Delray Beach born and raised, from living in Frog Alley to graduating from Atlantic High School, he knows Delray like the back of his hand. He started with us in 1993 and worked his way up the ladder earning him a promotion from Assistant Parks Superintendent to THE Parks Superintendent!  Congratulations Senovain!!”
Rock Star Energy Drink founder Russell Weiner is selling his Delray Beach home and it can be yours for only $36.5 million.
Sounds like a bargain.
The mansion does have six bedrooms, a 12 car garage, a tennis court and a pool with a water slide.
Weiner purchased the home for $11.6 million in 2009.
Now that’s appreciation.
Finally,
The Delray Chamber of Commerce announced that Stephanie Immelman has taken the permanent position of CEO.
Stephanie said, “I’m proud of what this new team and I have already accomplished the past four months. Our new hires, Angelica Vasquez and Kristopher Fisher, are already making waves, membership has increased dramatically, and the Chamber has re-engaged in a big way with the Delray community. We can’t wait to do more,”.
The selection of Ms. Immelman caps a search process focused on selecting a results-driven leader to drive change management, mission fulfillment, and operational outcomes to maximize the value the Chamber provides to its membership. The choice was made after the search committee considered the qualifications and experience of over 240 qualified applicants.
“After an extensive search for a new CEO of the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, we are pleased to have selected Stephanie Immelman,” said Bill Branning, Chairman. “Stephanie has an energetic leadership style. This combined with experience in non-profit and for-profit management positions makes Stephanie uniquely qualified to lead the Delray Chamber.”
You may know Stephanie Immelman as the former Executive Director of the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative but she has extensive business experience at Fortune 500 companies both in the US and Europe. She has held senior marketing positions at Continental Airlines and AT&T and worked in the corporate finance department of Global Crossing focusing on international mergers and acquisitions.
We wish her well.
Have a great October.

A Birthday Tribute To A Delray Original

Words to live by…and he does.

My friend Fran Marincola turns 80 today.

He has asked me to write his eulogy.

This isn’t it.

Fran has a lot more life left to live. I’m sure of it.

He has a passion for a whole bunch of things—his wife, his restaurant, the wonderful Caffe Luna Rosa, Mickey Mantle, Delray Beach, national politics, the stock market, Bruce Springsteen, dogs, his family, friends, storytelling and a whole lot more.

I think your passions keep you going. So does a weekly happy hour or “manly lunch” where you can tell those stories, spar with friends and the share the week’s news.

Fran and I have been friends for close to 20 years.

Our friendship started out in a very strange way. I was a newly elected city commissioner and he called to pitch me on some parking contraption that today would have made sense, but I didn’t like it at the time.

So we argued. And argued. And argued and argued some more. Until both of our cell phones died.

It was the start of a beautiful and somewhat volatile friendship because I find myself debating Fran via phone and text 2-3 times a week, in between phone calls and texts and emails where we actually get along quite well and agree with each other.

I admit, sometimes I will actually pick a fight with my friend.

Why? Because he’s a fun guy to debate, he has funny sayings, makes interesting arguments and the whole experience —and Fran is an experience— makes me sharper. It’s not fun to always agree. And we prove that people can disagree—passionately (because Fran is passionate about things) and still like each other very much.

So yes, sometimes I will invite a disagreement just to spice up the week and keep us both sharp. I feel I am providing him with a needed service.

Fran doesn’t like absolutes and so if you want to get him going text him and say ‘so and so doesn’t have a chance to win an election, an Oscar or a Super Bowl.’

It makes him crazy, because his mind works like a mathematician and therefore there is always a chance of something occurring even if it’s remote.

As I have gotten to know Fran, I marvel at the life he has led or should I say the many lives he has led.

He’s worked on boardwalks, owned nightclubs, took acting classes with Broadway stars, travelled far and wide, owned a slew of businesses, made and lost fortunes and hob knobbed with some very famous and infamous people. In short, he is a character. One of the great characters in Delray Beach.

I think characters make a town. They give a place flavor and excitement and set it apart from other blander places.

Fran is a world class character in a town full of world class characters. I have long felt that we in Delray Beach are blessed with more than our fair share of characters—something I briefly touched on in my book “Adventures in Local Politics.”
It seems that all sorts of people are attracted to quaint Florida beach towns and they come from all over creation to add the salt to the water.

I have a friend who believes that Florida attracts modern day rogues and pirates who stop here until they are found out and then migrate to the Keys. The last stop is usually the islands, according to his theory.

There may be some truth to that, but not all characters are rogues and pirates and some like my friend Fran are lovable, big-hearted, generous and compassionate people.

Fran scores the highest on those four categories and that’s why I and many others love and respect him.

He has offered me a ton of hard won wisdom always delivered in an entertaining and unforgettable way. I have resisted some of that wisdom, but he has never held my stubborn streak against me and for that I am grateful.

He has stood by me in good times and in bad times and has proven to be a true friend.

One thing you learn—and for me it was the hard way—is that when you are a public official you have an endless amount of friends and some of them are fair weather. But it’s your true friends who stick by you when your title goes away and you drift off into the next phase of your life.

Fran sticks with his friends through thick and thin.

I have come to admire his business acumen and his strong desire to take care of his employees and customers no matter what. I admire that he is close to his children and grandchildren and that he’s a devoted husband to Kim (another one of my all-time favorite peeps).

I like that he will try new things with a smile and share his past with his closest friends—warts and all. And I’ve come to realize that the warts aren’t really warts after all. Not when they forge character, teach lessons and shape who you become.

My friendship with Fran has been a gift.

It’s nice to have a friend who is a few years older because they can really teach you things if you are willing to listen. And I am, even though I may pretend not to agree with some of his more “colorful” theories on life and love.

He’s given all of his friends the twin gifts of wisdom and laughter. That’s no small thing.

This is my small gift in return.

I hope he is not Disappointed! (Inside joke).

Happy 80th my friend. Here’s too many more playful arguments and good times to come.

My favorite photo of Fran taken on one of his daily walks around Delray.