Burt Reynolds filmed B.L. Stryker in Palm Beach County and at least one episode in Delray.

The world lost two titans last week, actor Burt Reynolds and Amway co-founder and Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos.

But while most of the obituaries chronicled the triumphs of both men– memorable roles for Mr. Reynolds and business success for Mr. DeVos–I thought of something else—brief meetings with both men.

I met Mr. Reynolds while he was filming his detective series B.L. Stryker in Palm Beach County thirty years ago.
He chose to film parts of an episode on South Swinton Avenue at the Cathcart House, owned by Virginia Snyder at the time, a real life private investigator.
I was working for the Delray Times and managed to wangle an invite to the set for an interview.

This was a bit of a coup because Mr. Reynolds had a grudge at the time against the Lantana- based National Enquirer and was wary of anyone carrying a notebook.

Once I was able to convince him that I wasn’t a tabloid reporter looking to dish dirt, he warmed up and we had a brief but memorable (for me anyway) interview on the porch.

As a bonus, I also got to meet his co-star on that episode the great Maureen Stapleton. The experience was a blast. This was Burt Reynolds, the bandit, the star of some of my favorite movies: The Longest Yard, Deliverance, The End, Semi Tough, Sharky’s Machine, Best Friends and the sinfully underrated Starting Over which starred my favorite actress and childhood crush Jill Clayburgh.

If I may digress, I once clipped a picture out of Newsday of Ms. Clayburgh and presented it when I shyly and painfully asked a young Clayburgh look alike in my high school for a date. I was so nervous that I literally forgot her answer to my query, but I do remember that she wasn’t sure whether I was flattering her or not.

PS. I was.

Jill Clayburgh was beautiful.

But back to Mr. Reynolds.

He was Florida’s favorite son.

He loved Palm Beach County and did a lot to promote our state and county.

I once interviewed his acting teacher, the late great Watson B. Duncan at Palm Beach State College. He was very proud of Burt Reynolds. And rightfully so.

Mr. Reynolds was a good guy. And a great patron of the local art scene.
He will always be remembered and sorely missed.

As for Mr. DeVos, he was a giant in business and philanthropy. His name adorns our local YMCA.
Way back when, he spoke at a Mayors Prayer Breakfast and I had a chance to share a podium and a breakfast with him.

He gave a wonderful speech and gifted me his book “Hope From My Heart” which told the extraordinary story of his 1997 heart transplant, a three way operation that was just an amazing story. So was starting a global business with $49 of startup capital.

We had a great conversation at breakfast and I remember him being very kind and gracious.

Mr. DeVos mentored a friend of mine, Frank McKinney. In fact, I learned of his death on Frank’s Instagram page.
May both men Rest In Peace. I wanted to share their “Delray stories.” Thanks for the opportunity.

P.S. Tomorrow is 9/11. As we mourn the loss of icons, we should always remember those who lost their lives on that fateful day and in the wars that followed. I always say a special prayer for a classmate, Michael Boyle, a New York firefighter who bravely lost his life on that tragic day. He was only 37.

History Before the Digital Age

An ad from 1995 for Caffe Luna Rosa..wonder if Fran will honor the coupon?

An ad from 1995 for Caffe Luna Rosa..wonder if Fran will honor the coupon?

It’s hard to throw away your history.
But sometimes you have no choice–especially if you are building a new kitchen and losing closet space in the process.
And so part of Thanksgiving weekend was spent deciding what to keep and what to ditch. It was agonizing–for me anyway.
I was a newspaper reporter for the old Delray Times back before the digital age and since 1987 I have lugged my old newspapers to various addresses. They take up shelf space and some of the clips are yellow but they represent an important part of my life–they also cover a pivotal period of Delray’s history.
I covered Delray from 1987 through 1997 from the Doak Campbell era through the Tom Lynch and Jay Alperin mayoral terms of office.
It was an important era, representing the beginning of Delray’s revitalization highlighted by Visions 2000, the Pineapple Grove Main Street designation, the Decade of Excellence and the first All America City bid.
There were lowlights too–political infighting in the 80s, a revolving door of City Managers and key city staff until 1991 and lots of controversy over issues such as race, drugs, crime, policing and labor relations.
But it was mostly a progressive era, marked by progress, relative unity and vision.
I wrote about it all; issues large and small and it was a great job giving me a bird’s eye view of how a city works.

I rode with police officers, followed a young father through drug rehab, interviewed criminals, artists, entrepreneurs and even actor Burt Reynolds who filmed an episode of his detective series “BL Stryker” at the Cathcart House on South Swinton. His first words to me: “I hope you’re not with the Enquirer.”

It was a great ride, writing about efforts to get something going on Atlantic Avenue, sitting through strategy sessions about the future of North Federal Highway (rife with prostitutes, an adult bookstore and vacant lots at the time) and rejoicing when a coffee shop opened downtown.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that decade spent writing about Delray was great training for my tenure on the City Commission, enabling me to see how issues emerged and requiring me to find sources on both sides of the issue.
Our newspaper came of age after the demise of the respected Delray News Journal and we “competed” against the Post, Sentinel and Boca News.
But we wrote more–at least 6-8 stories a week, plus restaurant reviews, school news, social calendars and local sports. We covered Delray like it was the White House beat. It was fun and never boring.
So it’s sad that the paper never had an archive or was digitized.
Because while I successfully “saved” a few (ok more than a few) papers, even I –a notorious pack rat– have to admit that I can’t keep it all and have a…..oh a new kitchen.
So….they will be recycled.
A decade of local history, arguments over whether to build a golf course clubhouse or a hot dog stand, debates over replacing Ken and Hazel’s with a movie theater, stories about the beginnings of Pineapple Grove, efforts to buy the Paradise Club, stories about MAD DADS, the beginning of community policing, the early years of the CRA, the beginning of legendary careers–Chris Brown, Rick Overman, Joe Gillie, Bill Wood, stories about Banker’s Row, protests on the beach, the first Art and Jazz on the Avenue and the purchase of a 100 foot Christmas tree will live on in our memory and oh yes the several hundred papers I managed to squirrel away. Shhh..don’t tell my wife.