This Lake Worth woman is one of Playboy magazine’s first centerfolds

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She’s been a catalog model, cigarette girl, Vegas cocktail waitress, New York theater actress and bit part player in an Oscar-winning movie.

But it was one photo session in the early 1950s that sealed Neva Gilbert’s claim to pop culture fame. The Lake Worth resident was one of Playboy magazine’s earliest centerfolds, Miss July 1954, a beautiful, long-legged blonde posed alluringly across a tiger skin rug.

“I’m the oldest living Playboy Playmate,” she proudly tells people.

But is she?

Find out, and see more photos of Gilbert then and now, in our story:

THE CENTERFOLD NEXT DOOR

 

The Mystery of Love and Sex: If the title’s not enough to make you see this show, we don’t know what is.

Bring your own, well, anything to the Stuart & Shelby Theater at Arts Garage this month where you will laugh at scenes from The Mystery of Love and Sex, a romantic comedy about sexual and emotional protocol according to two couples.

By BYOA, they really do mean, ANYTHING: you own alcohol, food, cutlery, cups, the whole nine.

The play is inviting to the young and old with characters like Charlotte, a Jewish college student who falls in love with her childhood best friend, Johnny, a black man. And Charlotte’s traditional parents, who scramble to keep up as their daughter’s sexual desires begin to complicate their own relationship.

We haven’t seen the show yet but have a feeling it’ll be compelling to watch an interracial couple open up about their sex lives to a parochial set of parents who realize they may need to revisit the fundamentals of their own relationship and sex life.

In fact, the New York Times called it “a perfectly wonderful new play…a tender and funny exploration of the lives of two couples from two generations….like a chart depicting the sexual and emotional anatomy of us all.”

General admission tickets will cost you $30, but you can save $5 on a preview showing on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. If you decide to bring your own booze, wine or food, you can purchase reserved or premium table seating for $40 or $45. (Don’t forget cutlery!) 

Get tickets and list of show times here. 


The Deets:

What: The Mystery of Love and Sex

When: Opening night is October 13th and runs through October 30th.

Where: The Stuart and Shelby Theater at Arts Garage, Delray Beach

Cost: $30 for general admission

Which movie did late director Curtis Hanson make in Palm Beach County?

Curtis Hanson (Associated Press)
Curtis Hanson (Associated Press)

Film lovers are mourning today the death of Curtis Hanson, the Oscar-winning director who made such movies as “L.A. Confidential,” “Eight Mile,” “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” and “Wonder Boys.”

An underrated gem on his resume is “In Her Shoes,” a 2005 mother-daughter comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Shirley MacLaine that brought Hanson to Palm Beach County. He filmed scenes for the movie in Briny Breezes and around Delray Beach.

Band leader Billy Duke took part in the filming, and told the Palm Beach Post in 2004 that Hanson surprised him: “I thought the director would be yelling and screaming, but he was really quiet.”

Here are pictures we shot of star Shirley MacLaine during the filming in Briny Breezes:

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9/11 anniversary: Why I can’t let go of my Sept. 11 ‘hurt locker’

090211 (Ray Graham/The Palm Beach Post)--Studio--We need a photo of this old Samsonite suitcase I have that is filled with a bunch of stuff from the week of 9/11/2001.
Post reporter Staci Sturrock’s old Samsonite suitcase is filled with ephemera from the week she spent in New York City covering 9/11. (File photo/The Palm Beach Post)

The 15th anniversary of 9/11 is Sunday. Palm Beach Post reporter Staci Sturrock wrote this column on the tenth anniversary of the attack:

It’s been years since I had the heart to sift through the contents of the vintage suitcase in my spare bedroom. But recently, I flipped open the latches of the hard-sided, marbled-green Samsonite.

There was the paper air-filter mask someone handed me on the streets of New York 10 years ago this Sunday.

There were the reporter’s note pads, scribbled with quotes like this one from an eyewitness to the attack on the twin towers: “At first, we were just watching the smoke, and then we saw people jumping or bodies falling out of the windows. They were like rag dolls.”

Or this one, jotted down two days later outside the Lexington Avenue Armory, where families sought help in locating what we then called “the missing”: “We just hope someone will tell us where we can go to find our son.”

And there, the pair of battered black sandals.

I wore the shoes most of that week, when I happened to be in New York to attend fashion shows, and wound up covering a national tragedy.

Now, I remember why I couldn’t bear to look inside the suitcase. It’s my very own “hurt locker” of recent history.

*****

The Samsonite is also a time capsule of sorts, a historic relic, a souvenir of an era long past.

This particular model was popular in the 1950s, when the person who drove you to the airport could escort you to the gate and kiss you goodbye. When you didn’t have to remove your shoes and belt and jacket to pass through security. When grabbing your bags and heading to the airport meant packing your sense of adventure, not a couple of Xanax.

Stored inside, I can see the technological changes of 10 years. There’s a small stack of faxes.

A horizontal credit-card receipt that had been put through an old-fashioned, sliding imprinter. A packet of 36-exposure film developed at an Eckerd drugstore, not instantly routed from a phone to my Facebook page.

The photos trace my path after I scribbled this note during the initial post-attack phone call from my editor: “first person story, center of the apocalypse, walk as far south as possible.”

And so, around 10 that morning, I headed south from my Times Square hotel. Along the way, I talked to dazed New Yorkers and aimed my point-and-shoot camera at pedestrians trudging mid-avenue, pausing to stare at smoke billowing in the distance.

Out on the streets, news updates weren’t as near as the palm of your hand. Smartphones? Tablet computers? Try the occasional transistor radio or jam box. I didn’t even own a cellphone then, and neither did the many residents waiting at pay phones to call home.

Here’s a photo of information-gathering, circa 2001: two dozen strangers huddled around a car, its windows rolled down and radio cranked up.

And here’s a snapshot of how quickly hospitals mobilized that morning — attached to a tree, a hand-lettered sign that read “Blood needed at St. Vincent’s.”

Scores waited in line to donate at the Greenwich Village hospital, where green-scrubbed doctors stood outside, next to office chairs draped in white sheets, ready to ferry the wounded who never arrived.

And, in my note pad, phrases evoking the surreal nature of a catastrophe that was simply unbelievable, even with the evidence written in a disfigured skyline:

“NYC bus goes by with paramedics in every seat. … Police riding in back of Ford F-250 pickup.”

“A priest wearing a dusty white hard hat.”

“Soot falling from sky like snowflakes.”

*****

In the end, I made it within half a mile of ground zero before encountering a policeman who had every reason to be impatient, but wasn’t. “I even threw NBC out,” he said.  “Unfortunately, you guys gotta go, too.”

The days that followed were a blur of interviews with tourists and mourners and downtown residents trying to retrieve the pets they’d hastily abandoned in apartment buildings adjacent to the Trade Center.

My photos do a poor job of conveying that week’s schizophrenic mix of pride, sorrow and hopefulness: American flags hung from fences and scaffolding. The makeshift memorials of roses and sunflowers, candles and messages of peace. Mailboxes papered over with missing-person fliers.

Those hastily Xeroxed pleas for information — which typically featured professionals in their prime, oblivious to the violent fate that awaited them — were mind-boggling in number.

Two posters were handed to me outside the Lexington armory, where many fathers and mothers, friends and co-workers sought out reporters, or anyone else, who would listen to their stories.

One shows a handsome 32-year-old man in a swimming pool with a young child. He is Mario Nardone, and on Sept. 15, 2001, The New York Times described the bonds broker, who worked on the 84th floor of the South Tower, as the guy with “the million-dollar smile and the million-dollar heart.”

Less than a week later, The Times ran an obit of the lovely woman on the other flier. Rosa Julia Gonzalez, also 32, a Port Authority secretary. After the terrorists flew into the South Tower, Gonzalez called one of her six sisters, then tried to make her way to the street from the 66th floor.

According to news reports, Gonzalez was descending the stairs with her friend Genelle Guzman-McMillan when the building collapsed. Almost 27 hours later, McMillan became the last person pulled alive from the wreckage.

Gonzalez was not so lucky.

*****

Last month, my boyfriend asked, gently and without judgment, if I’d like to get rid of the suitcase, or at least the contents that give it so much physical and emotional weight.

We’ll be in Lower Manhattan on Sunday, and maybe, he suggested, we could leave a few items in tribute at the new 9/11 Memorial, the one inscribed with 2,983 names.

I didn’t know what to say. He finally spoke: “You’re not ready to let it go.”

I guess I’m not, and I’m not sure why. I experienced 9/11 at such a remove that it’s wrong to say I “experienced” it at all. I wasn’t in the center of the apocalypse; I was an observer on its outskirts, and after six long days, I returned to the comforting routines of home.

But it seems heartless to discard the fliers or the photos or the note pads, or even say goodbye to those worn-out sandals.

Now, as I handle the shoes, lyrics from a favorite song by the folk trio The Be Good Tanyas come to mind:

You pass through places
And places pass through you
But you carry ’em with you
On the soles of your travellin’ shoes.

The suitcase is where I carry ’em with me — those memories of places I hope we never pass through again.

Was this Boca Raton “dive bar” one of the first in the United States?

The Dive Bar as the last holdout in the old Boca Raton Mall (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)
The Dive Bar as the last holdout in the old Boca Raton Mall (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)

Should a neighborhood, chill-out bar be considered a “dive bar”? The premise of a new article on the website Thrillist suggests that letting any Cheers-like joint be labeled a dive bar is an insult to genuine dive bars. They aren’t the kind of places where everybody knows your name. They are dank, dark dumps where you don’t even use your real name.

As writer T.S. Flynn notes in his article: “Dives aren’t hip, and they aren’t the kind of place where listicle readers drink.”

Related: 7 best dive bars in the Florida Keys

We’ll drink to that. But here’s a funny factoid buried in the same article: Today’s noxious trend of non-dive dive bars may have started in, of all places, Boca Raton. As Flynn notes:

By the end of the ’80s, the term “dive” even began appearing in the names of new drinking establishments — a trend that, regrettably, continues to this day. One of the first, Christy’s Dive Bar in Boca Raton, FL, opened in a shopping mall in 1987. “I liked the idea of a casual, come-as-you-are, regular-guy place,” owner Allen Christy told the Boca Raton News. Of course, it took more than…a mall bar in Boca to turn “dive” into a wildly misapplied and overused appellation. 

The writer basically blames “dive bar” overuse on Guy Fieri’s popular Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show and Mickey Rourke movies like “Barfly.” Anyway, we did a “deep dive” (in the parlance of modern, corporate-speak) and discovered that Christy’s had an interesting past.

The Dive Bar greets a lone lunch customer as the last tenant in the Boca Raton Mall. (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)
The Dive Bar greets a lone lunch customer as the last tenant in the Boca Raton Mall. (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)

Two years after it opened in the Boca Raton Mall, owner Allen Christy was the last holdout when a developer wanted to tear down the shopping plaza in 1989. Christy had a 10-year lease and didn’t want to go. He put up signs saying: “Stop The Rumors! The Dive Bar will be here for at least 8 1/2 more years!”

He also said the Dive Bar was “the busiest nightclub in South Florida,” and claimed that live music nights of reggae and post-punk made it a magnet for nearby Florida Atlantic University college students.

The Post’s Ron Kozlowski reported that the place had a certain desperado appeal:

    The Dive Bar name is illustrated by a huge mural that features a diver wearing a Capt. Nemo helmet on the ocean floor. The bar is long and narrow with a high ceiling covered by exposed pipes and air-conditioning equipment. A 130-foot bar runs along the right side, and a row of unpainted wooden booths hugs the opposite wall, which is decorated with hanging nautical ropes, a 14-foot-long Atlantic blue marlin and assorted bumper stickers. Most advertise the bar. Others identify radio stations or urge patrons to “party till you puke.” The floor is bare concrete speckled with splotches of flattened, dried chewing gum stuck to it…The beverage of choice is Budweiser, but dollar shots of liquor and mixed drinks are sold, too. 

So, maybe this Thrillist writer got it wrong. Maybe Christy’s Dive Bar really was a dive bar. After all, holding out against The Man to operate a nautical-themed, shots-and-beer speakeasy in the middle of a suburban mall in decline is kind of a dive bar-ish move. It could even be a Buffett song.

Allen Christy poses in front of The Dive Bar's mural. (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)
Allen Christy poses in front of The Dive Bar’s mural. (1989 file photo/Thomas Graves)

In the end, the bar’s demise was relatively swift. After a lawsuit and counterclaims and disputed numbers about its financial value, an out-of-court settlement was reached. The dive bar took a dive. Nothing stops a wrecking ball in South Florida.

And why did that developer want to tear down the Boca mall in the first place?

To build Mizner Park, the pink, upscale behemoth where, to this day, you’ll never find anything approaching a dive bar, even in name.

***

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRUE DIVE BAR IN PALM BEACH COUNTY?

Tell us in the comments section.

What Santaluces High graduate stars in new ‘X-Men’ movie?

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Actor Oscar Isaac. Alberto Martinez/American-Statesman

That would be 1997 alum Oscar Isaac, who plays the villain in the new “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which opens Friday.

Oscar Isaac at X-Men premiere. (Getty Images)
Oscar Isaac at X-Men premiere. (Getty Images)

Isaac is becoming one of Hollywood’s big names. He played Poe Dameron in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (and he’s signed up for the sequels, too), as well as showing off his acting chops in films such as the Coen Bros. “Inside Llewyn Davis” and Alex Garland’s sci-fi tale, “Ex Machina.”

SEE OTHER FLORIDA CELEBRITY HIGH SCHOOL GRADS

And, oh yeah, he’s on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine this week, with the headline: From ‘Star Wars’ hero to ‘X-Men’ heavy.

Isaac as "Apocalypse" in the new X-Men movie.
Isaac as “Apocalypse” in the new X-Men movie.

In the article, he doesn’t talk much about how he came to attend the school in suburban Lantana. He lived in Miami until his parents divorced and Hurricane Andrew destroyed their house, forcing him to move up here for his senior year.

But he does give one clue to what he was doing during his high school days:

Playing in a ska band, or as Rolling Stone’s Brian Hiatt puts it, “a promising, if already deeply out-of-fashion, Florida ska-punk band.” That musical background helped him play the ’60s folk singer in the Coen Bros. movie.

Other tidbits about his Florida upbringing from the article:

*He was “straight-edge” in high school, staying away from drugs and alcohol.

*His role as the bad, blue mutant Apocalypse was not a stretch: In his Florida school days, he was a collector of ‘X-Men’ comics and with a friend took part in a Marvel role-playing game.

*Isaac, whose real last name is Hernandez, is Guatemalan-born, with a Cuban father. But he didn’t want to be defined by his ethnicity, he told the magazine: “They define you — ‘Latino actor, we’ll just bring him in for Spanish commercials.’ I’m interested in telling stories about the human experience that are not necessarily just about my personal circumstances.”

Which Palm Beach County festival is among state’s best for food lovers?

Garlic heads rejoice every February when Garlic Fest returns to Delray Beach (Bill Ingram/Post photo)
Garlic heads rejoice every February when Garlic Fest returns to Delray Beach (Bill Ingram/Post photo)

Garlic Fest, the February weekend devoted to the stinking rose, is the 9th best food festival in Florida, declares the website onlyinyourstate.com.

The list includes 14 festivals devoted to an only-in-the Sunshine-State mix of fare that includes Fellesmere’s Frog Leg Festival, Niceville’s Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival, the Kumquat Fest in Dade City and Labelle’s Swamp Cabbage Festival.

Most are held in the winter, but there’s still time to take in two this spring and summer:  The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival will be held April 29-May 1 in Fernandina Beach near Jacksonville and Key West’s Lobsterfest is August 11 – 14.

 

Spring Break: Palm Beacher produces documentary about MTV in Florida

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In 1989, pop culture seemed to reign from the shores of Daytona Beach. College students flooded the coastal town and MTV took notice, bringing a previously unseen form of debauchery and excitement to the television screens of millions of Americans at home.

Most people growing up in the 1980s and early 1990s remember what Spring Break meant from what MTV was sending to their television screens — the bikinis, the drinking, the balcony jumping — but it was unclear through the telecasts what impact this was having on the city of Daytona Beach.

Now two decades later, the Showtime documentary, “Spring Broke,” which airs at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, goes behind the cameras of this cultural phenomenon and its impact on the Florida city.

Read more about the Palm Beacher who produced the documentary and the Delray Beach man featured in the documentary.

Our guide to Spring Break 2016 in Palm Beach County.