In the late 1950s, well over 60 years ago, there was a place called the 4 O’Clock Club in Fort Lauderdale. Comedy legend Woody Woodbury remembers it quite vividly. It was the club “that everybody went to” after his popular act at the Bahamas Hotel near the beach was over.
“It was run by a gal named Bea Morley, and she kept that hangout hopping,” recalls Woodbury. The club was located on U.S. 1 north of the airport and was the only tavern with a license to sell liquor in Broward County until 4 a.m.
“They’d leave one, two, three in cars at the Bahama Club’s parking lot and pile together in other cars, leave their cars there and head over to the 4 O’Clock Club,” says Woodbury. “Then they’d come back after the partying was over and get their own cars and be on their way. It was a fun time. There was no animosity.
“I can’t think of a single fight or brawl or disagreement. It was a magic time.
“And I’ve said it a thousand times when people wondered what Lauderdale was like. I was just so grateful to be here at the right time and the right place.”
Woodbury – who made his mark in top-tier comedy clubs in Los Angeles and Miami before coming here in 1957 – recorded successful comedy albums along the way. He had a movie and TV career to boot. Friends then included Johnny Carson, Yankees Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle, and a host of stars of stage and screen. He even was pals with John Glenn. According to a Sun-Sentinel column, speaking at a dinner celebrating Glenn’s historic 1962 mission, Woodbury quipped: “How do you like a son who’d go around the world three times and not even write his mother a postcard?”
(For more on Woody’s famed career, go to FortLauderdaleMagazine.com and read last month’s “Old Lauderdale.”)
At 99, living in Wilton Manors, the Marine pilot veteran of World War II and Korea is still a firecracker. In my recent interview with Woodbury, he interrupted the history for a joke.
“A fellow gets wheeled into the hospital, and there’s a guy already there. He’s taken off the gurney and put into the bed there, and the guy across the room, he says, ‘Single?’
“And the guy wheeled in says, ‘Married.’ Then the first guy says, ‘Catholic.’ And the second guy says, ‘Protestant.’
“The first guy says ‘Cancer.’ And the second guy says ‘Capricorn.’”
The local story of Woodbury would not be complete without mention of one of his favorite charity events, for the Policeman’s Benevolent Association. It was held annually at the War Memorial Auditorium.
“I did all the PBA shows at War Memorial; there was no Parker Playhouse at that time,” he says. “Oh gosh, the shows had so many big stars like Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. The stars loved to do the show. They came from all over the country. They loved the warm weather.”
“We did the show in February, and it was a knock-down show every year,” he said, and he remembers one special young officer. “When she sang the ‘Star-Spangled Banner,’ everybody stood up, and you could hear a pin drop.”
One vacationing agent caught Woody’s show at the Bahamas Hotel, and ended up signing him to his first record contract. It was a hit, so other records followed.
A Sun-Sentinel account gave a sample.
“This drunk stumbles into a barber shop. He says, ‘I haven’t got much time, I want a fast manicure and a shave.’
“This cute little girl’s working on his fingernails. He looks up at her through all this lather and says, ‘Honey, what do you say you and me go out and really live it up tonight?’
“She says, ‘I can’t boy, I’m married.’ He says, ‘Ah, what the devil. Call your husband, tell him you’ll be late.’ She says, ‘You tell him, he’s shaving you.’”
The early years of Woodbury in Fort Lauderdale, as he describes it, “were a different time.” After World War II, there was a kind of exuberance; “people had money in their pockets and were out at night to spend it.” For Woodbury, who remains exuberant at 99, “everything seemed to fall in place.”
More than once he tells me: “I have nothing but good things to say about Fort Lauderdale.”