Paul's Place - Roseville, (St. Paul) Minnesota
Where it all began---Over 50 years ago!
OR---"It was all Betty Rydell's fault"----See The Story below
Pictured above is an artist's drawing of the old Paul Bunyan Motor Inn which was located at 2965 North Snelling Avenue in the St. Paul suburb of Roseville, Minnesota. This rendering, from an old post card, depicts how it looked back in the 1950s prior to being purchased and converted into one of the largest night clubs in the upper mid-west region. In the Spring of 1967 I was featured as the opening entertainer in "Paul's Den" which was a type of sophisticated Piano Bar with plush seating for the entertainment of guests either as they waited for their table in the main dining room or after the featured dinner show. The Den was always packed with patrons wanting to have a great time! The show in the main dining room at that time featured a well known local dance orchestra complete with some of our "Playmates" taking turns on a swing suspended from the ceiling.
Louis Johnson, a well known East St. Paul fine meats provider, modeled his new "Private Club," Paul's Place, somewhat on the Hugh Hefner idea of serving excellent food by very attractive servers in revealing costumes. It was a very first class entertainment venue with supurb dining offered by our renowned chef Mr. Joe Yankovich.
Here are a few sample promos from the opening of Paul's Place in 1967-------->
My particular "schtick" was to provide easy listening mood music on the Hammond Organ in Paul's Den beginning at the dinner hour which in that area was around 5:00pm. This place did a brisk business and even the "early bird" dinners were great! On occasion I would also stroll in the dining room while playing my accordion and invite the diner patrons to come back in to Paul's Den for a drink after dinner. When the dinner show began around 8:30 pm I would take a break for an hour and then return to the organ console to begin my little "after dinner comedy and music show." It was really hilarious and many people would return just to see what was going on that particular night. Some even came in for drinks and laughs after eating dinner elsewhere. The comedy routines were all topical for that era and many times I would sing parodies on well known songs of the day. I remember sitting up half the night writing new skits. The show was different every night which I found out is a difficult task to master. I wore a different custom made Tuxedo each night and sometimes when we had large crowds would change the Tux Jacket halfway through the evening. I think at that time I owned about 40 or 45 different Tuxedo Jackets.
The initial Paul's Place contract was for about six months and as renewal negotiations began in the Fall. it was apparent to my Agent that we were not going to renew at this time. So I returned to the club in Las Vegas where I had been first introduced to Mr. Johnson and remained there for about six months. My Agent then contacted me in March of 1968 to tell me that Mr. Johnson really wanted me to return and he had offered some nice incentives. (He could have done that in the first place!) Unfortunately for Mr. Johnson, I had other commitments through June of that year and the first I could return full time was the beginning of August. We did, however, agree to a few "Guest Appearances" to promote and hype my return date. And that is where this SAGA really begins!!! Read on----------
Sometime during my absence, (between September 1967 and January 1968) Mr. Johnson had hired a new club manager (Bob Matson) and had made some changes in the main dining room. Firstly, because of the Minnesota OSHA regulations regarding employee safety, he had to eliminate the swing which was mounted near where the orchestra was seated. Next, he replaced that large orchestra in the dining room with a local group called the Betty Rydell Trio. He had once jokingly told me that this was how he could afford to bring me back! (Not true!) But he did have a good point in that it was far less expensive to have a trio than a 9 or 10 piece orchestra.
Betty Rydell was a kick! It was easy to see that we would all work well together as she also had a wonderful sense of humor which showed up in her performances. Actually Lou Johnson really got his money's worth as I think Betty played at least 9 different instruments! He had arranged the several "promo" spots in advance and Betty was always ready with the appropriate back-up. She is a fantastic musician!
One night in late July of 1968 after I had finished singing my really dumb version of the 1940s Tex Williams hit, "Smoke. Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette," I looked down from the stage and saw the most gorgeous "Playmate" serving a drink to a drummer friend of mine (Freddie Olson) who would also sit in with Betty's Trio. (As a matter of fact, he would sound just like Ron Wilson, the drummer for the Surfaris, when the Trio jammed on the tune "Wipeout.") But that Cocktail Server was stunning! I remember as I was leaving the stage I said to the accordionist, Jake Brazeil, "I am going to marry that girl!" To which he replied, "In your dreams! She won't even talk to you!" Actually he was almost correct as when I returned to begin my stint in Paul's Den in August, I tried once to get to know her. My initial contact garnered less than a stellar reception when this very lovely Miss rebuffed me with but a two word reply. (You can guess!)
I was "crushed" and after moping around for about a week, Betty Rydell caught up with me over near the bar one night after we all had finished our shows. Sensing something was not quite right with my usual jovial self, she asked what was troubling me. I told her my story and I will never forget her advice. Betty said something like "Larrie, if you think something is worth having go for it and don't stop trying." What good advice! Tana and I celebrated our 50th Anniversary September 20, 2018. WOW! For many years I always called my lovely young bride "Tanya" as many of our friends in Southern California still know her, --- but she wants now to be known by her real name, Tana Rydeen Dunkirk. (My real last name of course!)
Betty's Trio at Paul's Place--Husband Bob on left More recent photo of Betty---still playing and singing!
and Jake Brazeil (Accordion) on right (1969) She is quite a talented gal!
There is no way I could convince you that all was flowers and roses every day of those years. It would be impossible for any two humans to have that much grace. When one of our kids would ask "How did you two ever get together?" One simple answer that always stopped them was ---- "It's all Betty Rydell and Louis Johnson's fault!" As they got older they would still sometimes query us about the "mystical Betty Rydell." I guess they always thought we just made Betty up to avoid more questions. Actually since we both left Paul's Place soon after we were married, neither Tana or myself have had any contact with her. But we will always be grateful to both her and Lou Johnson and Paul's Place.
God is so good! I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful telephone conversation with Betty on the evening of May 20, 2019. What a joy to hear her voice again! She knew Tana and I had married but as so often happens we lost track. Easy to do when you are 2500 miles apart. She gave permission for the pictures above to be posted! Now even my kids when they see this posting will know that there really is a Betty Rydell!
What a cute couple! So I asked her to marry me!
That was September 19, 1968 We eloped the next day
Eat your heart out Jake!
Around our 30th Anniversary That big day was coming!
--Thanks again Betty! (Oh, and Louis too!)
WHODUH THUNK IT?
If you ever attended a night at Paul's drop me a line about your experience.
Just email me --mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or use the link on the bottom of my Homepage
Be sure to visit the "Bio" page to see even more pictures of this lovely couple!
Just press the little "Larrie" bear and then scroll down the page below all of the Organ Consoles pictured there!