To raise money for a comedy mecca, Jack Godfrey has recruited Kevin Pollak and Richard Lewis for a fundraiser Friday, Feb. 27, in Fort Lauderdale.
The Catskill Mountains, about 100 miles north of New York, were a getaway for Easterners where Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Red Buttons and Mel Brooks performed. Godfrey is president of the board of directors for a proposed $40 million museum commemorating the era.
"The Catskills were Las Vegas before Las Vegas," says Godfrey, who would like to build the Catskill Resort Museum in Ellenville, N.Y.
Pollak, whose movie credits include in "Casino" and "A Few Good Men," and Lewis, a regular on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," will perform standup at the Parker Playhouse.
Godfrey says the fundraiser is a good fit for South Florida, which has many retirees from the Northeast. The Catskill Mountains in New York used to be quite the glamorous getaway spot, he says.
"It's a great, great opportunity to bring in great comedians, and hopefully we'll introduce the whole concept of the museum to people in South Florida," Godfrey says.
Godfrey's parents and grandparents owned a small resort in the region, which he says was also known as "the Jewish Alps."
"I can remember riding along the highway and seeing major billboards for Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin," he recalls.
The Catskills, the setting of the movie "Dirty Dancing," prospered from the 1940s until the early 1960s, and talk-show host Larry King has reminisced about working as a busboy at Grossinger's hotel, taking home about $800 in tips at the end of the summer.
Museum supporters have been working on fundraising for five years, and recently released a rendering of the building, which will be on display at the Parker Playhouse lobby. The museum will include an auditorium for live performances, a movie and lecture hall, photo displays, a hall of fame and exhibit space. There also will be a full-scale bungalow containing artifacts from the Borscht Belt era. Go to CatskillResortMuseum.com for more information.
A Hilarious Night of Night of Comedy will begin 8 p.m. Friday at the Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $51.50 to $126.50. Go to ParkerPlayhouse.org.