By Jane Feehan
Jack Drury moved his family from New Jersey to Fort Lauderdale in 1962 where he continued his public relations career. That move proved invaluable not only to Drury but also to the ocean side city.
Through his marketing savvy and considerable charm, Drury cultivated Hollywood, CA friends including Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon, Jayne Mansfield, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, and “Buffalo Bob” Smith - all who subsequently embraced Fort Lauderdale as a favorite place to visit, reside or perform.
Drury recently wrote a book about those days, Fort Lauderdale, Playground of the Stars (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2008) in which he shares the genesis of those friendships. Most will know the names but not how they came to stay in Fort Lauderdale; the book details it all.
Among the first Drury enticed to Fort Lauderdale were Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. After Carson contracted with NBC’s Tonight Show in 1962 to replace Jack Paar, he, McMahon, a few writers and producers decided to head for Miami to work on Carson’s first host appearance. Drury convinced Carson to visit Fort Lauderdale instead; it was a much quieter place. They spent 10 days in this beach town and were sold. It was the beginning of Drury’s close friendship with Carson and McMahon and the first of many visits the television duo made to Fort Lauderdale. Carson liked it so much he arranged for an apartment at the Ocean Manor Hotel, which he made his home away from home. (I used to run into Carson and McMahon around town or at Le Club International and can verify they were, indeed, having a good time.)
Drury played a part in two other significant events in Carson’s life. In a recent appearance, Drury recounted a time he, Carson and Carson’s son, Chris, played golf at the Coral Ridge Country Club. It was a bad golf day for Johnny. So bad, the entertainer threw his bag of clubs into a lake on the course and said he’d never play again. Drury had already taught him how to play tennis; it became Carson’s sport of choice after that grim day at Coral Ridge.
The public relations guru also persuaded Carson to make what turned out to be one of the best financial investments of the comedian's life. Coral Springs was selling land in 1963 and Drury suggested that Carson buy a few lots. Carson purchased 60 acres and was on hand for the city’s groundbreaking in 1964. He held on to the land for eight years, then sold it for a huge profit.
Jack Drury might credit his success to his gifts of persuasion but his likability and authenticity may count for even more. Fort Lauderdale – South Florida - owes much to this public relations legend. Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.
(His book available below.)
Tags: Celebrities in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale in the 1960s, Fort Lauderdale history,
Jack Drury, Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon, Coral Springs history, film industry researcher, historical researcher