Monday, September 2, 2013

Fort Lauderdale and Johnny Weissmuller

Courtesy of Susan Mitchell Sygitowicz. Jack Seymour, once manager
of Marina Motor Inn, and the Escape Hotel in back with glasses. 
By Jane Feehan

He swung from vines as Tarzan to meet up with Jane, his leading lady Maureen O'Sullivan, bellowing a victory call a time or two— perhaps 20.  That’s how many Tarzan films Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) made after achieving acclaim in the swimming world, winning five Olympic Gold medals and setting 67 world records during the 1920s.

Chicago-born (some say he was born in present-day Romania) Weissmuller stopped making Tarzan films in 1949, getting involved in other ventures around the country. He came to Fort Lauderdale with his fourth wife, Maria, in 1965 and lived at the sixth hole of the Coral Ridge Country Club Golf Course, where his apartment was broken into in 1970; two of his Olympic medals were stolen during the incident.

The famed swimmer teamed up with the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF), built in 1966 where he served as honorary board chairman. The pictures here were probably taken during the early days of the ISHOF. (Commodore Brook with the eye patch? If you know who is in here, let me know.)
Courtesy of Susan Mitchell Sygitowicz
A swimming museum is part of the complex and contains a wax likeness of the Olympic champion. Weissmuller often played host at the museum, giving visitors a tour (see Jane's Bits: http://bit.ly/1fvcXH3 ) 

Weissmuller turned in his vine and drove a Cadillac in Fort Lauderdale where he was often seen around town. One of those places was the popular Mai-Kai Restaurant where he was known to let out the well-known jungle bellow. Another of his favorite spots was Uta’s, a small neighborhood bar (long gone) behind what is now Shooter’s CafĂ©. Weissmuller operated a pool business for awhile in Fort Lauderdale and then decided to promote Tropical Wonderland, the old Florida Wonderland in Titusville, but backed out.

Though Johnny Weissmuller lived in Fort Lauderdale fewer than 10 years, many residents still like to claim him as the city’s own. He is, indeed, a part of Fort Lauderdale* history.
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* Weissmuller died in Acapulco, Mexico at age 79.
Sources:
St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 29, 1970
Daytona Morning Journal, July 1, 1979



Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Johnny Weissmuller, International Swimming Hall of Fame, film researcher

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