By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
"It's keeping your instrument going," he says of the Condo Circuit a few days after the Margate performance. "Whether you're a comic or a singer, you have to keep at it. It's a way of making a living through performing. As long as they call me, I go."
Disappointed by my brief introduction to the Condo Circuit, I head to David's Catering and Banquet Facilities on far western Commercial Boulevard in Tamarac in search of performer Gerry Rainbow. The parking lot of the bright pink, Mediterranean-style building is packed with cars on this Tuesday afternoon. David's Catering, with its numerous banquet halls, is a frequent stop on the Condo Circuit.
I find Rainbow at the front of a generic banquet hall singing a merengue tune. Rainbow has a three-piece band called the Rainbows, and the audience is the "social club" at Hawaiian Gardens, Phase II. It's a predominantly female group of about 50 people with a strong predilection for pastel-color attire. They are seated at round tables, picking over salads and dinner rolls. Today is the annual installation of new officers, and in their honor the club has rented the catering hall. An elaborate crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling, and a wooden dance floor beckons.
"A round of applause for the best couple on the dance floor," Rainbow implores, as the Rainbows finish the song. "Oh -- they're the only couple."
It's a standard Rainbow line, one that he will use again before this afternoon's show is over. Rainbow looks every bit the Vegas showman. He wears a purple shirt and blue paisley tie beneath a black sport coat. The 64-year-old's hair is a wavy pompadour, his gray eyes all sparkle, his skin a well-baked South Florida tan. Regis Philbin comes to mind. Rainbow has a serviceable singing voice and a considerable repertoire of bad jokes. His claim to near-fame is that, in the late '60s and early '70s, he toured as a drummer for performers such as Sonny and Cher and Dionne Warwick.
For the last decade, Rainbow has resided in South Florida, performing as a band-leader in combination with operating Entertainment Connections, a talent agency for condominiums. His niche is not the large condo concert halls but more modest fare. Rainbow caters to the endless clubs and associations that thrive in the condominiums. At Century Village at Pembroke Pines alone, there are more than 75 clubs -- everything from the AARP to the Yiddish Vinkle Club.
"If enough people move in from Kentucky, there'll be a Kentucky club," Rainbow quips. And all of these clubs want entertainment at their monthly gatherings. A dose of show tunes or standup comedy before getting down to the serious business of budgets and agendas. On any given day during the season, Rainbow has perhaps a dozen shows booked for his stable of hundreds of performers. His clients get no more than $250 a gig.
The acts Rainbow books are not exactly stars, but -- like Errol Dante or himself -- people who have at one time or another had a proximity to fame. One of his acts, Rainbow notes, used to be seen on a billboard as the opening credits rolled for Hawaii Five0.
During a break in the performance, Rainbow introduces me to Estelle Drexler, the chairman of the entertainment committee for the social club. Drexler sports a peach skirt and matching jacket, gray hair stacked on top of her head like a fez, and a beatific smile. "You know how long I've known him?" she asks, pointing to Rainbow and giggling. "I forgot already."
Suffice it to say that Drexler, a Bronx native who has lived in South Florida for 25 years, has been booking acts from Rainbow for quite a while. Has Rainbow ever steered her onto a bum act? "Never, never, never," Drexler says, shaking her head back and forth emphatically. "He has never stuck us."
As Drexler talks Rainbow returns to the microphone. "Anybody speak French here?" he queries. "If you speak French, say 'Oui, oui.'"
"Oui! Oui!" the crowd clamors as the Rainbows launch into a brisk rendering of "I Love Paris." Two women take time out from their meals to dance in the center of the banquet hall. They stand side by side, each with an arm around the other's waist, stepping their way gingerly across the dance floor. The ladies this afternoon often must make do with dance partners of their own sex, as they outnumber the men almost two to one.
After the chicken, fish, and stuffed kishkes have been served and the substantial leftovers dutifully set aside in Styrofoam containers, Rainbow prods the crowd into a sing-along on "Bye-Bye Blackbird." Everyone present seems to know the words. He also performs a polka by request and then induces seven audience members to take a stab at the "Electric Slide" -- though in this case it would be more aptly described as the electric shuffle. The elderly socializers cautiously execute the steps, eyes locked intently on their shoes.
Day 2: The Phantoms of the Opera
Apparently my press credentials aren't all they're cracked up to be, because the woman collecting tickets at Huntington Pointe in Delray Beach is having none of it. She doesn't have a ticket waiting for me and she's not letting me in. Period.