Meanwhile, Pagano's uncle, who led his hometown orchestra, also mentored Jimmy. His talent showed early: Jimmy was stuck working the private party scene only because he was too young to play the nightclub and bar circuit.

In 1979, when he was 25, Jimmy Pagano moved to Fort Lauderdale. He would occasionally indulge in the Sunshine State's relaxing amenities — Jimmy swapped competitive snow skiing for scuba-diving and motorcycles — but became engrossed in work immediately after his relocation.

The results quickly showed. Before Pagano's arrival, promoters and club owners would often pay musicians in beer and work was feast or famine. Competing bars were either flush with acts on the same night or the city's scene was silent for weeks on end. Acoustics were very often lousy. Managers would complain to bands about poor turnout, and bands would complain to managers about poor marketing.

Promoter Jimmy Pagano was a well-loved staple of the South Florida music scene.
Courtesy of Denise Langella
Promoter Jimmy Pagano was a well-loved staple of the South Florida music scene.
Guy DiBona tried to subdue Brian Krebs at Fishtales.
Photo by Michael McElroy
Guy DiBona tried to subdue Brian Krebs at Fishtales.

Pagano had a way of balancing talent and business. An affable schmoozer, Pagano could talk through any conflict. He organized concerts and festivals so that work was evenly dispersed and made sure that every musician got a crack at making money playing. At Cagneys in Davie, owner Mark Birolli met Pagano some three years ago and hired him shortly after to save the club's jam nights. Attendance had dropped off, and the mood was souring. Birolli took on Pagano to revive the atmosphere and rescue the once-dying Thursday-night institution.

Pagano quickly swept in as the jam nights' anchor, Birolli said. He would drum, operate the sound equipment, emcee, and work the crowd between sets. He would go up to every person at the bar and ask whether they were comfortable. He would also ask the shy ranks of musician hopefuls whether they wanted a shot on stage. His affable air, Birolli said, coaxed many young performers out of their shells: Pagano kept on them to make sure they signed up for an open-mic slot.

Pagano also had an extensive network. He could pick any place in Broward or Palm Beach County on a map, drive there, get out of the car, and instantly see someone he knew on a first-name basis, Peterson said. Word that he would make an appearance as a drummer or manager quickly spread throughout South Florida's music community. People would go to a venue just to see or hang out with Pagano. So almost as soon as he started at Cagney's, the Thursday Jam Nights were once again packed.

Those who knew Pagano insist that he never acted like a straight-up, square businessman, despite his dogged dedication to the work. He was fair to a fault. One time, Peterson recalls, a club owner said to the group: "Well, there's nobody here. Why don't you guys go home early?" — a trick that lets management pay a band far less than originally agreed upon, Peterson said. This club owner handed some cash to the bartender, then disappeared into a back office. By that time, the band had already played most of its set.

"Guys, don't go anywhere," Pagano said. Peterson recalls that he slipped into the backroom and told the owner: "I'm going to work for free so that you can pay them and so that you don't look bad."

Part of Pagano's popularity was that he was so encouraging. "He was the guy to give it to you straight but in a way that wasn't cruel," said Jay Cummings, of the band Self Induced. "He gave not-so-good musicians the true desire to want to be better."

On April 17, the night that Pagano was stabbed, Peterson and Pagano finished the gig at Fishtales and stood outside by the band's trailer. "Just go home — don't stay after hours," Peterson told Jimmy.

Pagano laughed it off and decided to go into the bar. Peterson never liked to stick around after gigs. He drove off, heading north on A1A. By the time he reached the stoplight, Peterson got a call from one of the Fishtales employees.

"You've got to come back," the bar back said. "Something's happened."

On April 9, glass rained from the ninth floor of a Galt Ocean Mile condo tower. Shards came down quickly from Brian Krebs' unit, nearly hitting a woman who was swimming in the pool below.

Krebs threw a lamp through the window and trashed the rest of his rental, shattering the toilet with a hammer and ramming a 12-inch butcher knife into the wall. He'd also smashed a glass-topped table in his living room. "Glass was in every room," according to a police report.

When the building's security guards saw the glass shower on closed-circuit television, they rushed to Krebs' unit. As they ascended the tower in one elevator, Krebs, wearing a gray sweatshirt and backpack, disappeared down another elevator. He then slipped through the back exit of the building, onto the beach. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department arrived shortly afterward. Officers waited hours for Krebs' return. They didn't put out a warrant for Krebs' arrest — just a be-on-the-lookout warning to officers that he might be unstable and dangerous.

Pio Ieraci, Galt Ocean Club Association president, decided that Krebs was a danger to the residents and told security to bar him from the building. Krebs showed up April 15 with his landlord, Luis Desousa. They handed Ieraci a cease-and-desist letter from lawyer Eric J. Coleman demanding that the condo allow Krebs access to his apartment. The letter argued that Krebs needed to get his medication and clean clothes and should not be prevented from doing so because of a "misunderstanding."

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