Mitch Busker Talks The Million Dollar Palms of Hallandale

james brown ad

James Brown at The Million Dollar Palms of Hallandale, advertisement in The ©Miami Times newspaper 1958

“My grandpa and then my dad owned what they called the Million Dollar Palms of Hallandale. I don’t remember the Million Dollar part, but from what I remember people called it The Palms.

My dad used be in his office working and I would be sneaking around the whole place as a little kid. Everybody was amazing.

I have great memories from when I used to get under the bandstand while the bands and performers were on stage. That’s how I got to see Ray Charles and Little Richard. I was under a metal grill and there would be cats down there having kittens during the shows.

I used to just look up and I could watch everybody with their hair conked back, and the stockings, and dripping like crazy, and I’d just sit there and watch it all.

Things get lost in time.

My grandfather sold the place to my dad in the late 60s. My grandfather started the place. First, he had a restaurant called Ernie’s Booze and BBQ on Federal Highway. He also had a place in Bimini, but I’m not sure of the name of it.

Dad took over The Palms and kept the acts going. Then he was murdered. People used to cash their checks with us on Fridays and then buy booze at our package store. Some guy followed him to the bank while he went to get the money to cash checks and he got robbed, and shot, and killed, and that’s how The Palms ended up closing down.

I was thirteen years old at that time. It was two days before Christmas. We had to go in and account for everything and figure out how to make a living.

On weekends there used to be a security guard at the front door, and back in those days between the the heroin and the morphine and this, that, and all the dope and booze, people would try to bring weapons in and get into fights and get shot and whatever. The guys at the front would frisk everybody on dance nights and take their weapons off of them.

I remember going back to the store room to do inventory on the booze and I was 13 when I came across this stuff, a big box full of guns, and knives, and switchblades, and stilettos…I’m goin “Holy Christ!” I loaded up two big bags of guns and switchbaldes, and gave my grandma a snubnose .38.

Then my grandpa came and got the guns and supposedly dropped them in the ocean. Those were the days.

My grandpa used to work with Henry Stone to get acts for the Palms in the early days then my dad brought in all the acts in the 1960’s til he was killed.

We had a little fried chicken joint in there, a great big bar. I was 5 or 6 years old when I started going there. I didn’t know the difference between black and white, and there was never any kids my age around, but I would go and talk to people like Gladys who worked in the package store selling booze to these old ladies with big boobs and kitty bags, little purses they pulled out of their shirts and called titty bags.

Gladys had a .45 longnose under the counter just in case someone tried to rob the store….”




©Jacob Katel. All Rights Reserved.


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