Sunday, August 26, 2012

Florida History: Jolly Roger Hotel - Fort Lauderdale trailblazer and guest Jayne Mansfield

By Jane Feehan

     See for 
more Fort Lauderdale in the 1950s 

Builder-turned-hotelier George “Bob” Gill developed six properties during the 1940s, 50s and 60s along Fort Lauderdale beach including the iconic Jolly Roger. 

The Jolly Roger Hotel (now the Sea Club), designed by Miami architect Tony Sherman, opened in 1952. It was first in the area to “offer in-room air conditioning.”

Actress Jayne Mansfield* and husband Mickey Hargitay (mother and father of today’s Law and Order: Special Victims unit Mariska Hargitay) stayed at the Jolly Roger in February, 1962 when other hotels were booked. Mansfield, who was 28 then, obliged the press with a photo session at the hotel pool deck before their ill-fated trip to the Bahamas. (They were briefly shipwrecked on a small island when their boat, piloted by Gill’s public relations man, Jack Drury, broke down. Rescued the next morning, the trio made headlines over their lost-at-sea adventure world-wide.)

The Jolly Roger drew tourists – and college students – for decades. And who among the locals could resist claiming the pirate’s skull and bones flag waving to us from the roof? Today, as the Sea Club, it remains a favorite beach hotel with European tourists.  In 2009, the hotel was granted historic status by the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society.

* Mansfield and Hargitay divorced in 1963. She married director Matt Cimber in '64 and had another child. Mansfield was reportedly decapitated (see comment box) in an auto accident in 1967 on her way to an appearance in Biloxi. Her three children, including Mariska Hargitay, survived.

For more on Jayne Mansfield at the Jolly Roger, see:

For 1950s dining at the Jolly Roger, see:

For more on the Yankee Clipper, see:

Sun-Sentinel, Feb. 26, 2009
Drury, Jack. Fort Lauderdale, Playground of the Stars (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2008).

Tags: Jolly Roger Hotel, Fort Lauderdale in the 1950s, Bob Gill, Gill Hotels, Fort Lauderdale history, Mariska Hargitay, film industry researcher


Anonymous said...

Jayne Mansfield actually was not decapitated in that awful car accident. Although initial reports suggested she was, it was later revealed that she was not. It was this accident that mandated all trailers have a "Mansfield Bar" below their load door to prevent a passenger vehicle from going under it in a rear-end collision (which would have saved the iconic star's life).

Jane Feehan said...

Interesting. Thank you for the comment. I'll amend this piece.

Jane Feehan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.