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From Girl Happy to the Orange Bowl

Before the 2004 Sooners made the Orange Bowl, all I knew about Fort Lauderdale, I learned on “Girl Happy.”

Yep, the Elvis movie from 1965. Elvis. Shelley Fabares. Mary Ann Mobley. Gary Crosby. The great Harold Stone (Frank Nitti in “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”). Nita Talbot from Hogan’s Heroes. Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester in “The Addams Family”).

Not exactly “Citizen Kane,” but it’ll do on a Friday night when you’re 13 and ESPN was only a twinkle in your eye.

Fort Lauderdale seemed like such a cool place in the film. A bunch of art deco motels set along Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Wednesday night, the Dish and I walked along Seabreeze Boulevard, which hugs the beach, and “Girl Happy” was not particularly apparent. Oh, a few vintage motels and restaurants remain. But the others, if they really existed, have been replaced by massive resorts and condos.

The population of Broward County today is 1.9 million, which explains how Greater Miami is up over six million. The population of Broward County in 1960 was 330,000. In 1970, it was 620,000. Split the difference, and let’s call it 475,000 in 1965. So Fort Lauderdale has quadrupled since “Girl Happy.”

But it’s still a cool place. The Dish and I took an Uber to dinner, to Franco & Vinny’s Pizza Shack, an Italian joint just off Seabreeze Boulevard on the north end of the commercial beach district. Jenni Carlson, Ryan Aber and I had eaten at Franco & Vinny’s the night before the OU-Clemson Orange Bowl. Al Eschbach had recommended it, and I remember it being quite good.

But that night, we ate late and the place was relatively empty. Wednesday night, the place was packed. That’s when I knew my memory hadn’t failed me and it indeed would be a good choice. Not a big dining room, but the tables are packed in, and wisely with a bunch of different-sized tables. They squeezed the Dish and I into a table for two, and we decided on pizza. A pepperoni, black olive and mushroom pizza. Very good. Each had a salad to go with it. A quality meal.

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