Elmwood Casino – Part III

August 17, 2007

The first incarnation of the Elmwood Hotel, which was fined several times for liquor violations was destroyed in a $50,000 fire, December 19, 1943. The owners at the time seemed to flout any rules openly, and were constantly under scrutiny. They started building the “new” Elmwood in 1944, and were in trouble for building with steel despite a war time embargo against steel use due to the war effort, as stated in the article below from September 8, 1945.

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The new Elmwood Hotel, slated to be the super-roadhouse, of this district, is under investigation today by authorities of the Construction Control office of the Department of Munitions and Supply at Ottawa. A complete check-up on the unfinished building will be made to ascertain if the owners have completed further construction in contravention of the control office’s order. Above is a view of the hotel taken when the government issued a “stop work” order against its owners in May, 1944. Since then they received permission for a few necessary additions to the exterior and the heating system, but Ottawa authorities now are probing reports that more than the permitted work has been completed.

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BANKRUPTCY HITS ELMWOOD

Windsor Star – December 30, 1974

The Elmwood Casino which has been featuring top international stars for nearly 30 years is bankrupt, it was confirmed Sunday. A news release, concerning the status of the Elmwood is expected to be issued today by Samuel Helfenbaum, who has been appointed receiver.

Al Siegel, owner of the Elmwood, declared voluntary bankruptcy in a Lond court Friday, according to Jerry Friedman a bankruptcy trustee from Toronto.

Mr. Siegel, was a driving force in, the establishment of the Windsor Raceway in 1965 and was president for about five years. He lost control of the raceway in a bitter proxy battle that saw control turned over to a Montreal group, headed by Jean Louis-Levesque.

For years the Elmwood drew large crowds to hear performers like Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Ella Fitzgerald, Xavier Cugat, Eddie Fisher, Milton Berle, Rudy Vallee, Sammy Davis jr., Sid Ceasar and, Jimmy Durante.

The popularity of Las Vegas with its super-hotels and super-fee’s for entertainers, had largely priced the Elmwood out of the top star market by the early 1970’s. Tom Jones for example, was one of the last big stars to appear at the Elmwood and collected a fee of $100,000 for 10 days in 1972.The cover charge alone was $10 for each patron.

In the last few years, Mr. Siegel made an effort to maintain the solvency of the club by changing, the format and the name to that of a dinner-theatre club. The change hasn’t been as successful as anticipated.

In recent months Mr. Siegel has been unable to settle agreementswith waiters and waitresses in collec-(unlegible smuged line).

The Elmwood has been closed since Dec. 21 and there were no plans to open for the traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations that have been featured each year at the club.

Mr. Friedman said it is hoped the club will eventually reopen but when is unclear. Frankly we’re spending our time now trying to determine the exact financial position of the club. “We hope to sell it. It would be better if it was still operating but that may not be possible.”

Mr. Freidman said a more critical cash flow situation will develop if the doors are re-opened now that bankruptcy has been declared. He said vendors will almost certainly will (sic) deal with the club on a strict cash only basis.

Mr. Friedman said creditors will meet Jan. 20 at which time there may be an indication as to whether the club will re-open.

Mark Brown, manager until receivership was ordered Friday, said it was a very shocking surprise. We were really kept in the dark about this: he (Mr. Helfenbaum) walked in and took over the keys, and that was it.

Mr. Brown said Mr. Helfenbaum is acting as representative of the Toronto firm of (smuged line – unreadable) whom he understands arc chartered accountants.

About 80 employees were involved in the Elmwood operation. Some will be kept on to service the Cantonese Room, a dining room, the Beachcomber Bar and Lounge and the Elmwood Motel, all a part of the big Dougall avenue complex.

The Ambassador Room will remain closed. Mr. Brown says “it seems there will be a definite curtailment of operations.” He added “they can lock it, sell.it, or operate it, I don’t know.”

Mr. Brown says he understands holders of mortgages are the principal creditors, and a meeting of creditors is planned shortly.

Mr. Brown has been with the Elmwood, almost since its opening 30 years ago, working up from bus boy, waiter and Maitre de (sic) to the managerial post. He says he has no immediate plans for the future, other than “to rest awhile.”

Mel Louis catering manager, another ‘veteran’employee, whose services were ended when the big Ambassador showroom closed Jan. 21, has taken over as manager of Mike Drakich’s downtown Top Hat.

Ken Brown, business agent for Local 743 Hotel and Restaurant worker (smuged line again) Elmwood employees, said he hasn’t been contacted by the company and doesn’t know what its plans are.

He said if the Elmwood continues to operate under trusteeship, “our people will continue to work under their collective agreement.”

If only the Elmwood’s Ambassador Room is closed, It will probably mean about 25 unionized employees will be laid off.

The employees have been working under the terms of a contract which expired last July. On. Dec. 19 Mr. Brown said the union had no intention of calling a strike in the near future.

Mr. Brown said there is no shortage of hotel workers in Windsor at present, “but none of our people are on layoffs.”

Local 743 has about 450 members in Windsor.

January and February are traditionally poor months for hotel business in Canada and few hotels do any hiring at this time of year, said Mr.Brown.

He said business would improve if there were more hotel rooms available in Windsor because more conventions could be brought here.

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Windsor Star – December 2, 1983

OUT WITH THE OLD…

THE “WOOD” IN THE NAME is the only similarity between what was once the Elmwood and is now Brentwood. Brentwood, the recovery home for alcoholics, is moving over from its overcrowded Sandwich Street headquarters to the venerable Elmwood Casino building on Dougall Road. A $750,000 renovation project is in full swing, changing the building from a hall geared to serving booze into a centre for battling alcoholism. Working on the rooftop sign Thursday were Brian Ives (left) and Joe Strasburg. The Brentwood organization is planning a fund drive for early in the new year to help pay for the renoations. It will be several months before they move.

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Quite a long and interesting history on this place, another part of Windsor’s colourful past.

37 Responses to Elmwood Casino – Part III

  1. ME on August 17, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Sounds similar to the Top Hat, another great venue in this city that is now gone.
    What do we have left? The crummy casino…Too bad Windsor isn’t getting better, in fact it is getting much worse. Other than kiddie bars and a few crappy adult dancing bars what is there to do in this city?

  2. John on August 17, 2007 at 10:30 am

    “…what is there to do in this city?”

    Complain?

  3. Andrew on August 17, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Bitch about water rates?

  4. John on August 17, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Nah. Easier to fill the bath with Perrier than it is to bitch about the water bill. ;)

  5. Andrew on August 17, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Cheaper too…

  6. Jeeves on August 17, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Speaking of water and nothing to do, the Windsor Star pointed out today we also lost our water slides in Mic Mac Park this season too, the land of which is owned by the City and leased to a private company.

  7. ME on August 17, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Far too important to have an EAST end arena for a select few who won’t be able to afford to go to these games. Far too important to have a $3.2 million waterfront pizzaria.
    Far too important to spend over $150,000 to advertise Windsor at the WWE and Grand Prix

    All these and more are far more important than having two waterslides for kids to use on hot summer days. I can’t wait until next year when they tell us some pools won’t be opening due to budget cuts.

  8. Blair on August 18, 2007 at 11:30 am

    The bunker at the foot of riverside cost us $3.2 million? Must be a whole lot of concrete, cause I’d hate to think someone was actually paid for designing that monstrosity.

  9. Sadiztix on December 19, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    shit
    this is very old school

    mel louis was a good friend of my father, he passed away in 1991 i believe
    my father’s band also backed sammy davis jr. at the elmwood back in the day
    the ray douglas orchestra
    you can still hear there stuff on cklw

  10. bobby jones on November 17, 2008 at 5:14 am

    my dad worked at the elmwood for about 25 years. many stars came to our house and i have numerous pics of all the stars that entertained there. if u have any pics or info . . . e mail me. bobby jones

  11. bobby jones on November 17, 2008 at 5:14 am

    my dad worked at the elmwood for about 25 years. many stars came to our house and i have numerous pics of all the stars that entertained there. if u have any pics or info . . . e mail me. bobby jones

  12. Tim Kane on November 23, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Hi, does anyone know when Sonny and Cher played the Elmood?

  13. Tracy J on March 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Little late, but Sonny and Cher played the Elmwood the summer of 1969. For about 3 months.

  14. Tracy J on March 26, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Oops, sorry I meant to say they played for 3 weeks in June of ’69. From the Elmwood they went to Vegas and The Flamingo. They were miserable playing at the Elmwood. They stayed in a seedy hotel and cooked in their room. Things started improving for their career once they hit Vegas.

  15. Larry LeBoeuf on August 4, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    My wifes father (Jack Madden) was the orchestra leader at the Elmwood for 19 years. During his time he played with all of the big named stars that appeared at the Elmwood Casino. Among them were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Liberace, Jimmy Durante, Earl Grant and numerous others. One evening at our home in Victoria, my wife and her father and mother sat with us and made a list of stars that appeared with him at the Elmwood. We filled page after page of names and with each he had a little story about his memory with them. It made for an interesting childhood as many of these stars would visit our house after the show when they appeared at the casino. One particular memory for my wife was Sammy Davis playing golf with her father and brother (then around 11 or 12) at Roseland Golf Club. Sammy told my brother that if he wanted to get any older, not to keep beating him at golf.

  16. Brian Pape on October 8, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Well, well, a web page to the Elmwood.
    At age 17 (underage) I oiginally started as a lifeguard at the motel, then was switched to the casino as a busboy. Worked there for years. Saw them all and have fine memories of Mr. Madden, Mel Louis (Mr. five by five) and Mark Brown. There was also Kees Rooten who was the comptroller and numerous busboys and waiters, some of whom, like me , went on to professional careers. One went on to be Paul Ankas bodyguard. One became the bathroom fixture king of Athens, Greece (Pete Plagros). I had a station out front as well as took care of the stars back stage. I could talk for days on this stage of Windsor’s history, when the Elmwood was outside the boundaries of the City.
    I caddied for Sammy Davis at Roseland when an early teenager and when he was last appearing at the Elmwood with the Will Mastin Trio, caddied for him again at Roseland as pat of my duties. What a great performer. I still sing “What Kind of Fool am I” and “Mr Bojangles” at karaoke.
    The clarinet player in the band became a succesful music teacher in Windsor and taught my son the clarinet.
    In the bankruptcy years, the “hotel doctor” was Mr Mullins and he was dealing with the mortgagees, Benjamin Pape (no relation) an accountant from Toronto. I bought the place for two Million and sed my car as a downpayment, subject to a good use. I was trying to put a bowling alley in the Ambassador Room (it was at that point a boxing venue and an afterhours club). Had it all set up and then circumstance prevailed and my father a then policeman of the Windsor Force suggested that there were individuals that I diodn’t want to mess with so the conditions were not removed. It subsequently was sold by Mr Mullins to Fr Charbonneau for his own afterhours club (he was involved in Bingo at that point).
    I was involved with the Elmwood for yeasr on several levels and could go on but time doesn’t allow.
    I also knew Mike Dragaich of the Top Hat as a good friend. But agin, perhaps memories are left as memories. Did I mention the 18 girl chorus line with the feathers, bangles and bead, the after hours trips to Greektown, and all that jazz.
    Oh my, what memories.
    I should wriute a book, but who would read it.
    Cheers
    brianpape1@aol.com

  17. Helen Wigle on December 3, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    It’s so nice to find info on the good ol’ Elmwood Casino….
    My father (George Kiss) was a chef there from around 1965-69. I remember the old timers that were there when he started: George Batko, John Moravic, Emilio, Racovitis boys, and … Bill Felix, Kees Roozen, etc.
    I remember a few waitresses, namely Mary and Marilyn, and also Romano Bergamin (?).
    I was just a kid but I’d go every Saturday and Sunday. On Saturdays I’d be in the kitchen making ornate fruit and vegetable trays with the pantry girls. On Sun. I’d watch the chorus girls practice and play with the feather boas in the backstage dressing room. They’d let me go upstairs with them and hang out. They were really nice.
    Dad often told stories about Sammy, Mickey Rooney, Dean Martin, etc. hangin’ around in the kitchen shootin’ the breeze and placing bets on the ponies.
    Apparently I once sat on Edgar Bergen’s (Candice’s dad) lap but I don’t remember. I do however have one of his phoney dollar bills signed by him. A framed and valued treasure for sure. Oh ya, I would see my music teacher, Mrs. Grayson, playing in the backup band many times. She was a great music teacher and later would put together fantastic plays and musicals at Harrow District Sr. School.

    Thanks for the memories …

  18. Carolyn on January 13, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    A date took me to the Elmwood Casino in 1972 and we saw Paul Anka. Love the experience! I have a picture of my date and I and another couple we doubled with!

    Came all the way from Jackson, MI for the show.

  19. Angie Huth on February 26, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Does anyone know when Buddy Hackett appeared at the Elmwood Casino? I’m gathering information for a book I’m writing. I believe he followed Sinatra. My act, Four Laverns-French apache pantomime-was on the bill with Buddy. Thanks!

  20. terry jolliffe on March 2, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    My step-father , Gerry Hawrysh , worked as a waiter for many years at the Elmwood ….50’s until closing I believe . He got me in for many shows , usually on a ” slow ” night …Wednesday or Thursday . Sammy Davis was my favourite but I remember singer Jack Jones , The Diamonds ( “Little Darlin’ ” ) , the Harmonicats , and many others . Yes, there was Jack Madden’s orchestra , Mel Louis , Mark Brown , Jack Fontaine , Betty Black , Frank and Chris Telegadas , and a slew of others that I always enjoyed seeing . Most came to our house for periodic bar-b-ques and Christmas visits . It was a fun group back then . Sadly most of them are gone .

  21. Linda Henry on June 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    We Honeymooned at the Elmwood in July 1970. And now for our 40th Anniversary we wanted to go back one more time. Anyone have a suggestion for somethig similar in the area? The entertainment was Godrey Cambridge. So sad Bo-hoo

  22. jc on November 9, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    wow…My dad was the Msater of Ceremonies in the 60’s till about72….his name was Don Mccall. I recognise all the names from above pluss more and like some of you, they were all at our house for dinner when I was young, Starting with Pat O’Brian. Dad just past last year and i would love to see pic with him. He’ll be the tall one with broad sholders …black wavie hair. Have I got stories also…. Thanks nfor this site

  23. Jarod.m. on January 18, 2011 at 9:23 am

    what ever

  24. Al Hubbs on July 6, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    I loved the Elmwood. I worked there as the house MC from 1972 until 1973 when the slowdown started. Very happy to work with Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Enzo Stuarti, Dean Martin’s Golddiggers, and my all time favorite comic Charlie Callas who just recently passed away in Las Vegas. The last big act to headline there was singer Al Martino who had recently filmed the role of Johnny Fontane in the Godfather. It was a lucky break for me because he picked me up to work with him for the next ten years.
    I was a Windsor resident for 22 years working as a comic in all the old clubs: Top Hat, Metropole, Kilarney Castle. How many remember Adam Martini’s on the river water front. I went on to work as a Detroit actor performing in TV commercials and films. Moved to Orlando in 1984

  25. Scotty Hughes on July 7, 2011 at 1:13 am

    The Elmwood was also a Windsor/Detroit hot spot in the mid-1970’s – we played in the band to a full house from 9-12:30 PM, then they would clear the place out, and re-open the doors at about 2:00 AM for all-night dancing ’til dawn (no alcohol was served after hours)… the place was packed all night through early morning every weekend.. some very good memories!! The dance floor was huge and the stage was very accommodating for large bands.

  26. Bob Fowler on May 11, 2012 at 1:35 am

    A friend of my mother’s worked backstage at the Elmwood as a dressing room attendant in the early 1950s. I recall her saying that Sammy Davis was especially friendly and kind, and gave her several items as mementos. I was about 15 at the time and into photography. She put in a good word for me with the female photographer who wandered the room taking photos of the guests — and got me a job developing and printing the pictures, filling-in for the regular darkroom person for a few nights. The experience was exciting but the whole scene really felt foreign and a bit scary for a young kid.
    But the money was great!

  27. Lynn Lamarche on April 10, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I too have many fond memories of the Elmwood Casino. Those were the days.
    My mother Mary was a waitress there for years. On one occassion Paul Anka was performing and I got to go backstage and meet him. What a highlight for a 16 year old girl.

  28. MMcCall on April 13, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I love these stories. I grew up hearing them too. My father was MC at the casino for many years, Don McCall. I see my brother Joe, JC wrote just above here. He passed away as well as my dad and our mother. I would sure love some pictures to share with our remaining brothers and sister!
    Love to all

  29. M McCall on May 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    UPDATE May 1, 2013
    I found wonderful pictures from the Elmwood. As with many of you my dad was honored to work with many celebrities that graced the casino. I would love to see all of these pictures displayed somewhere. I think it would be an awesome tribute to all of the hard working singers, dancers, musician’s, chefs, servers, etc. and guests that worked there. They sure had fun!!

  30. Uzzy on May 2, 2013 at 9:04 am

    M McCall, it would be great to see them all displayed somewhere.

  31. Gregg Robertson on May 22, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Would someone kindly send me the address or location of the Elmwood Casino. I will be visiting Windsor in June, 2013, and would like to see the site where I worked as a bartender in 1956-57. I married a chorus girl who worked at the club for a awhile and moved to her hometown in New Jersey. Have not been back since. A captain-waiter who worked for Mel Louis, Cliff Prosser, was my buddy and my best-man. He married a chorus girl also, Marge. I am trying to locate Cliff and Marge but no luck so far. Last saw them in the early eighties when we had dinner in Detroit. Would appreciate any info to help my trip down memory lane. Thanks, Gregg Robertson

    P.S. Fondly remember some of the employees mentioned in the “Posts” here. In my time frame their was also a Mr. Willy, whom, i believe was Mel Louis’ boss. I still tell some of the jokes I heard from the comics booked to the club, particularly Buddy Hackett. Remember Al Siegel well.

  32. sherry bondy on May 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    My grandfather played guitar, sax and the clarinet at the Elmwood in the house band, he later went on to be a much respected music teacher. My mother has many memories and stories of hanging out with the stars named in comments above. My children are blessed with the craft, thanks Pop! Mr. Larry Eve.

  33. Uzzy on May 23, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    @Gregg Robertson

    Brentwood Recovery Home is located at

    2335 Dougall Windsor, ON N8X 1S9, Canada
    +1 519-253-2441

  34. Wenda on January 11, 2014 at 12:43 am

    I lived there from 1973 to 1975 or 6M y mom was the general managwr there for TR Mullins…

  35. Wenda on January 11, 2014 at 12:48 am

    I rememver The Guess Who and Yvonne di Carlo and Chastity Brown playing there…. I had my ballet studio behind the stage. I worked aa a glass washer and coat check girl. Thomas Hearns was a door person there for the after hours club.

  36. Frank on January 16, 2014 at 2:02 am

    I remember going to a dinner theater with my mother, brother and sister to see Yvonne Di Carlo at the Elmwood Casino. I agree with a previous post, gambling halls are a poor excuse for entertainment.

  37. Jay Thompson Ricard on February 2, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    any one of you know the story about the mermaids that were fastened to the wall at the Elmwood?

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