The Flick Coffeehouse in Coral Gables might have served its last brew in 1974, a decade after its opening, but in its 10-year history it served up some world-famous names while they were at their freshest. Among them: Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Jeff Walker, John Sebastian.
Today, The Flick is a brewery of another stripe, Titanic Restaurant & Brewery on Ponce de Leon, across from the University of Miami's baseball stadium.
But on Friday, Welcome Back, Kotter star Gabe Kaplan, 69, returned to the site of The Flick to host a three-day, 50th birthday blowout that drew hundreds for six performances. The actor and celebrity poker player brought along musician pals Chuck Mitchell, Vince Martin ( Cindy, Oh Cindy), Estrella and brother Bill Berosini, Michael Smith and wife Barbara Barrow, and Coconut Grove folk musician Bobby Ingram, all of whom learned their craft on that little Flick stage all those years ago. Their voices, touched a bit by time, still rang clear and true.
The stage's backdrop panel was a large slab of vintage Flick-era history, too: crimson wallpaper with lights poking through strategically. "Like a bordello or Swensen's' red wallpaper," teased Ingram. But he noted that the little lampshades had a dual purpose: Back then, when a performer ran long or proved tiresome and owner Max Launer would want to give them the hook, he'd flick the lights to signal the entertainer to hustle off the stage.
Kaplan wasn't the only star to be born from The Flick. In addition to the Mitchells and Buffett, soon-to-be folk and pop music icons David Crosby, Tim Buckley, Michael Murphy and John Denver all made the scene at The Flick on the folk circuit early in the venue's 1964-1974 run.
Last weekend, at a fundraising benefit for The Dolphin Project, it was all about sharing memories and music of the era - by those on stage and the audience, many of whom were regulars or former employees at the popular haunt.
"I'll pause while you all comment on how I look," quipped a fit Kaplan on opening night Friday before more than 100 ticket-holders who were crammed into every nook of the Titanic and along its bar. Saturday and Sunday night shows were also sold out.
Kaplan told some of his old Kotter jokes, originally developed at The Flick, and introduced Mitchell who, at 78, could still spin a tongue-twisting novelty folk tune like The Potato Song with ease.
"He was here with his wife the first time I met him here," Kaplan said on stage of Mitchell, who performed at The Flick while married to Canadian songstress Joni Mitchell. She would become one of popular music's most celebrated songwriters after their split in 1968 with her classics Both Sides Now, A Case of You and Woodstock.
"Whatever happened to her?" Kaplan teased, as an amiable Mitchell helped lead Martin, Ingram and his daughter Bryn, the Berosinis, Smith and Barrow in tribute to former Flick regulars, the late Steve Goodman ( City of New Orleans), Fred Neil ( Everybody's Talkin') and Florida songwriter Gamble Rodgers.
The event raised about $6,000 for The Dolphin Project, 30 percent of gross ticket sales, Kaplan said Monday. The Dolphin Project aims to stop dolphin slaughter and exploitation around the world.