Halfway down the twisting, mangrove-lined road that separates Goodland from the real world, cars were parked, lining the street on Sunday afternoon. Motorcyles and pedestrians streamed toward Stan’s.
Hundreds showed up to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of Stan’s Idle Hour Seafood Restaurant, an establishment that has become an institution without ever quite embracing respectability.
Patrons and guests enjoyed birthday cake, as well as a cookout and the regular menu, as the event also marked the 84th birthday of Stan Gober, founder of his namesake, even though he doesn’t really turn 84 until April 30.
But as usual at Stan’s on a Sunday afternoon, the focus was on two things — the music and the liquid refreshment.
“We had four cases of champagne we were giving away, and that all went in about an hour,” said Gober. “I didn’t even get a piece of my own birthday cake.”
If Stan missed out on cake, it was probably because he spent hours on stage, cracking jokes, introducing a string of guest entertainers, and taking his own turn with his headset mic, singing the familiar “Stan”dards the crowd at Stan’s loves and expects.
The talented musicians of the four-piece Jeff Hilt Band cranked out the rock and roll, backing up each vocalist and playing their own numbers in between. Behind the performers, a banner almost covered by good wishes from friends and customers, read “Stan’s — 40 Years, One Sunday at a Time.”
The audience crowded in front of the stage, filled the outside table, and spilled up onto the balcony, all seeming to have a great time and all the alcohol they could handle. Advertising signs lined the upper story of the restaurant, with the largest promoting “Musca Law – DUI and Criminal Defense.”
Shoppers thronged the Island Woman clothing shop on the premises, and owner Fia Kaplan was kept busy straightening up and helping buyers make their selections.
“We’re having a great day,” said Kaplan. “I think it’s wonderful — I hope there’s 40 more.” Donna Hays, bragging she was the same age as Stan, hawked copies of his book, “Stan — An American Story,” and Faye Nawby brought another cake to go along with the two donated by Publix.
The only place to have a moment’s conversation, and for Stan to get a moment away from a continual stream of well-wishers, was inside the restaurant’s main dining room.
Stan’s humor tends toward the blue and the curmudgeonly, like a cross between Don Rickles and Lenny Bruce. Asked for a printable comment for the newspaper, he said, “It’s too late — I’m drunk now.” He managed to insult just about everyone involved with the restaurant, the party, and the music, while still getting across the message that he really did appreciate the outpouring of support and affection.
He mentioned that May 4, he will be taking his act to Key West for a show at Sloppy Joe’s to celebrate that 84th birthday again. And how does an octogenarian keep going with so much energy? The man who sells beer by the truckload said his secret is simple.
“Apple cider vinegar,” he said. “I’ve been drinking a tablespoon of it every day for 40 years. It’s a miracle drug going back to Jesus’ day.”
“This has been a great turnout. It’s just awesome,” said Steve Gober. One of three of Stan’s four children who works at the restaurant, he is general manager and part owner.
If Stan’s did approach respectability Sunday, it came when Marco Island City Councilor Jerry Gibson showed up to present Stan with the Key to the City. And in the end, Stan Gober showed what he does take seriously, closing the show with “God Bless America.”