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Kell kept Nick's lively for 40 years

On the Town

On your feet for a 21-gun salute for Kenny Kell - also known, at least to anyone who spent any time at Nick's Famous Coney Island over the past 40 years, as the Wing Commander. He was the white-haired guy behind the counter with the droll sense of humor. … What everyone might not have known, though, is that military-sounding title, often shortened to just the Commander, came from a previous stint on the production line at Willamette Poultry. … As his boss, Frank Nudo, said at funeral services last week, 'He was the best and most honest employee I ever had.' … Here's to you, Kenny, and make that a double if you please.

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Chief Deputy DA Norm Frink sure has stirred up a storm of pleasant memories with his tireless efforts to get to the bottom of the Sammy Davis Jr. mystery. … Ramona Karasik remembers watching the great entertainer on several occasions at the Clover Club in 1950 - and she's positive of the year because she'd just graduated from the U-Dub and was engaged to be married at the time. … Of course, this wasn't the only time Sammy played here, but don't you think it's great the way the DA's office is taking such an interest in Portland's rich entertainment history? …

Since you've got me started anyway: Did you know that the famous folk singer Woody Guthrie once lived here for a couple of months? He was in an apartment at 6111 S.E. 92nd Ave. - and while there wrote 'Roll On, Columbia.' … All this from a soon-to-be-released book by Michael Munk called 'The Portland Red Guide' - which, considering the political climate here, will probably do quite well when it hits the bookstores in a month or so.

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After a successful European tour with the Decemberists, singer Lisa Molinaro can be seen once again pedaling her bike down Hawthorne - just as she used to do when she was making her living as a barista at the Fresh Pot, the espresso place in Powell's. … Except that now, Starbucks, just a few doors down from where she used to work, is selling Decemberists CDs. I'm such a sucker for these success stories. … First and last word on the convention center hotel caper belongs to Mayor Tom Potter, who put it this way: 'If it's such a good idea, why doesn't private enterprise do it?' … And with all the great hotels in downtown Portland - with more on the way - why doesn't someone sit down with TriMet and come up with a plan for ferrying all those happy conventioneers to the convention center? … And no, I don't mean by building another tram. … What does exotic dancer Viva Las Vegas do when she gets off work at the Magic Gardens? Why, she sits down at her computer, of course, and composes another column for The Portland Mercury, P-town's lively alternative newspaper. … This week's subject: former Reed College math major Sasha Clapper, who supports his itinerant lifestyle by working as a ditch digger. … Which is not really such a stretch, when you stop to consider that Viva herself graduated from tony Williams College with a degree in cultural anthropology. … Who says you can't do anything with a liberal-arts degree?

Contact Phil Stanford by phone, 503-546-5166, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..