Welcome to the Marando’s Nightclub and World Famous Theatre Restaurant website. From its early days as The Tropics and The Fairview Inn, Marando’s for over a quarter-century provided first class celebrity entertainment and fine dining in the Quad Cities.
This website is dedicated to the thousands of people who worked and dined there, a veritable “who’s who” of Quad Citians and other special guests who spent many a Friday and Saturday night at one of the Midwest’s premiere night clubs. For your enjoyment, you will find several links embedded within this site, many of which include photographs and remembrances.
For those not familiar with the area, the Quad Cities are comprised of actually five cities which hug the Mississippi River on the Iowa-Illinois boundary: Rock Island, Moline and East Moline on the Illinois side; Davenport and Bettendorf on the Iowa side.
Jimmie’s youngest son, Michael Marando, did the research and wrote the stories included in the site, while eldest son James Marando acted in a consulting and support capacity.
We hope that you find this site as entertaining and fun as the part of Quad Cities history that Marando’s represents. In the meantime, take a nostalgic trip back to another time, to another place before smart-phones, tablets and broadband where people just enjoyed good, old-fashioned fun.
If you are a former employee of Marando’s or dined at the restaurant and have a cool memory to share, we’d like to hear from you. Please email us using the box at the bottom of the page. We will be including stories, more photos and testimonials in the future!
James F. and Michael J. Marando
To the lasting memories of our father, Jimmie Marando, our mother Myrna, and our uncles Jeff and Ernie
From 1950 to 1972, Marando’s was part of an elite trifecta of Quad City nite clubs, along with The Plantation in Moline and The Saddle Club in nearby Davenport. Marando’s was situated at the corner of 4th Street West and Holmes in Milan, behind where a modern Hy-Vee market is located today.
Fans of big band sounds and swing dance often found Marando’s on a Friday or Saturday night. It was elegant, had a reputation for hosting top-name entertainment and provided the quintessential experience to anyone or any group looking to celebrate a lasting memory.
The club’s South Pacific accouterments were a perfect complement to its Vegas-style architecture and vibe. The large neon sign located in the front, right part of the parking lot adorned a distinctive logo: a bright green palm tree with “Marando’s” emblazoned in red lights. The long, vertically bricked building included a centered carport sporting a large, multi-colored hanging glass sphere that was lit up like a mini Vegas nightclub.
Inside, the main dining room provided a truly unique VIP experience. Upon entering Marando’s, patrons would take a sharp left off the top steps to the Reservation Desk, then veered right, over to the Coat Check Room to have garments and personal items professionally checked. Just to the right of the Reservation Desk was the Main Bar, where Marando’s team of mixologists, led by Wendell Ray and Eddie Voorhees, would serve up a wide range of expertly crafted libations.
Dining booths were “horseshoed” around the main stage and dance floor affording everyone a great view. Dinner waitresses, sharply dressed in white blouses and red vests, were positioned at the corners. In the “horseshoe,” the names of nearby cities and towns were emblazoned on faux wood placards above the dining booths. Each booth showcased 8-by-10 photos of personalities who performed at Marando’s.
The matriarch of the staff was Doris Mickle, who always approached her work professionally and with a smile. Jeanne Kennedy, Barbara Blair and the rest of the staff followed Doris’ lead. Marando’s had its own version of luxury suites: Various cities in Iowa and Illinois were honored with their own semi-private rooms. The Milan Room was just off the main bar; the East Moline and Bettendorf rooms were adjacent to the main stage, affording private parties with a bird’s eye view of the entertainment. Or, head over to the Bow & Arrow Room straight away from the main entrance to have a quiet dinner. This room was a favorite of baseball fans because just to the right of the bar, a young kid listening to a transistor radio would often be seen updating scores from the National and American Leagues on a chalk board (that “young kid” would often have to leave by 9 p.m. so late scores were not included). Some of the specialty rooms were equipped with a full bar.
The dinner menu featured jumbo frog legs, filet mignon, live main lobster tail (a big deal back then!), channel catfish and T-Bone steak to name just a few of the entrees. By far the more popular selection, however, was Marando’s prime rib of beef, expertly prepared by longtime chef extraordinaire Alva Ybara. For an extra 35 cents during the summer months, you could get a half-dozen ears of oven-baked “bantam” corn – another Alva specialty.
Marando’s also featured a swanky and semi-secret gaming room – though it wasn’t exactly legal. VIP patrons would try their luck on any one of a number of table games including dice, roulette and poker, in addition to a grand selection of 1940s-era Mills slot machines.
On a few occasions, the operation attracted the attention of local authorities. The July 25, 1956 Rock Island Argus carried this headline: Raid at Marando’s Nets Dice Table, Chips. The Argus ran a photo of Rock Island County Sheriff Joe Schneider with a roulette table as part of the gaming equipment seized that day.
The early beginnings of Marando’s began in 1946, when Jimmie Marando, the second youngest of six siblings, purchased the establishment previously known as the Red Apple Inn at Routes 2 and 92 in Silvis, Ill. A few months later after a full remodel, the place reopened as The Tropics, a fried chicken, steak and seafood place that also offered local and regional entertainment. But Jimmie’s real dream was to operate a supper club in a South Pacific motif garnished with a splash of Las Vegas that provided both quality cuisine and entertainment.
In 1948, Jimmie and his brother, Jeff, purchased the Fairview Inn in Milan, known since the 1930s as a roadside club that featured local entertainment. The brothers gave it a complete makeover and announced the “new look” Fairview Inn via several full-page newspaper ads. Eddie Davis and his Quartet and George Sontag were the current headliners.
Then, in August 1950, Jimmie and Jeff announced the consolidation of The Tropics and Fairview Inn – and the night club officially became Marando’s. The main headliners were The Incomparable Versatiles, with Mildred Garns at the Hammond electric organ and Jimmie’s wife, billed as Myrna Mansfield, at the “new chickering piano.” Jimmie was listed as host.
Marando’s booked its first major national act in 1951: Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, performed there before more than 300 patrons.
In 1954, Jeff expanded his role in the kitchen as lead chef, Charles (Charlie) Spates was promoted to General Manager, and Ernie Marando joined them a short time later as the restaurateurs established a new benchmark in Quad City dining and entertainment.
In 1955, World Famous Theatre Restaurant was added to the name, and Marando’s didn’t disappoint. In the ensuing years, Jimmie mixed the golden sounds of the Big Band era with contemporary stylings, bringing in such top names as Sophie Tucker, the last of the red-hot mamas; the great jazz trumpeter Clyde McCoy, whose hit single “Sugar Blues” (accompanied by Jacques, his singing French poodle) wowed audiences for several decades; singer Bob Crosby, pianist Carmen Cavallaro, and an alluring, classy blonde cabaret singer known simply as the Incomparable Hildegarde, to name just a few.
The years 1955 through 1965 was a roaring decade at Marando’s, featuring Liberace, The Ames Brothers, Jack Staulcup and his Orchestra; Rose Mary Clooney, Eddy Howard and his Orchestra, Bob Crosby, Bob Cummings, comedian and TV host George Gobel, and a young, 30-something singer with a distinctive falsetto/vibrato voice named Tiny Tim – long before he crooned American audiences with Tiptoe Through the Tulips. Lombardo and The Canadians performed two returning engagements in 1966.
Marando’s frequently sponsored Little League teams, hosted youth football and baseball banquets, held school and sports fundraisers, entertained local and statewide politicians, and brought in pro athletes for appearances during the offseason. Local products Ken Bowman (Green Bay Packers), and baseball’s Gene Oliver (Milwaukee Braves) appeared on occasion, along with former Notre Dame star Johnny Lujack (Chicago Bears). Dizzy Dean, the National League’s last 30-game winner, was there twice. According to Jeff Marando, Babe Ruth showed up for a chicken dinner at The Tropics about a year before the baseball great died of cancer in 1948. “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks, also dined there. Illinois Governor William G. Stratton (1953-1961) reportedly announced his candidacy for Governor at Marando’s.
On Sept. 22, 1966, Jimmie passed away at the age of 52 from complications of lung and throat cancer. John O’Donnell, the beloved sports columnist for the Quad City Times-Democrat, waxed a very heart-warming tribute that included these excerpts: Saddened by what I read in the Times-Democrat on the train going to the Iowa-Oregon State game. The story told of the death of Jimmy Marando, whose nightclub brought thousands to the city of Milan as the years rolled by. There are many who will miss Jimmy Marando. Count me in. He helped spread the name of our community.
Jeff, Ernie and Charlie ran Marando’s for most of the next six years until its initial sale in 1972 to the Kenray Corp, headed by Kenny Pierman. During the next 11 years, Pierman successfully ran the place as the Country Manor until his death in the early 1980s. The club went through a few short iterations thereafter, including stints as the Impulse Lounge and the Play-Mor.
In 2004, the Marando Building was felled by the wrecking ball, much to the lament of many longtime Quad Citians, including Bill Wundram, the Quad-City Times columnist, who devoted his column the following week to Marando’s: Marando’s was the hot spot for good food and even better entertainment. We don’t get big names like that anymore in Quad-City restaurants. We’re lucky to have a piano player plinking out “Satin Doll,” but in the palmy days of the Marando’s, name bands like Guy Lombardo would have three-day runs.