Dozens of people packed Cafe Centro in West Palm Beach on Monday night to celebrate the birthday of “The King of Palm Beach County Entertainment,” Rob Russell.
“I don’t feel like I’m getting older, I feel like I’m getting better,” Russell told the crowd.
Russell helped launch the Royal Room at Palm Beach’s storied Colony Hotel. He was the supper club’s entertainment director for more than a decade, booking world-class singers and acting as master of ceremonies.
He was no less busy at his own birthday party, where he walked around in a captain’s hat, spangled black jacket and matching sparkly shoes telling stories, singing and greeting old friends for most of the evening.
“I love music and I have encouraged music all my years here in Palm Beach,” said Russell, who’s been a resident for more than 30 of his 61 years. “I’ve worked with all the Broadway stars, Grammy winners, Tony winners, Academy Award nominees…”
Most of the attendees knew Russell from his years running the Royal Room or his preceding job as maitre d’ at the now-shuttered Governor’s Club atop Philip’s Point in West Palm Beach. Others were, like Russell, Long Island transplants to Palm Beach County who knew him from his New York days – including his prom date from Babylon High School.
Scenes from last night’s birthday party for legendary Palm Beach entertainer Rob Russell — keep an eye out for the paper napkins raining down like confetti during certain parts of the chorus! pic.twitter.com/vScrgSaOYg
— Madeline Fox (@maddycfox) June 18, 2019
Russell has been officially performing at Cafe Centro for the past six months, said owner Sal Kutsal, and bringing crowds with him. Even before that, while he was still working at the Colony, Kutsal said he’d make an appearance.
“His off days, he’d come over here and then grab the mic, sing one song or two songs,” Kutsal said. “After he quit, I said, come over!”
Russell said he has no intention of slowing down, despite leaving his Colony Hotel job several years ago. In addition to his Cafe Centro performances, he’ll be hosting a show on the Great American Songbook for the local Legends Radio station, and said he’s thinking about writing a book about his years in Palm Beach County entertainment.
Attendees Gail and Alan Levine of West Palm Beach got to know Russell at the Governor’s Club, then followed him to the Colony Hotel. When Gail Levine was looking for a speaker at the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary fundraiser a few years ago, Russell was happy to oblige.
Levine said his presence prompted some 40 more ticket sales than usual for the annual event.
“He’s just a charmer and a wonderful entertainer,” she said. “You don’t see many entertainers like that anymore.”
As he walked among the paper napkins littering the floor after being thrown like confetti during a rendition of Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore,” Russell seemed to agree.
“I wonder what all the boring people are doing on a Monday night, right?” he said.