Oh, do I remember Tootsie! Tootsie Van Kelly, the Red Hot Mama at Tootsies in the Amway Grand Plaza. What a great place.

Tootsie Van Kelly's aka Tootsie's was a "good-time, fun-time saloon" located in the Amway from 1981 through 1995. GP Sports is in it's place now.

Tootsie, (Ruth Russell) who passed away in 2007, was a red-hot mama who sang with a gusto like no other. The Tootsie Facebook page says it all.She was a belter of show tunes, saloon songs, jazz and pop for local and international crowds visiting the hotel. Lines would form outside the door to see Tootsie, the house band, singing and dancing balladeers (servers), eat peanuts and shuck them on the floor, dance chorus line style to New York, New York, try one of 100 beers and then join the Hall of Foam, eat dilly chips and drink Flaming Irish Bastards.

On any given night, crowds would be dumbstruck and delighted by celebrities who were performing next door at Devos Hall. They would come in and belt a tune or two. Robin Williams hopped on stage one night and went off for about 15 minutes. The Manhattan Transfer stopped by to say hello, as well as Frankie Valli, Hall & Oates (above), the Beach Boys, The Turtles, Adam Ant, Christy McVie, Andy Williams, Chaka Khan, Potsy from Happy Days, the casts of Evita, Camelot, Ain't Misbehavin and so many, many more.

Conventions brought the international crowds, and boy, it was wild! Sports celebs, hairdressers, teachers, farmers...you name it!


Tom Hagen was the musical director from 1983 through 1995. He directed the house trio, joked with the crowds. A human jukebox, if you will. So many local singers and musicians played there as well.

What a great, fun place. What memories. We need that back!


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