The Father of Spring Break was a Boilermaker.
It has been way too long since I have done a Profile in Badassery. In fact, I think you have to go back to before the switchover to SB Nation United for the last one. I have been sitting on one for the last few weeks and the situation finally presented itself where I could write about him.
Spring Break is a tradition that dates back mostly to World War II, but we have a Purdue grad to thank for it in large part. Robert Newell, inexplicably named Crazy Gregg, took his first spring break to Fort Lauderdale as a Purdue student in 1955. Back then, spring break was nothing like it is now, but there was a steady trickle of post-war spring breakers to the Fort Lauderdale area. Newell love the area so much he vowed to move there in 1957 after graduating with a degree in audiology.
He briefly worked as a hearing aid salesman, but the nightlife and clubs associated with the sand and sun soon called him to an eternal spring break. From his obituary:
He began work as the bar manager at Calder's Club 88 in Lauderdale by the Sea. He later worked as the manager at the infamous Porky's on North Federal Highway before running the upstairs bar for 9 years at the Elbo Room. After a change of ownership forced him out of his job, he opened The Button in the Holiday Inn Oceanside Hotel in 1970 and began his series of daily "college parties" in 1971, pitting schools on Spring break against each other in various innocent and tawdry competitions. The Button parties grew in such stature that Newell opened C.W. Dandy's , The Windjammer and Button Up each Spring in other parts of the hotel to accommodate the overflow crowds.
Yes, a Purdue grad is the grandfather of debauchery and wet t-shirt contests. His efforts soon became a staple of south Florida and the Fort Lauderdale area. At one time in the 1980's more than 350,000 students visited the area for spring break, and Newell's idea generated a lot of tourist dollars for the area.
The dude loved to party. He would often take people out in his boat free of charge because he enjoyed seeing folks have a good time. He would eventually own a sightseeing business with his boat in addition to managing multiple clubs and bars in the area. Eventually, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale christened October 22nd as Crazy Gregg Day.
Newell died on February 12, 2003 at age 69 of lung and liver cancer. Since drinking and smoking often lead to those two diseases I think it is safe to say he got his money's worth out of those parties. As we reach the 10th anniversary of his passing a toast should be raised at Harry's to a guy who loved to have a good time.