OBITUARY: Johnny “Poole” Marino

Johnny Poole
Johnny Poole with one of his signature cocktails.
Photo by Robert Levine.

Johnny Marino, aka Johnny Poole, was a stranger when he arrived in Cherry Grove, but would soon become a celebrity in our world of Cherry Grove icons. Born in   Swampscott, Mass., he attended Cardinal Newman Prep High School in Boston.

In 1963, he arrived in Cherry Grove and immediately got a job as a waiter at the Sea Shack, owned by Jimmy Merry. As a vibrant, good-looking, friendly, and always-smiling young man, his smarts took him to another level at his job.

He created the “Peach Flip” blender drink as well as the “Ole Poole” which became well-known house drinks. When Jimmy Merry bought the Grove Hotel, Johnny moved with him and remained as bar manager for over 25 years. Then Lois and Meryl opened Cherry’s on the Bay, and Johnny became the head bartender working there for another 25 years. With every tip he would squeeze a bike horn for acknowledgment.

Johnny was the longest running “mixologist” in Cherry Grove. He created the legendary “Drag Attach” event which happens every June in Cherry Grove. He was also responsible for the Bar People’s Ball, which was a major dinner and drag event every fall in New York City up until 10 years ago.

In Florida, Johnny was a bartender at the Marlon Beach Hotel, the first openly gay hotel in Fort Lauderdale, during the 1970s.  He also worked at the Waverly Bar in Greenwich Village and opened Oh Johnny’s on West 14th Street in New York in the 1980s, which became a major cabaret venue.

Johnny, along with George Sardi and his partner Bryon, had the first Gay cooking and exercise show on an independent NYC TV channel.

Johnny loved to sing. His rendition of “What a Wonderful World” was a tribute to Louis Armstrong. He relished having dinner parties at his New York apartment for any occasion and it was open house to all his friends.

Johnny met radio personality Elvis Duran and soon after, he became a regular guest as Uncle Johnny on the “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.”

His health began to decline in the last few years, but Johnny kept his attitude moving and shaking. He never stopped his routine until the very end.