When they write the definitive history of Seattle dining and nightlife, the name Jack McGovern will figure big - as big as it ever was on the marquees of his restaurant on west Lake Union or on the Music Hall dinner theater downtown.
The man made well-publicized mistakes, declaring bankruptcies when expenses exceeded revenue.
But the man also brought new expectations for food and entertainment to a still somewhat sleepy city in the mid-1960s.
Mr. McGovern died Thursday (May 8) after undergoing treatment the past four weeks for a long-standing heart ailment. He was 72.
"This is a guy that had incredibly big dreams and big ideas, and wasn't afraid to go for them, even though they sometimes didn't come true," said Greg Thompson, producer of the Music Hall Follies at Jack McGovern's Music Hall.
"He was a man with a big appetite - for living, eating and promotion. He'd say, `Oh listen, I've got this idea. We're gonna make it happen!' "
Mr. McGovern, born and reared on Capitol Hill, had always had dreams. But when he went to movies in the 1930s at the Spanish-baroque Fox Theater, he never dreamed that in the late 1970s he would be sole leaseholder of the theater (as the Music Hall). Nor that he would greet guests in a chandelier-studded showroom, wearing tailored suits and presenting lavish dinner shows with performers such as Ginger Rogers, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney and the Mills Brothers.
He came from humble beginnings. His maternal grandfather came to Seattle from Italy before the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 and had a vegetable farm where Boeing Field now sits.
Mr. McGovern graduated from Garfield High School and went into a restaurant partnership at 200 Mercer St., from where he broadcast a nightly radio show. Later, he managed Everett Golf and Country Club, the Exeter Hotel Dining Room and many restaurants, including the Riverboat on the Duwamish River, the Ephrata Club and the Westerner.
In 1963 he began running Kim's Broiler, later McGovern's, on west Lake Union, which helped launch the hospitality boom along the lake. He became locally famous for handing out gardenias to women customers.
"He contributed a great deal to the nightlife and dining of Seattle at that time," said his companion of 16 years, June Tonkin of Seattle. "When he had the place on the lake it was right up there with Rosellini's and Canlis as far as great view and good food."
Mr. McGovern tried a dining and entertainment venture in Ocean Shores, Grays Harbor County, in 1969 but returned to his Seattle restaurant, which began to feature good local entertainers. There he met Thompson, who helped him turn his dream for a dinner-show palace into reality. The Music Hall Follies opened in 1978 and enjoyed a dazzling run until mid-1980, when McGovern declared bankruptcy.
Subsequent ventures failed, and he gave in to declining resources.
But he never gave up his "classy ways," said his companion's daughter, Dianne Tonkin:
"He had to have the best, from his restaurant food to his dress shoes. . . . Even to the final days he got a manicure every two weeks."
Some say his insistence on quality, regardless whether he could afford it, contributed to his financial woes. But few people had a better right to declare "I Did It My Way," his favorite song.
"He was extremely well-known no matter where we went," said his daughter, Tina Roberts, mayor of Lynnwood. "Even in the past few years when he wasn't so active, people remembered him, his restaurants and his shows."
Other survivors include a son, Jock Julian of Lynnwood, and stepson, Kurt Thompson of Kent. His daughter Leslie McGovern died in 1994. At his request, no services will be held. A party may be held later.
Memorials may go to American Heart Association, 4414 Woodland Park Ave. N., Seattle WA, 98103; or to the University of Washington Medical Center, for cancer research, 1959 N.E. Pacific St., Seattle, WA 98195.