Buffett served up the memories during gaming commission meeting

Jimmy Buffett had a chance to wax nostalgic about his first gig in Biloxi when he appeared before the Mississippi Gaming Commission meeting this week, and he even gave some insight into how he parlayed his carefree lifestyle into a Margaritaville brand that today has legions of fans supporting multiple ventures.

The latest, of course, is a casino project in Biloxi, where it all began.

His first playing opportunity, he says, was working for Jake Mladinich at Trader John’s on west beach, which was located due south of where Treasure Bay sits today. Mladinich is a colorful entrepreneur whose Biloxi empire once included apartments, and popular restaurants and nightclubs on west beach. Just the mention of his name Thursday drew muffled laughter among audience members.

Said a smiling Buffett to the crowd: “Oh, I see some of you know Jake.”

That first night at Trader John’s, Buffett said, he broke two strings on his guitar while performing. Mladinich said, you break another one and you’re fired.

I was nervous, Buffett recalled, and I asked him, well what do you want me to do?

LOOSEN ‘EM, he said.

And then, there’s Reed Guice, the Biloxi adman who was spied sharing a chuckle with Buffett after the gaming commission meeting at the Dr. Eldon Bolton State Office Building on Back Bay.

“People were asking me how I knew Jimmy Buffett,” Guice said. “We were both Kappa Sigs at Southern Miss, and our rooms were next door to each other. In fact, we shared the bathroom in between.

“It’s amazing how many people are impressed that I shared the same toilet with Jimmy Buffett.”

Guice enjoyed bumping elbows with Buffett this week: “It was good to see him. He’s the same old Jimmy. It looks like that music thing has worked out for him.”

Of course, the music is just part of the story for Buffett. His business partner, John Coghlan of Margaritaville Holdings, told commissioners that the 24 Margaritaville restaurants serve 10 million people a year. Another five million listen to Radio Margaritaville on Sirius satellite radio. The Margaritaville brand extends to clothing, eyeware, liquid concoctions, and packaged food, among other ventures. Buffett’s also a best-selling author, and years ago Fortune magazine put his earnings at $26 million.

And, he reminded the gaming commission audience, that it all started with the song, released in 1977 on an album, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” that, interestingly, also featured Buffett’s remake of a 1966 Jesse Winchester tune called “Biloxi.”

We were walking down a sidewalk in Key West one day, Buffett said Thursday, and there was someone selling T-shirts that said ‘Jimmy Buffet.’ Now I know all of you in Biloxi know what a buffet is. And I figured, we ought to be doing this. At least I can spell my name right.

News and notes

Weekend preview: Spring break is in town this weekend, Keith Sweat is at Hard Rock, Lord of the Dance is at the Beau, and Center Stage presents the comedy “Wild Oats.” For details on these events and others, click here.

Webcasting: Speaking of spring break, Police Chief John Miller has tips for the motoring public in this week’s City Desk webcast. To hear the latest news from City Hall along with Miller’s advice, click here. To see the Code of Conduct that Chief Miller referred to in the webcast, click here.

Old Brick House: A crowd of about 200 or so people turned out Thursday evening for the ceremony to formally re-open the Old Brick House. To see photos of the ceremony and many of the folks who were there, click here.

City Council: The Biloxi City Council’s next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, April 19 at 1:30 p.m.

A Biloxi Buffett: That’s a verse of Jimmy Buffett’s “Biloxi” that’s been greeting visitors to the Biloxi web site since noon yesterday. The clip goes away today at 5 o’clock — 5 o’clock in Biloxi that is, because, as you know, it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere.