Tootsie Van Kelly passes away

Posted in the Grand Rapids Forum

Since: Mar 07

White Cloud, MI

#1 Oct 16, 2007
Tootsie Van Kelly died yesterday at the age of 78.

From 1981 until 1994, she entertained crowds at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel saloon that was called "Tootsie's". It is now the home to the sports-themed, GP Sports.

If you have any memories or stories to share about visiting Tootsie's, post them here!
Prayers from Houston

Houston, TX

#2 Oct 16, 2007
BIG MAMA truly was an original. No one compares to Tootsie's voice or compassion towards others. Every time I hear "When You're Good to Mama" I hear Tootsies voice and remember those GOOD times at Tootsie Van Kelly's. Queen Latifa had some big shoes to fill on screen and did us right in Chicago. Though there were others before her, Tootsie will always be my original BIG MAMA. MAMA, you did us right. My tenure at Tootsie Van Kelly's in the eighties was made possible by your generosity. The world and I will miss you, but will never forget you, your voice and your genuine concern for us “kids”. Thoughts and prayers from Houston:

Since: Sep 07

Location hidden

#3 Oct 16, 2007
I too remember Tootsie! I just adored her! Many a Friday night we spent after work, scrambling to get a seat at the end of her run-way ... she was so good with people!

God Bless, Tootsie!
katie in grand rapids

Grand Rapids, MI

#4 Oct 16, 2007
I do not remember Tootsie, but I do remember my mother taking me there for Sunday Funday and dancing and singing with all the other kids, we had so much fun! My blessings go out to her family.
Kara in Jenison

Grandville, MI

#5 Oct 16, 2007
During the years of 1981-1984, I remember the first Celebrations on the Grands that Tootsie would sing at. I was sure to arrive at the Ford Museums grounds early in the afternoon the day of the start of the Celebration to assure I would be right in front. Tootsie will be beside such singers as Kate Smith and Patsy Cline in my eyes. She will be sadly missed by many, remembered by many more and thought of daily.
Lyle from Big rapids

Big Rapids, MI

#6 Oct 16, 2007
So many wonderful memories of evenings at Tootsie's. Tootsie was a great entertainer she knew how to please a crowd.
One of my favorite visits was on a New Years Day Evening a small crowd and most of us staying at the Amway. She spent a lot of time off the runway down with the crowd, and pretty much took requests from us. At one point she indicated "let's do New Years Eve over again" we formed a circle singing New York New York, and at the end we gave out New Years kisses to those on either side of us.
tim jerry


#7 Oct 16, 2007
she was a great singer. iloved her music and i loved her voice god bless you and your family.
megan anderson


#8 Oct 16, 2007
I too remember Tootsie! I just adored her! Many a Friday night we spent after work, scrambling to get a seat at the end of her run-way ... she was so good with people!

Raleigh, NC

#10 Oct 16, 2007
Well, that's too bad, I was never there either, just remember the stories...

Fort Myers, FL

#11 Oct 17, 2007
I remember going to Tootsies as child and listening to her. One of my favorite memories was being able to throw the peanut shells on the floor.

That place is missed and so will Tootsie herself.

Grand Rapids, MI

#12 Oct 18, 2007
I remember hearing Tootsie when I was a student at Calvin. Her shows were so much for a (then) naieve kid like me. It felt like I had moved to a "big city" to hear her naughty shows. I have missed Tootsie so much since the closing of her bistro -- now I will miss her even more.

Keep singing Tootsie!

United States

#13 Oct 19, 2007
Tootsie was an amazing woman who taught me a lot about all sorts of things. She taught me the finer skills of euchre and some pretty funny jokes. Growing up she was one of my idols and every time I had the chance to spend time at Tootsies is a memory I won't ever forget. Peanuts on the floor, the Hollywood style dressing room, her big boa...those were great times. An honored moment was joining her on the Tootsie Trolley as it traveled up an down busy streets while she sang for everyone.

Tootsie, you will be greatly missed.

Holland, MI

#14 Nov 19, 2009
it has been 2 years since tootsie has died and she is stilled missed for her talent but most for her personality......she had a huge personality that has been missed by many and all. As she always liked to say "everyone dance" lets all dance

Grand Rapids, MI

#15 Nov 23, 2009
yeah, the old town's never been the same. at least she didn't pretend to be other than who she was.
nxt2 famous

Garden City, MI

#16 Mar 11, 2010
yea lol i was her grand daughter

Grand Rapids, MI

#17 Mar 11, 2010
She sure was a unique talent, and what fun was had by all!

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