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Museum of Gaming History An Educational Project of The Casino Chip & Gaming Token Collectors Club, Inc. An IRS approved 501 (c) (3) Tax Exempt Not-For-Profit Corporation
Dedicated to the preservation and education of Gaming History
Atlantic City Newsletter by Archie Black, March, 2000
The 500 Club - Part 2
The following is taken from "The Boardwalk Jungle" by Ovid Demaris, (1986).
"With Nucky Johnson behind bars, Hap Farley lost little time in establishing
himself as the boss of Atlantic County. Besides being a Senator, Chairman
of Atlantic County's Republican Committee, and a practicing attorney, Farley
appointed himself county treasurer. This not only gave him control of the
purse string, but made it clear to county employees who was signing their
paychecks and to welfare recipients who was responsible for their checks....
and he let the judges know who was boss. Once a month, he had his nephew
deliver their paychecks."
"If anything, vice operations became more rampant under Farley's reign.
He made sure the police were underpaid so that vice payoffs would be more
palatable. And to make sure the police understood their role, Farley demanded
that they sign "loyalty oaths" to the Organization, as his Republican Club
was called. So when Farley or one of his flunkiies told a cop to lay off
a vice operator, he laid off, or else."
By 1951 the stench of vice in Atlantic City was so ripe that U.S. Senator
Estes Kefauver decided to bring his Crime Committee to Atlantic City. Kefauver
would later write in his report: "When this committee moved into Atlantic
Ctiy at the height of its tourist season, numbers runners and bookies ran
for cover and a storm of protests arose from the politicians and racketeers".
Among the conclusions reached by the committee was that Farley was head of
the city's rackets, that the Republican party assessed members of the police
force $30 a year, that the police department showed "signs of deliberate laxity"
and could never find any gamblers to prosecute, despite the fact that about
200 bookmakers were operating there.
Like all political bosses, Farley had a lot of pals. One of them was Public
Safety Commissioner Mario Floriani, head of the Fourth Ward Italian American
Club. A strong supporter of Floriani was Paul "Skinny" D'Amato, who never
had any problem running prositiution and gambling in the 500 Club which he
fronted for a succession of Mafia bosses. The 500 was a hangout for Mafiosi
and politicians. That is where many of the deals were cut while Skinny acted
as genial impresario.
Not all entertainment in Atlantic City was on the Boardwalk. What kept the
city going in the fifties and early sixties was the side avenue nightclubs
that offered top entertainment.
The Club Harlem, with Larry Steele's high-kicking chorus line, featured black
stars (that were mentioned in Part 1). Graces' Little Belmont featured organist
Wild Bill Davis and his jazz trio, and Le Bistro booked Jack Jones, Belle
Barth, Vic Damone, Jackie Mason, and a young comic named Lenny Bruce.
But the 500 Club, only 50 yards from Le Bistro, became the "Big Daddy" of
them all after Sknny took over in the early forties. Its showroom was gradually
expanded until it seated a thousand people, and his backroom house a plush
casino. At one time or another the lineup included all the top headliners
on the nightclub circuit from Sophie Tucker to Patti Page, from Jimmy Durante
to Joe E. Lewis and Jackie Leonard. Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin teamed up
for the very first time at the 500 Club back in 1946. But the biggest draw
ever at the 500 was Frank Sinatra, whose five engagements over a period of
a half-dozen years literally became historical events."
The photos are of "Paul "Skinny" D'Amato and his pals who played his 500
club helped make Atlantic City the swingingest spot south of Manhattan in
the 40's and 50's". "Skinny" is pictured with Jimmy Durante and Donald O'Connor
in top photo and with Sammy Davis, Jr. in the bottom scan.
To Be Continued in.......
"When the chips are down, you can bet "Mr. Chips" will be there to pick