"What is amazing about Sinatra's appearances at the 500 is that he performed
free of charge, doing as many as four shows a night. Skinny D'Amato says that
it was because Frank loved him "like a brother," but then Skinny seemed to
feel that way about everybody he knew. And he acknowledged with pride that
he knew all the important politicians in New Jersey, and every Mafia boss
in the country.
The 500 was built by Marco Reginelli, underboss of the Philadelphia family,
who lived and operated out of Camden, NJ. His successor, Angelo Bruno, also
loved "Skinny" like a brother. "Skinny" was so proud of his new boss and partner
that he named his only son Angelo. Through the years, Skinny turned the Five,
as the club was known to its devotees, into a local institution and had himself
crowned, "Mr. Atlantic City".
In the late 1930's Skinny had done a stretch in Lewisburg after being convicted
as a "white slaver", and was still there, in fact, when another brotherly
friend, Nucky Johnson, arrived at the federal pen to serve his time.
It was after Skinny's release from prison that Reginelli picked him to front
the Five. Skinny put the club on the map and made millions for his friends.
According to Skinny, his managerial abilities so impressed another close
friend, Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana, that was when Giancana and Sinatra
bought into the Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe they picked Skinny to manage
the place. But that was short-lived. Sinatra who was blacklisted in Nevada,
came to visit his sweetheart, singer Phyllis McGuire, who with her two sisters
was headlining the Cal-Neva showroom.
"In recalling that event, Skinny told me that he and Sinatra had advised
Giancana not to come. We died when we saw him drive up. But he was in love,
what are you going to do?"
During the 1960 presidential campaign, Giancana sent Skinny D'Amato to West
Virginia to get votes for Jack Kennedy. He was to use his influence with the
sheriffs who controlled the political machine of that state. Most of them
had been customers at his 500 Club, and according to Skinny, "loved him like
a brother." Whether he helped turn the tide for Kennedy in that crucial primary
state is not as important as the fact that Giancana sent him there on Kennedy's