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The Last Good Time: Skinny D'Amato, the Notorious 500 Club, and the Rise and Fall of Atlantic City Paperback – June 22, 2003


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Paperback, June 22, 2003
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (June 22, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400052971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400052974
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,525,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Van Meter delivers a wonderful narrative-a biography, really-of one of the most controversial cities in the U.S., the nightclub and gambling mecca of Atlantic City. Beginning with the city's founding in the 1850s as a resort for Philadelphians, Van Meter reconstructs the foundation of greed, corruption, crime and, most important, entertainment on which Atlantic City was built. All the characters are there, including Atlantic City's first openly corrupt politician, Nucky Johnson. But entrepreneur Paul "Skinny" D'Amato gets most of Van Meter's attention. A grade-school dropout, D'Amato worked his way up from operator of a smalltime, illegal gambling den (the first legal casino opened in 1978) to owner and operator of the 500 Club, the soon-to-be world-famous nightclub and haven for mobsters. Van Meter carefully details how the charming and clever D'Amato and his 500 Club were the reason for the success of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, as well how they assisted Frank Sinatra to bounce back into the public eye. Van Meter expands the narrative to cover D'Amato's friendship with Sinatra and mob boss Sam Giancana and their involvement with the Cal-Neva Resort, as well as their collusion in helping get John F. Kennedy into office. Van Meter also convincingly argues that despite D'Amato's acquaintance with the likes of Giancana and Lucky Luciano, D'Amato himself was neither a member of nor beholden to the mob. If there is one fault with the book, it is that Van Meter, who writes for Vanity Fair, Vogue and Esquire, often relies on punchy, detail-laden magazine style. But this is a minor quibble in an otherwise riveting glimpse into the throbbing heart of Atlantic City.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From The New Yorker

The genial Atlantic City impresario Paul (Skinny) D'Amato makes frequent appearances in accounts of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack and of the postwar heyday of the Cosa Nostra. His famous 500 Club, a night club and illegal gambling den, was a favorite Sinatra hangout from the nineteen-forties onward, and his friendships with gangsters such as Sam Giancana and Angelo Bruno were a source of perennial fascination to the F.B.I. But, placed front and center, as he is in this book, D'Amato himself proves disappointing. He clearly had moxie, charm, and diplomacy, and yet, perhaps because of these very qualities, his character remains elusive. Van Meter is enthralled by Atlantic City lore, and is at his best when he uses Skinny as an excuse to explore Prohibition-era corruption under the flamboyant South Jersey fixer Nucky Johnson, or the maneuverings of casino entrepreneurs in the nineteen-seventies to legalize gambling. One wishes he had written a more general history, giving more time to D'Amato's equally colorful confederates.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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This was about the high times in Atlantic City and one of the most colorful characters of the that era.
The Pertster
The Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin/Marilyn Monore/ Mob connections drive the narrative and the reader gets caught up in their world.
Tom West
His subject, Skinny D'Amato was, by all accounts, a person destined to make his mark in the world...and he did!
DENISE DITRANI

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tom West on June 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
The new and the old Atlantic City!

A fast read from the days of the old Steel Pier right up to the Resort Casinos that line the Boardwalk today.

Van Meter starts this journey as he arrives in town to work at Atlantic City Magazine. He gets word about a "sale" at the home of the late Paul "Skinny" D'Amato, the owner of the famous "500 Club." This is 1986 and Atlantic City is now a gambling mecca.

Van Meter quickly becomes enthralled with D'Amato and the history of the city and figures he's a got a pretty good book on his hands. He's right!

The Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin/Marilyn Monore/ Mob connections drive the narrative and the reader gets caught up in their world. Van Meter keeps the pace with the rich and famous and their connection to D'Amato rolling along, and you get to go for the ride.

Damn good ride! All 296 pages of it. Recommended!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As often I am call "old school" it was new and refreshing for me to read of the old Atlantic City. I thought Jon Van Meter brought back to life a time that has been dead far too long. I would strongly recomend it to anyone who loves the golden area in American history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Van Meter's book is a COMPELLING story,
rich with Atlantic City history, about a man and
a time gone by. I am not old enough to have ex-
perienced that time, but Van Meter's words
catapulted me into an era that seemed thrilling.
I highly recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Patrick W. Crabtree TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is great reading!
It's a wonderful journey down the nostalgic road back to the endless antics and travels of The Rat Pack (Sinatra, Bishop, Lewis, Martin, Lawford, and Davis, Jr.). Also, you'll find lots of good history on Atlantic City, and, on Joe Dimagio, George Raft, Marilyn Monroe, and many other celebrity notables who lived "on the fringe."
You'll read all new stuff in here! Well-researched and a real page-turner. My highest recommendation to readers of all interest areas.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Maryjane Miller on August 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book does an excellent job of telling the "story" of Atlantic City (& Skinny D'Amato) in a fascinating way! Anyone interested in gambling, nightclubs and Atlantic City.."The Naughty Queen" quote taken from another book on Atlantic City..it's a must read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
From the beginning to the end this book is a page turner. The
history of Atlantic City is fasinating and it is an exciting journey through the lives of the D'Amato family and their celebrity friends (ie Sinatra, Di Maggio, Kennedy and Giancana). I recommend this book highly!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DJ Rix on December 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Friendly & largely unvarnished biography of a guy who loved Atlantic City more than the casino owners do. Skinny walked with ease among the high & the low, rich & poor. "That's Life" could be his theme song. Skinny used the 1946 success of Dean & Jerry at the 500 to help a down-&-out Frank & make a lifelong friend (Sinatra was wildly popular in A.C. when Hollywood treated him like a bum). Skinny kept a nightclub going at 6 South Missouri Ave. for thirty years. He was as mobbed up as you'd expect from someone running a gambling establishment behind a club in A.C., but nobody owned him. His biggest business & public relations mistake was getting involved in Sinatra's Cal-Neva mess with Sam Giancana. There were horrifying, tragic events in his family; Van Meter interviewed Skinny's son in a prison. The 500 burned down in 1973. Resorts International opened in 1978. Paul "Skinny" D'amato lived long enough after gambling became legal to see some evidence it would no more preserve the working class & ethnic neighborhoods of his hometown than his own high roller hotel room card games had. The casinos destroyed them. Pity, the D'amato family couldn't do something with the 500 Club name, license it to a casino as a lasting tribute to Atlantic City's most memorable host.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DENISE DITRANI on May 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Before there was legalized gambling, before there was a "Martin & Dean", before the Chairman of the Board did things his way, there was Paul "Skinny" D'Amato, the father of Atlantic City and owner of the 500 Club! Jonathan Van Meter certainly did his research for this amazing true tale of the creation of a city known as Atlantic in NJ. His subject, Skinny D'Amato was, by all accounts, a person destined to make his mark in the world...and he did! His story is captivating, filled with life's highs and lows and everything in between. The history of Atlantic City is seen through the eyes of those who lived there in the 40's, 50's, and 60's, providing the reader with a snapshot in time - one never to return, but certainly one to remember.
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