At the present time the Atlantic City night club scene is centered on the casinos, but it was not always that way. In the early days, from the 1930s to the 1960s, when Atlantic City was the playground of the world there were numerous clubs that provided entertainment, and more, for visitors. Three of the better known were the 500 Club, Club Harlem and Babette's.
500 Club Atlantic City Poster
During the 1940s and 1960s the 500 Club was run br Paul "skinny D'Amato", who got control of the club when it's previous owner, Phil Barr died. The club featured live music and stage shows and some back room action.
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis who had an act that they performed in NY, appeared at the 500 Club but were initially poorly received. When they started adding more slapstick stuff to their act the audiences loved it, so they clowned it up even more and became a huge success.
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis carried the routines that they developed at the 500 Club on to both television and film and they became stars.
Skinny D'Amato gave Frank Sinatra some help when he was first starting out. Afterward, when Frank became famous he often went back to Atlantic City to perform at Skinny's 500 Club, where he usually appeared before a packed house. He was often accompanied by some of his rat pack, including Sammy Davis Jr., whos mother, tended bar at the nearby Graces' Little Belmont.
In those years the 500 Club drew a crowd, not only for the club's shows, but also for
the gambling that went on in the back rooms.
The 500 Club was located at 6 Missouri Avenue. It burned down in 1973.
You can find out more about the 500 Club and Skinny D'Amato from the book described below.
Link to: Amazon.com
A richly layered epic, The Last Good Time brings to life a fascinating place and its politics, people, and culture, through the portrait of one of Atlantic City's most famous families - the powerful, flamboyant, sometimes lethal D'Amatos.
Paul "Skinny" D'Amato created and presided over the 500 Club that served as the ultimate back room for some of the great Rat Pack performers - Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra - as well as other big players in entertainment, politics, sports, and the mob. The Last Good Time is a classic tale of the whiskey-soaked dark side of midcentury American Popular culture.
Club Harlem Stage
Club Harlem, located at 32 N. Kentucky Avenue, between Artic and Atlantic Avenues, was the premier nightclub for black tourists visiting
Atlantic City. Many of the most famous black entertainers of those times showed up and played there including Dick Gregory,
Dinah Washington, Bootsie Barnes, Gladys Knight and Teddy Pendegrass. Crazy Chris Columbo led the orchestra there, and numerous black musicians developed their skills
at the club including trumpeter Hot Lips Page and organist Wild Bill Davis. Jazz musician Lonie Smith recorded his album
Your Hand" there.
Club Harlem had matinees, nighttime shows, late night shows and breakfast shows featuring some of the best musicians in the country. In those days there were numerous bars and clubs in various sections of Atlantic City. When these clubs closed for the night, some of their employees and performers would show up for the Harlem Club's breakfast show. Sammy Davis Jr. would sometimes bring his rat pack friends.
The good days didn't last. As business declined in Atlantic City in the 60s
and 70s, business at the Club Harlem declined as well. The club was closed in 1986 and torn down in 1992.
Photo Credits: Club Harlem photos from Atlantic City Free Public Library's Heston collection.
The Bar at Babette's
Photo credit - Colletion of
Vicki Gold Levi
Babette's owned by Daniel Stebbins was initially called the Golden Inn, however he changed its name to Babette's after he married Blanche Babbett, a showgirl.
Babette's had a bar shaped like a ship and catered to a high class guests who often dressed in their finest.
Guests could also find some action at Babette's backroom
Babette's was located at 2211 Pacific Avenue.