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The Last Good Time is a richly layered epic that brings to life a fascinating place, its politics, people, and culture, through the portrait of one of Atlantic City’s most famous families—the powerful, flamboyant, and ultimately tragic D’Amatos. Paul “Skinny” D’Amato created and presided over the 500 Club, the celebrated supper club that entertained thousands of Americans and helped guide the careers of the great Rat Pack performers—Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra. Skinny was at the center of it all, hovering behind the scenes during the zenith of one of the world’s most notorious playgrounds.
Veteran magazine writer Jonathan Van Meter captures the volatile history of twentieth-century Atlantic City—from the days of Prohibition and smoky speakeasies to the city’s heyday of imported Hollywood glamour and glitz after World War II; from the near demise of the resort in the 1970s to the city’s current era of legal “gaming” and dazzling high-tech hotel/casinos.
Skinny D’Amato avoided the public eye whenever possible, though he was perhaps the most important person in the history of Atlantic City, where his nightclub served as the ultimate backroom for the big players of entertainment, politics, sports, and the Mob. Skinny is rarely acknowledged as part of the Rat Pack, but he was at the center of its creation, its mentor. It was Skinny who taught Sinatra how to hold a cigarette, tip big, be cool. He paired Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin for the first time at his 500 Club, and on any given night back in the 1950s and 1960s, you’d find Elizabeth Taylor, Toots Shor, the Gabor sisters, Joe DiMaggio, Milton Berle, Liberace, Grace Kelly, Nat King Cole, and just about every big player in the underworld hanging out by the bar or in the back rooms. Skinny was a link between politicians—including John F. Kennedy—entertainers, and the Mob and was the subject of constant surveillance by the FBI and tax investigators. Whether he was in the Mob or not, Skinny was the ultimate connected guy, a gentleman’s gentleman, a passionate gambler who had a special touch that brought bigpeople together so that they could have a good time.
As Van Meter evokes the ever-evolving landscape of Atlantic City, he shows us how the D’Amato family, like other larger-than-life American families during the last century, experienced a changing wheel of fortune, seeing great moments of wealth, power, and personal attainment, as well as all manner of human tragedy. In the space of a few years, Skinny’s beloved wife, Bettyjane, died of a brain aneurysm at a relatively young age; the 500 Club burned to the ground; and, perhaps most devastating of all, his son, Angelo, was convicted of brutally murdering two people. With the last of the good times behind him, Skinny retreated to his Ventnor, New Jersey, mansion, taking his card game with him, emerging to see his Rat Pack friends, and, in the process, becoming a living symbol of how cool it all was once upon a time in America.
Van Meter expertly renders one of the great untold tales of modern America, a character portrait of both an extraordinary time and place, and the Zelig-like man who hovered over it all. The Last Good Time is a classic tale of the whiskey-soaked dark side of America’s mid-century popular culture.
From the Hardcover edition.
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“With The Last Good Time, Jonathan Van Meter has done for Atlantic City what John Berendt did for Savannah in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Far from just a juicy history of Atlantic City—although it is that as well—Van Meter has crafted a masterful and eminently readable tale of a fascinating time and place. Through his portrait of Paul ‘Skinny’ D’Amato and the 500 Club, Van Meter sheds new light on American icons we thought we already knew all about—Sinatra, JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis—and captures that incredible period where entertainers, politicians, sports heroes, and mobsters could all gather at the same club and have a drink together.”—Gay Talese
“Jonathan Van Meter has written an engrossing history of a how a time and a place and a man and a family intersected to make a New Jersey sand spit the dead center of what was in its period America’s most irresistible illicit glamour—a world where everyone knew Frank and Dean and The Yankee Clipper and all the pretty women wanted to be Conover models.”—Joan Didion
“The Last Good Time is a great read! Was Skinny D’Amato in the mob or on its periphery? Good question, but it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that Jonathan Van Meter has brought to life a man who was at the center of a period that saw mobsters, politicians, entertainers, businessmen, casino operators and sports stars all converge at Skinny D’Amato’s 500 Club. For guys and dolls of every stripe it was probably the last good time, and Van Meter captures it perfectly.”—Nicholas Pileggi, author of Wiseguy and Casino
Jonathan Van Meter has written for Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Esquire, New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. He lives in New York City.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Book Description Three Rivers Press, 2003. Soft cover. Condition: New. NEW. Seller Inventory # 17MARBH3002
Book Description Three Rivers Press, 2003. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1400052971
Book Description Three Rivers Press, 2003. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111400052971
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # STRM-1400052971