Queen of Resorts. America’s Favorite Playground. Always Turned On. Do AC. All slogans that describe Atlantic City perfectly, with its long history of entertainment, Atlantic City has hosted a wide variety of entertainment from its theaters, piers, and nightclubs.
One such entertainment venue was Ben Coty’s Dude Ranch located on the corner of Boardwalk and Connecticut Ave. It was open in the 1940s and 1950s and offered a country-western style theme. Unheard of in a shore town, it had a very large dance floor and bar where the guests would have rocking horse races using actual wooden rocking horses.
Founded in 1935 by Leroy “Pop” Williams, Club Harlem was the city’s premier club for black entertainers. Located on Kentucky Avenue, the club featured an all-black revue called Smart Affairs, produced by Larry Steele. Entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr., Damita Jo, Louis Armstrong and his orchestra, Ray Charles, Hal Frazier, Gladys Knight, Teddy Pendergrass, and many other performers played there throughout the club’s history. Drummer Chris Columbo conducted the club orchestra for more than 34 years.
Another famous club in the city was the 500 club. Owned by Paul "Skinny" D'Amato, it was one of the most famous clubs on the East Coast. The club featured such entertainers as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jimmy Durante Eartha Kitt, Nat King Cole, and Liberace, among many others. It had celebrity handprints outside of the club. The club was open for over 40 years before it closed in 1973.
In answer to the Miss America Pageant's discrimination against minorities until the late 1960s, the Miss Black America Pageant began at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Atlantic City in 1968. Another event, the Miss’d America Pageant, is a lighthearted affair for drag queens.
Known as a “Tryout Town,” Atlantic City would often host premieres of events - from movies to revues to plays bound for Broadway. Vacationing crowds in the summer would have the chance to see these first and the performers and their backers would test out the show to see how it played to the audiences. A 1924 production of The Student Prince included 150 cast members. Individuals who got their big break performing in Atlantic City were: W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Martha Ray, Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, and Billy Daniels.
Who Have You Seen?
From the smooth smooth stylings of Frank Sinatra to the rhythmic music of Pedro Albani and his Rio Rumba Band to the popular musicians of today, Atlantic City’s concert venues have hosted tens of thousands of events. Which performers have you seen in Atlantic City?