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Peppermint Twist: The Mob, the Music, and the Most Famous Dance Club of the '60s

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The never-before-told story of The Peppermint Lounge, the famed Manhattan nightspot and mobster hangout that launched an era The Peppermint Lounge was intended to be nothing more than a front for gambling and other rackets but the club became a sensation after Dick "Cami" Camillucci began to feature a new kind of music, rock and roll. The mobsters running the place found th The never-before-told story of The Peppermint Lounge, the famed Manhattan nightspot and mobster hangout that launched an era The Peppermint Lounge was intended to be nothing more than a front for gambling and other rackets but the club became a sensation after Dick "Cami" Camillucci began to feature a new kind of music, rock and roll. The mobsters running the place found themselves juggling rebellious youths alongside celebrities like Greta Garbo and Shirley MacLaine. When The Beatles visited the club, Cami's uncle-in-law had to restrain a hitman who was after Ringo because his girlfriend was so infatuated with the drummer. Working with Dick Cami himself, Johnson and Selvin unveil this engrossing story of the go-go sixties and the club that inspired the classic hits "Twisting the Night Away" and "The Peppermint Twist."


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The never-before-told story of The Peppermint Lounge, the famed Manhattan nightspot and mobster hangout that launched an era The Peppermint Lounge was intended to be nothing more than a front for gambling and other rackets but the club became a sensation after Dick "Cami" Camillucci began to feature a new kind of music, rock and roll. The mobsters running the place found th The never-before-told story of The Peppermint Lounge, the famed Manhattan nightspot and mobster hangout that launched an era The Peppermint Lounge was intended to be nothing more than a front for gambling and other rackets but the club became a sensation after Dick "Cami" Camillucci began to feature a new kind of music, rock and roll. The mobsters running the place found themselves juggling rebellious youths alongside celebrities like Greta Garbo and Shirley MacLaine. When The Beatles visited the club, Cami's uncle-in-law had to restrain a hitman who was after Ringo because his girlfriend was so infatuated with the drummer. Working with Dick Cami himself, Johnson and Selvin unveil this engrossing story of the go-go sixties and the club that inspired the classic hits "Twisting the Night Away" and "The Peppermint Twist."

30 review for Peppermint Twist: The Mob, the Music, and the Most Famous Dance Club of the '60s

  1. 4 out of 5

    Still

    Breezy, anecdotal account of the mob's activities with late 50s-early 60s rock & roll by Dick Cami as told to John Johnson, Jr and Joel Selvin. I found this a compelling, page-turner of a read. Lots of background stories on well known mobsters dating from the Prohibition Days to the era of the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce under the direction of Senator Estes Kefauver. The names of music legends and pop culture icons are peppered alongside the na Breezy, anecdotal account of the mob's activities with late 50s-early 60s rock & roll by Dick Cami as told to John Johnson, Jr and Joel Selvin. I found this a compelling, page-turner of a read. Lots of background stories on well known mobsters dating from the Prohibition Days to the era of the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce under the direction of Senator Estes Kefauver. The names of music legends and pop culture icons are peppered alongside the names and criminal exploits of made guys like Morris Levy, Syd Nathan, Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, Franco Trafficante, Joe Valachi, and so many other well known post World War II mobsters. The notion of so many high-riding celebrities from various entertainment genres rubbing shoulders with the super-stars of organized crime is titillating and makes for delightful low-brow slumming. Unforgettable and entertaining. Outrageously funny. Highest Recommendation!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Harold

    Two in a row by Selvin. Both of them great. The review I wrote for "Here Comes The Night" could serve for my review here. New York City, Miami, the music business, nightclubs, wiseguys - what more could you ask for? Totally my cup of tea. This book goes into the activities of John Biello and his son in law, Dick Cami, and their involvement running nightclubs. Biello, a known racketeer, has to keep his involvement clandestine. Like many guys who are caught up in the mob from an early age, Biello y Two in a row by Selvin. Both of them great. The review I wrote for "Here Comes The Night" could serve for my review here. New York City, Miami, the music business, nightclubs, wiseguys - what more could you ask for? Totally my cup of tea. This book goes into the activities of John Biello and his son in law, Dick Cami, and their involvement running nightclubs. Biello, a known racketeer, has to keep his involvement clandestine. Like many guys who are caught up in the mob from an early age, Biello yearns for legitimacy - to get away from the treacherous rat race that mob life is. It's not easy to do - and that is the sad part of this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm Frawley

    A most enjoyable tour through the somewhat accidental history of one of the most successful pop venues in history. Intertwined with Chubby Checker, Sam Cooke, The Ronettes, & even Nat King Cole, is the fortuitous, but dangerous, ties the club had to the mob. The book also shines a harsh light on the period before, during & after segregation. The New York venue was something of a melting pot but its Miami version was still subject to the Jim Crow laws of the south. Black artists could perform on A most enjoyable tour through the somewhat accidental history of one of the most successful pop venues in history. Intertwined with Chubby Checker, Sam Cooke, The Ronettes, & even Nat King Cole, is the fortuitous, but dangerous, ties the club had to the mob. The book also shines a harsh light on the period before, during & after segregation. The New York venue was something of a melting pot but its Miami version was still subject to the Jim Crow laws of the south. Black artists could perform on the stage, but they could not be served at a table. The characters, from the pop singers through to the wise guys, are brought to life very effectively. Recommended for music, true crime, & modern history fans.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carl R.

    Joel Selvin and I go back. Way back to the mid-sixties when I failed him in English at Berkeley High School. Selvin deserved the “F,” but the world did nothing to deserve the wonderful writing career he went on to pioneer for himself as pop music writer for the SF Chronicle (and the world). His entertaining and insightful commentary has made one of the richest periods of popular music innovation in world history even richer than listening and dancing to the likes of Elvis, the Beatles, and all t Joel Selvin and I go back. Way back to the mid-sixties when I failed him in English at Berkeley High School. Selvin deserved the “F,” but the world did nothing to deserve the wonderful writing career he went on to pioneer for himself as pop music writer for the SF Chronicle (and the world). His entertaining and insightful commentary has made one of the richest periods of popular music innovation in world history even richer than listening and dancing to the likes of Elvis, the Beatles, and all the rest. JOEL SELVIN In past works he’s traced the racial and cultural fault lines of the industry, explored the influence of drugs on both performers and audiences, and helped define the dynamics of all the energy fields pulsing through the society during some its most tumultuous eras. In Peppermint Twist, Selvin and his co-author John Johnson, Jr. have taken on the task of illuminating not only a significant piece of the rock ‘n’ roll story but as the subtitle vividly proclaims–The Mob, the Music, and the most FAMOUS dance club of the ’60′s. So, in this book we’ve returned to the era during which Joel earned his “F,” but under much happier circumstances. At first glance, you might think this is a book for oldsters who could develop severe spinal problems from trying to execute the dance we loved back in the day. (In fact, chiropractors were among the greatest critics, and perhaps among the greatest financial benefactors, of the craze.) You’d be way wrong. Why? The mobster component. The heart of the tale is told, through Selvin and Johnson, by one Dick Cami, son-in-law to Mafia Capo John Biello, and the narrative is not only about the club, but about the wise guy ties to it, and by extension to the entire music industry. The original Peppermint Lounge, a hole-in-the wall off Times Square in the days before it was scrubbed into a theme park, was a rock club financed by the aforementioned gangster, Biello, who needed another place to park some cash and generate more. The music and club business were naturals for the mob–lots of free-flowing cash, hard to trace. And then there was the star struck thing as well. By an improbable series of events, the peppermint became ground zero for the Twist Explosion. An A-D list of celebrities and ordinary rocksters lined up 4-deep on the sidewalk every night for the chance to gyrate on the teensy dance floor and experience the latest melodies and beats. Before it was over, the name and the music had generated dozens of hits and a series of bands and knock-off Peppermint Clubs (No one bothered to copyright the name.) from NYC to Miami to Hollywood. Dick Cami, who had been an aspiring music producer and manager since his teens became the impresario who discovered and promoted the acts and managed both the New York and the Miami “Franchises,” and The Peppermint Twist is ultimately his story. He knew the wise guys, and he has a string of anecdotes longer than a hit man’s rap sheet. JOHN JOHNSON, JR Combine Cami’s stories with what Johnson and Selvin gleaned from FBI agents (Biello was under constant surveillance for years before his (unsolved) assassination.), from wives and other family members, and from the entertainers themselves and you have a blockbuster tale that’s true history, with emphasis on the “story” part of the word. Perhaps the authors occasionally exaggerate the impact of the twist on western civilization, but they certainly convinced me–one who lived through the era and partook often–that there was a lot more to this little dance than I ever imagined. Hell of a book, guys. If I could expunge the “F,” Joel, I’d do it, but with what you’ve accomplished since, why bother?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “Peppermint Twist” by John Johnson, Jr. and Joel Selvin with Dick Cami, published by Thomas Dunne Books. Category – Media Who hasn’t done “The Twist”, but how many of us know the whole story behind this dance craze? “Peppermint Twist” is a multifaceted story that not only gives the reader the true story of how this came about, did you know the song was written and first performed by Hank Ballard, did you know that the Mafia was heavily involved in the songs phenomenon? The “Peppermint Lounge” in New “Peppermint Twist” by John Johnson, Jr. and Joel Selvin with Dick Cami, published by Thomas Dunne Books. Category – Media Who hasn’t done “The Twist”, but how many of us know the whole story behind this dance craze? “Peppermint Twist” is a multifaceted story that not only gives the reader the true story of how this came about, did you know the song was written and first performed by Hank Ballard, did you know that the Mafia was heavily involved in the songs phenomenon? The “Peppermint Lounge” in New York was opened as a front for the Mafia so that they would have a place to transact business, in the back room, under the auspices of a legitimate business. The “Twist” became so popular that the nightclub had a waiting line that went around the block and had to be controlled by several police cars and mounted patrols – not exactly what the Mafia was looking for. The story also is about the many acts that got their start or obtained notoriety by playing the “Peppermint Lounge”. It also took the “Twist” from a strictly teenage dance to one that crossed all social classes, including the President of the United States. The lounge which opened in 1958 lasted until 1986, an unbelievable run for an enterprise of this sort. The story transcends just the lounge but delves into the philosophical and psychological aspects of not only the dance itself but the people, mobsters, patrons, and entertainers, who became a part of its history.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mickey McIntosh

    The Peppermint Twist was the night spot to go in the 60's. Everybody from teenagers to celebrities to politicians stopped in. Unbeknownst the the patrons, the club was a front for the mafia. This book tells the story of the mob's story of being the club, and the whole twist craze. This is an excellent read for those who like mafia stories, true crime, music or 1960's culture. Joel Selvin is a fantastic music writer, and here he pulls off another winner. Strongly recommended. The Peppermint Twist was the night spot to go in the 60's. Everybody from teenagers to celebrities to politicians stopped in. Unbeknownst the the patrons, the club was a front for the mafia. This book tells the story of the mob's story of being the club, and the whole twist craze. This is an excellent read for those who like mafia stories, true crime, music or 1960's culture. Joel Selvin is a fantastic music writer, and here he pulls off another winner. Strongly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This book primarily recounts the stories of co-author Dick Cami, whose mobster father-in-law owned the original Peppermint Lounge. The book mixes some relevant mob history with Cami's anecdotes about running both the original New York City and subsequent Miami locations of the club. The big flaw is that the mob and music stories don't fully cohere. The fact that the Peppermint became a trendy early rock club was fortuitous, and insofar as the mob was involved, well, it was concurrent rather real This book primarily recounts the stories of co-author Dick Cami, whose mobster father-in-law owned the original Peppermint Lounge. The book mixes some relevant mob history with Cami's anecdotes about running both the original New York City and subsequent Miami locations of the club. The big flaw is that the mob and music stories don't fully cohere. The fact that the Peppermint became a trendy early rock club was fortuitous, and insofar as the mob was involved, well, it was concurrent rather really intertwined. The first half of the book just doesn't blend the ingredients as well as it could. It gets better once the action moves to Miami. The Miami Peppermint was more of a rock venue, and Cami has plenty of good stories. The mob stuff is a bit more in the background and the balance is better. I'm glad I stuck it out, but I think a book that was more of Cami's first person account might have been more enjoyable. I appreciate the authors' diligence in scouring FBI files and such, but I think they felt too strongly that the research had to wind up on the page. A decent book, but it could have been better.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    This was a fairly enjoyable read that discussed the Mob involvement in '60s pop culture. One of the biggest dance clubs of them all was the Peppermint Lounge, first in New York City and then a second club in Miami Beach. I had no idea that the Mob influence ran so deep in some of these clubs and restaurants, so that was an eye opener. The Peppermint Lounge in NYC was the birthplace of the Twist, the dance craze that swept the nation and then flamed out quickly as the world moved on to other thin This was a fairly enjoyable read that discussed the Mob involvement in '60s pop culture. One of the biggest dance clubs of them all was the Peppermint Lounge, first in New York City and then a second club in Miami Beach. I had no idea that the Mob influence ran so deep in some of these clubs and restaurants, so that was an eye opener. The Peppermint Lounge in NYC was the birthplace of the Twist, the dance craze that swept the nation and then flamed out quickly as the world moved on to other things. The book rambled quite a bit, with a lot of information and personal anecdotes that seemed extraneous to the story. It ended with a rather sad interview with Chubby Checker, who likes to refer to himself in the third person and seems to think that a statue of Chubby Checker should be erected in the entrance plaza at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because he's a better representative than Elvis. Bitter much, Chubs? I enjoyed the read, but can't really recommend it to anyone who isn't a fan of '60s pop culture and/or fascinated by the Mob.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sallee

    I was excited to read this as being a "baby boomer", I grew up in the era of the Twist. I can remember going to dances in the 8th and 9th grade and remember when the Twist was the thing and anyone could do it with thier own brand of gyrations. Therefore, I was a little disapointed to find it was not quite what I thought. It was interesting but it was more about the Mafia and thier actions in the restaurant and nightclub scene and less about the actual music and performers. That said, since I al I was excited to read this as being a "baby boomer", I grew up in the era of the Twist. I can remember going to dances in the 8th and 9th grade and remember when the Twist was the thing and anyone could do it with thier own brand of gyrations. Therefore, I was a little disapointed to find it was not quite what I thought. It was interesting but it was more about the Mafia and thier actions in the restaurant and nightclub scene and less about the actual music and performers. That said, since I also like reading about gansters ala La Cosa Nostra it was still enough to keep me interested. I loved the pictures and the inside information about showbiz personalities like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and Chubby Checker.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Peppermint Twist is a great biography of a New York City Institution and the mobsters who created it. A lot of the ties to the music business that the mafia was rumored to have back in the 1960s are covered in this interesting history of the Peppermint Lounge. If you read this book, let me recommend watching the movie Hey Let's Twist (1961), which is covered in the book and was shot (although I think it was just exterior shots) in the Peppermint Lounge. If three of your favorite subjects are New Y Peppermint Twist is a great biography of a New York City Institution and the mobsters who created it. A lot of the ties to the music business that the mafia was rumored to have back in the 1960s are covered in this interesting history of the Peppermint Lounge. If you read this book, let me recommend watching the movie Hey Let's Twist (1961), which is covered in the book and was shot (although I think it was just exterior shots) in the Peppermint Lounge. If three of your favorite subjects are New York City history, the mob and music this book is a must. If even one of those subjects is of interest, you'll find enough of it to make reading Peppermint Twist enjoyable.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Should have been much better given the subject matter. It gets bogged down in a NJ/NY crime family history in an early chapter and never quite recovers. Too bad, because there are some great stories here about what happens when the power of fame and celebrity intersects with organized crime muscle, about the social and cultural changes wrought by the popularization of the Twist, and about the history of the song itself.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Terrific read A funny, informative look at the Twist and the Peppermint Lounge. It shows how much the Mafia infiltrated the entertainment business. Just a great read, no slow parts.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Janette

    It was interesting reading about the twist and the mob

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dy-an

    The title is a misnomer. I wanted more about the club itself.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    i really dug this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Goodreadsdennis

    Mobsters, Rock n' Roll history, Miami, Vegas, New York City and lot more to keep the story going. Mobsters, Rock n' Roll history, Miami, Vegas, New York City and lot more to keep the story going.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Otto

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dave

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chris Langdon

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rob S

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jim Tice

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mavis Mather

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Docherty

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Kane

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Hill

  28. 5 out of 5

    Baikinange

  29. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Detroit

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