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"The days of nightclubs, cocktail lounges and musical bars are a thing of the past in Atlantic City . . .and probably will never return."
Between 1950 and the early 1970's, Atlantic City was filled with nightclubs, cocktail lounges, musical bars and small intimate jazz clubs. These nightspots catered to singles looking for a date . . .lovers spending an enjoyable evening listening to live entertainment and too music enthusiasts who just wanted to listen to good music and jazz. The many celebrities and jazz musicians that were working these venues or just visiting Atlantic City in those days all had one thing in common, they were all met and interviewed by Sonny Schwartz. Just by a mention in his column a performer could be 100% sure that he/she would play to a full house.
Sonny Schwartz was an award-winning columnist, author, and syndicated radio talk-show host. His entertainment variety sports nostalgia show is heard throughout the world and can also be reached via the internet. Born and educated in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Sonny began his journalistic career in the fourth-grade when he earned his first byline for the Atlantic City Press. He later became a sports correspondent for the same newspaper.During his many years working for the Atlantic City Press, he won numerous citations and awards for his writing and communication skills and volunteer efforts.  His columns for the newspaper ran from heartwarming humanistic stories about the surviving families of police, firefighters and rescue squad personnel killed in the line of duty to interviews with many top celebrities and aspiring young performers.
I was even mentioned in his column once, back in the early 1970's. After traveling with various bands across the United States,  and Canada. I decided to take some time off and work in the Philadelphia, and New Jersey area. I formed a jazz organ trio that featured Pete Marsico on drums, and young George Mesterhazy on organ and myself on tenor sax. While playing the Riverboat Lounge in Somers Point, NJ, I had called Sonny Schwartz. I had met him only once before back in the 1960's when I was working at the Hialeah Club on Atlantic Avenue with the "Virtues" who recorded the million seller hit song "Guitar Boogie Shuffle." I explained to him an idea I had. I wanted to resurrect the infamous "Battle of the Saxes." featuring four or five tenor saxes in the front line . . . swinging and houserockin' to many favorite jazz tunes reminiscent of "The Jazz at the Philharmonic"  concerts that were produced in the past by Norman Granz. My trio was currently booked at Tom Battles Marina Restaurant & Cafe which was located in the marina section of Atlantic City. This was a popular spot that sat 500 people comfortably.
The owner Tom Battles, was an old friend who always had an exceptional reputation as a restaurateur and was a force in city politics who also liked the idea and wanted to launch our first presentation. While the menu preparations were being planned and the bandstand was being built, other details were handled by Tony Genaro, General Manager of the restaurant. Since I had worked for Genaro at his nightclub in Philadelphia and he was related to our drummer, Pete Marsico, he made sure that we had full cooperation from all of the service staff.
Sonny frequently mentioned upcoming events in his column. One of the events he wrote about was my "Battle of the Saxes." Sonny's confidence in my idea and his help and support were a major part of generating our sell-out crowd. It was gratifying and exciting for myself and all the band members to have such a phenomenal reception from the standing room only audience. That night's success led to many future performances of "The Battle Of The Saxes" in other nightclubs on the East Coast.
After spending some time in Las Vegas at business meetings and working on various entertainment projects, I returned to Atlantic City in 1979 to open a booking agency. Immediately, after I arrived I called Sonny Schwartz to bring me up to date and to get some input about the city. Always there to lend a helping hand, he would immediately ask "how can I be of any help?"
From that point on we developed many projects together. We also collaborated on vital fund raising events for the Hebrew Academy in Margate, New Jersey. We raised a substantial amount of money for the children of the school and for several other humanitarian causes.
In the seven years since Sonny started his syndicated show,
Dateline: Atlantic City with Sonny Schwartz, he has had thousands of guests amoung those thousands, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nancy Sinatra, Leroy Neiman, Steve Allen and his wife Jayne Meadows, Connie Francis, Chris Connor, Gloria Lynne, Vic Damone, Don Rickles, Joey Bishop and Buddy Hackett have made appearances. Sports figures, authors and city representatives have been guests on the show as well as young performers that are seeking a break in show business.
In a recent conversation, someone had asked Sonny how he felt about the changes that have taken place in Atlantic City. I was struck by what he said about the entertainment scene and jazz clubs of years gone by: "The days of nightclubs, cocktail lounges and musical bars as we once knew them are a thing of the past in Atlantic City and probably will never return. Although Atlantic City is growing with casinos and abounding with new residents every day, they will see a different city." 
Unfortunately, they'll never experience what this town used to be." Sonny mentioned in particular the headline stars that played the Hialeah Club, Le Bistro, and the late night jam-sessions at the four corners on Arkansas Avenue. He also reminisced about Count Basie and his Orchestra swinging at the showroom in the Club Harlem while Chris Columbo's band played in the cocktail lounge. Most importantly, he talked about Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. making their entrance on stage for the 6:00 a.m. fifth show at the world famous 500 Club on Missouri Avenue, which was operated by the legendary Paul Skinny D'Amato the man responsible for giving Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and many other mega stars their break in show business.
Even though we didn't see each other as much, we always joked . . . that we are only a
phone call and a favor away! . . . Unfortunately, Sonny is no longer with us -
                                       We still remained good friends until his passing in 1998. 

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