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Waiting on fame

As a server at Atlantic City's 500 Club, Rita Marzullo rubbed shoulders with Sinatra and other stars. Her stories enliven a new book about the legendary nightspot.

By Alexis Abate
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 16 | Posted Sep. 18, 2003

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A self-described "glamour girl" in the 1950s, 20-year-old Rita Marzullo couldn't cook, but was in desperate need of a job. She worked for a short while at the Bella Napoli Restaurant in Atlantic City, then landed a waitressing job at the legendary 500 Club. Much like Palumbo's in South Philly, the Atlantic City venue was a celebrity magnet that drew stars including Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

Marzullo, of Fulton Street, met them all.

During a visit to the club, she was requested at the private table of Angelo Bruno, Philadelphia's mob boss. He was very protective of his South Philly "family" and inquired about Marzullo's well-being. While they were talking, Paul "Skinny" D'Amato, the owner of the 500 Club, approached the table.

After introducing himself, he asked Marzullo, "Why don't you come and work here?"

She responded, "Here? I can't work at a nightclub. Do you know what my brothers would do to me?"

But with D'Amato's assurances, Marzullo accepted the job and was offered a place to live in the adjacent hotel, Penn Plaza.

She was soon making a ton of money. "The first time I went to Atlantic City, I left with two suitcases. I came back with a tractor trailer," she says, describing her haul.

Marzullo was working only summers at first, but D'Amato -- famous in his own right as a star-maker -- asked her to stay year-round. He became like an older brother to her and promised Bruno he would keep an eye on her.

The waitress, the eighth of 10 children, visited her family back in South Philly every week. They had been against her moving to Atlantic City in the first place and begged her not to leave. But after suffering a broken heart when her beau married someone else, she just couldn't bear to stay in Philly anymore.

Looking back, Marzullo, now 74, says, "I made a good decision and nobody could stop me."

She loved the 500 Club and Atlantic City so much that she lived there for nearly 30 years.

Her colorful stories are a highlight of a book released earlier this year called The Last Good Time: Skinny D'Amato, the Notorious 500 Club, and the Rise and Fall of Atlantic City.


Marzullo describes the old Atlantic City as "so much better than it is now."

"It was fantastic; everyone was one big, happy family."

And it was exciting, too, especially for a young woman surrounded by stars.

At her surprise 21st birthday party thrown by D'Amato, Marzullo mingled with everyone from childhood friends to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio.

She fondly recalls the bash, which seemed more like a night at The Ed Sullivan Show.

"Every time the door opened, somebody from TV or radio walked in. I was sitting on Dean Martin's lap and my party continued for three days and nights," Marzullo says.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 16 of 16
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1. Karen said... on Feb 11, 2009 at 03:10PM

“How do I get in touch with Rita Marzullo or Paula Jane D'Amato”

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2. Lawrence Elliott said... on Mar 19, 2009 at 09:52AM

“I'm looking to get in touch with Paula Jane. Please give her my e-mail address fishon4lee@yahoo.com thanks l.e.e.”

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3. EDWARD CAMPELLONE said... on Aug 4, 2010 at 11:55PM

“RITA: DID YOU KNOW JOHNEY FRISCO CALLED (RUBBER FACE ) COMIC WHO WORKED AT THE 500 CLUB AND BLACK ORCHARD ,WHO LIVED ON TEXAS AVE, AND HIS BROTHER SHIKIE WHO WAS A BAR TENDER ? PLEASE CONTACT ME .”

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4. Jackie Love said... on Jul 2, 2012 at 03:50PM

“Searching for Eddie Campellone from 10th & Pike in Philly.

Eddie this is Jackie, remember tearing up the Blvd in your 59 Rambler Rebel that use to eat up mustangs. Especially getting 90 mph out of 2nd gear:-)
Hopefully you see this and track me down.
Go by John Love. live in Jenkintown Pa”

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5. edward campellone said... on Jul 17, 2012 at 09:26AM

“HI JACKIE : A LONG TIME AGO !!! THE VIET NAM WAR GOT IN THE WAY OF OUR YOUTH.LOOKING FOR FARMER JOHN ,DO YOU REMEMBER.HIM? MOST OF THE OLD GANG IS GONE .
ED.”

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6. Edward Campellone said... on Jul 17, 2012 at 06:57PM

“HI AGAN JACKIE ; MY E;MAIL IS WCTINC@SOCAL .RR.COM
LOTS TO TALK ABOUT.MY COUSIN DAN IS STILL SINGING WITH THE FOUR ACES.
GOD BLESS
ED CAMPELLONE.”

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7. edwatd campellone said... on Jul 19, 2012 at 11:28PM

“HI JOHN LOVE
ED. C. LOOKING FOR AN E;MAIL FROM 10TH AND PIKE.”

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8. Edward Campellone said... on Oct 17, 2012 at 09:08PM

“jackey are you lost?”

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9. Jackie said... on Jan 27, 2013 at 02:59PM

“No Ed not lost just so busy this past year. (too much to type here)
I will send you an email. It will start with loveteam (not porno!!)”

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10. Edward Campellone said... on Jan 28, 2013 at 08:55PM

“HI JACKEY
PLEASE SEND AN E;MAIL.
ED...WCTINC@SOCAL.RR.COM”

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11. Jackie said... on Jan 29, 2013 at 02:45PM

“Ed, sent you an email the 28th. Let me know thru here if you did not receive it, or just reply back
jack”

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12. EDWARD CAMPELLONE said... on Apr 17, 2013 at 10:05PM

“HI JACKIE GOT ALL E;MAIL
WOULD LIKE TO TALK
714 873-7676.
ED.........”

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13. EDWARD CAMPELLONE said... on May 3, 2013 at 12:27AM

“HI JACKIE.
CALL WHEN YOU HAVE TIME CELL 714 873-7676 .I WILL GET BACK IF I MISS YOU ,( ASAP. )
GOD BLESS.
ED.....

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14. EDWARD CAMPELLONE said... on Jun 22, 2013 at 11:32PM

“JACK ,JACKEY ,JOHN LOVE...ECT,ECT,ECT...

I WILL BE GOING TO FIJI TO CK ON MY SEAFOOD CO,FOR THE SUMMER .

HAVE TO GO TO PHILA FIRST IN AUGEST, THEN
NY,ITALY,BACK TO CAL.

ARE YOU GOING TO CALL OR WHAT.????

YOU HAVE MY NUMBER LETS TALK ABOUT WHAT
WE HAVE DONE IN THE LAST 50 YEARS OR SO..

EDWARD CAMPELLONE /BENNIE THE BUM...

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15. edward campellone said... on Aug 12, 2013 at 11:55PM

“HI JACKEY;
JUST BACK FROM FIJI ,FINISHED EARLEY.
NOW JACKEY WHY DONT YOU GIVE ME A CALL? I ALWAYS LIKE
TO MEET AND TALK WITH OLD FRIENDS.

I KNOW YOU ARE BUSY BUT YOU FOUND ME.
AS FOR TIME ZONE ,YOU ARE THREE HOURS BACK .
FROM CAL YOUARE THEEE HOURS AHEAD.
JUST FIND THE TIME
GOD BLESS.
ED

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16. edward campellone said... on Aug 16, 2013 at 04:29AM

“Jackie, I would to hate to be in the desert looking for a bottle of water from you.

Please contact me. You know me and my rambler but I can not remember you.

Edward CAMPELLONE
PREC/CEO
BTB INTERNATIONAL INC”

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