Van Meter, Jonathan W. 1963-
Van METER, Jonathan W. 1963-
Born May 5, 1963.
Writer, editor, and journalist. Vibe magazine, creator and editor, 1992-94.
Contributor to magazines and periodicals such as Atlantic City, Spy, New York Times, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Tatler, Sunday Times, and Vogue.
A prolific contributor to major American magazines, Jonathan W. Van Meter has written major profiles on celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Jodie Foster, and Liza Minnelli for magazines such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, and the New York Times. Van Meter was also the creator and first editor of the hip-hop magazine Vibe.
The chance sighting of a classified ad for an estate sale in 1986 introduced Van Meter to the world of Paul "Skinny" D'Amato, a prominent nightclub owner during Atlantic City's boom years in the 1950s and 1960s. His longtime fascination with the brash and colorful D'Amato led Van Meter to write The Last Good Time: Skinny D'Amato, the Notorious 500 Club, and the Rise and Fall of Atlantic City, the story of D'Amato's famed 500 Club, his connections to organized crime and the elite of 1950s celebrities, and his undeniable role in the development of Atlantic City. Mingled with D'Amato's story is the history of Atlantic City itself and how it became known as much for its essence of hipness as for the sins and temptations it offered its visitors.
D'Amato's fortunes rose along with those of the city he called home. A smooth talker and shrewd businessman, D'Amato "was a major figure on his home turf, beloved as a great host and Santa Claus-style tipper," commented Janet Maslin in the New York Times Book Review. Even while maintaining his own low profile, D'Amato set out to make his club the swankiest joint in the city. His 500 Club hosted some of the biggest names in entertainment, politics, and sports that the 1950s could offer. John F. Kennedy visited often. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis debuted their act there in 1946 and continued to frequent the club. Frank Sinatra performed there regularly. Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe maintained a private booth. Meanwhile, the public, which came for the chance to see a star at the next table, kept the coffers filled.
The club also served as host to known members of the mob, though D'Amato was never implicated in any crimes. After a failed attempt by D'Amato and Sinatra to run a legal casino in Las Vegas, D'Amato's luck failed; his wife died, his son was convicted of a brutal murder, and the 500 Club burned down in 1973. The site of the 500 club is now a parking lot for one of Donald Trump's casinos.
Van Meter "succeeds fully in coalescing and elucidating the ins and outs, sins and faults, and value of the entertainment world," remarked William G. Kenz in Library Journal. David Pitt, writing in Booklist, concluded, "This is a fascinating tale of greed and corruption, and it enlightens as it entertains."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, November 3, 1992, Erik K. Washington, "The Big Dis," pp. 72-73.
American Heritage, October, 2003, review of The Last Good Time: Skinny D'Amato, the Notorious 500 Club, and the Rise and Fall of Atlantic City, p. 16.
Booklist, April 1, 2003, David Pitt, review of The Last Good Time, p. 1374.
Business Week, July 21, 2003, Robert McNatt, "An Ex-hoodlum with the Key to the City," p. 14.
Entertainment Weekly, June 27, 2003, Chris Nasawaty, review of The Last Good Time, p. 141.
Gay City News, November 13, 2003, Wickham Boyle, "Domestic Bliss."
Inside Media, May 11, 1994, John Motavalli, "Bad Vibes: Madonna Cover Sparks War," pp. 1-2.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of The Last Good Time, p. 668.
Library Journal, July, 2003, William G. Kenz, review of The Last Good Time, p. 86.
New York Times Book Review, June 9, 2003, Janet Maslin, "For Gods of Night Life, The World's on a String," p. E7.
Publishers Weekly, June 12, 2000, John F. Baker, "The In Place in Atlantic City," p. 25; March 23, 2003, review of The Last Good Time, p. 69.
Rolling Stone, October 29, 1992, "Vibe Baptized by Fire."
Washington Post Book World, June 22, 2003, Wil Haygood, review of The Last Good Time, p. T03.
Bloomsbury,http://www.bloomsbury.com/ (April 6, 2004), biography of Jonathan Van Meter.
Last Good Time,http://www.thelastgoodtime.com/ (April 6, 2004).*