Back In The Day - The "Golden Age" of Atlantic City Lounge Acts
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Over the years I've seen many great acts perform at my bar The Viva Lounge - later known as The Wave at the "fabulous" Trump Marina. Below are some of my memories from the 90's - both good and bad, as I reflect back on the good ol' days.
Kenny Jeremiah was an original member of The Soul Survivors who had a hit song "Expressway To Your Heart", but unfortunately he just passed away on December 4th.
I remember him as the singer in the bands Full House and The Jeremiah Hunter band, both of which played at my lounge many times. It's really sad that the "golden age" of casino lounges and lounge acts has basically come to an end.
Kenny was known to the bartenders and waitresses for his habit of spinning around on stage, which actually led to one waitress referring to him endearingly as The Spin F@#*. His band also had a group of women that would follow them from show to show, and would come early, take up a huge portion of the bar, stay all night, and tip terribly. We dubbed them The Sea Hags.
The Boogie Wonder Band was a popular French Canadian band that dressed up as a 70's disco band, and they were very talented. They always drew a huge crowd, and interestingly enough, when their set ended they would come to the bar and ask for water. It was always strange to hear them talk in such heavy French accents when just the minute before they were singing in perfect English.
Don't Call Me Francis was another big band led by a man named Francis Orsini. He loved to get up on the bar and play the trumpet for fans, and for whatever reason, this infuriated The Ghoul (check out my blog on him). So one night, The Ghoul told that tonight would be the last night Francis ever got on the bar. And true to his word, when Francis jumped up on the bar, The Ghoul grabbed his ankle and pulled. Francis fell off the bar, his trumpet went flying, and I believe that was the last time he ever jumped on The Wave bar.
Johnny O and The Classic Dogs of Love were another 10 or 12 member band led by the one and only Johnny O. He was a true character, usually dressed in a sharp looking suit and a fedora hat. He had a gravelly voice, and like to drink Jack Daniels straight in a snifter glass. The band used to end their show playing "Beginnings" by Chicago.
There were many more bands such as: Dance Force, The Sensational Soul Cruisers featuring Willie Wiggle, and The Exceptions who played Sunday afternoons at the Deck for well over twenty years. The cool thing is, some of these bands still exist in one form or another.
Working in the Wave wasn't easy. Our bartender uniform was a red tuxedo, and it was so hot in there that by the end of the night we would be drenched in sweat. And it was not uncommon for waitresses to pass out from the heat. Once, a waitress passed out, and there was no replacement for her, so they sat her on a stool and threw water on her face to revive her like a boxer. They eventually got her up, and back to work she went.
This was also in the days when smoking was allowed, so the haze of smoke would hang over The Wave all night. It was also incredibly loud, so people would shout their drink orders. In many ways it seemed like controlled chaos. Having said all that, it was a very profitable place to work. There was also a sense of pride because there were many bartenders who couldn't or wouldn't work in The Wave because as I was once told by another bartender " I don't want to work that hard for my money."
In the late 90's and early 2000's, casinos began to open bigger nightclubs that featured DJ's. Instead of catering to a couple hundred people, these venues could hold upwards of a1000 people. The lounges still exist, and there is usually a band of some kind, but the days of the 10-12 piece big bands playing the lounges to a packed crowd has unfortunately faded away. So with all of that said, I am thankful I had the opportunity to work there when I did.