Atlantic City, 1964

MEAT THE BEATLES! At the White House Sub Shop, Atlantic City, 1964. The guy in the foreground is Atlantic City policeman Bobby Palamaro, who Mr. Moonlighted at the White House. [Courtesy of Princeton Antiques Bookshop.]

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.–The Beatles moved as fast as one of their hit singles.

One minute here. Thirty seconds there.

On Aug. 30, 1964 the Beatles came into Atlantic City for a 8:30 p.m. gig at the Atlantic City Convention Hall (now called Boardwalk Hall). The Fab Four opened their 12-song set with “Twist and Shout” and ended with “Long Tall Sally.” The whole thing clocked in at a little more than a half an hour. There was no encore.

The Righteous Brothers had just left the tour because of their lukewarm response as the opener. They were replaced by New Orleans soul singer Clarence “Frogman” Henry.

Boardwalk Hall was built in 1929 and has undergone a rebirth since a three-year $90 million restoration that concluded in 2001……

……It was the largest, free-standing roof without pillars,” said Robert Ruffolo, Jr., the proprietor of Princeton Antiques Bookshop, 2917 Atlantic Ave. in Atlantic City.

I adopted Ruffolo as my local historian during a recent 48-hour trip to Atlantic City. “Boardwalk Hall wasn’t outdone until the Astrodome was built in 1970,” he said. “It was constructed for conventioneers. We had all these huge hotels and you couldn’t get a room in the summertime. They built the convention hall to bring people here in the winter when the hotels were vacant.

“The Liberty Bowl started in Atlantic City inside Boardwalk Hall.”

The 1964 Liberty Bowl was the first major college football bowl game played indoors. Utah beat West Virginia 32-6 before 6,059 fans. A four-inch thick grass surface was installed as the game pre-dated Astroturf.

Boardwalk Hall: Democratic Convention site, also home of the Miss America pageant.

When I saw the Hooters open for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band April 16 at Boardwalk Hall both bands acknowledged the Beatles history at the venue. I realized that both places the Beatles played in Chicago (The International Ampitheatre and Comiskey Park) have been razed.

“The Beatles stayed at the Lafayette Hotel,” Ruffolo said. “They came from the (top floor of the ) hotel to convention hall in a laundry truck because they had to hide them from the crowds.” Girls stormed the metal doors of the historic hall.

It was to be the Beatles only appearance in Atlantic City.

If you walk around town long enough you will bump into black and white photos commemorating their brief visit. A handmade montage of their photos appear near the front counter of the White House Sub Shop, est. 1946 at the corner of Mississippi and Arctic Avenues (609) 345-8599.

The White House Wall of Fame also includes a series of black and white Miss America photos, the always zany Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin and a tribute to Rocky Marciano “Undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the World.”

The Beatles ordered the legendary White House six-foot sub. Now-retired Atlantic City cop Bobby Palamaro delivered the sub to the band. “Since then we’ve had the Beach Boys and Earth Wind and Fire,” said Jen Basile, daughter of late White House founder Anthony Basile, an Atlantic City native. Joe DiMaggio wold come in just after closing time to avoid the masses.

The fresh White House bread is locally sourced…from Formica’s Brothers and Rando’s, both within a block. The diner does not serve French Fries. The tiny sub shop is known for a 20-inch foot-long subs like the White House Special (extra salami, coteghino, ham cappacolla and provolone cheese; $14.20, I couldn’t even finish a half at $7.10.)

Yes, I guess the Beatles were inspired to write “Yellow Submarine” here.

I stayed at The Chelsea, which is the first non-gaming hotel to open on the Boardwalk since the late 1960s. Originally a kosher hotel, it was renovated four years ago by combining a former Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson’s. The South Beach inspired Teplitzky’s diner remains from the old days. I figured to see Joan Rivers any minute.

I did see more photos of the Beatles as the Paul Jost Duo sang in The Supper Club on the hotel’s fifth floor overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Lots of guys sound like Sinatra. Jost was perfect for a supper club serenade with his smooth Tony Bennett inflection.

“The Chelsea is a progressive type hotel,” Ruffolo said. “They get a lot of young yuppies from New York City.”

The Jersey shore was a hotbed for rock n’ roll long before Bruce Springsteen emerged from Asbury Park and Freehold. Tony Mart’s on Bay Avenue in Somers Point was a nightclub that featured seven bars, limbo contests and go-go girls. “Levon and the Hawks” had a summer 1965 residency at Tony Mart’s opening for the likes of Conway Twitty. Levon Helm was band leader and the Hawks consisted of his future Band mates Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson. Bob Dylan recruited them for his backing band after their Tony Mart’s gigs.

In 1966 Ruffolo’s father bought the building that now houses the 225,000 books and antiques that make up Princeton.

Ruffolo was born and raised in Greensboro, N.C. He was studying textile chemistry at North Carolina State when he moved to Atlantic City.

“I got to be a junior and found out if I graduated in the top 10 per cent I might have a 20 per cent chance of getting a job in textile chemistry,” Ruffolo said. “This was in 1974 when the textile industry was falling apart in North Carolina. I came here for the summer to help out my father. He showed me a check for some tiffany glass he sold. It was more than I would make in a year. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the family business would be easier than the textile business.”

These days Ruffolo sells lamps, pottery and glass, but books still drive the business. He has more than 400 different copies of Jane Austen books. He doesn’t have a lot of time to catch the myraid of concerts that come to town.

Robert and Joyce Ruffolo and their family. I love these folks.

“I like to work,” he said. “But I like Willie Nelson. I’ve seen him here a couple of times. Everyone has been here except Elvis.” From what he lovingly calls “The Cage” his wife Joyce shouted out that she likes the a-capella group Straight No Chaser and the maybe-retired Phil Collins.

Ruffolo looked out on Atlantic Avenue in his Atlantic City and said, “This has always been a great neighborhood. For the number of people that visit Atlantic City, 30 milllion people a year, in a town of 40,000, we handle it a lot better than most places.”

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