A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Over 50 years ago, there was a dance craze that swept the world of rock and roll. Hank Ballard named the dance “the Twist” in a 1958 song later made famous in a 1960 recording by Chubby Checkers. The media soon spotted a crowd of teens dancing the Twist at the Peppermint Lounge in New York. This obscure nightclub run as a front by organized crime unintentionally became the haunt of celebrities wanting to dance and be seen. John Johnson, Jr. and Joel Selvin with Dick Cami tell the story in Peppermint Twist: The Mob, the Music, and the Most Famous Dance Club of the ’60s.
The “with Dick Cami” is an important part of the author equation, as Cami was the manager of the original Peppermint Lounge in New York and then the Miami Beach club which opened when the Twist craze was waning. He was not, according to this account, in the mob himself, but his father-in-law was an important mob boss, Johnny Biello. According to the authors, Biello tried to keep Cami on the legitimate side of his business, but readers may well understand why the FBI was suspicious of Cami. He certainly knew a lot of mobsters.
Peppermint Twist was promoted and cataloged as a book about music. It tells the story of the Twist, a body of Twist songs, and the singers who sung them, but more than half the book is about organized crime. From reading reviews I expected more about the music scene and am slightly disappointed. True crime readers, however, may be pleasantly surprised and enjoy this mob story with a twist. – Review by Rick