LOOKING FOR REAL LIFE HEROES? READ THIS…
Monte Proser was a nightclub guy, a saloonkeeper. So, he built the most lavish nightclub in the history of the world called the Copacabana. You’ve seen it in a dozen movies like Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and The Green Book.
The problem with the Copa was that the most powerful gangster in the history of the world, a guy named Frank Costello, walked in the front door of the club one day, stuck out his hand, and said, “Say hello to your new partner.” Like they said in The Godfather movie, this was an offer Monte couldn’t refuse. Monte was my father, and he told me lots of stories like this.
Here’s a picture of my father and my mother in love at the Copa. Click on the image to hear the singer and host of the television game show The Hollywood Squares, Peter Marshall, talk about his time with my father and the Mob.
Modern Day Heroes
Starting in the 1920s with Prohibition, my father and his friends saw a dark side of American history. That was when gangsters like Costello walked through the front doors of almost every nightclub and bar in America and made offers nobody could refuse. These gangsters were so wealthy from selling illegal booze that they started buying up all the places like the Copacabana.
First, they’d buy a piece of the business. After that, buy the building. Then in true mafia fashion, they’d buy the land under the industry. Now, having a solid hold on the property, the Mafia would buy a piece of all the businesses. Along with a part of the wages of all the people around the club. For example, the garbage haulers, the singers and dancers, the talent agents of the singers and dancers, the union representatives for the waiters and bartenders, the meat and vegetable suppliers, and then the politicians who represented all these people. Unfortunately, some people refused to go along with it, and sometimes those people got killed. That’s how it was. And that’s how my father ended up being one of many modern-day heroes. Here is one of many modern-day heroes that may be hard for many people to recognize.
The gangsters kept buying businesses and people. They bought construction companies, banks, and lawyers, lots and lots of lawyers. And this is where the story gets interesting. The story that nobody knew except my father was that Frank Costello didn’t like being a gangster. He wanted to be a businessman like my father. He just wanted to hang out at the Copa, go to the Belmont racetrack, and bet on the ponies. For this reason, my father dealt with Frank and his gangster friends for 35 years – and managed to help many people.
My father’s story is about standing up for years to people who could have had him killed in minutes. It’s about his life during two world wars, in Hollywood, and on Broadway, with sexy movie stars and ordinary people. This real-life hero story is about his unbreakable marriage with my mother – a dancer at the Copa. Monte Proser’s story of heartbreak, drug addiction, beautiful music, and the vanished Café Society he loved. It’s his story about America at night.
Frank Sinatra called my father “The Genius.” Columnist Walter Winchell called him “Broadway’s Favorite Son.” J. Edgar Hoover and Bobby Kennedy called him “…a known business associate of Frank Costello,” and Frank Costello, the architect of the modern Mafia, called him “…my new partner.” You want to know about real-life heroes? Then you’ve come to the right place.