Making the wiseguys dance

Peppermint TwistWas Ringo Starr genuinely lucky not to get whacked by a Mafia hitman named Romeo “Scarface” Martin when the Beatles visited the Miami branch of the Peppermint Lounge in 1964? That’s what John Johnson Jr and Joel Selvin, the authors of Peppermint Twist, would like you to believe.  Their new book, which tells the story behind the club where the Twist first became a sensation, comes complete with a colourful endorsement from Ronnie Spector, who danced there before she became a Ronette: “The Sopranos meets American Bandstand!”

That’s not an entirely misleading summary. In the end Romeo Martin, despite being infuriated by his girlfriend’s crush on Ringo, didn’t try to whack the mop-topped drummer. But plenty of others meet an unpleasant end in the course of the story, not least Johnny Biello, a caporegime with the Genovese crime family. Biello was the undeclared owner of the Peppermint Lounges…

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