Namesake Jilly Rizzo was a lifelong friend of Frank Sinatra’s, and even though Jilly was there more as a link to the heritage of the old saloon days, he was still a part of it. As was Frank. Many a night with Frank Sinatra, his entourage, and the rest of the bar in awe of simply being able to drink in the same room as The Chairman Of The Board is described.
It was the late '70s, and the type of mobbed-up, dangerously glamorous appeal Jilly’s held was intoxicating. Young John Gotti was a frequent customer, as were other “less brightly lit” celebrities. The story Delvecchio tells of Joey Heatherton trying to get noticed by anyone in 1980 is hilarious.
Sinatra, Gotti And Me is more than a simple memoir of a particular place and time, though. There is an interesting story occurring both inside and outside of the nightclub that adds a bit of weight to the proceedings, even if one does not recognize it at first. A great deal of changes were just around the corner, which seem obvious now — but were anything at the time.
What I enjoyed about Sinatra, Gotti, And Me is how Delvecchio's remembrances of the events puts one right there. With all of the players now deceased, Herschlag could have embellished or excised certain events, and who would be the wiser? For all I know, he may have. But it really does not seem that way. There are no tabloid-ready revelations, or any sensationalism at all for that matter.
What comes across is a very compelling story, peopled by some truly charismatic characters, all just out for a night on the town at their favorite bar. Don’t get me wrong — there are quite a few moments of completely insane behavior — and just a whole lot of fun times had by all. What rings through the most though is the authenticity of a man’s life with two competing forces. One is the undeniable pleasure and drive to make his saloon one of the hottest in NYC.
The other is the profound sadness that his world is divided in two. Between Jilly’s, and the beautiful suburban home he as a family man wants in the strongest way. Those two extremes rip at the very core of Tony Delvecchio, as he is increasingly forced to choose to put his attention either in the business, or into being there to raise his children and nurture his family. In some ways it is the very definition of blue-collar life. One works hard to be able to provide for his family, yet in doing so he is unable to actually spend time with the family.