the Copacabana

The Copacabana night club opened on November 10, 1940, at 10 East 60th St, in New York City. According to the lease, it was owned by a man by the name of Monte Proser, but everybody who was anybody knew who was really in charge, and that was of course, Frank Costello. Frank put a man named Jules Podell in the mix to look after his interest in the club, but a racketeering investigation would force Proser out of the picture by 1944, and Podell became the sole frontman.

 

It was at the Copa that Frank too would fall under scrutiny after hosting a one hundred dollar per plate fundraiser for the Salvation Army. The press got wind of the event and had a field day photographing a guest list that included politicians, judges and mobsters alike. One reporter remarked,

 

             

"It was a lovely affair. I've never seen so many judges in my life."

The Salvation Army feigned ignorance to Costello's underworld connections and were grateful for the large donation.

Costello's lawyer, George Wolfe, had pleaded with Frank not to invite his 'connected' associates. "They're my friends," Frank protested, and of course got his way. It has been suggested that Frank had another motive for hosting the dinner. Vito Genovese was given a seat of honor at the event, but many believe Frank was attempting impress Vito by openly displaying his considerable political power.

 

Frank's psychiatrist was also in attendance and let it leak that Costello was currently under his care; a mistake that caused another stir in the press and promptly ended their relationship. this was one of the few times those close to Costello remembered him loosing his usually clam demeanor, and becoming furious.

 

When Frank stepped down and handed the family over to Vito, the Copa was one of the few interests Genovese allowed Costello to keep.

 

Like many older men, in his later years Frank had grown tired of the nightlife, but his wife Bobbie, still enjoyed an evening on the town. She would frequently insist he take her to a show at the club and, of course, Frank relented. They would inevitably encounter underworld types, most who came for the sole purpose of rubbing shoulders with the legendary boss. These encounters often resulted in rather off-color conversations, and Bobbie would then become upset. Frank would gently remind her, "you wanted me to bring you here, and you know we are going to run into these kind of things." I can just picture the old married couple bickering as old couples do. Even the Boss had to answer to somebody!

 

In 1973, both Costello and Podell passed away. The club closed its doors that same year, ending an era. It reopened in 1976 as a discotheque and moved locations twice. The Copa now resides at 268 West 47th St.

Photograph outside the Copa taken 1943. Photographer unkown.

photograph courtesy of Life Images. Copyright Time Inc.

Background photograph courtesy of Flora Gilberti.