Grandparents of RHONJ Hubby Albert Manzo Ran 1950s Gay and Lesbian Bar

During the 1950s husband-and-wife Albert and Marion Manzo operated a bar in Paterson, NJ which had its liquor license suspended multiple times for serving gays and lesbians.

The Manzo couple are the parents of Albert “Tiny” Manzo Jr. who was the victim of a suspected Mafia hit although the murder remains unsolved, and grandparents of Albert Manzo III who owns banquet hall The Brownstone. Albert III perhaps is best known in popular culture as the husband of Caroline Manzo from past seasons of Real Housewives of New Jersey.

The gay and lesbian bar run by Albert and Marion Manzo was The Casino, and located at 6 Bank Street.

According to recently-released records from the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, The Casino first had its license suspended for 180 days after an inspection visit by ABC agents on October 14, 1954 for permitting “persons who appeared to be homosexuals to congregate on your licensed premises and to mingle with and solicit male patrons for acts of perverted sexual relations.” The agents “noticed several males who acted and talked in an effeminate manner, swaying their hips as they walked and eyeing male patrons as they entered, and whispering together.” One male patron, identified as Donald, “danced cheek to cheek with another male patron,” identified as Donald’s “wife” who wore “a feminine type vest with a woman’s brooch and chain on his lapel.” Apparently, a couple of the “queens” also were hustling their services at a bargain rate of $5 according to the undercover investigators.

The Casino again had its license suspended for 240 days after several visits by ABC agents in February and April 1957 for allowing “male impersonators and persons who appeared to be homosexuals in and upon your licensed premises.” The report further states on multiple occasions the ABC agents “observed several female patrons whose mannish attire, mannerisms and display of affection towards one another confirmed the . . . characterization that they were lesbians.”

And once more, The Casino had its license suspended for 150 days after several visits by ABC agents in April and May 1959 for allowing “females impersonating males, who appeared to be homosexuals to frequent and congregate in and upon your licensed premises” according to an agency report: “the agents, noting their dress and mannerisms, concluded that most of the women were lesbians.”

Albert and Marion Manzo got out of The Casino after this third suspension. Indeed, at the enforcement hearing The Casino’s attorney advised “that the licensee herein will make immediate and sincere efforts to sell the premises at or before the expiration of any penalty that may be imposed,” and ABC Director William Howe Davis wrote “I strongly recommend such action, as another conviction may well result in revocation of the license.” According to ABC records Vincent A. Lippi purchased the licensed premises on October 20, 1960. The ABC agents visited The Casino on multiple occasions in January and February 1961 upon its reopening, and the bar then was slapped with a 50-day license suspension for allowing “persons who appeared to be homosexuals, e.g., females impersonating males, in and upon your licensed premises,” and further permitting “lewdness, immoral activity and foul, filthy and obscene conduct by such persons . . . in a manner offensive to common decency and public morals.”

A summary of the testimony from an ABC agent who visited The Casino under Lippi’s ownership provides that “about fifteen of the females wore their hair closely cropped, were devoid of make-up and were dressed in masculine attire; that they wore shirts (with rolled-up sleeves) which buttoned on the right side and had pockets on the left side (men’s style); that they wore trousers with zipper flies and pockets in the rear; that several of the females in question wore men’s wrist watches and large signet rings; that one of the females had a tattoo on the upper part of her forearm; that unlike females, they walked without swaying their hips, wore men’s shoes and spoke gruffly and that, in his opinion these fifteen females were apparent lesbians impersonating males.” This same agent “further testified that he observed two of the alleged lesbians dancing to rock and roll music supplied by a band; that they had their arms around each other and were resting their hands on each other’s buttocks; and that throughout the dance they continuously engaged in bringing the pelvic regions of their bodies together by ‘bumps’ and with back and forth movements.”

In his defense to the ABC charges the new licensee Vincent Lippi testified in reopening The Casino “he had redecorated its entire interior to discourage its former patronage (lesbian), and to invite a ‘different type of clientele’” but, alas, apparently the old reputation as a queer joint was hard to break.

After selling The Casino, Albert and Marion Manzo continued operating Wayne Amusement Co., Inc. which distributed juke boxes, pinball machines and automatic vending devices. Albert had incorporated the coin-op venture in 1956, and he and his son Frank (Francis) were among the original shareholders. According to a press report Albert Jr. at one time worked at Wayne Amusement with his brother Frank. Frank got into the bar business working for his parents at The Casino in the 1950s, and in addition to his interest in Wayne Amusement went on to own bars including the B-45 Club at 45 West Broadway in the mid-1950s and Frankie’s Play Pen at 27 Church Street during the late 1960s. Frankie’s Play Pen was a lively spot which had bands, comedians and go-go girls.

Albert and Marion Manzo became successful enough that they spent their winter months in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Albert died at 66 in 1969, and his wife Marion in 1996. Their son Albert Jr. was murdered in 1983, and their son Frank died in 1990.

Attorney General Grubir Grewal released the enforcement proceeding records against the New Jersey taverns which were targeted for serving gays and lesbians between 1933 and 1967 as part of a formal apology “for what happened,” and vows to vacate all the adverse actions on their liquor licenses in order “to right[] this historical wrong.”

Author of “The Mafia and the Gays,” “Railroaded: The Homophobic Prosecution of Brandon Woodruff for His Parents’ Murders,” & “Queer Joints, Wiseguys and G-Men”