The Satin Dolls strip club in Lodi, NJ was made famous in The Sopranos as the Bada Bing, the home base of the Soprano crew. But what’s less well known is that the bar’s connections to the mafia go far beyond appearing in an HBO series.
Satin Dolls was started in 1989 by Brian Kelley, a retired New York Giants linebacker. But the real power seemed to lie with Vincent Ravo, a shadowy figure that appears nowhere on the liquor license or in the club’s financial records. Ravo was paid $500 a week as a consultant handling renovations to the club. Strangely, those payments didn’t stop when the construction did.
How many bars do you know of that employ a consultant? I can’t name another. And if they did, they’d probably write the checks to that person directly, right? But Ravo’s name appears nowhere in disbursements from Satin Dolls. Instead, the checks are always written to someone else: his brother, his wife, or others.
Ravo’s criminal record meant that he was banned from working in or owning a bar under New Jersey state law. But not only did he have a hidden interest in Satin Dolls, he also had off-the-books interests in several other bars in north Jersey.
Ravo was not just any criminal. A state investigation named him as a likely associate of the Genovese crime family, which had substantial interests in northern New Jersey and was perhaps the most powerful mafia family in the country. And his misdeeds go far beyond violating liquor or tax laws. Prominent author Dan Moldea named Ravo as one of the people who may have disposed of the body of former Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa.
Today, Satin Dolls seems to be a legitimate enterprise whose only known mob connections are in the world of television. But I found this convergence of fiction and history a fascinating one.
Have a great weekend everyone!
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