The Beverly Hills Fire

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Vanished Luxury
Vanished luxury: Richly decorated walls, brocade chairs and crystal chandeliers were a hallmark of the opulent dining rooms at Beverly Hills such as the Empire Room shown here. Zoom
The Beverly Hills Supper Club was a mecca for high-roller gamblers and a stage for well-known performers. It had all the glitz and glamour that would one day define the Las Vegas Strip.

Perched atop a hill in Southgate, just a mile or so from the fleshpots and bustout joints of Newport, Beverly Hills was the place to see and be seen, whether you gambled or not.

In its later years, after crime-busting U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver, Campbell County Sheriff George Ratterman and U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy had run the gangsters and gambling out of Northern Kentucky, Beverly Hills was still the No. 1 night spot in Greater Cincinnati.

Joyce Macke of Covington, a stockbroker, former political candidate and Covington School Board member, remembers its glory days in the 1950s. She was part of the glamour.

A Beverly Hills showgirl and dancer, Mrs. Macke (Joyce Miller back then) rubbed elbows with movie stars and mobsters.

''People dressed to go to Beverly Hills,'' she said recently as she went through a photo album from her performing days. ''You saw lots of furs and diamonds. The men wore suits and the women wore evening gowns. It was very classy, very attractive. Everyone was enjoying themselves.''

Although the employees and performers knew there was a syndicate connection with the Beverly Hills operation, Mrs. Macke said there was never a hint of anything out of line.

''The club was run on a totally professional level,'' she said. ''The gambling was there in the casino for those who wanted it. But a lot of the local people who went to Beverly Hills didn't go to the casino. There was a bingo every night between shows, and most people liked to play the bingo cards.''

Built in 1937

Beverly Hills was built in 1937 by Northern Kentucky entrepreneur Pete Schmidt, who would
Pete Schmidt
Pete Schmidt
later build the Playtorium on Fifth Street in Newport that today is the site of The Syndicate restaurant.

According to oldtimers involved in Northern Kentucky gambling and entertainment before World War II, the mob saw the potential in Beverly Hills and wanted to buy it from Mr. Schmidt. He refused, and the building mysteriously (or not so mysteriously) burned in the late 1930s.

Mr. Schmidt rebuilt, but continued pressure finally convinced him to sell and build a new gambling establishment.

Celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were visitors to Beverly Hills in the 1950s. There are many stories of entertainers who dropped large amounts of money in the casino. In many cases, it was just part of the mystique.

Ken Paul quote When federal pressure put an end to gambling in the early 1960s Beverly Hills stood empty for almost a decade before the property was deeded to 4-R Corp., owned and managed by the Schilling family (Richard J. and sons Richard J. Jr., Ronald and Raymond) in December 1969. The Schillings upgraded the facility and reopened it in 1971 with dining and top-notch entertainment.

'It's where everybody went'

''Even though we were a small city, Beverly Hills was like mega big time,'' said Campbell Judge-executive Ken Paul, who was Southgate's mayor at the time of the fire. ''It's where everybody went.

''It was a place where no matter what your economic level, the Schilling family had a kind of magic. They made everybody feel that they were the king and queen of the night. The red carpet was always truly rolled out at Beverly Hills.''

Mr. Paul said he and his wife used to go to the club to people watch.

''Beverly Hills was kind of like the (VIP) tent at the Jim Beam Stakes seven days a week because the who's who of the area would be there,'' he said.

It was the favored spot for birthday parties, 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, and especially prom and graduation dinners.

Return to Front Page

The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Kentucky Enquirer