EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Growing up, Richard Helfant preferred the cool of the late Dean Martin while his mother favored the iconic Frank Sinatra.

The executive director and CEO of Lucy the Elephant in Margate learned what the big deal was about Sinatra when he saw him live for the first time.

“Being in that room and feeling his energy and just watching how he mesmerized everyone with just his voice, that’s when I thought, ‘Oh my God, people don’t realize what we have in this man.’” said Helfant, 60.

That concert experience eventually led to Helfant leaving the McDonald’s Corp. at age 20 and accepting a job as assistant to the vice president of entertainment at Resorts Casino Hotel from 1978 to 1984.

In that job, Helfant got to interact with his idol.

“Working with him was such a blessing, to be able to say I knew him, work with him,” Helfant said. “There will never be another, ever, ever, ever in the history of the world. There can’t be another Frank Sinatra.”

Helfant accumulated so much Sinatra stuff over the years that he decided to make the Happy Place in his home his Sinatra suite, which he created out of a guest room.

Memorabilia in the room include a framed poster from the 1965 Sinatra movie “Von Ryan’s Express,” a 1978 Sinatra photo taken backstage at the old Convention Hall in Atlantic City and a couple of Sinatra gold records.

“This is my little thing that I have for him, and people love when they come and get to stay here,” Helfant said.

Staff Writer

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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