Glazer: Scribe Salutes Deceased KC Nightclub Czar Victor Fontana

This past Friday a legend of Kansas City nightlife, passed away…

Without question Victor Fontana, was one  of  THE men about town in the ’70s, ’80s and into the ’90s. Like no other.

Victor owned and operated so many clubs and restaurants it would take nearly forever to name them all. By far the most famous was his 1970s Westport area smash hit Fanny’s. It was a nightclub, restaurant and lounge like no other in our city. It was the talk of the town.

The food was gourmet Italian / excellent and every big name in town called for a reservation behind those big darkened windows that separated the upscale restaurant from the dance floor.

Disco was king and the crowds were upscale with people from the Plaza and Johnson County.

Even Michael Garozzo was a waiter there!

I met Victor at his packed hot spot Walter Mitty’s in the early 70’s. Just off the Plaza at 50th and Main it was the dance club and the spot. It was right next to next to Butch Civella‘s club Mothers.

Mothers had been THE dance club before Walter Mitty’s landed. Between the two clubs, they dominated the upscale, late night action in our town. If you were between 21 and 40 these were your haunts.

Fontana was a tall, handsome guy with movie star good looks.

We bumped heads once because they were throwing out a drunk friend of mine from Mitty’s. Stupid me got in the middle of it and was placed outside the club by about three large doormen. Lesson learned.

Vic and I later became friendly when he would stop for lunch at Stanford and Sons before going to work at Fanny’s.

My father Stan Glazer and Vic were the guys in Kansas City nightlife at the time.

I was always impressed with Victor. One time at Fanny’s he made a Hollywood entrance pulling up to the Club in a wild car dressed to the nines.

And I thought to myself, one day I wanna be THAT GUY.

Years later I was.

Victor loved his son Frank.

The two of them had another in spot years later with THE EDGE.

It was the talk of the nightlife scene here and Monday nights were “Industry Nights,” meaning drinks for a buck and three bucks to get in for people in the bar biz. Oh, and a line down the street.

The Edge was always packed and huge. The place maybe held nearly 800 people. I used to go there with Chiefs players like tight end Mike Dyal and linebacker Tracy Rogers. They had a uni-sex bathroom with mirrors that you would swear had a naked gal watching you wash your hands. Maybe it was an optical illusion – but who knew who cared – it was fun.

Sadly a troubled young man who couldn’t gain entrance to the club due to inappropriate clothing fired a shot into the club hitting and killing Victor’s son Frank.

I don’t think Victor ever quite recovered from that tragic event.

Later he opened a restaurant on the Plaza named for his son “Frankie’s.”

That spot would eventually become Blonde, the Plaza’s last dance club.

Yes, Victor Fontana was one of the guys who made Kansas City a fun, hot spot from the late 60’s through the early 2000’s.

He’ll be sorely missed.

I think its fair to call the man a legend in Kansas City’s Entertainment history.

Rest in peace Mister Fontana.

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23 Responses to Glazer: Scribe Salutes Deceased KC Nightclub Czar Victor Fontana

  1. really says:

    glaze good article! your a true shmuck!!

  2. chuck says:

    Nice article Glaze.

    We must have run into each other at Mitty’s. I worked there checkin IDs and other BS stuff in 74 when I got out of the service. Vic was pretty grouchy, but always treated me very well. His dad and my dad were friends when his dad had a little restaurant on 16th and Cherry (About.) I met Vic there when I was a little kid, he was cool even then.

    Mike McGuire got me a job at Mittys and there were some great guys working there, Mike Darby, Billy Darby, Tony (Who was Kansas City’s biggest chick magnet then, jeeze could that guy pull) and others whose names I have forgotten. Some dude always had a Pantera down there which I thought was pretty cool.

    To the best of my knowledge, Mittys was the scene of one of, if not THE first modern day drive by.

    The Chessman at Butch Cassidy’s, the Guidos up at Mothers, it was great fun hitting them all back in the day.

    Fannys was great, the food was great and Vic always was gracious enough to stop by the table and shoot the bull.

    Your right, he never did recover from is son’s death as I understand it. Who could?

    So long Vic, thanks for the good times of days gone by.

    :)

    • Craig Glazer says:

      Yeah Chuck, bet you let me in a few times with a fake ID back in the day…I went to Mitty’s at age 18 or so..in the early days…Mothers too, Id was not a biggy back then…yes I remember the Tony guy…hah…the Pantara was Jack Genova’s..he also was a player…yep KC was a hot time in the 70’s for sure, never has quite been the same…too many rules…too much crime…and the DUI back then was a traffic ticket your lawyer could fix for a couple hundred bucks..today its a drug bust…times have changed and not for the better…we didn’t know how good we all had it back then…now we do.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Chuck, thats funny. Bill D is a good friend. Married my best friend from grade school to this day! They divorced, but man, what a great guy Bill is!

  3. harley says:

    My family and I were all very close to vic and to his son frankie. Vic and my dad
    would tell stories about the old days that would make you cry with laughter. There was hardly a friday night at the levee where i didn’t run into frankie and we’d shoot the bull about everything in the world. One day back in 95 when the chiefs
    had montana and marcus, grunhard wasdoing his show at the levee. The place
    was packed inside and outside on the street. All of a sudden from the back
    deck walks in joe montana (with one of his female friends) and the place just
    went nuts…then about 10 minutes later marcus walks in …and i think the
    roof may have lifted 10 feet…whata great great time….

    Vic never did recover from frankies death. It destroyed his soul. As it would any
    father who loses a son.
    he was the real guy to bring chicken spidini to kc from st. louis!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    After i heard of his passing i remembered one thing about vic. For those
    who knew him you’ll understand why i put these lyrics up. This song was always
    the last one of the night that he would play. R.I.P. victor…heres your song!!!!!!!!

    And now the end is near
    And so I face the final curtain
    My friend I’ll say it clear
    I’ll state my case of which I’m certain

    I’ve lived a life that’s full
    I traveled each and every highway
    And more, much more than this
    I did it my way

    Regrets I’ve had a few
    But then again too few to mention
    I did what I had to do
    And saw it through without exemption

    I planned each charted course
    Each careful step along the byway
    And more, much more than this
    I did it my way

    Yes there were times I’m sure you knew
    When I bit off more than I could chew
    But through it all when there was doubt
    I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all
    And I stood tall and did it my way

    I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
    I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
    And now as tears subside
    I find it all so amusing

    To think I did all that
    And may I say not in a shy way
    Oh no, oh no, not me
    I did it my way

    For what is a man what has he got
    If not himself then he has not
    To say the things he truly feels
    And not the words of one who kneels
    The record shows I took the blows
    And did it my way

    Yes it was my way

  4. mark smith says:

    Was fontana the same guy who owned the joint that slid down the side of the hill above sw blvd? Baby doe’s I think.

    • Craig Glazer says:

      I don’t’ think so, that was Hanrhan, MaQuitty I think…not sure…I remember it somewhat..the name anyways…

      • admin says:

        It was Baby Doe’s and no, pretty sure that wasn’t Vic. It was still half ass up there for years after it closed. Pretty cool place at the time.

        • harley says:

          its wasn’t vic…baby does was owend by an out of
          town group…
          i remember the winding road up tothe place..
          it was hell during rain and ice storms…
          as far as 7…i think victor was more on the
          consulting side of that…didn’t work…victor
          left…he was great with people but times had
          changed…

  5. Matt says:

    Vic was a great guy adn businessman. Too bad his last venture with that Bill George guy down at the “7” didn’t work out. Does anyone really know what happened down there?

    • Craig Glazer says:

      Not a good location at the time, not in Power and Light, got hit with Urban crowd..end of story…I used to go there with Hearne..Bill was a nice guy, still is…

    • admin says:

      Seven was Bill George’s place and it rocked for several months when it first opened. Like Craig said, the Power & Light pretty much sealed its fate.
      That was one of George’s impetus for starting the party trolly, to include Seven on the route and try to help bring back the crowds.

  6. Rainbow Man says:

    The new owner crowd could learn a lot from Fontana and his contemporaries. Sure they wanted to make a buck but it is obvious that what they really wanted was to create exciting and wonderful places for Kansas Citians. I honestly believe that this was far more important than money to them. They truly wanted to make people happy.. It seems they had greater success appealing to wider age groups… They could maintain a 21-60 crowd. The restaurant biz is like no other… you hang it out there and your successes and failures are in a fishbowl. These guys really had gusto.

    • Craig Glazer says:

      There is a new breed that feels the same way today..they are just learning the ‘new’ crowd system…it is starting to happen..look at Westport.

    • harley says:

      RIGHT ON RAINBOW MAN….
      now its olive garden…carabbas….fazolis…..crap….yes crap…
      where the spaghetti sauce tastes like ketchup…
      and the meatballs taste like cannon balls..
      for victor and the others it was about creating an atmosphere and
      environment…creating an experience…..makingsomething that would
      make people go WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!
      NOW ITS sports bars with food my dog wouldn’t eat…restaurants with
      portions for a child….and owners so far away they don’t know where kc
      is on the map….

  7. JP says:

    Great article Glaz. Nice to see others respected Victor for his many contributions to Kansas City’s night life over 4 decades. Victor had vision and always put out great food in his restaurants. I still remember eating at Fanny’s as a kid & our family always had either Mike Garozzo or Mike Lombardo for servers. What a classy place and awesome dining experience. Victor and Frankie were very close and the trajedy behind his son’s death was something he truly never could recover. I was fortunate enough to work a project with Victor & was quite thankful for the learning experience. Rest in peace Victor & thanks for all the wonderful memories! JP

  8. Vince DC says:

    Vic & Frankie were definitely a 1 one kind father & son & had nothing but Respect for both ! In which it was fun times @ Chequers that was Formally Fannys ! So the good times of Fontanas will always hold a Special place in my heart with Respect & Amore !

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