Today it looks like a typical chain hotel straight out of central casting: the kind you might stay in for a business meeting and not remember when you go back a few years later.
But now imagine that you could walk into a nightclub on the premises and hear Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra performing – live.
Who could get these guys to play here?
For a short while in the early 1960s, the Villa Venice restaurant at the Hilton in Wheeling was owned by none other than Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana.
From November 26 through December 2, 1962, Giancana hosted Sinatra, Martin, and Davis for a series of concerts that some say were a nod to Giancana from Sinatra for his help in getting John F. Kennedy elected.
When the Rat Pack wasn’t in town, the Villa Venice still offered plenty of Italian glamour, Chicago-style. Check out the menu and its Chicken Vesuvio, or consider the gondola rides the restaurant offered – on the Des Plaines River.
Giancana himself chose to be a witness for the FBI in the 1970s, but police protection was absent when a gunman broke into his Oak Park apartment and shot him in the head – seven times.