George A. Hamid Jr., former owner of Steel Pier in Atlantic City

George A. Hamid Jr. built up his family's Steel Pier in Atlantic City by finding hot new acts.
George A. Hamid Jr. built up his family's Steel Pier in Atlantic City by finding hot new acts. (SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / File Photograph)
Posted: February 26, 2013

George A. Hamid Jr., 94, a former owner of the Steel Pier in Atlantic City who with his family brought stars such as Frank Sinatra and the Beatles to the Jersey Shore, died of pulmonary failure Saturday, Feb. 23, at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point.

Mr. Hamid and his father, George Sr., operated the Steel Pier for 30 years, building a family-entertainment venue that blended circus acts, amusement-park rides, and concerts.

Singers including Diana Ross, and unusual acts like the high-diving horse helped turn the pier into a main attraction for Atlantic City vacationers.

Mr. Hamid's major responsibility was booking the acts.

"The father was an old-school tough negotiator, and junior handled himself differently," said Ed Hurst, who hosted Summertime on the Pier, a music-and-dance show televised from the famous venue. "He was modern-day and Ivy League."

Born in Jersey City, Mr. Hamid attended the Kew-Forest School in Forest Hills, N.Y., and earned a bachelor's degree in economics at Princeton University. He studied at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania but dropped out to enlist in the Navy.

He served as a lieutenant commander in the South Pacific. When the war ended, he returned to New Jersey, married Patricia Reilly Monahan, and joined the family business.

Mr. Hamid's father, a former circus performer, bought the Steel Pier in 1945, but Mr. Hamid made his mark by booking acts that appealed to younger generations.

He booked Ricky Nelson in the late 1950s, bringing in a then-record crowd of more than 44,000 in one day. But that booking was preceded by what Mr. Hamid later called an error in judgment.

He had the chance to book Elvis Presley but didn't.

"I said, 'They'll go for a guy named Frank, a guy named Perry, a guy named Pat, but they'll never go for a guy named Elvis,' " Mr. Hamid said in a 2004 interview.

He went on to book other teen heartthrobs, including Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon.

In 1964, Mr. Hamid brought the Beatles to what is now Boardwalk Hall and sneaked them out of the arena by loading the British band into a laundry truck while the crowd stayed standing for a strategically timed playing of the National Anthem.

Mr. Hamid's father died in 1971, and the family sold the Steel Pier to a group of businessmen, but Mr. Hamid continued managing the venue until 1975.

"Atlantic City wasn't doing that great as a city, and business kept declining," Mr. Hamid's son James said. "It was time to let go."

Mr. Hamid managed the family's other businesses, including a traveling circus and the New Jersey State Fair. He also worked as a business manager for boxing champion Ernie Terrell, and was a co-owner of the Miami Dolphins in the 1960s.

He wrote several books about his father, who was born in Lebanon and joined the Buffalo Bill show as an acrobat while the show toured France. George Hamid Sr. worked as Annie Oakley's helper, Mr. Hamid said in a 2004 interview.

Patricia Hamid died in 2006. Mr. Hamid retired shortly after her death and moved from an apartment in Northfield to the Meadowview Nursing Home in Northfield in 2007.

Their son Herbert died in 1975.

In addition to son James, Mr. Hamid is survived by sons George 3d and Timothy; daughter Elizabeth Roberts; seven grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Friends may call at 2:30 p.m. April 1 at the Jeffries & Keates Funeral Home, Tilton Road and Infield Avenue, Northfield, N.J. 08255. Memorial services begin at 3 p.m.

Memorial donations may be made to the John Davis 3d Memorial Scholarship Fund, and mailed to the funeral home.


Contact Kristin E. Holmes at 610-313-8211 or kholmes@phillynews.com.

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