stardust mysteries

From the Star Dust Motel in Atlantic City to the
Number One Murder Mystery Theater in South Jersey

It all started in 1985 when I decided to write a play. I I had been in the drama club shows in high school, and really liked theater. In the summer of '85 I saw "The Muppets Take Manhattan" and thought to myself, if a frog, a pig, a dog, a bear, and a...whatever...could put I show on Broadway, so could I.

Chris Pinto as "The Great Pher",
comedy magic act, 1982.

That lead to my first musical, Swingtime, which I was lucky enough to have produced (and got to star in) at my high school in 1986. After that, I joined a mystery dinner theater in Cape May, New Jersey. The shows were fun, but the producer/director was not very good, and it showed in the productions. I, along with a few others from the cast, decided we could do the same thing better and have more fun doing it. That's how Star Dust Productions was born.

tom mcginty chris pinto oklahom 1985
Christopher Pinto as Ali Hakim & Tom McGinty As Pa in Egg Harbor Township High School's Oklahoma, 1985



I actually lived in the Stardust Motel when i was a little kid. My parents ran the motel that sat on the Black Horse Pike on the way into Atlantic City; We lived in the house/office built into the front of it. So I took the name of the motel my mother and father ran in the early 70's (and of course from the song), I set out on an experiment to see if i could write, produce, direct and star in my own dinner theater show. Stardust Productions was born.

Typed on a 1930's Royal typewriter, my first murder mystery, "Who Shot the Piano Player?!" went on to become one of the longest running dinner shows in the Atlantic City area.

The experiment was a success.

who shot the piano player

Caroline Ryan with Christopher Pinto as Bernie the Detective in
'Who Shot the Piano Player?!' 1996

Stardust Trivia, as pertains to me:

The Stardust Motel was built on the way into Atlantic City in 1948. It pre-dated the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas by ten years, but the sign on the hotel in Vegas used the same typeface as the sign on the motel in West Atlantic City. It was torn down for tax reasons in 1973, but you can still see the foundation in the ground using google earth.

My grandfather gave me my first big band and jazz records when I was about 11 years old. The first one on the stack was String of Pearls by Glenn Miller. The second record was Star Dust by Artie Shaw. It was that record that eventually led to me playing trumpet, then clarinet. i still have the records.

That same version of Stardust was playing on the radio (FM 105, WRDR out of Egg Harbor City, NJ) at about 11:39 on January 23rd, 1986. I was listening to the radio and very upset when they broke into the song for a news flash - until they said the space shuttle Challenger had exploded on take-off.

When I wrote my first musical, SwingTime in 1985, I named the club in the show "The Stardust Ballroom". I actually meant to name it the "Starlight Ballroom" after the famous Wildwood Boardwalk landmark, but must have had Stardust on my mind...

After my father passed away, I found a vintage motel key among his belongings. It was from the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, from 1963. I desperately wanted to visit the hotel in Vegas, and managed to get there just in time...it was torn down just months after my visit. They were already preparing for the demolition when i was there...the gift shops didn't even have any merchandise left with the hotel name on it.

Original concept mockup for the Stardust Dance Hall in my show
"Swingtime", 1985. My father designed this and helped with the sets.

I've always had vintage cars, and always named them after songs - Moonglow, Ruby, Nightmare... In 1990 I bought a 1953 Chevy Bel Air, and something just told me her name was Stardust. I still have that car today...meaning I've had it for nearly half my life.

I taught myself to play clarinet by playing along with the Artie Shaw versions of Moonglow, Begin the Beguine, and Stardust.

There has never been a performance of Stardust in any of our Stardust Productions shows. However, I ended every show by taking our bows to Artie Shaw's recording.