Four down and one to go

I just got back from my annual nine-day trip to Las Vegas. I know 9 days is too long. Not for me, as in the words of Dean Martin “I love Vegas, when I leave I shed a tear. Well I shed many tears on this trip. This trip like the many before, I saw a different Vegas when I got there and a much different Vegas when I left.

Back in 1960, Frank Sinatra made Ocean’s 11, the first of the “Rat Pack” (and the best) movies. Sorry folks George Clooney is NOT Danny Ocean that is Frank’s role. The movie takes place in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve. Danny Ocean and his pals rob the FIVE MOST GLAMAROUS CASINO’S ON THE LAS VEGAS STRIP, which were:

  • Flamingo
  • Sands
  • Desert Inn
  • Riviera
  • Sahara

Over the years as Vegas has changed these five glorious casinos faded from glory. It is very difficult to stay relevant in Vegas, the only casino to do it for 50 years is Caesars Palace and god bless them for it. Over the years I watched the Sands be imploded and the Venetian be built in its place. Not one spot in that hotel do they mention that this was the spot the Summit was performed (the Summit for those who don’t know was what Frank called the performances be him, Dean, Sammy, Joey, and Peter) and I say shame on them.

Then it was Steve Wynn’s turn to blow up the Dessert Inn and build the Wynn and Encore. Now the Wynn is a magnificent property, but why not call it “Steve Wynn’s Dessert Inn” as Wilbur Clarke once called it “Wilbur Clarke’s Dessert Inn”.

Then in May 2011, I got to say goodbye to my favorite casino of all time THE SAHARA. To me the Sahara was more than a casino it was my west coast home. Never before did I feel more comfortable in a casino then I did at the Sahara. That day in May as I walked the strip to play my last time at the Sahara I began to shed some tears. I though of the countless nights playing black jack with my brother and my wife and the fun we had. I thought of all the meals at Caravan Café and the House of Lords Steakhouse. I won that day only $200 bucks, but as I left that crowed hotel, I turned as I got into the cab and said “THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES OLD GIRL”. Today the SLS stands where my Sahara did and I can say that the SLS may be the WORST casino I ever went to and look forward to the day they go bankrupt and they will.

Once the Sahara closed, I moved to the next best Casino I know the Riviera or THE RIV. The Riviera was a great casino, it was there I met Coline a dealer at the Riv for over 50 years. On Sunday May 3rd, I played black jack for the last time at the Riv, because on May 4th at noon they closed their doors for good. On Monday the 4th my good friend Dan showed up around 10am to the Riv, all the tables games were closed so we sat at the bar with about 100 or so other folks just to enjoy one last drink at the bar. They were serving us Jack Daniels for $1.50 a shot. We laughed and cried with everyone. At about 5 minutes to noon the announcement came “THE RIVIERA WILL BE CLOSING IN 5 MINUTES”. We sat in our bar stools and finished our drinks. Five minutes later the tragic announcement ‘THE RIVIERA IS OFFICALLY CLOSED, PLEASE MAKE YOUR WAY TO THE NEAREST EXIT”. We sat for a few minutes until Security told us to leave. As we walked towards the front door snapping as many pictures as we could. Security stopped us and said to go out the back. We noticed that all the doors were changed shut. As we walked out side they were setting the posts for the temp fence to seal the place off. It was a sad scene, as we got into the cab I turned and said “THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES OLD GIRL”.

Four down and one to go! The Flamingo the oldest of the Grand Casino’s and the only one left.   Caesars own the Flamingo, which is a big help. The Flamingo was part of a big plan to blow up everything from Bally’s to Harrah’s and destroy the Flamingo and build a Center City type complex. That was the plan in 2007, but 2008 the money dried up and plans were changes. Imperial Palace and Bill’s Gaming House were destroyed and the Flamingo was saved. From the looks of it the Flamingo should be around for a long time, but things change fast in Las Vegas so you never can be so sure.

Today the three oldest casino’s on the Las Vegas Strip are The Flamingo 1947, Tropicana 1957, Caesars Palace 1966. All three are vintage Vegas at its best, I would suggest that if you plan a trip to Las Vegas stop by these three Icons, because you never know when the wrecking ball is coming.

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On The Boardwalk In Atlantic City is No Longer Americas Favorite Playground, but It Can Be Again

This month The Trump Plaza will close its doors and it will be the fourth Casino to close in 2014. 11 years ago The Borgata open and AC was back on the rise and now it is crumbling at an extremely fast rate. Many people know that I love Atlantic City and have argued for years that I preferred it to Las Vegas.   It was true I preferred going to AC over Las Vegas, but based upon my last three trips to the Boardwalk, I can no longer say that. I was last in AC the weekend before July 4th weekend and frankly it was depressing to see what has happened to my favorite vacation spot on the Planet.

People have been asking me for weeks “Is AC dead”? My answer is NO it’s not dead. The seaside resort has faced trouble before and the city came back and it will come back again. But before I give my theory how to revive the very first pure vacation destination, I thought it would be necessary to give a little history of the great town.

Atlantic City was incorporated on May 1, 1854 (160 years ago). As legend goes some gangsters in Philadelphia wanted to create a resort town for blue-collar workers. Since ocean swimming had started to get popular they took out a map and drew a straight line from Philly to the Atlantic Ocean. On a small Island named Absecon. The gangsters built hotels along the beach and they built a railroad to take passengers back and forth. In a few years a permanent Boardwalk was built (it was built to keep the sand out of the hotel) the very first boardwalk in the United States.

Common people came to AC; it was a family destination, the beach, salt-water taffy and a lot of sideshows. At night dance halls opened and late night there was the casinos and the oldest profession (it just wasn’t legal back then).

Prohibition came and the city boomed. Led by Enoch “Nucky” Johnson (Thompson is just for HBO) who worked hard to bring people to the resort. He turned the City into a major port for illegal booze, he built Boardwalk Hall, and he organized the first organized crime commission, which was held in Atlantic City.

Then came my favorite person of Atlantic City, Mr. Atlantic City Paul “Skinny” D’Amato. Skinny was born in 1908 (nobody knows the exact day); he started running cigar shops, which really doubled as casinos. By the 1940s he owned the famous 500 Club on Missouri Avenue. The 500 Club was one of the countries greatest nightclubs. Move Stars, Professional Athletes would mingle with common folk. Legend has it that Skinny was the person who teamed up Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis to create one of the greatest comedy teams ever. He also was a good friend with Frank Sinatra. Skinny taught Frank how to hold a cigarette and order a drink. When Frank was down on his luck Skinny stood by his side. Frank would perform 5 shows a night every summer until 1974. In 1974 the City took a turn for the worst, the economy was bad and then the 500 Club burned to the ground. Everything was destroyed except one photo of Frank Sinatra performing at the Club.

The City was in decay in the 1970s and everyone thought the City was Dead. But in 1970 they legalized gambling and the city was re-born. The 1980s saw AC take the lead on gambling revenues from Las Vegas. In the 1980s all of the Las Vegas casinos were getting old and people from the east coast didn’t have to fly to Vegas, they could just drive to AC. It wasn’t until the Mirage opened in 1989 that Vegas began to make its big comeback (that is a post for another time). Slowly but surely casino’s started popping up all over the country hurting Atlantic City. In addition Atlantic City’s gambling revenue was so big they never saw the change coming that Vegas did. Vegas was ever changing to attract more guests, but AC said we are okay people love to gamble.   By the time AC figured it out it was too late. Now with casinos in eastern PA and in Delaware, the racino’s in New York, the gamblers stopped coming. Then there came the Revel, the dumbest idea to hit AC since the diving horse. The Revel is way too big a 50-story hotel that doesn’t allow smoking anywhere. In 2013, the Borgata is the only casino in AC whose gambling revenue increased. The Taj is close to being put into bankruptcy and all the other casinos are struggling. It looks real bad and if they don’t fix it the city will die.

So how does Atlantic City revive itself? Its simple, they have to go backwards not forwards. They have to go back to what the city was built on “AN AFFORDABLE VACATION SPOT FOR COMMON PEOPLE”. How do you do that easy COMPS!!! The Comps in Atlantic City just Suck. I have been going for over 35 years and each year they get cheaper and cheaper with comps. I get comps in the mail for a toaster or a chance to win a Hyundai. Give me food and room comps. So here is a list of things AC can do to attract people:

  1. COMP ROOMS – Give rooms away, an occupied room doesn’t cost much more than an empty one. If you don’t want to Comp them charge $25 per night instead of $400
  2. COMP FOOD – buy the player a meal. Give a $25 coupon to any restaurant in the casino. Every trip my wife and I go to Ruth’s Chris for dinner. If the steakhouse in the casino would give me $25 or $50 off I would go there.
  3. Stop Making it impossible to win – Go back to 4 or 6 deck blackjack, play single 0 roulette and give 20x odds on Craps.
  4. The casinos need to become more player friendly. Stop watering down the drinks, hire more waitresses and serve them faster. Treat the minimum player the same as the Max Player, there are more minimum players.
  5. CLUBS and LOUNGES – Get some good clubs and lounges. People love the Clubs. I hate them but I love Lounges. Give me live music along with drink coupons. Open a Cigar Bar and a Whiskey Bar.
  6. Bring in Real Entertainment – Only the Borgata does this and that’s why they are making money

I hope the town will listen because nothing would be worse to see Atlantic City fade away. The town inspired Monopoly, created the post card, the oldest Boardwalk, salt-water taffy, and my favorite vanilla/chocolate twist frozen custard. Summer would not be summer for me if I could go out and walk that Boardwalk with my coffee and cigar, singing my playlist.


Many people have been complaining I haven’t made a post in awhile.  Well its true and the simple is reason was  it was Tax Season.  Many of you know that I am a CPA by trade (that’s how I pay my bills) and during January through April I work between 60 hours and 75 hours per week.  Well it is the Month of May now and that is all behind me.  Over the next several months I am going to expose some what I will call fraud’s in the world of Fashion, Cigars, Booze, and Gambling.  What else did you think I would be discussing POLITICS?  I will leave that to the Maroon’s of the world and stick with something important.

On Thursday,  I will be going on a nine day Pilgrimage to the center of my faith:  Las Vegas!  This is my first trip to Las Vegas since starting The Art of Livin and I am a little nervous.  I get nervous because every time I go to Las Vegas the city changes so much and most of those changes are never to my liking.  However there are some exciting things going on in the Holy City (It’s not Sin City to me) in 2014.  First the Old Barbary Coast (that’s what it was called before Bill’s Gaming House) has had a $180 Million upgrade and has opened as the Cromwell.  Drais After Hours (Vegas’ Top After Hours Club for years) is back along with Drais Beachclub on the Roof of the hotel (they stole my idea).  The official opening is Memorial Day weekend, but the casino is open now.  So I am excited to see if they kept true to the soul of Las Vegas or did they destroy it.  I am going to be optimistic.  Another attraction is the High Roller,  the world’s largest Ferris Wheel.  Yes I am going on it and will give a full report.

Lastly,  later this year the Sahara Hotel and Casino will be re-born under the name of SLS Las Vegas.  Hopefully like a Born – Again Christian the SLS will be New and Improved.  While I am disappointed that the Casino will not be called the Sahara, I am optimistic that the new owners did not completely abandon the legacy of one of the greatest casino ever.  Unlike the Venetian who doesn’t even have a plaque or anything noting that the greatest casino the SANDS was located on this spot.  SLS still has photo’s of the old Sahara on their website.  The hotel towers were renovated not imploded.  So when I go back in October, I will walk through the doors of the SLS Casino and remember this is the Sahara.  Again I am being optimistic about the SLS Las Vegas, will be like Caesars Palace Be New and True.

So I apologize to those who have missed my hearing about my view of the world.  When I return I will give you a complete update on the “STATE OF LAS VEGAS”.  I am proud to say our numbers are growing and we are going to continue to grow.  Please like the page on Facebook and tell your friends about the Blog.

Thank you again for all your support.