a film by Louis Malle

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This week, after a very bad week of news in Atlantic City, I was reminded of the industry truism, “Good advertising can sell even a bad product. . .Once.” During a major new tourism campaign, “Do AC,” and the another launching the upscale Revel casino,

two Canadian women tourists were stabbed to death in broad daylight on the boardwalk in front of a casino. Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of these ladies. It didn’t seem possible to make this horror show worse until news broke that the killer was a paranoid schizophrenic homeless woman and that the incident revealed a pattern of other towns around the state dropping their homeless, mentally ill, and prison parolees, a solution nicknamed “Greyhound Therapy.” Could you ask for worse PR in support of your paid advertising efforts?

But while the “Do AC” and the Revel casino campaigns represent good advertising, Atlantic City is NOT a bad product. My wife and I had our favorite wedding anniversary there, with dinner at The Borgata, followed by an amazing Stevie Wonder concert.  Spent portions of various shore vacations there. Annually attend at least one trade show at the Convention Center. Enjoyed dinner at the fabled Knife and Fork. Shopping at the Havana styled Quarter at the Tropicano. Despite this week’s bad press, Atlantic City still has many great things and places and events to offer. According to this account, Governor Christie has concluded the same and is even upping the ante by trying to push for sports betting. Since AC is often compared unfavorably to Las Vegas, this is one small way to level that playing field.

In spite of this horrendous week, Atlantic City will survive, perhaps in large part because of its romanticized past. You couldn’t be farther from the wholesomeness of the Miss America pageant right now; however, there is a mystique of long odds/down-on-the-luck/always the chance of a big win to AC.  Some of it is tied to organized crime, and much of it still ends badly, but hope always springs eternal.

In 1972, Bob Rafelson made “The King of Marvin Gardens” with Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, and Scatman Crothers. This very good scene between Nicholson and Dern turns “It’s Monopoly out there” on its head with “Go directly to jail.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuIIkqrwgHA

Louis Malle captured that spirit in the wonderful Burt Lancaster vehicle, Atlantic City. Here is a truly bad trailer that doesn’t do this exceptional movie justice. The first 10 minutes of the movie does a much better job of hooking viewers. Later in the film, there is a passing reference to Nucky Thompson.

Martin Scorsese and HBO elevated the gangster turned Prohibition politico into a terrific series, Boardwalk Empire. Maybe the folks who recently voted to keep Ocean City dry have been avid watchers and determined that nothing good can come from the business of alcohol, legal or illegal.

Of course, no one has ever captured the criminal and gambler sides of Atlantic City better than Bruce Springsteen in his ode to the town. “Put your makeup on. Fix your hair up pretty. And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”

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