Exclusive: Nur Khan on Guns N’ Roses Show at Hiro Ballroom, Burlesque King Ivan Kane On Revel Resort

I wouldn’t recognize Fashion Week if Nur Khan wasn’t presenting one or more serious Rock and Roll shows. Fresh off The Kills‘ 10 Year Anniversary party hosted by Lovecat Magazine the other night, Nur throws Guns N’ Roses into the Hiro Ballroom. Talk around town has Mark Packer soon converting the space into a Tao Downtown, gobbling up Hiro and Matsuri in the process. Nur was the hero at Hiro when it was what it was. He is seriously happy about sending his old turf off with a bang. I caught up with him and gave my regrets.I cannot attend, as I will be DJing with Kelle Calco at Hotel Chantelle while all the hoopla is hooplaing. I asked Nur all about it.

The rumor was that the show was going to be at The Electric Room but it got too big a thing and now it’s at Hiro. In the future, you plan on doing a lot of shows at The Electric Room. How do you shows there….logistically?
I just did my first show there the other night. I remove furniture in front of a fireplace and half of the room. Set the PA and backline up in front of the fireplace – very similar to what I created with the Rose Bar sessions. You get the idea. You were at some of them. I see The Electric Room as a better fit for emerging bands. I’m doing this at Hiro; it’s sort of my two cents into the goodbye. The town is losing another rock and roll room. I’m going to have to build another. We’d still be at Don Hill’s if he hadn’t died. This show at Hiro is all out …confetti canons, arealists. It’s the last hurrah before Mark Packer takes Hiro and Matsuri over and does what he does to it.  
 
I know why you, me, and everyone and their brothers want these shows …how about the bands…what’s in it for them? Why do they want it?
For the most part, the bands are friends, so relationships are important when it comes to these…  everyone loves these intimate shows. It feels very special and inclusive, like the band is playing in my loft. It’s also a slightly different PR angle for the bands; there’s different press attached to these shows than, say, perhaps a Madison Square Garden show. They get reviewed differently from a different demographic that they don’t get from just a regular concert.  Because the shows are so small and private, they generate a lot of interest. I have gotten bands a lot of editorial work and exposure/campaigns sometimes etc., so the bands benefit from it being a very special show. A lot of VIPs and NYC tastemakers, and just an overall different experience that’s fun to do once in a while. I’m sure at one point all these bands were playing in a garage or something in their early days. They like the fact that these shows are a little "out of the norm" and, like i said, it’s usually friends and family so everyone’s happy to do the shows regardless….
 
What are you up to?
I am so busy just focusing on Fashion Week right now. I’m swamped with events this week. Task #1 is trying to keep up with an email every 30 seconds this week !!
 
Another Fashion Week frenzy….what’s driving you these days, besides money…besides being surrounded by fast woman and gallant men?
Haha. That’s funny!!!  What’s driving me?? I enjoy what I do and as you know, I am super passionate about music (and design, like yourself)… I really am thrilled with the way The Electric Room came out…  I just finished having another custom- designed mirror today – big clockwork orange eyes, back painted on glass behind the whole DJ area. What drives me is to create something new, designing the clubs, and I like to shake things up when I can and go in different directions when there is a trend happening in town. If everyone is going right,  I like to go left!!!  But always stay consistent with my music programs, which are geared for a musically literate clientele!!! Please!!!!  Come to the Guns N’ Roses show I’m doing tonight. It’s gonna be a full-on electric three-hour set!!!
 
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Ivan Kane headshot
 
I am a regular visitor to Atlantic City and it makes me happy that the resort Revel, for so long an empty monolith on the beach, is getting geared up to open. Previews begin April 2nd, and the opening is on May 25th, kicking-off Memorial Day weekend.  One of the entertainment editions to speak of is Burlesque Maestro Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Nightclub. I asked Ivan to tell me all about it:
 
This isnt my dad’s AC and the Revel figures to take it to another level. What is AC 2012? Where is it going and what does the Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Nightclub do to the AC game?
I have always been known for expanding the genre of burlesque and creating a unique, sexy, and sensual vibe.  It’s a bigger experience than one usually finds in a nightclub environment.
 
Royal Jelly sounds sticky and sweet. Where does the name come from?
Queen bees are made, not born, and Royal Jelly is the key ingredient to the burlesque royalty found only at Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Nightclub.  
 
Burlesque in NYC has become a staple, yet only a couple of years ago it was relegated to off-nights in out of the way places. Now, it’s a boom town with serious shows almost nightly. NYC is enjoying a burlesque renaissance. Will this renaissance translate to South Jersey and Vegas by the beach?
Burlesque entered the pop culture lexicon with the phenomenal success of Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce in Hollywood and at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas. Now I am bringing my burlesque to the east coast with an unparalleled nightclub experience that I created exclusively for Revel Atlantic City.
 
Revel has been a long time coming. When did the idea of your joint form and what will it look like?  
I am very excited to be a part of Revel; it has been a long time coming. Royal Jelly is a nightclub-in-the-round, where the DJs and dancing are complemented by the drama and excitement of the burlesque shows. Royal Jelly was designed to be exciting no matter where you turn, with multiple stages and flying catwalks that drop from the sky, animating the entire space.
 
How do you clone yourself? Will you always be around or sometimes in LA or NYC or Vegas? What capable person or persons will spot you when you’re afar?  
I touch everything Royal Jelly, but I surround myself with incredibly talented, able, and creative people. Because we are producing highly produced shows every night, I am never too far away for too long a period.  

They Come in Threes: Dennis Gomes’ Passing, Confronting Comment on My Article, White Noise Tonight

After the recent passing of Zelda Kaplan and Steven Greenberg, an experienced club operator asked me last night, "who’s next? …these things always happen in threes." He called me this morning and answered his own query: gaming/casino legend Dennis Gomes has died at 68. He was the co-owner of Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City and was a sort of mythical guru to the industry as a whole. Atlantic City is in shock. I had the opportunity to work with Dennis a few years back. I had developed a fancy dessert restaurant at the Tropicana, which he was operating at the time. He loved it and wanted more from me and my then-partner Chris Sheffield. We hit it off like gangbusters. Thing is, he once was a real-life gangbuster back in Nevada. He was the top dog casino corruption investigator there and his good deeds were brought to the big screen in the Scorsese film Casino.

He was the consummate showman with chickens, naked ladies, and presidential look-a-likes popping out of his extravagant promotional bag of tricks. The projects I was working on with him never materialized, as he suddenly left the Tropicana, and the concepts were too far out there for anyone but him. I won’t tell you about those ideas as I may someday find a place for them. When we met, he was all energy and enthusiasm. He approached everything with a "we can do it" attitude. Once, he asked me if something I proposed "could be done" and I answered " Why not …they put a guy on the moon in 1969." He looked me in the eye and said "I like you" and I was sure he did. We worked fast and furiously. He crunched numbers faster than a speeding bullet train, which he needed so badly to get the New York crowd down to AC. I take the ACES train these days when I go down to visit Atlantic City. I  remember him saying it would someday happen. Before there was gaming in  Atlantic City, I came down to play in the sand. It was even sleazier then than it was 10 years ago, when people really started to flow there and the prostitutes and crime clashed with the new developments and patronage, and were pushed a few blocks away. Back in the Louis Malle’s film Atlantic City era, I wallowed in the muck and grit, enjoyed the beach and the boardwalk by day, and the harsh bars and dirty denizens of the night. Now it’s all slick and clean and purged of most of it’s demons …as long as you don’t stray too far. Families come and top chefs make wonderous meals and international stars perform. Posh hotels with thousands of rooms sell out. It’s a huge success and Dennis Gomes was a huge part of that.

Dennis was a gentleman and an honest broker. I never worried about getting paid, just impressing and working for a man that "got it." Working with him was an honor. Being in the same room – a privilege and an education. I met his family a couple of times and my heart and prayers go out to them.

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Once in a while, someone writes a comment to this column. The process of commenting here is too difficult, takes too long, and as a result we don’t get as many as some publications. I have been trying to change this for a couple of years but I am just a lowly writer. My editor asked me if I had seen a comment on my Steven Greenberg tribute. I read the following by "OHNO:"

"I am truly perplexed about this article, I have never in my life felt so torn about writing the following, but it must be said… I feel like everyone has stockholm syndrome after his passing. He was difficult to be around, especially to work for… unless you had a bit of money. There is still that little "class action lawsuit" thing that is ongoing from stealing from his employees. I pray that this "predatory nightlife" era has finally ended. If you truly know him, you know what I mean. I apologize if I hurt anyone by writing this, I mean no ill will, I hope the man is finally at peace. But god damn… someone has to speak up for all of the people he screwed"

OHNO didn’t seem to receive the respect Steven doled out readily to thousands of people. OHNO hints that maybe he didn’t have enough money to get Steven’s attention. He says Steven was difficult to be around and work for. It seems obvious to me that OHNO didn’t get respect because he doesn’t know the meaning of the word. To come in after a man who has passed and can’t defend himself with this sort of disrespectful statement shows the reasons why Steven obviously dissed and discounted OHNO. OHNO is a classless ass and didn’t "truly know him." He alludes to a class action suit and accuses Steven from stealing from his employees in a tip skimming scam.

I don’t know the merits of the case but I truly knew Steven. He didn’t need to steal to make money. He knew how to make money. I have met hundreds of employees of 230 Fifth over the years and all said they made bank working there. When the cold weather came they would look for work elsewhere and those interviewing them for jobs knew that when the warmth returned they would run off to get their 230 job back. Did he run a tight ship? Of course, but he fed hundreds at a time even when jobs were scarce. I and thousands of others found it wonderful to hang and work with Steven. OHNO is getting his 15 seconds of fame hiding behind an alias. If Steven was alive he wouldn’t have hidden and he probably would have explained away this griping as the laments of an employee he shouldn’t have hired. He’d admit to that mistake. He was a warm, loving, charismatic, bon vivant but is very human and therefore imperfect. Rest in Peace, Mr. Steven Greenberg.

I will be out and about tonight, attending the last Sam Valentine Wild Ones party at the soon-to-close White Noise. I designed the joint with a great deal of help from the friends and family that made that place great. White Noise was a project built with a $25,000 budget and a great deal of bells and whistles, smoke and mirrors, and cheap or free labor. I thad a great run and I will miss it…but not before a blast tonight.

Ke$ha Takes Over Atlantic City This Weekend For Opening Of Haven

Do I know what you’re doing this Memorial Day Weekend? No. But do I know what Ke$ha is doing? Yes. The star who proclaimed 21 times that "we’re gonna die young" in her hit song will be hosting and performing for the opening of Haven Nightclub – the new dance club inside the Golden Nugget that brings the slot machines and roulette tables under the stars to its own outdoor veranda, complete with fire pits and lounges. For the first time ever in Atlantic City, nightlife shakes hands with gaming and "takes it outside."

For the wild opening, Ke$ha is performing two concerts with rapper Pitbull at The Grand ballroom on Saturday and Sunday. And Australian-born DJ Havana Brown – who has DJed on tour with Lady Gaga and Rihanna – will also be performing on Friday and Saturday.

Get the inside-info on Haven, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Just An Ordinary Weekend At Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel

I never thought I’d be attracted to a piece of meat. But at 3:25, on an afternoon at Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel, it happened.

The meat was oversized, blown up on a screen that covered an entire wall of the Borgata’s Music Box theatre, where several hundred people watched the hamburger patty sizzle and sweat in a pan on the stove. Over the patty reigned Geoffrey Zakarian, otherwise known as “the guy who won The Next Iron Chef” or “the cute chef with the glasses.”

With his gift of gab (which he attributes to his mom: “She was bitingly sarcastic,” Zakarian says), the bespectacled chef serenades the crowd at his cooking demonstration with his Italian accents, self deprecation, and meat innuendos. After two hours of cooking a hamburger (“no sauces or spices, it’s all about the meat”), a ginger and golden raisin-inflected coleslaw, and a raspberry soufflé – the crowd was sold – and so were his cookbooks.

Zakarian is the culinary lifestyle consultant of The Water Club, the more luxury hotel branch inside the Borgata resort. And the term “lifestyle consultant” is really just a fancy name for someone who checks in and okays all the activities involving food and drink consumption.

And wowee, did a lot of that happen during my recent stay at the Club. The portions are three times the size of any entrée at most NY restaurants (yep, I’m looking at you, Izakaya’s peanut butter-chocolate-crispy sushi roll) and it’s the options themselves – choosing from the Borgata’s 12 restaurants – where a decisive appetite becomes more valuable than some chips at the poker table.

Lines like shoelaces – full of day-trippers and vacationers craving all-you-can-eat – loop around the corners of the Borgata Buffet, while dinners at Bobby Flay Steakhouse on a Friday and Saturday night necessitate reservations made days in advance. I dined at the resort’s Japanese restaurant Izakaya, and most notably the southern Italian restaurant Fornelletto, and let’s just say it’s inspired this strange dream about a plate of potato gnocchi with sage and brown butter, lifting into the heavens, on top of a dish of their heavenly vanilla ice cream.

But people don’t come to Atlantic City for the food. They come for the party. And on – oh, just an ordinary weekend in Atlantic City – two celebrity DJs were spinning at the Borgata’s mur.mur nightclub and MIXXSamantha Ronson (aka Lindsay Lohan’s ex) and Steve Aoki. So when you pair these two rockstars with the Zakarian visit, the Borgata suddenly becomes an oceanside celeb hub.

But for me, the star of the show was definitely the Immersion Spa, where I headed for some much-needed recovery. A masseuse named Elyssia somehow managed to restore my late-night pancake and vodka-stuffed self into a viable, blissed-out human being. The whirlpool also helped.

Now, I’m not going to tell you to go to the Borgata and stay at, more specifically, The Water Club. I’m all about showing, not telling, of course. But when you are, in fact, looking for a weekend that includes a view of the ocean, celebrities, and really good gnocchi, may you consider the Borgata. It’s the AC experience.

Get all the info on the Borgata’s Water Club hotel here, and follow Bonnie on Twitter.

Upcoming Hurricane Sandy Benefits Shows From Aziz Ansari, Neil Young, Grizzly Bear, and More

If you still want to help out East Coasters affected by Hurricane Sandy and do so in an environment with adult beverages and high-caliber entertainment, this week, a couple more enticing Sandy benefits have been announced. So if you’re looking for something to do next week and live in the greater New York, Atlantic City, or Los Angeles areas, here you go.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse will perform in Atlantic City on December 6th at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, with proceeds going to the Red Cross.

On December 10th, a group of comedians you might recognize are getting together for “We Hate Hurricanes,” a night of comedy to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy at L.A.’s Nokia Theater. The venerable Jon Hamm is emceeing the event, with headliners Aziz Ansari, Will Ferrell, Sarah Silverman, and music from Beck along with even more acts. All proceeds from the show will go to AmeriCares, and pre-sale tickets go on sale today; general sale starts tomorrow.

One of the biggest announced shows is the 12/12/12 benefit gig for the Robin Hood Relief Fund, on December 12th at Madison Square Garden. The headliners play like an all-star Super Bowl halftime show: Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, The Who, Eddie Vedder, Dave Grohl, and, of course, Bruce Springsteen. If you still want to help out and rock out but the idea of a Bon Jovi show at the Garden sounds a bit too overwhelming, New York’s Terminal 5 is hosting a “4Artists1Cause” benefit on December 14th, featuring performances from Grizzly Bear, Sleigh Bells, Antlers, and Cults. More acts will be announced soon. Tickets are $40, with proceeds going to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City

Atlantic City, After Sandy

Tomorrow many of us give thanks for our families, our health, and the food at the table; but while we feast in comfort, areas of New York and New Jersey have yet to bounce back after Hurricane Sandy. One place that does have something to be thankful for is Atlantic City and many of the businesses there, which, miraculously, didn’t suffer as much damage as you might think.

“Thankfully we were not structurally affected,” said chef Alain Allegretti, a partner at Azure by Allegretti in Atlantic City. “Besides being closed for a total of 12 days, the only problem we had was contaminated water.” John Meadow, a principal/founder at LDV Hospitality, which owns and operates three restaurants at Revel Resorts, mirrored that sentiment and said, “The overall theme [of the hurricane] seems to be that it’s terribly devastating in the surrounding areas, but in Atlantic City you couldn’t see any effect. We lost food when we shut down, but Atlantic City proper is surprisingly in good shape.”

The worst damage to the area occurred in the residential area, ABC reported:

“The Atlantic City Boardwalk that was washed out by Hurricane Sandy is an area limited to the Boardwalk fronting the Absecon Inlet only,” Thomas R. Gilbert, District Commander of the Atlantic City Tourism District, told ABC News following our initial report on the damage. “That small section of the Boardwalk is located in South Inlet, a prominent residential section of Atlantic City.”

While everyone just assumed the glitzy, seaside gambling town was washed away, and earlier reports said as much, actually, it’s not too bad. Yes, since most people don’t know that, they haven’t had much business since Hurricane Sandy. 

“People think it’s under water, but that’s not the case,” said Meadow. “Business has been significantly hurt by virtue of this general fear factor.”

Meadow isn’t callous to his neighbor’s plight, he said, “You don’t think about having good steaks, good wine, and whole fish when your neighbor just lost his house.” However, he mentioned the majority of their customers that first week were people who had just lost everything and needed a little escape from the wreckage.  

Now, he and other Atlantic City business owners are urging others to take break from reality and head to the one part of the New Jersey shore that survived the storm. In the end, it appears a little debauchery pays off.

Beyoncé Opens Atlantic City’s Revel, Is Back to Business

On Saturday afternoon I got to experience the hell that is Port Authority for the first time, but I kept telling myself as I stood at a directory with absolutely no idea where to go that all of the madness was worth it: in just a few hours, I’d be in the same room as Beyoncé, who was playing the second of four shows to celebrate the opening of Revel, Atlantic City’s new resort that is attempting to bring the sophisticated debauchery of Vegas to the Jersey Shore. The four-show event was dubbed "Back to Business," and it was clear that the boss was ready for action.

First of all, my companion Maura Johnston (whose review you can read here) and I were in the seventh row in the orchestra, close enough that I am certain that not only did Beyoncé see my face but that we also made eye contact and she is aware of my existence. No, seriously. I am convinced of this. I was very, very close to the stage, as you can see in the image below:

Sure, Bey didn’t blow me a kiss or anything (as she did to Sasha and Malia Obama, who sat with friends in the front row of the VIP box just above my seat, dancing and singing along with the rest of the crowd), but I’m pretty sure I made an impression. Have you ever locked eyes with one of the most famous and talented people in the world and so clearly had a deep connection with them in the brief moment you shared before they had to go stage-right and do their signature shoulder pop and booty-shake? No? I’m so sorry to hear that! 

Boogying at the Borgata with the Ronsons & Duran Duran

I’m in some small town in Virginia, parking with relatives until a business meeting this afternoon. It’s all pumpkins and fake cobwebs, as here, Halloween is all about kids and tricks or treats. We left AC to go to DC, and I don’t need any wise cracks from the peanut gallery. We are exhausted from our trip to the Borgata and its whirlwind ’80s weekend. Everything was sold out, and people who read my Friday article were trying to hustle me for hookups. There are a billion reasons why Borgata sells out on these big weekends. Basically, as the only game in town, it refuses to rest on its laurels and continues to book great acts, events and DJs.

We came down in a blizzard, completely obsessed with catching Duran Duran in concert. The snow and the late info that the Misfits were performing in NYC with Glen Danzig almost kept us home, but as I said, we were obsessed. We valeted the car and realized the weather was now irrelevant. There was no need to leave the sprawling Borgata complex for a couple of days. Food, entertainment, spas, pools and comfortable digs were in the cards. We ate ginormous steaks at the Old Homestead and then rushed to the show.

We weren’t expecting much from Duran Duran because we didn’t want to be disappointed. We thought it might just turn out to be a bunch of old geezers going through the motions—more Karaoke than concert. What happened was mind blowing: they were great. I had met them once back in ’88 and was impressed at the time how gentlemanly and accessible they were. They exude friendliness from the stage. They love what they are doing and the crowd sang along with every song and danced and cheered. Simon Le Bon just celebrated a birthday on October 27, which has him deep in his 50s. He was bearded and trim, and his voice was strong. He pranced and danced and engaged an audience that wanted to eat him up. Duran Duran was tight.

The songs seemed modern yet classic, a nod to new production and a new album produced by old friend Mark Ronson, who joined them on stage, guitar in hand. In an age where DJs are considered the new rockstars, Mark goes literal. Clad in a well tailored leopard print jacket and that impossible hairdo, he went toe to toe with these legends. This was the last show of a 25-gigs-in-35-days tour, and the first thing I asked management was when it was done was when are they coming through again? It was magical and I want to see it again and again. Simon thanked the crowd and everyone who hosted them in “our beautiful country.” He dedicated “Ordinary World” to those who for many reasons could not be there. Those that have passed were remembered. I admit I teared up; it was beautifully performed.

Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters came on for a number. She, as we, had traveled tough roads from New York to get there. “A NO NO…NOTORIOUS” sent the crowd into a frenzy. “Hungry Like a Wolf” blew the roof off the place. Judy from the audience was tasked to introduce Simon to the crowd after he had done the honors for everyone else. She screamed that he was the “hottest man in the world” despite the ugliest (except for mine) shirt in the world. His was a sort of Jersey Shore/Beetlejuice mash-up. They mashed-up “Wild Boys” with Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s, “Relax,” and 2000 people sang along. They were loved, they were relevant, they were sharp and fun, and glad to be there. Rio closed the show and sent everyone into the Casino with smiles.

We headed to Mixx where Mark Ronson was set to DJ. Everyone was in costumes with a $3000 cash prize at stake. Mark walked in and rushed over to see me. He was my DJ of choice, back in the Life days. He was a star then and now he is a matinee and cover idol. I wondered if he would be the same, or if his success changed him. The smile and the handshake showed me he was the same Mark I have always loved. We talked and talked and caught up, and a million things were left unsaid but understood. He told me about something I had written here, and I was flattered. I have never met a Ronson I didn’t adore. Sister Samantha was nearby. She judged the Costume contest at Mixx before doing the same duty at mur mur and Djing there. She praised a hot Jersey gal in a Pocahontus costume before the lass corrected her. She was really an Egyptian Princess. After the cash was given to the Na’vi and the guy in the Gorilla suit, Mark went on. He showed why he was, and must still be, considered one of the top DJs around.

We went to check out Samantha with Borgata’s always dapper Greg Coyle. There, sweet Samantha Ronson groupies surrounded the booth. “They are here every time she plays,” said Coyle, which he says is about once a month. As we stood in the booth, the hotties begged me to introduce them, even as boyfriends hovered nearby. Opening DJ Doug Grayson, a smiling newlywed, explained the phenomenon. They love her and feel she is this celebrity who loves them and being there. Samantha blew them out. The crowd lives for her.

Borgata is unreal. The next night it was the incredible DJ Ruckus with Rev Run, and another big night. We laughed as they played classic ’80s hip-hop. This collaboration has legs and is a must-catch if you can. We dined at Michael Minas’ Sea Blue and it was divine. We never considered leaving the grounds as our in-room TV said it was 32 degrees out. We roamed around the Casino floor, checking out the vampires and the vamps, the pirates and the princesses. All came to have a great time. From time to time, I’d stop and say hello to a familiar face, a New Yorker with a similar mindset. I’m down again in a few to catch Jay-Z.

Russell Brand Conquers Atlantic City with Stand Up at the Borgata

I don’t need much of an excuse to visit Atlantic City. The Borgata – that glorious, golden monolith rising out of the Back Bay – offers enough distractions (without the comic relief) to make me smile. Yet this past weekend, comic relief was being offered in the form of Russell Brand, that confusing English dude (or is it bloke?) married to that very famous and fabulous Katy Perry. Some article pointed out how Mr. Russell was worth a piddling $5 or $6 million, while Katy was making gazillions.

How could this mere pauper snag the richest prize in tabloid land? What could he offer to make up for this huge monetary disparity? Well he always seemed real cool to me and funny and all that, from what I had seen of him on the tube and at a couple of clubs. He seemed to be alright, maybe even real. I hadn’t gotten tired of his self-effacing shtick. I like the guy and was worried he couldn’t stand up to the challenge of stand up. When he opened his act, Russell instructed the Jersey—or as he eloquently put it “Joisey’ crowd—on the differences in his King’s English and the one I learned growing up in Jackson Heights, Queens. He then went into a bit about the similarities of masturbation between apes and men and how it bothered him that the techniques were so similar. I was worried. I like Russell Brands’ brand. The bumbling, witty, charming English rock star rap has made me giggle and guffaw before, but I had no idea what to expect at this show. I was just hoping that there wouldn’t be too many uncomfortable moments. I was hoping he wouldn’t bomb.

Russell Brand’s act was a triumph. Not only did we laugh at him but we all fell in love with him. Charisma, charm, wit, cleverness, and accessibility drew us in and left us limp. We all understand why Katy with her monetary and mammary advantages chose him. He was a whirlwind of gut-hurting antics and insights. Of particular brilliance was the part about the things he would have said at the VMAs if Kanye West hadn’t stolen away those four and a half minutes. His retrospective on how lucky he was to not say the things he might have said about the Twilight series and its cast blew us away. Kanye saved him from scorn and humiliation. He then garnished belly laughs from reading the Atlantic City Weekly and on the way bringing audience members on stage for spontaneous fun. He called some poor girls’ mom from her cell phone and had another success with a gal who turned his mile long mic chord into a lasso.

He was everywhere: on stage prancing around, climbing up and down seats, and running up and down aisles. The funniest bit was the part where he compared Katy’s sweet loving tweets from fans, then just moments later excerpts from the same fan cursing him with a swarm of “fuck you’s” and “you don’t deserve her you fuck fucker.” We were dying. The whole thing was being shot by discreetly placed handhelds but Russell pointed out that they couldn’t shoot the audience as many of the attendees might be with someone significantly other than their significant other. The sex ads in Atlantic City and the infamous sleaziness that is a passenger to any Atlantic City conversation were fertile material for his act.

image image Russell Brand has always seemed to be a one act pony riding that drunk rock star gimmick for as far as it will run. He even referred to it by saying that he will do it, he will basically play himself, in movies for as long as people will pay him for it. The waters on the stage stool suggested that he is getting a hold of himself. He seems to have gotten his act together in so many ways.

The billboards were everywhere, screaming about the upcoming second season of Boardwalk Empire, that historical HBO drama that takes us back to the glory days of AC. Borgata is far away from the heart of Atlantic City, the famous Boardwalk. It is a non-Boardwalk Empire self sufficient, and all inclusive. Still, the lure of the ocean and the trappings of the old strip are irresistible. The hookers are still there, easily spotted because of their wardrobe malfunctions and their nonexistent smiles. The sleaze still sleeps in the corners like lint. Peddlers and pawn shops linger like old stains refusing to go away in the wash. Billions have poured in, yet the surrounding areas remain so poor. It is a tale of two cities, the musings of another ancient Englishman.The Borgata with its fine wines and restaurants and pools and spas and the old world that balks against becoming new, clean, sanitized, wonderful and then the low life city of fame and some fun lives down by the Chelsea Hotel and the other monoliths that grace the ocean. The shops at Caesars and the Tropicana are better than they were a few years ago. Here, the crowds have improved and less lint is visible. There is some improvement everywhere. I could walk where no man would walk before. Yet while those places improve by inches, the Borgata has improved exponentially and rather than rest on its laurels, it will renovate its 2000 plus guest rooms.

Atlantic City is not Las Vegas, although everyone strives to compare the two cities. Atlantic City has the beach and its own feel. I could stay there for a week and be excited every day. Vegas bores me to tears after a weekend. Atlantic City has soul. It comes from the Capone bootlegger days and the Boardwalk and the years of rot and grime and crime. It comes from the lint in its corners. Vegas has no soul and doesn’t seem to want it.

The Borgata showed us a good time. We dined at Bobby Flays where a steak and everything that goes with it slayed me. Fornelletto offered us fine Italian fare the next night. We visited pool after pool and had nimble fingers rub the New York out of our muscles. I even got shaved real close. You would think by now I would be over close shaves. Greg Coyle, who books the entertainment, was everywhere. There must be 2 of him, I thought, then realizing that he’s a one of kind guy. We visited DJ Rashida at Mur.Mur and were awed. She is so smooth. The crowd moved heatedly to her down tempo mixes then rushed up to meet her as she raised the bar. Bedazzled headphones and a Prince association add to the allure. Her set was not a play down to the crowds at the Jersey Shore but an intelligent, hip mix. Greg escorted us over to see DJ Ruckus at Mixx. He was blasting the huge crowd into a frenzy, at one point picking up his CD player and playing it like Hendrix on a guitar. The crowd went wild. He talks to them, scratches, sniffs, does anything to keep the energy up but took time to offer me his hand and his famous huge smile. image We left Atlantic City just a little limp… sated and pampered and entertained. I guess that’s why they built the place. I have been going to Atlantic City since before the first casino was built. Back then I was seeking out the corners where the lint gathered. Nowadays I want the lint there but don’t much get involved with it. The crowd at the Borgata is well aware of how far it has come, how far it has carried Atlantic City. Jerry Seinfeld was playing the large room and his fans, dressed for the success they enjoy, streamed through the Casino floor mixing with the hipper Brand followers. The energy, the action was everywhere. Gamblers won and lost and people hooked up and entertainers entertained and here we were on land that just a few years back was home only to Snowy Egrets, Herons and other water fowl. Somebody threw some large dice some years back. Someone saw a swamp and envisioned a paradise, a place where locals and visitors from Philly and New York and a thousand etceteras could behave elegantly and maybe a little badly.

A few years back the crowds were not as sophisticated as they are now. I touched on that yesterday when I discussed their wine program and how it was meeting the need of an audience that demands world class services and goods. The Aces train was half full on my last trip down. This time it was sold out. In Boardwalk Empire last season Nucky Thompson argued, bribed and threatened a Senator to get roads built from Philadelphia and New York to his Atlantic City. Nucky was, among other things, a visionary. He knew the importance of easy access to this promised land. Aces trains offer that convenience. The Borgata was just a theory just a few years back. A billion plus dollar gamble away from the Monopoly board Boardwalk and the streets around it, for better or worse. Borgata was a vision of a city on to itself, close enough and far enough away from Historic AC. That vision has been fulfilled. Borgata is wonderful and keeps getting more wonderful.

I don’t know about you, but my world is a scary place. The tube and funny papers scream at me every day about how bad things are and they always seem to be getting worse. There are times when keeping my head above water requires a little help from my friends. I’m no chicken little but once in awhile I need to take a deep breath. Borgata washed it all away and made me feel a bit more whole, a bit more capable to fight the good fight and thrive rather than just survive. Back in 1859, another English dude described the world he lived in. The words Charles Dickens used to describe his universe seem so relevant today:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Maybe a hundred years from now those words will ring as true. Maybe the fundamental things do apply as time goes by. Borgata understands the fundamentals and provides them in style while most joints exploit or cater only to the excesses. There is its success. The bookings of world class acts were pasted on billboards promising excitement and relief. I’m coming back to see Duran Duran and maybe Frankie Valli—you know, of the Four Seasons. Like Frankie I’m a four seasons kind of guy and so is AC. I’ll be returning this fall, all winter long, and into the Spring if they’ll have me. Borgata provides respite and not just during the summer season. I didn’t shout it from the audience as so many did, so here I go, “Russell Brand, I Love You.”