BACKSTAGE WITH BRUCE KLAUBER: July, 2015 Edition
Billionaire Investor Carl Icahn is now the sole owner of the Trump Taj Mahal Resort. This move was necessary in order to exit bankruptcy, filed by parent company Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc. Icahn, by the way, also owns A.C.’s Tropicana.
Though it’s hardly surprising, Revel owner Glenn Straub has confirmed that the casino portion of the facility will not open this summer. But the once-popular Revel nightspot, HQ, could open sometime this month. Whether that will work without a casino is certainly a question. Straub, we hear, is talking to “tribal operators” and “international people” about who have expressed interest in buying Revel from Straub. One investor, a Vincent Crandon, has said he is seriously interested in buying it. Crandon was also serious about buying either Revel or the shuttered Atlantic Club two years ago and nothing came of it. It does appear, however, that Crandon likes to see his name and photograph in the paper. While Straub said the venue is not for sale, “a $200 million offer might make me rethink my position.”
There is some action over at the Atlantic Club, shuttered since January, 2014. A Pennsylvania-based company called Endeavor Property Group is in talks to buy the building and surrounding property. The new Atlantic Club would be an entertainment complex—complete with water park—and would also be a combination hotel/condominium.
Back in the days of Maury Z. Levy, and that’s way back, Philadelphia Magazine was considered to be one of the finest, if not the finest city magazine in the country. I pretty much stopped reading it some years ago when I had my fill of “Best Lawyers” and “Best Doctors” service pieces. A neighbor recently passed along a copy of the June issue to me, and though it’s still laden with service pieces–and in terms of attracting advertisers, that’s basically a fact of life today in the world of print–there are several impressive, articles within that would proudly stand next to anything Philly Mag published in the 1960s and 1970s. Of particular interest to “Backstage” is Simon Van Zuylen-Wood’s piece on just what went on between Stockton University’s now-deposed president and the ill-conceived purchase of Atlantic City’s Showboat Hotel and Casino. Investigative journalism like the old days.
Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein moves quickly. Blatstein, who purchased the failing Pier Shops at Caesars for a paltry $2.7 million, announced that that the ground floor of what he’s calling “The Playground” will open on July 4. “T-Street,” on level one, will consist of seven live music venues, featuring the sounds of everything from jazz to country, with food and beverages courtesy of Jose Garces company, Garces Events. No word on when the second and third floors, which Blatstein says will house a swimming pool, bowling alley and more restaurants, will be completed. When all is said and done, Blatstein’s investment will total $50 million.
REESE PALLEY: 1922-2015
Atlantic City will not be the same after the death of art dealer and raconteur Reese Palley, “merchant to the rich,” who died last month at the age of 93. His art gallery outside of the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel, which sold, among other things, the porcelain figures of animals and birds produced by Edward Marshall Boehm, was a fixture and a “must visit” destination from 1957 until 1979. But that was only one of many projects this certifiable eccentric—eccentric in the most positive sense—had his hands in. Those projects included opening an airline in the Maldives and a sewing machine needle factory in Russia. He also wrote several books and traveled around the world in a 15-year journey via a 46-foot sloop. Palley was also plenty, plenty smart. He bought the Blenheim in 1976, likely for next to nothing, and a few weeks later sold it to Bally’s for millions more than he paid for it.
WHAT’S NEW AT THE OLD FOUR SEASONS
The news about the future plans for the “old Four Seasons” Hotel in Center City Philadelphia is out. It will reopen in November as what will be this region’s first “deluxe Hilton Worldwide” hotel. But it won’t be called a Hilton, as Host Hotels & Resorts, the owner of the property, wants something snappier. It will be called “The Logan,” which is certainly accurate, given the location, but hardly a winner in the snappy department.
LIVING AT PAT’S STEAKS
Just who would move into a four-story, luxury apartment complex located just across the street from Pat’s Steaks? Answer: no one, as plans for such a thing—if you can believe there were actual plans for this—have been nixed by the Philadelphia Zoning Board’s 4-0 vote. We’re not sure whether or not Zoning Board members ordered eight cheesesteaks “wit” directly after the meeting.
Our childhood pal and long-time radio disc jockey Rick Lesley has checked into “Backstage” and has let us know that his radio show, “RDV Gold,” broadcasts every Monday night on WRDV FM radio. Lesley’s specialties are Motown, Doo Wop (and he’s an expert at both), and the Philly Sound. You can find WRDV on 89.3 FM in Warminster/Hatboro. 107.3 Philadelphia. and 97.1 Bensalem Interested listeners can also access the show worldwide via wrtv.org. This is a neat little radio station that not enough folks are aware of. They play everything from big band jazz and gospel to polkas and blues.
THE EXPLOSION AT THE EXPONENT
There’s no arguing that making any good money by publishing a newspaper or magazine is a challenge these days. On the positive side, there’s a plethora of free weeklies out there—though some struggle to keep going each week—and some publications actually appear to doing well such as Philadelphia Magazine and Philadelphia Style. One of the publications that those in the business thought was immune from struggle was the venerable and venerated Jewish Exponent, the second oldest Jewish newspaper in the country. Those in the Jewish community were shocked and saddened last month at the news that the Exponent, said to be losing $300,000 per year, laid off some 15 editorial and production staffers. Editorial will be outsourced to a larger supplier, based in Baltimore, with the hope being that this cost-cutting move will help save the publication. There are many theories as to why this happened, beyond the fact that, quite simply, print is in trouble almost everywhere. Herewith are some other theories: Similar to what happened with The Philadelphia Orchestra, it is possible that the powers-that-be at the Exponent thought the party would never end, ignored the fact that its readership was aging, and what they did to reach a younger audience both online and in print was a case of too little, too late. Sure, Philadelphia Magazine gets criticism for its “Best Lawyer,” “Best Doctor” and “Best Hamburger” service pieces. But those pieces generate income and make it possible for some damn good editorial. It can also be argued that, when it comes to the younger contingent, religion “ain’t what it used to be.” Indeed, there’s more than one synagogue locally and nationally that is in trouble. But again, the half-hearted attempts to appeal to a wider audience were not aggressive enough and happened too late. Some maintain that the handwriting was on the wall years ago, and that a complete makeover and image change should have been instituted back then. Still, there is a chance that this outsourcing experiment, as it’s being called, will work. Sadly, however, as a result of it, the Jewish Exponent will never be the same.
In 1919, architect Frank E. Hahn began building a movie theater—in the classical revival style—on 16th and South Street. The Royal opened a year later as among the first built for Philadelphia’s black residents. As was the custom back then, there were stage shows as well, with just some of the performers being legends like Fats Waller and Bessie Smith. It closed in 1970 and has been vacant since then. In 2000, a company owned by Kenny Gamble purchased the property. Thirteen years later, it was still vacant, and Gamble applied for a demolition permit, with only the façade being preserved. Philadelphia resident Juan Levy didn’t like this at all, and filed suit in Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas to block this and to appoint real estate developer Ori Felbush as conservator. There’s been lots of talk since about doing something with the property. It appears that the time has come with the announcement that the architectural committee of the Philadelphia Historical Commission, neighborhood and business organizations have come out in support of new design plans. Those plans include ground floor retail space including an “upscale food market and 45 rental apartments behind it. Don’t look for construction to start immediately. As is often the case with things like this, several more approvals are needed before the bulldozers come in.