No municipality in the nation needed some good news in a bad economy more than Atlantic City. Enter ‘Boardwalk Empire.’
UPDATE: Wednesday, Sept. 21: Caesars' free screening of the season two premiere of HBO's Boardwalk Empire on Sunday, Sept. 25, will include members of the cast as well as live 20s music prior to the screening. For more details click here.
ATLANTIC CITY — What prompts those who have already had long, successful careers to embark on endeavors involving lots more painstaking work may be beyond most of our comprehension. But toiling for years in a town with a scandalous legal past must have gotten the best of his curiosity, so Judge Nelson Johnson researched and wrote the true-to-life book Boardwalk Empire: the Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City.
Eight years after the book’s publication it caught the attention of HBO. Famed screenwriter Terence Winter and director Martin Scorsese took the reins of the project, and in its first season last fall the series Boardwalk Empire — based on Johnson’s research but highly fictionalized — was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards.
“Judge Johnson has got to be pinching himself sometimes,” says Jeff Vasser, executive director of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority (ACCVA). “He writes it out of a labor of love, and all of a sudden it becomes a highly popular TV series.”
Nowhere in the nation is the series more popular than in the town on which it is based, checkered legal past or not. Anticipation of the show’s second-season launch on Sept. 25 is evidenced everywhere, with ’20s-themed tours, special programs, exhibits, events and period-appropriate music to match the series’ Prohibition-era setting.
“What I found very interesting is that there are people who really only think of Atlantic City in its post-gaming days,” says Vasser. “People forget about the role Atlantic City played in American history and the role we played in pop culture at the time. A lot of people look back at that ’20s era as a very romantic period in American history, and certainly Atlantic City was at the center of Prohibition, the growth of entertainment in this country, and then of course there’s our connection to the early days of organized crime.
“[Empire’s] helped remind people of what a colorful history we’ve had as a city, and helped bring these things back into focus for some people. And I think the fact that the series is very well regarded only helps.”
A link to Boardwalk Empire-related promotions on the ACCVA’s Web site (atlanticcitynj.com), and the nostalgic photos from 1920s Atlantic City on its home page, attests to the fact that the city is very much behind the show as a viable marketing tool. The ACCVA helped assemble two Prohibition-era tours — the Academy Bus Company’s “Nucky’s Way” tour, and the Great American Trolley’s “Roaring ’20s” tour — that strive to highlight existing landmarks, or the sites where they once existed that are prominently depicted in the show. There is also a life-sized replica of the A.C. storefronts that appear in the show on the ocean side of West Hall, adjacent to Boardwalk Hall.
“[The show producers] have been a little tight-lipped about what iconic symbols of Atlantic City or signs or buildings they’re going to be focusing on, so we kind of had to be prepared to react and promote what we could based on what it is they’re going to highlight on the show,” says Vasser. “Is it going to be the Steel Pier? Is it going to be the Knife and Fork? Is it going to be Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy? Who knew [in season one] they were going to highlight the Ritz, or the preemie infants on the Boardwalk?”
Vasser said that hits on the ACCVA’s Web site, traffic to its visitors centers and calls to its information phonelines were all up since the show started.
“Obviously I can’t say that’s all from Boardwalk Empire, but when you think about the fact that Atlantic City is now top of mind to a national audience, it can only help when it comes time to think about where they want to go for long weekend or vacation,” he says. “The show’s certainly helped bring Atlantic City to the forefront of people’s thoughts again.”
Other Boardwalk Empire-related events include the following:
Caesars Entertainment has partnered with HBO to promote the “Compliments of Nucky” campaign. It includes all sorts of special offers, perks and package deals at Caesars Entertainment’s four properties (Harrah’s, Showboat, Bally’s and Caesars), and a free community premiere screening party with Boardwalk Empire actor Anthony Laciura and possible others, as well as entainment at Caesars’ Circus Maximus Theater at 9pm Sunday, Sept. 25.
Caesars is currently working on lining up a meet-and-greet with cast members in conjunction with the event, as it did last year. The “Compliments” campaign also features an HBO-backed beautification project at three gateway locations into Atlantic City, and from midnight Friday, Sept. 23, through midnight Sunday, Sept. 25, HBO will cover all eastbound tolls at the Pleasantville toll plaza on the A.C. Expressway — “compliments of Nucky.”
Go to the show’s Web site, boardwalkempire.com, and click “Compliments of Nucky” under the heading Boardwalk Buzz to learn more, or go to the show’s Facebook page (facebook.com/boardwalkempire).
The Atlantic City Free Public Library (at 1 N. Tennessee Ave. in A.C.) has a series of free events scheduled for the show’s second season called “Roaring Back to the ’20s.” It includes a concert on the Boardwalk (1pm, Saturday, Sept. 24, at Kennedy Plaza) with the Atlantic Ciy-based Jersey Rhythm Devils, Jim Craine Band (pictured) and Melanie Brough, showcasing the era’s music and dance; a panel discussion (2pm, Saturday, Oct. 29 at the library) featuring local historians, among them Empire author Nelson Johnson; and library exhibits that include rarely seen childhood photos of Nucky Johnson. The photos will be added to the library’s “Atlantic City Experience” Web site (atlanticcityexperience.org). Call 345-2269, ext. 3115, or go to acfpl.org for more information on these events.
"The game has changed quite a bit. Things have gotten a lot more violent, a lot more competitive, and Nucky has sort of had to up his game as well in order to survive. "
Justified and True Blood actor Stephen Root will appear on Boardwalk Empire starting in season three as "recurring lawman," according to Hollywood Reporter. Root will play "Gaston Means, a former swindler and murder suspect who now works for the Department of Justice."
"Eddie lived in a kind of musically optimistic 1920s place even though he had a shitty childhood. His parents died when he was young but his grandmother raised him and he was little and scrawny so he got beaten up a lot. He learned to make jokes so he could avoid getting beaten up, so from then on he realized this singing and dancing thing could work."
“It’s been my love and passion ever since I was five years old and I think this music moves people. People who come to see us, they say, ‘When I got here I was in kind of a blah mood, not so good, or depressed, or whatever and I come out in just a whole different place. I’m laughing, my spirits are lifted, it’s cheaper than going to a psychiatrist!’”
"We wanted to do it as if it was a behind-the-scenes video of the first rap video ever made [in the 1920s]. But we had trouble getting some of the props we needed for that, like a period movie camera — you know, that would have been our whole budget, just getting that camera."
Plus DrewToonz, the Album of the Week (The Roots), and music history exhibit at WheatonArts in Millville.
"When that piece of thing was falling out of the sky I said that I was going to try to go outside and try to get hit by that thing and try to commit suicide, but nobody would see it as a suicide though, so I was going to try to take advantage of it."
Plus Drew Toonz, the Album of the Week (Tom Waits), and local ghost tours.
In my last column I recommended checking out the new band the Jersey Rhythm Devils, who play music inspired by the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire. However, don’t be surprised if you hear some of their music cross over to HBO’s other hit series, Treme. Treme wrapped its second season this year, and tells the story of post Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Treme is an outstanding series in which the music of New Orleans plays as important a role as any of the cast members. Blues, bounce, jazz and hip-hop all fuses together in New Orleans...
Plus HERO Walk in Ocean City, Album of the Week and DrewToonz on 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 3
The HBO Emmy Award winning series Boardwalk Empire may be the talk of the town, but I bet you didn’t know that Terence Winter, Boardwalk Empire’s creator, gifted the cast and producers of the show with jewelry by local Atlantic County designer Paula Jerome to help celebrate the Emmys!
I’ve probably done a thousand location shoots, but none affected me more that this one. That’s because I can trace my family history back to this bawdy and tawdry period in Atlantic City’s history.
The famed seaside resort that is portrayed in HBO's hit drama series Boardwalk Empire celebrated the show's second season premiere on Sunday, Sept. 25, in a number of ways over the weekend.
Plus DrewToonz, the Album of the Week and Margate's Fall Funfest
Along with the premiere screening, at least three Boardwalk Empire actors have been confirmed to appear at the event — Anthony Laciura (Eddie Kessler), Adam Mucci (Dept. Halloran) and Michael Stuhlbarg (Arnold Rothstein) — and they will likely do meet-and-greets with fans.
“The three eras that attracted me where the 1920s, the ‘50s and the ‘70s. And really HBO’s mandate was [so broad that] I literally had a huge canvass to work from.”
Laciura also learned that “Nucky would get up around 4:30 in the afternoon and Lou — Eddie — would make sure that he had his dozen eggs, pound of bacon, coffee and toast — that’s what he had every ‘morning.’
"I wasn’t the only critic that wrote that there is nothing new on broadcast TV that’s as good as Boardwalk Empire. It used to be that cable wouldn’t counter-program against broadcast TV, but in the last few years they’ve gotten stronger and tougher and more arrogant."
Terry Winter, the executive producer, creator and one of the chief writers for the award-winning, Martin Scorsese directed HBO drama series Boardwalk Empire, has finally wrapped filming on the second season's last episode as of Wednesday, Sept. 7.
Plus Atlantic City Ballet set to celebrate 30 years; DrewToonz on 'Livin' de Life' and the Album of the Week.
Cable TV giant HBO has released an official trailer for the second season of its award-winning and milti-Emmy nominated drama series Boardwalk Empire.