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Pinky's Corner

No. 1 Atlantic Ocean

By Pinky Kravitz
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 20, 2006

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No. 1 Atlantic Ocean

By Pinky Kravitz --> LATEST WORD ON THE street as to when the opening of The Pier at Caesars will be, is that the doors will open in the last week in June for about half of the stores. Other shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities will open as they are completed in July and August. It is anticipated that there will be a formal opening of the entire complex in the fall. Those who have seen it say it far surpasses their expectations.

The Pier's footprint encompasses the beach and even the dunes as there are fans moving the dune grass in the sand, along the walkway as you walk through the pier. There are also beach-type chairs for those who want to sit and relax in this unusual atmosphere. Sheldon and Scott Gordon, respectively the chairman and president of the Gordon Group, developers of the pier (expected to be renamed The Forum Shops at Caesars Pier), have created an attraction that will draw people from around the world to see this marvelous addition to the retail, restaurant and entertainment venues in Atlantic City.

The Pier at Caesars' address is No. 1 Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City, NJ. This was the address given to Young's Million Dollar Pier, the pier's original name, by the United States Post Office when Captain John L. Young built it in 1906. Captain Young built a house on the pier that hosted several United States Presidents for dinner.

The pier has been made seamless with the Boardwalk by using the same wood for its entranceway, thus inviting those passing by to continue their walk along the wooden way onto the pier. To date, there has been no information about the major companies who will put their advertisements on the signs on the outside of the pier. Tens of thousands of people on the beach will be able to see these in the daytime. In the evening, those strolling the Boardwalk will see the brightly lit signs from a couple of miles or so away.

The water attraction at the ocean end of the pier will draw people to walk out to see the water shooting 100 feet into the air along with a wonderful "dancing waters" exhibit that will rival any other in the nation today, so we have been told. The water show will be displayed every hour.

One needs only to speak with any of the workmen and women who have built this magnificent facility to see the pride they have in being a part of the team that built an attraction that stretches a quarter of a mile over the Atlantic Ocean and, to my knowledge, is the only one of its kind in the world.

Million Dollar Pier Memories

In its early days, the pier hosted a variety of activities in its ballroom located at the front of the pier. The walls of the ballroom were lined with aquariums that were filled with fish caught by a net at the end of the pier. Everyday, throngs of people would be out at the end of the pier to watch the net haul and see the variety of fish that were in the Atlantic Ocean. The ballroom had two bandstands facing one another so that there would be continuous dance music when a band took a break.

At one time there were marathon dances held on the Million Dollar Pier that brought in couples from around the country hoping to win the money prize for the couple that could dance the longest period over a span of several days. The marathon dances were the subject of the motion picture They Shoot Horses Don't They?

The masters of ceremonies for the dances were relatively unknown singers and comedians who were glad to get a job for a couple of days. Two of them became household names. One was Red Skelton, who I interviewed at the Trump Marina in the '90s while he was performing at Caesars. He loved talking about those days.

The other was Frankie Laine, who was just the opposite. Years ago, long before the casino era, I had a job as a bartender at a little bar on Virginia Avenue and the Boardwalk, around the corner from the Steel Pier. One afternoon, I was alone in the bar waiting for customers and in walked Frankie Laine, who was starring at the Steel Pier. I gave him the drink he ordered and started to talk with him. He was very pleasant until I asked if he would relate some of his experiences while he was a master of ceremonies for the marathon dances at the Million Dollar Pier. A few days before, I had read a newspaper story about some of the big-time names who had made a few bucks early in their career hosting the marathon dances and his name was mentioned.

I told him this and he said it wasn't true. He proceeded to pick up his change and, without another word, left a full drink and walked out of the bar mumbling to himself. I guess he didn't want people to know how old he was.

The Million Dollar Pier and the Steel Pier would compete against one another to see who could get the big name bands to play in their ballrooms and the major stars to perform in their theaters. Each of the piers also had outdoor circuses at the end of the pier. Clyde Beatty, the renowned animal trainer, was featured at the Million Dollar Pier, as was Houdini, the master magician. The Steel Pier also had the High Diving Horses, circus acts and men diving from the pier into the ocean.

In the '50s the Million Dollar Pier cut out the theater shows and brought in fun activities for their clientele. They had a big slide, the barrel, the Mexican hat that spun 'round and 'round as riders slid off the flat surface. They also had a funhouse that let you walk outside of the covered portion and, as the women would walk along the walkway, a man behind a partition would push a button releasing a stream of air that would cause the women's skirts or dresses to fly up and reveal their undergarments. George Hamid Jr. said this was the best job he ever had in his early days of working for his father, who at one time owned the Million Dollar Pier.

The funhouse, slide and other indoor activities eventually closed and the front of the pier was turned into an arcade with rides for children, carnival games, an Italian Village and an area that was set aside for a dance hall.

In 1956, I was a teacher and the coach of Atlantic City's Biddy Basketball team that won the Biddy World Championship. I was offered the job of running the dance club, which I did for two years. The pier was eventually sold to the company that built the Ocean One Pier. It offered a variety of shops and restaurants but it never achieved the success that the owners believed it would. The Ocean One Pier did well in the summer, but in the winter there were few people walking on the Boardwalk and there were no parking facilities within close proximity to the pier.

Along came the Gordon Group headed by Sheldon Gordon who had the vision to revitalize the pier and make it a world-class shopping, restaurant and entertainment facility. Only two more months to wait until we can set foot on The Pier at Caesars and behold this outstanding addition to Atlantic City. Believe me, when you experience it you will see why there will be so many accolades for the job done by the Gordon Group.

Pinky's Corner airs Monday through Friday from 4 to 6pm on News Talk WOND-AM 1400. His TV show, WMGM Presents Pinky, airs Saturday at 7:30pm on TV40. Pinky's e-mail address is: pinky@atlanticcityweekly.com.

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