The 'Penthouse' publisher was the architect behind Miss America's greatest scandal and the failed Penthouse Boardwalk Casino.
Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione never achieved the full notoriety of his contemporaries in the skin magazine trade, but still loomed as a controversial figure with his publication, which was much more hardcore than Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, but much tamer than Larry Flynt’s Hustler.
Yet Guccione, who died Wednesday at 79, did manage to leave two indelible marks on Atlantic City history.
In 1984, Guccione chose to publish nude photos of then reigning Miss America Vanessa Williams (after Hefner turned them down), creating the biggest scandal in the pageant’s history. While many have forgotten the pageant after it skipped off to Vegas a few years ago, in 1984 Miss America was as beloved an institution as the city had ever known. Watching Williams, who was forced to give up her title, broke a lot of hearts in the resort.
But even before that, Guccione was known around town for his failed Penthouse Boardwalk Casino at Pacific and Missouri avenues. Started in 1978, the project ran out of money and halted construction in 1980. It didn’t help that Guccione never received a gambling license. The hulking steel frame would be an eyesore at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway for more than a decade.
But it was also a must-see photo-op for tourists thanks to the late Vera Coking, who refused to sell her home to the project despite a reported $1 million offer. Her modest little house would be surrounded by that metal superstructure like a caged dollhouse, creating an almost iconic image of the city’s struggle to revitalize itself.
Donald Trump finally acquired the property in 1993 and eventually tore the superstructure down (and had his own battle with Coking).
Much of what Guccione had achieved in his life faded as the Internet cut into his magazine empire and bad deals (like his casino) ate away his fortune.
But he will be remembered here as the architect of one of Atlantic City’s saddest days and one of its most absurd images.
You can read a full obit here.
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