Steve Martin in Atlantic City

By David J. Spatz
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Nov. 1, 2012

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Not long after Caesars 
Atlantic City booked the Steep Canyon Rangers for a Nov. 2 gig, someone asked me if I’d ever met the band’s occasional front man, a pretty darn accomplished banjo picker.

Perhaps you’ve heard of him. His name is Steve Martin. Yep, that Steve Martin. The wild and crazy actor and skilled practitioner of the art of absurdist comedy.

Meet him? Heck, Steve Martin gave me the finger once – in front of 1,500 people. Then we had dinner.

Of course, there were 10 years of separation between those contrasting moments in time. 

It was December 1978, and Resorts International Casino Hotel was six months into its monopoly on Atlantic City gaming. And casino marketing was still in its infancy, since this was new territory for the first casino to open outside of Nevada.

But the marketing and entertainment minds at Resorts knew that December was going to be a tough month even for the only casino within thousands of miles. 

Resorts had already presented some of the biggest names in show business, both established and contemporary. But they knew they needed something really special during the post-Thanksgiving run-up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve. 

See, back then, state gaming laws required casinos to present entertainment in their main showrooms seven nights a week. It was all part of the state’s grand plan to make Atlantic City more Monte Carlo than Las Vegas. One way to do that, the theory went, would be to offer shows all week so that card games and slot machines weren’t the primary focal point of each pleasure palace. (Even then, someone was thinking of non-gaming attractions.)

In order to compete with Santa Claus, Resorts needed something that would grab headlines and fill the 1,500-seat Superstar Theater for seven nights. So they booked arguably the hottest comedian on the planet: Steve Martin.

Through appearances on The Tonight Show, a hilarious HBO On Location special and appearances on Saturday Night Live, Martin was a bona fide comedy star who was still a year away from his breakout movie role in The Jerk.

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