Now in its third year, Caesars Entertainment’s weekend-long OUT in AC series will be hosted by dazzling Las Vegas drag queen Frank Marino.
ATLANTIC CITY — Caesars Entertainment has again assembled a weekend full of fun events focused on Atlantic City’s gay community. It starts Friday night, Sept. 23, with a four-course dinner party at House of Blues’ Foundation Room featuring the Hearty Boys — a gay couple who host a cooking show on the Food Network — and several other segments served up in a festive atmosphere and hosted by famed Las Vegas drag queen Frank Marino.
This is the third annual OUT In AC event put on by Caesars Entertainment (an organization that regularly receives high commendation from the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index), and one of many GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) events to materialize on the Atlantic City landscape in recent years.
Among them are the revival of the popular female impersonator show Miss’d America and Resorts’ presentation of Believe — Divas in a Man’s World, the return of the pioneering gay bar Brass Rail and the establishment of the first-ever full-time gay bar inside an Atlantic City casino (Prohibition at Resorts), and other OUT in AC events hosted by establishments like The Chelsea hotel, Absecon Lighthouse, Ram’s Head Inn and others.
Feedback from gay advocate groups and organizations has been overwhelmingly positive regarding this trend. Atlantic City once had a flourishing gay social scene that slowly disappeared when casinos moved in and land values soared, but that inclination was all-encompassing, and not necessarily one targeting a particular sector of the population or another. Nonetheless those overseeing gay-advocacy groups like the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance, GABLES of Cape May County and the South Jersey AIDS Alliance see the strong return of gay-oriented activity as a long-overdue boon to a resort community that sorely needs it.
“One only needs to look as far as today’s headlines reporting the lifting of the ban on gays in the military to see [GLBT inclusion] into a position in the wider community,” says Keith Egan, president/CEO of the South Jersey AIDS Alliance, based in Atlantic City. “The gay community offers a population that the casinos have identified as a potential source of revived income.”
As a demographic, gay couples tend to have more disposable income than heterosexual couples since there are often two full-time salaries coming into the household and no children to support.
“I think that the OUT in AC event will be only the tip of a very lucrative and socially significant iceberg, which will significantly help Atlantic City and other resort towns lay the foundation for an improved economy,” says Egan.
“It’s evident that the casinos are taking the importance of the gay community seriously, especially when you consider that it’s not just events that are being tailored to them but in some cases the casino’s actual physical plant. The 13th floor of Resorts is most notable here, where the entire area has been dedicated to entertainment, and workspaces are designed to appeal to members of the gay community.”
Like Egan, Marino — who is making his first return to Atlantic City in 20 years after launching his drag-queen career at the former Bally’s Park Place in 1982 — chooses to see the revival of GLBT activity in the area as a blessing rather than cause for any kind of bitterness.
“Everybody’s always going to take it both ways — you’re either going to interpret it as ‘exploitation’ or look at it like, ‘it’s about time,’” says Marino. “I’d rather take it as ‘it’s about time’ and move forward. Even though the cause might be what some label as exploitation, it ends up just being the right thing to do.
“Hopefully it’ll be the way things are, and the way they remain, and everybody — whether you’re talking about gay rights, women’s rights, people of color’s rights or the rights of different ethnic groups — it’s the same thing in each case,” adds Marino. “The rights of all people should be the same and should be the norm.”
Marino’s return to A.C. follows at 25-year run as the star of An Evening at La Cage at Las Vegas’ Imperial Palace, which garnered him recognition by the Guinness Book of World Records as Vegas’ longest-running headliner. He led a cast of other drag-queen characters as a Joan Rivers look-alike and the show’s emcee, but in A.C. he’ll host several OUT in AC events (including Saturday night’s four-part party at The Pool at Harrah’s, centered around the sensuality of chocolate) as his own drag-queen persona.
“I’m so excited, this is my first time back to Atlantic City in 20 years,” says Marino, who opened his own show in Vegas two years ago called Divas Las Vegas under sponsorship of Caesars Entertainment. “[In A.C.] I’ll just be Frank Marino in drag — my own femme fatale character that I’ve created over the years. I’ll have a lot of people coming down from New York for this event, which is where I’m from, and on Valentine’s Day weekend  I’ll be bringing the entire Divas Las Vegas show here to Harrah’s [Atlantic City].”
The OUT in AC weekend wraps up with a “hangover brunch” Sunday at Harrah’s third-floor ballroom, followed by a gay bingo event Sunday to benefit the South Jersey AIDS Alliance.
“I’m calling bingo,” says Marino. “This’ll be a weekend full of firsts for me.”
The bingo event has been a staple since the OUT In AC event started three years ago, but Caesars Entertainment’s regional director of entertainment Jason Spencer says they’ve tweaked it from year to year based on customer feedback.
“Three years ago we started this because we wanted to have a signature weekend for this customer group, as the [GLBT] community has been a great segment for us and we just want to continue to build on the momentum,” says Spencer. “This year we mixed some casual events with some strong celebrity events, including Friday’s ‘Restaurant Invasion’ in the Foundation Room with the Hearty Boys.”
“OUT in AC weekend is the quintessential event here in Atlantic City that embodies Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to fun, diversity and pride,” says Jennifer Weissman, the organization’s regional vice president of marketing. “Each year this weekend grows, with this being one of the most desirable times of the year to come and experience all that Atlantic City has to offer.”
Third Annual OUT in Atlantic City Weekend
When: Friday through Sunday, Sept. 23-25.
Where: Caesars Entertainment Properties
Tickets: 800-745-3000 or at Ticketmaster.com
On the Web: outinac.com
• Friday, Sept. 23 — “Restaurant Invasion” at Showboat’s House of Blues Foundation Room, 8-10pm, hosted by The Hearty Boys of the Food Network. Price: $75.
• Saturday, Sept. 24 — “Day Party” at The Pool at Harrah’s, noon-5pm, featuring themed cocktails, dancers and music. Price: free, but must register at facebook.com/harrahsresort. “Sexual Chocolate Body Painting” at The Loft at Harrah’s, 5-8pm. Four inclusive segments hosted by Two Chicks with Chocolate. Price: $35.
• Sunday, Sept. 25 — “Hangover Brunch” at Harrah’s third-floor ballroom, noon-2pm, featuring signature Bloody Marys, mimosas, omelets and carving stations. Price: $30. “Gay Bingo” at Harrah’s third-floor ballroom (immediately following the brunch). Chance to win prizes in a charity-based event. Price: free
• Additionally, on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 6pm, the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance is hosting a Food & Wine Pairing at the Foundation Room at Showboat. Price: $20. Call 609-457-1716 for more info.
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