As the Harrah’s properties prepare to host a gay-friendly, event-filled weekend, some in the city are hoping it’s the start of something more.
Sometimes, recessions can present unexpected opportunities.
For members of the Atlantic City region’s gay and lesbian community, what might be called a civil rights struggle, an attempt to form a real community or even just an effort to create some kind of gay social life in the area, also has one other good thing going for it.
It’s just good business. And that simple fact may give them the most hope for success.
Two groups — the recently formed Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance and the about year-and-a-half-old social group Be Visible — want Atlantic City to open its arms to a new community, and consequently a new market. Namely, gays and lesbians.
“Answering why we formed is easy,” says Rich Helfant, president of the GLBT Alliance. “There is no gay community and no gay life in Atlantic City. And for the city to exclude that segment of the market is just silly.”
But even before the group tests the waters, tough economic times are already bringing in gay-friendly events to the city. This weekend, Harrah’s Entertainment holds an “Out in AC” weekend. The festivities include appearances by Lance Bass, Amanda Lepore, Lori Michaels, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s Jai Rodriguez, and select cast of Showtime’s The L Word. Events are planned at Club Worship, The Pool at Harrah’s and at The House of Blues. (The Chelsea also has special package deals for the weekend.)
“Harrah’s Entertainment strives to provide its customers unique reasons to visit Atlantic City,” said Jennifer Weissman, regional VP of marketing for Harrah’s Atlantic City Operations. “Out in AC will showcase Harrah’s Entertainment as a year-round, friendly destination for the LGBT community.”
Meanwhile, the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority (ACCVA) has been marketing the city to gay and lesbian travelers for several years as part of a strategy to attract niche markets. And even some local bars and restaurants have begun to embrace gay-friendly events. It’s not exactly a tidal wave, but some local establishments such as the Ram’s Head Inn in Galloway Township and Le Grand Fromage in Gordon’s Alley have held gay nights.
It’s a start, but still a long way from creating a truly welcoming and, more importantly, a safe feeling for gay travelers.
“When I had moved down here from Philadelphia a few years ago, everybody was telling me I’d hate it here,” says Tom Gouker, a 44-year-old casino employee who formed the gay social group Be Visible. “There is virtually no nightlife here for the gay community, and really there’s no real gay community here. Obviously there are gay people here and visiting here, but it’s almost as if everyone is back in the closet. The idea of our group is to try to reconnect with the idea of a community and strengthen it and bring people together.”
In the case of Be Visible, despite a political sounding name, the approach has been almost entirely social through the promotion of parties and events. The group has held events such as gay beach days, gay days at The Surf (while the minor-league baseball team was still in existence) and many gay-friendly parties and nights at local restaurants.
Gouker expected to meet resistance to putting on the events, but with local nightspots struggling and looking for any way to attract groups of paying customers, things have been easier than he thought.
“When I first started this, I expected that most places I approached would say no,” Gouker says. “But nobody did and the events have been growing and becoming more successful. So with the economy the way it is, most establishments now are looking for anything that will bring in a group. So I’m actually being sought after now. Places are coming to me.”
Gouker’s first event drew 17 people. He now has more than 500 people on the group’s mailing list. Still, Gouker has hit some stumbling blocks.
“We have to be careful not to be too political,” he says. “Many of our members are really put off by that.”
Enter the new GLBT Alliance.
“Our mission is partly social advocacy and partially a business advocacy,” Helfant says. “And we do have a political purpose as well. But this isn’t about holding gay pride parades with rainbows on the Boardwalk. It’s about encouraging gay businesses, gay-themed events and creating a community. It’s about saying that the gay traveler is welcome here.”
From a business point of view, the gay-and-lesbian niche market could make a major difference for the city, which faces increased competition in casino markets.
“When you look at the profiles of gay travelers — and these are statistics, not just my opinion — the gay traveler has more disposable income then the straight traveler,” Helfant says. “Usually they don’t have children so they have more money to spend. Couple that with statistics that show one in 10 people are gay and it’s obviously a desirable market. But when we poll people about Atlantic City, they all have the same complaint. ‘After dark, there’s nothing for us to do.’”
Part of the plan calls for the entire renovation to be a reality TV show from creative process to the grand opening, streaming live over the Internet from Atlantic City. Once open, we broadcast live entertainment, showcasing our creative genius and youth.
The closet door must remain wide open. Members of our community are often the victims of brutal attacks and the more we expose our beauty as fellow travelers on this planet, the more hatred we overcome.
Recently making mainstream media: Chick-Fil-A has spent millions of company dollars campaigning against gay marriage. Their CEO and founder’s son Dan Cathy has publicly proclaimed gay marriage wrong. Now, Social media is forcing the story to the forefront ...
“Even now, I get picked on with stupid things. My aunt wants to send me to a camp where they ‘pray the gay away.’ “
We can easily become the gay honeymoon capital of the world if we act positively and quickly. And, if that happens, there will be a lot more things to do, and a lot more creativity centered in the town.
And, thank God we joined you as one, and not apart. Think of how dull this world would be without our creative energy. It would be the light bulb hanging on a wire from the ceiling, without the decorative fixture — or the lamp without the lamp shade.
“I don’t like queers, period.” That’s how my neighbor, 60ish, greeted me one day. It was one of the nicest things he ever said to me.
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...
Now, due in large measure to the establishment of the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance in 2009, and the foresight and ambitious marketing strategies of Resorts CEO Dennis Gomes (who recently created the first in-casino gay nightclub, Prohibition) and others, the GLBT community is officially back in “flow” mode.
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'Everything we do as a society is based on love. I want to welcome everyone. Our arms are open to all aspects of our culture.'
In preparation for the shore’s busiest season, the region’s business leaders rose bright and early on Wednesday morning, May 11, to attend the third annual “Jersey Shorecast,” an event — sponsored by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming Hospitality & Tourism at The Richard Stockton College — which, attempts to prognosticate the financial success of Atlantic City’s summer season.
With summer almost here promoters Bill Cradle and Keith Werner hosted an underwear and swimwear fashion show for the GLBT community this past Tuesday at Redding's on Pacific Avenue.
Resorts Casino Hotel will host the final casting calls for a new LGBT reality series, produced by Under The Boardwalk Productions, at Boogie Nights on Friday, March 18, beginning at 4pm.
In town for this weekend's 'Out In A.C.' events, Kristine W. last performed in Atlantic City as Miss Washington in the 1981 Miss America Pageant (winning the pageant’s preliminary swimsuit and non-finalist talent portions).
Years ago, the gaming halls had targeted alternative lifestyle guests as an untapped market. While they’d never say it publicly, behind the scenes some executives were reluctant to do anything on a broader scale for fear of repercussions from guests and gamblers who don’t embrace the lifestyle or find it offensive.
Plus the Tun Tavern's Pumpkin Spice Lager, Bad Religion and 'Dracula' at the Stockton PAC
The show was created in the early 1990s by former Atlantic City Councilman John Schultz and his partner, Gary Hill, and held at their old Studio Six nightclub, once considered the epicenter for gay life in Atlantic City.
Vicki Gold Levi, an Atlantic City historian and a consultant on Boardwalk Empire — for the second season as well, she has informed Atlantic City Weekly — was one of eight celebrity judges at a drag-queen pageant in Atlantic City while the awards program was being televised.
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