“BACKSTAGE WITH BRUCE KLAUBER”: February, 2015 edition

February, 2015 Edition

There have been several films, both features and documentaries, about Francis Albert Sinatra. The vast majority have not been not much more than just okay. But filmmakers Alex Gibney and Frank Marshall, behind the upcoming multi-part HBO docu on Mr. S., “Sinatra: All or Nothing at All,” promise something different. Very different.

The difference is that Gibney and Marshall were given access by the Sinatra family to hours of previously unreleased film footage, among other things. “It will be like his autobiography, but old through song,” Gibney recently told reporters from the Television Critics Association. “And to hear him narrate his own life through interviews is what it made it worth doing.”

The filmmakers promise various, audio-only interviews with the likes of Quincy Jones and several FS and several family members. Structurally, Gibney and Marshall describe this as “a retelling of Sinatra’s life, organized by the key moments that occurred during it.” One of those key moments was the famed, 1971 “retirement concert” given by Mr. S, which just happened to be amongst the rare films reviewed. ” In one of the dumber questions asked by a reporter from TCA was, “How Sinatra would feel about the finished product if he were still alive?” The truth is that if Mr. S. were still here, he probably wouldn’t even watch the thing. “All or Nothing at All” will air on HBO on April 5 and 6.

As reported in “Backstage” last month, developer Glenn Straub, the only bidder left for Atlantic City’s shuttered Revel Hotel and Casino, has won the right to buy the facility for his bidding amount of $94.4 million. Straub wanted it for $87 million, but bankruptcy Judge Gloria Burns did not accept that. Latest news is that Straub will go for the $94.4 million, but has inferred that he wants nothing to do with being responsible for outstanding utility costs. Also part of the terms of sale is that Straub does not have to assume the leases of clubs, restaurants and other retailers. The venues went to court to appeal that part of the terms of sale, but the judge threw it out. The casino, the hotel, the restaurants– including one under Jose Garces’ name—clubs and various retailers had their chance. And they blew it. Straub’s plans? He’s talking about a water park and entertainment complex—with a small casino—and possible round-trip service via ferry to New York City. He has also, thankfully, insisted that he take sole responsibility for cleaning up the inlet area with a promise of no city interference. He believes that is the only way to get that essential job done, if only because the city has done little about that problem for the past 75 years.

The Atlantic Club Hotel and Casino—formerly the crown jewel of Atlantic City’s casino hotels as the Golden Nugget and Bally’s Grand—has been closed since January, 2014. Four months later, it was purchased by a Florida development firm called TJM Properties, an outfit that paid $13.5 million for the property. Quietly and without fanfare, TJM has just sold the Atlantic Club to an operation called Endeavor Property Group, LLC, out of Devon, PA. No price has been disclosed. Endeavor specializes in residential, business and assisted living properties. Who knows what they have in mind for this prime piece of Boardwalk real estate?

The president and CEO of Atlantic City’s marketing agency best known for its “Do AC” campaign has stepped down. Liza Cartmell stepped down as president of the Atlantic City Alliance (ACA), a role she’s had since 2011. Jeff Guaracino, formerly the chief strategy and communications officer of ACA, has been named executive director.
“Atlantic City is in a time of transition and all its major institutions, elected officials, employees and residents are proactively adapting to a new reality,” said Guaracino. Putting the best possible spin on things, Borgota President and ACA Board Chairman Tom Balance said, “Liza Cartmell did an outstanding job as a president launching the organization and the successful “Do AC’ campaign.” As for the campaign, the record shows it was hardly successful.

The Atlantic City Race Course, a staple of the horse racing world since its opening on July 22, 1946, is closing up shop. For various reasons, it’s been losing money annually for the past eight years, even though its most recent existence was as a simulcast facility. If the track is remembered at all today, it’s not because of horse racing. In August of 1969, the Race Course hosted the legendary Atlantic City Pop Festival. Over 100,000 turned out to hear the likes of Paul Butterfield, Buddy Miles, Canned Heat, Joni Mitchell, Chicago, Joe Cocker, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, B.B. King, Buddy Miles, Procol Harum, Santana, Johnny Winter, and of all people, Buddy Rich and the big band. Oh yes, there was another festival much like this one that took place two weeks later. It was called Woodstock.

The troubled Caesars operation—they own Caesars, Bally’s, the recently-sold Showboat and Harrah’s—can’t seem to even do bankruptcy right. It’s a pretty complicated matter, but the gist of it is this: The corporation sought bankruptcy protection and filed in Chicago. Simple, right? Well, not so fast. A judge dealt the company’s bankruptcy reorganization a possible fatal blow in ruling that the company violated federal law when it shuffled assets and refinanced debt as part of an alleged scheme to protect itself from lower-ranking creditors. Not good. However, even with mess and the fact that A.C. Mayor Don Guardino has hinted that Bally’s may be the next casino to shutter, those associated with Bally’s say it isn’t so. Harrah’s, owned by a division of Caesars and not affected by any of this, looks forward to an August opening of its $125 million Convention Center, which a number of city officials see as symbolic of the city’s future.

In the “editorializing department,” A.C. Mayor Don Guardian is a good and capable man who, like our current United States President, inherited a deplorable situation not of his own making. And under his leadership and aegis, there are encouraging signs for the city, including the Harrah’s Convention Center, sale of the Showboat, Atlantic Club and Revel; news that The Hard Rock Café is seeking a gaming license and may be interested in buying an existing property (Atlantic Club maybe?),Bart Blatstein’s redevelopment plan for what was the Ocean One. His essential city government budget cuts were well thought out and intelligently made. Still, for some reason, N.J. Governor Chris Christie believes that outside management assistance is needed to curtail what our Philadelphia Inquirer colleague Suzette Parmley called “the city’s financial free fall.” In one opinion—mine—that is exactly what is not needed. Look at what happened with Revel: It was developed and built by a team of people who knew absolutely nothing about Atlantic City. And does anyone remember when the Subway fast food chain decided to build one of their restaurants a half-block away from White House Subs? The town needs someone from the inside who knows and loves Atlantic City and that man is Don Guardian. Leave him alone and let him continue the good work he’s doing. If Christie feels, for political reasons, that he must do something drastic, how about supporting the Eagles instead of the Cowboys? Hoo boy. Where is Skinny D’Amato now that we need him?

For as long as anyone can remember, the Dupont chemical giant owned the 1,250-seat Dupont Theater in Wilmington, DE. For a number of reasons, including financial, Dupont is getting out of the theater business and has sold the venue to the Grand, the outfit owning Wilmington’s Grand Opera House.

One of the biggest coups in modern percussion industry history is evidently official. DW Drums has inked what is called “an asset sale agreement” to purchase legendary drum manufacturer Gretsch Drums, as well as Gilbralter Hardware, Latin Percussion (LP), Toca Percussion, and Kat Percussion from the KMC company, a subsidiary of the Fender musical instrument corporation. The deal also calls for DW’s U.S. distribution of Sabian Cymbals and Ovation Guitars. According to DW President/CEO Chris Lombardi, “This is an amazing opportunity to extend our passion and commitment for the art of drumming. We’re excited to welcome these legendary American brands to the DW family.” Though full details have yet to be announced, it’s pretty certain that DW’s manufacturing will remain in California, Gretsch drum production will continue in South Carolina and LP’s offices will stay in New Jersey. On a personal basis, I can tell you that that Chris and Don Lombardi and all involved at DW operate at the highest levels of honesty, honor and integrity, coupled with a respect for the tradition. From what I know about DW, do not expect a repeat of how Yamaha ruined the Rogers name how Gibson clumsily “retired” the Slingerland name. Curiously, in the wake of all this news, DW has just lost one of its most visible endorsers, Peter Erskine, who has been using DW product since 2006. He’s just moved over to Tama, specifically their “Star” imprint, saying that in terms of musicality, Tama drums are “head and shoulders” above any other drum on the market.

Having nixed what was going to be a return to network television by Bill Cosby—seems The Cos just isn’t funny anymore—NBC Entertainment has announced the signing of another showbiz veteran to a production deal. Dolly Parton will produce, and perhaps star in a series of television movies based on her songs, her stories and her life. Announcing the deal was NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt who was the Executive Producer of the Broadway adaptation of Parton’s “9 to 5: The Musical.” Greenblatt stresses that the Parton programs will be ones that the entire family can enjoy together. Just like Cosby’s show was supposed to be.

Philadelphia painter and long-time good colleague Perry Milou, one of the most original artists to come out of this or any city, has a brand new website. Visitors to perrymilou.com can view samples of his work and purchase same, get news of new projects in the works, find out about his considerable philanthropic activities, and his work with children.

“On the Other Side of the Fence” is a remarkable, touching and uplifting film documentary about a musical (by the same name), that was created to foster partnership between two Philadelphia schools for over 30 years. The film takes an inside look into the developing relationships between the children from Germantown Friends School and the HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy, as they participate in the rehearsal and performance process.

The film, produced and directed by Henry Nevison, is a story of empathy, compassion and acceptance, where a unique musical theater framework–created and directed by Philadelphia composer/playwright/music therapist Andrea Green–becomes the vehicle for establishing caring relationships between this diverse groups of youngsters.

The film has had several airings on MIND-TV—and was even screened at a children’s conference in Estonia, where Green and Nevison were guests—and MIND-TV has informed “Backstage” that the film will again air on April 4 and April 14. For news and information on Andrea Green’s activities, which are considerable, visit andreagreenmusic.com. Likewise with Henry Nevison: henrynevisonproductions.com.

Anyone who has been on an airplane at any time during the last 30-plus years must certainly be aware of the magazine called “SkyMall.” Some folks even read it. And some, they say, even ordered one of their less-than essential doodads from stuffed animals and tee shirts to picture frames and NFL gear. Unfortunately, if you haven’t ordered yet, it’s too late. SkyMall has declared bankruptcy. Seems that airline passengers are more occupied these days with WiFi, back-of-the-seat televisions, and the now-legal use of iPads and Kindles on flights. Damn! Now I’ll never be able to get that ceramic pet fountain.

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