BACKSTAGE WITH BRUCE KLAUBER: May, 2015 Edition
BORED WALK BEAT
The lights are back on at Glenn Straub’s Revel Hotel and Casino, for two weeks, anyway. It’s a miracle that this guy, who has been mistreated by all involved since he first bid on the property, is still hanging in there. The electric/water issue was and is as surreal as everything else surrounding “the place that never should have been built.” Basically, the utility supplier wanted Straub to be responsible for past due bills that previous management didn’t pay. That makes absolutely no sense. Straub, who also just bought the Showboat from Richard Stockton College for a paltry $26 million, has talked about a grandiose, $500 million plan that he calls the “Phoenix Project. PP’s plans would include water parks, marinas, two—count ‘em—universities, a pier with laser light shows, etc. He did say something else, during the time that the power was off, that was quite telling and was not widely quoted. He said that if he had to, he would take everything salvageable out of the hotel, sell it, then implode the building and sell the land. There’s already talk about Straub selling the joint. “We’re not in love with anything,” he said.
Down the Boardwalk a piece at the Pier Shops—the Million Dollar Pier in an earlier incarnation–Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein, new owner of the Pier, has some extravagant plans for the property. It’s been reported that Blatstein, who bought the venue at a next-to-nothing price of $2.7 million, plans to spend $50 million more to do the following: Add several high-tech bars with live music built to resemble something like Beale Street in Memphis, build a beach front concert venue, add a bowling alley, and a private, adults only beach club with swimming pool. And yes, there will be valet parking as well. Evidently, what Blatstein plans on calling “The Playground,” will also include retail shops old and new such as Guess and Apple. Something like this is long overdue in Atlantic City, and it could be the start of making the beleaguered resort a year-round destination.
In the Philadelphia area gaming scene, at least one casino is showing some class, entertainment-wise. Unlike some other area casinos whose idea of live entertainment is tired cover bands and disc jockeys, Valley Forge Casino Resort is going the big name route. Among those booked for the summer season thus far are Heart, the vastly under rated Frank Sinatra, Jr., Chazz Palminteri’s “A Bronx Tale,” Air Supply, and Don Rickles, still insulting the hell out of one and all at the age of 88.
A LIFETIME OF GRACE
The long-in-the-can film biography of Princess Grace, “Grace of Monaco,” starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, has been booed, hooted and laughed at in the few places it’s been shown. But it’s never say die in Hollywood, and in an effort to recoup at least some of its costs, it will end up being shown on that vast wasteland of tasteless television movies, the Lifetime Network. For those interested in such things, and it appears there aren’t many who are, the movie will premier at 8:00 p.m. on May 25.
CONSIDER YOURSELF PROMOTED
The Pennsauken, NJ-based Disc Makers is the nation’s leading independent CD and DVD manufacturer. DM is proud of saying that, since 1946, it has “helped artists succeed.” One of the ways in which it has helped is by offering a series of free, downloadable musicians guides, that cover topics ranging from mastering to marketing. A new guide of particular interest to area performers is called “The Definitive Press Kit Guide For Musicians.” These days, promotion is almost the sole responsibility of the artist so a tool like this is invaluable. This free download is available via discmakers.com.
BRIAN’S (SWAN) SONG?
It may be over for anchorman Brian Williams, at least at NBC Television. It has been reported that those investigating the Williams’ matter have found at least 10 more instances of his exaggerating and embellishing his personal “role” in certain news reports. Williams’ suspension ends in August, and NBC is said to be under pressure to make a decision on his return. This has been said before: News anchors, by and large, are simply “news reading talent.” Still, they at least have to play the role of being trustworthy. If something like that is still important–and who knows whether it is these days?–Brian Williams may be, for the moment, finished.
JUMPIN’ JOHNNO BOOTED AGAIN
When a news or weather reporter loses the trust of the audience and/or becomes a joke, you can bet that his or her career is pretty much over (see the above). Weathercaster John Bolaris’ career has pretty much been over since he was booted from the Channel 29 airwaves in 2011, due in part to widely-reported off-camera peccadilloes. He has managed to hang on via the fringes, writing columns for the likes of Metro and Philly.com. Now he’s been bounced from Philly.com, as the website has partnered with the NBC First Alert team for their weather reporting. But don’t count Bolaris out yet. As he’s proven in the past: This cat’s got nine lives.
IT’S EASY BEIN’ (ANDREA) GREEN
“Backstage” has referenced Andrea Green before, and for good reason. She is an award-winning and critically acclaimed composer of Broadway-style musicals for children that have been performed by schools and theaters all over the world. Indeed, one her shows, “The Same Sky,” recently premiered in The Republic of Estonia, presented by the NGO Generation Musical Theatre Company of Estonia.
What makes her works unique is that she applies her background as a music therapist and 30 years of working with disabled children to the show’s stories: While the songs are great and the stories are charming, her shows contain subtle messages related to tolerance, understanding, acceptance, and the process of celebrating our differences. So remarkable are her shows, that one of them, “On the Other Side of the Fence,” is the subject of a documentary film by the same name via award-winning filmmaker Henry Nevison.
“Fence” just won the prestigious “Gold World Medal” for “Best Documentary/Information Program/ Social Issue Category” from the New York Festivals International Television & Film Awards. Further, the film won a Bronze Medal from The United Nations Department of Public Information in the “Social Issues” category. And within the coming months, “On the Other Side of the Fence” will be broadcast nationally by over 60 American Public television stations.
SHE’S THE KING
Readers of this column, as well as “The Jazz Scene,” are well aware that The All-Star Jazz Trio—founded by pianist Andy Kahn and myself 43 years ago—often appears in tandem with legendary songstress Peggy King. This remarkable artist, who recently finished work on her first recording in 35 years, is singing better than three-quarters of the vocalists out there who are a quarter of her age. This summer, Peggy and The All-Stars will perform a free concert at the Ocean City, NJ Public Library on May 22, and will be paying musical tribute to the late Al Rinaldi of Jacobs Music at a June 6 show in Cape May, NJ. We’re already into booking fall dates as well, and will return to Ambler’s Act II Playhouse for a September 27 performance. Last season’s show at Act II sold out quickly, so act accordingly. For ticket prices, show times and all other details about Peggy and The All-Stars, visit allstarjazz.net.
WHEN THE MOON HITS YOUR EYE
“Backstage” has been running somewhere and in some form continuously since 1978. In those 37 years, the column has endeavored to report on nothing but the most significant issues and happenings. It would therefore be unprofessional and a disservice to our readers if this one went unreported: It seems that several thieves broke into a warehouse in an out-of-the-way Alaskan Village and stole 80 pizzas. The thieves then made the career altering decision to sell the pies to the local police department. No word on what actually happened to the pizzas after that, or whether the pies were plain or pepperoni.