“BACKSTAGE WITH BRUCE KLAUBER”: January, 2015 edition

Happy 2015 to the readers of “Backstage with Bruce Klauber,” celebrating 30 years of continuous publication. Here’s to 30 more. Happy reading!

Things are changing at Atlantic City’s troubled Taj Mahal Hotel/Casino seemingly by the minute. The last “big news” to be reported was this: Though a deal between the Taj investor Carl Icahn and the casino workers union fell apart at the 11th hour, Ichan will ante up $20 million to keep the venue open, at least for awhile. He promises a $100 million in additional investment if he gets the tax breaks he wants from the state of New Jersey. Good luck with that one, Carl. Bet on this: The Taj will close. It’s only a matter of when.

The deal to purchase the shuttered behemoth called Revel is officially off. Seems that high bidder Brookfield Associates didn’t read the fine print about having to pay some of the costs associated with Revel’s utility plant. Evidently, Brookfield wanted out badly, as they didn’t mind losing their $11 million deposit. “Plan B” is that Revel has gone back to investor Glenn Straub, second highest bidder for the facility at $95.4 million. Straub is interested and has talked vaguely of turning Revel into an institution of higher learning/think tank type of operation, but he’s looking for something in the neighborhood of an $8 million break on his bid, claiming he wasn’t treated fairly in the initial bidding war against Brookfield. Additionally, he wants nothing to do with paying outstanding utility bills. This could be a problem for the physical venue itself. The utility company responsible for keeping electric, heating, cooling and water running at the shuttered facility just defaulted on their December payment. If someone doesn’t pay the freight, the utility folk have threatened to literally pull the plug, which would be disastrous for Revel.

There is a ray of hope on the Boardwalk, as the sale of the Caesars’-owned Showboat Hotel and Casino to Richard Stockton College—inferred in this space last month—has been finalized. Price tag is $18 million.

What do you do with a shuttered and abandoned hotel and casino that no one wants to buy? Atlantic City has decided, in the case of the Trump Plaza, to implode the thing. Guess a vacant lot is better than anything.

In the “backing out of deals” sweepstakes closer to home, the on-again, off-again saga for the purchase and renovation of the Boyd Theater is evidently off again. It seems that developer Neil Rodin never followed up on his agreement to buy the Boyd from owner Live Nation. Rodin claims to be negotiating a new lease with Pearl Properties, who bought the Boyd for $4.5 million in October.

The famed Four Seasons Hotel, moving to the top of the new Comcast Tower, circa 2018, will close in early June. However, it has been reported that the current Four Seasons facility was purchased by an outfit affiliated with a company called Sage Hospitality. All that Sage has said thus far is that they will handle the transition into a new “luxury brand,” and that plans are to invest millions in upgrades in order to open in the fall. The legendary Fountain restaurant ceased serving dinner December 27. Breakfasts and lunch, however, will continue. Rest assured that the “new” Four Seasons “brand” won’t be Motel 6.

Also getting a reprieve is the Philadelphia Theatre Company, which was “this close” to shutting down, as TD Bank had foreclosed on the Suzanne Roberts Theater that houses PTC. One savior is Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser, who helped put together a recovery plan. The theater now has a month-to-month lease with TD, $400,000 in donations has been made in he last 90 days, and Ralph and Suzanne Roberts have pledged $2.5 million.

There’s good news at the Curtis Institute of Music as well. Curtis Board Chair Baroness Nina von Malzahn has pledged $10 million and President Robert Diaz pledged an addition $1.5 million. Diaz said the gifts were not for anything specific. Diaz’ mission, he says, is “to raise enough endowment money to keep Curtis tuition-free, and to make ‘Curtis on Tour’ permanent.”

Things are also looking up for Dance USA/Philadelphia, whose funding via The William Penn Foundation was pulled with no notice. William Penn has had the grace to pledge short-term funding in the amount of $89,000 which should keep the company going for a least another few months. Dance USA plans to use some of that time to seek other funding. William Penn, which had been funding the company since 2006, has given no reason why they pulled their support. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have to.

Downright bad news for the Philadelphia Singers. After a concert in May, the 43-year old Singers will be no more. Seems the William Penn Foundation reared its head again and turned down a request for a three-year grant for general support. This time, William Penn did give a reason. Philadelphia Singers is carrying debt in the neighborhood of $125,000, and last year, Penn began focusing on issues of financial health for those organizations they fund. Will there be a “Save-the-Chorus” campaign? Doubtful. “We’ve got to face reality,” said Board VP Michael Martin Mills.

Scheduled to open this summer on the 57th floor of the 61-story One Liberty Place is—get this—an observation deck. Montparnasse 56, a French company, is doing the deck, which it describes as “the city’s first large-scale observatory.”

Though the Rittenhouse Square location of the legendary Famous 4th Sreet Deli at Fourth and Bainbridge has been sold, it will continue to operate under the name of Kaufman’s. Brooklyn’s Rich Kaufman is one of the owners, and plans no change to menu or staff.

Fans of Little Pete’s on 17th and Chancellor—and there are many—were deservedly upset when they heard that their beloved joint was going to close to make way for a massive redevelopment project. While that still may happen, the redevelopment bill itself is stalled in City Council because of union concerns, a Center City civic group’s issues, and the complaints of thousands of Little Pete’s customers.

Our friend Michael Klein of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News has reported that the long-shuttered Old Original Bookbinders in Old city, leased to restaurateur Jose Garces for a bit more than a year, will reopen sometime this month. Garces will call it “The Olde Bar,” which, he says, will be an “interesting interpretation of a classic oyster saloon.”

Smoking has not been permitted in bars since 2007. There are some exceptions, however, as it is possible – if a bar qualifies – to gain an exemption. As of now, 66 bars and clubs do allow smoking. Qualifying for an exemption isn’t easy. As an example, for what the state calls “a drinking establishment” a venue cannot have dancing or any live entertainment and must prove that food sales comprise 20 percent or less of the venue’s combined gross sales. Some cigar bars also may qualify. Four more venues have just applied for indoor smoking permits. They are: The Pyramid Temple No. 1, a fraternal organization on West Girard Avenue. They are applying for the cigar bar exemption. Grumpy’s Bar in South Philly would like to allow smoking, and likewise with two “gentlemen’s clubs,” Club Risque on Tacony Street, and Christine’s Gentlemen’s Club on West Passyunk.

While there was some shock and more than a bit of outrage over the news of Bob Dylan’s upcoming CD of Sinatra songs, “Shadows in the Night,” to be released February 3, it seems there is some validity to the project after all. Our friend at the Philadelphia Daily News, Chuck Darrow, spoke to Frank Sinatra, Jr. recently—Junior was in town for a celebration being held for veteran broadcaster and Sinatra fan Sid Mark—about the Dylan release. Sinatra told Darrow that not only was Dylan a major, major fan of senior’s, but that “the odd couple” actually hung out a few times over the years. To junior’s credit, I’ve rarely heard him put down anyone who he believes is singing good music. But a heads-up to Dylan’s handlers at Columbia Records. One of the songs on “Shadows” is not a Frank Sinatra Song. Song number ten on the ten track project is “That Lucky Old Sun.” That song belonged to Frankie Laine, not Mr. S.

Good colleague Sal Richards has been one of the funniest comics in the business—and a darned good actor as well—for decades. Those of us who hung out with Sal in Atlantic City, Miami Beach and who knows where else had no idea of the pain he was going through over the years. He’s just written a sometimes touching and sometimes hilarious autobiography titled “Behind the Laughter, Hidden Tears,” which tells of his upbringing, his rise in the business, how he dealt with the loss of a son, how he battled his own personal demons, and the show biz greats and not-so-greats he’s met along the way. The Helen Reddy story is worth the price of the book. This is wonderful reading. Keep swingin’, Sal. Available via salrichards.com.

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