When I found out several months ago that the singer, Morrissey, my obsession since the 80s, was slated to perform in the NY/NJ area, I went crazy. In fact last year, my first blog post was about a Morrissey concert I attended in Port Chester, NY. Now I had reason to write a sequel to last year’s post, this time in a new venue which I had not visited since the 90s.
Morrissey chose Ovation Hall located in the newest haute gambling resort, the Revel Hotel. First let me clue you in about Atlantic City. Geographically it sits on a beautiful stretch of land on the Atlantic ocean and has been a popular tourist destination since the late 1800s. It is renown for its boardwalk, majestic hotels, the Miss America contest and most recently, gambling. In the 70s, the first casino was built drawing more crowds than could be sustained. Since then, at least a dozen hotels have been built to meet the demand, including The Trump Plaza and the Taj Mahal.
For decades, Atlantic City was an impoverished city, rife with drug addicts, gangs, shootings and corruption. The politicians were eager to have more casinos built to fill their coffers with tax revenue. The real estate developers complied and promised that gambling and subsequent revenue would be a windfall for AC.
Hours before leaving for my trip I got word from the hotel that Morrissey cancelled his concert due to illness. This has been happening during the past year since he has been grappling with some illnesses with no lasting recovery. I wasn’t completely devastated, since I have seen him perform twice. So, my friends and I decided to keep the hotel reservations and experience the highly touted two year old Revel Hotel. The first thing that impressed me before entering Atlantic City were the mammoth wind turbines. Considering how much energy the casinos use 24/7, this was a smart, progressive move and one I hope to see more cities embrace. As we approached the hotel, it was good to see an area of abandoned homes replaced with new, well maintained structures. New businesses and a beautiful new school have opened along with an outdoor mall outlet which stretched for blocks.
I pulled into the massive Revel parking garage and proceeded to the check-in area. We checked our bags but had to wait since our room was not ready. Time to scout the hotel. We could not believe the size of this modern glass leviathan, which looked nothing like its surrounding gaudy neighbors. The size of this behemoth is difficult to comprehend until you are physically inside. Envision a glass city that serves as a compound with manifold restaurants, bars, shopping rows. Imagine seated themed areas with excessive space, and labyrinthian casino areas with people sitting mesmerized by gleaming slot machines. I was surprised I didn’t see more people flailing on the ground from seizures.
My friends and I consider casinos jarring and extremely depressing. So we high-tailed it for our room to assess the digs.
The room was tastefully decorated and well appointed with amazing views of the ocean and Atlantic City, yet lacked total wheelchair accessibility. The bed was too high making it almost impossible to transfer. The sliding door to the bathroom was so heavy I grunted just trying to push it a few inches. There were stains in the carpeting, chips in the furniture, no tissues or towel bars. ONE remote control device controlled curtains, lights, tv, heat and air. A remote which controls EVERYTHING makes perfect sense if you’ve gone to a five buck all-you-can-eat buffet and simply can’t move.
Next, I unpacked, spackled my face with SPF 55 cream, donned a sun hat the width of a golf umbrella and then headed to the roof to pay tribute to the sun.
The design of the roof top and surroundings was impressive. It was quiet except for the house music blasting from the pool area below. Time to move along and size up the boardwalk.
But before we left, my friend and I shook our head glaring at the pool crowd several stories below and declared:
BFF: You just know that pool is pretty much STD soup.
Me: Ha, ha. Yup. Do you think they have frozen drink specials that say “Buy 3 frozen margaritas get one free “morning-after pill?”
BFF: If only.
It took about two minutes on the boardwalk to concur: Atlantic City is a dump! Crowded and noisy with pan-handlers galore, people sporting poorly designed tattoos, chain restaurants blasting music and tacky T-shirt shops everywhere. Imagine wearing stupid, embarrassing slogans like “Baby Daddy”, “I’m buying the drinks, so give it to me square” (a quote by Nucky Thompson, from the HBO show “Boardwalk Empire”), “Real Estate Tycoon” and my favorite, “If you wanna be a gangster in my town, you will pay for the privilege.” Conclusion: The boardwalk had the sophistication of a KFC located inside a dollar mega store.
We were hungry and in need of frozen libations. Our two closest choices were the Hard Rock Cafe or Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. We chose the latter though I stay away from greasy, gimmicky themed restos. We decided on a round of appetizers and margaritas to sample what Mr. Buffet had in mind for boardwalk crowds. The watermelon margarita was so sweet it tasted like a liquified bag of Jolly Ranchers which masked low grade tequila. The appetizers seemed adequate since we were starving. However, the nachos plate was big enough for 10 and the four of us felt bloated after a few bites. Time to ward off arterial blockage and continue our boardwalk stroll.
Here are some of the gems we witnessed on the boardwalk:
• A paunchy mother sipping from a can of beer tossing her cigarette onto the boardwalk, and screeching to her 3 year old son “STOMP IT OUT!!!!”
• My friends and I are always seduced by candy stores. We couldn’t resist filling up several bags with salt-water taffy, gummy-everything and sour balls. Here is a photo of a classy package of candy that had us burst out laughing.
- Who is the most obnoxious, overrated, helium filled, gravelly-voiced chef on TV? Guy Fieri of course. Why did he have to drape his mug across an entire side of a building is your guess. We turned around and kept walking.
• Americans are enterprising people. This ADULT STROLLER was created for people vacationing who are too drunk too walk, digesting after an afternoon of binge-eating, the elderly transporting an oxygen tank, towing passed out children high on sugar, etc. Sure we’ve all seen rickshaws, but never have I witnessed the owner of a transportation unit push his customers the way parents push a baby stroller.
• I love a clever slogan. Las Vegas’ “What Happens Here, Stays Here” has been advertised so well that more Americans can quote it than name the Secretary of State. Atlantic City’s slogan is “DO – AC.” Pithy and uninspiring. The only thing we wanted to ‘Do’ was plan our escape back to the hotel.
Several hours later, we awoke from our late-afternoon nap (the beds and linen are very comfortable) and decided to grab a few drinks and sit by a fire pit. There is no shortage of comfortable lounge areas to sit at the Revel. The hotel is so big you never feel the crowds. That’s a huge bonus for me.
There are great restaurants in the hotel, so we finally chose the Mussel Bar and Grille. For those who love seafood, cheese plates, charcuterie, a decent cocktail menu and an extensive wine list, then this is your place. After dinner we topped off the night at Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Night Club. The name is self explanatory. I am not one for strip clubs, but burlesque is a whole ‘nother story.
We had a good night’s sleep and were eager to leave since we had our fill of AC and didn’t need to stay in a compound when there are better food spots to be discovered outside of New Jersey. The Revel has changed hands twice and was on the verge of bankruptcy since its opening two years ago. While I found the staff friendly for the most part, I hope they will eventually draw enough tourists to sustain an over-the-top resort which is competing with places like the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas. Atlantic City has a long way to go, even though it has made gains. Currently, I see no reason to come back. Morrissey or not.