Boardwalk Empire, Part III

Posted on September 12, 2014 by Tom Halligan - Also by this author

The limousines were stretched around the block of the Atlantic City Trump Plaza trying to drop off ticket holders when the throng of 21,000 people exited the hotel and nearby Boardwalk Hall after Mike Tyson knocked out Michael Spinks in a stunning 91 seconds of the first round of the June, 27, 1988 title fight.

Not that it was the chauffeurs’ fault. Traffic was snarled all weekend around Atlantic City and every hotel within 30 miles was sold out. Fight day was just impossible to navigate the city. I recall chauffeurs had said in news accounts that they advised their passengers to exit blocks away to get to the fight on time, but many wouldn’t oblige because they wanted to be “seen” exiting their limos at the Plaza. Hey, keep the customer happy, right?

As a member of the media, I attended a pre-fight party attended by scores of A-list celebrities, boxing legends (Muhammad Ali), politicians, high rollers, all sorts of sports stars, and some pinky-ring, gold-chain wearing underworld Soprano-like guys. There was Jack Nicholson holding court wearing shades and clutching a bottle of champagne. I was squeezed at the bar between the 5-foot something deadpan comedian Stephen Wright and the bullish 6-foot, 11-inch Detroit Piston basketball star Bill Laimbeer. Talk about surreal. Others in the room and at the fight included Billy Crystal, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey and Richard Pryor. I’m sure the comedians picked up a lot of material from that weekend.

And what a weekend it was. Trump was smart enough to host the event (he ponied up $11 million) to hold the fight on a Monday night (unheard of) in order to rake in the cash during the weekend. Cha-ching! The fight brought the city some $340 million in gambling receipts and the Plaza scored a whopping $11.5 million on the day of the fight.

What a time it was. Yes, Atlantic City was on a roll then. Today, some of the casino-hotels have rolled snake-eyes and are closing, including the Plaza which is shutting its doors Sept. 16.

Regardless, our LCT-NLA Show East Oct. 19-21 at Caesars Atlantic City (doing just fine by the way) and the modern Atlantic City Convention Center are both set to host a first-class show and conference. I look forward to seeing you all there, and I have plenty of more stories…ask me about a Frank Sinatra reception at Resorts International and people stuffing jumbo shrimp into their pockets…I have plenty.



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