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  • The King of Marvin Gardens, 1972 for Mod Movie Monday, Atlantic City Style

    Posted on January 31st, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments

    king-of-marvin-gardens-posterWe now return you to our regularly scheduled programs…

    Mod/Noir Movie Monday is back, after a brief detour due to the New Year, some crazy happenings, and too much booze (or not enough).

    This week we have a somewhat obscure doozy from the early 1970s, a time when movies were in that transitional period between Ocean’s 11 and Jaws, when a film maker could hire Jack Nicholson, Scattman Crothers, Ellen Burstyn and Bruce Dern on a shoestring budget, throw in a bunch of quirkiness, some natural breasts and a TON of location shots of Atlantic City before the casinos invaded…then have that movie become an iconic time capsule of the end of the “old Atlantic City” era, right down to the interior shots of the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel, doomed to the wrecking ball seven years later.

    The King of Marvin Gardens, 1972

    The Blenheim, c. 1972. This was the main setting of The King of Marvin Gardens.
    The Blenheim, c. 1972. This was the main setting of The King of Marvin Gardens.

    is about a con man (Dern) who asks his brother (Nicholson) to help him start a resort in Hawaii. There’s not much about that storyline going on that’s worth paying any attention to. What you’re watching this flick  for is atmosphere, images, and lifestyles that are long, long gone and mostly forgotten.

    Most of the movie takes place in and around the Blenheim part of the historic Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel. Like most things historic in Atlantic City, someone (probably) got paid off to allow it to be imploded so a POS glass and steel casino could be built in its place (but that’s a rant for another post). Anyway, you’ll get a lot of eye-candy of old Atlantic City, including the boardwalk auctions, shots of the piers, the interior of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Convention Hall, interiors and exteriors of some of the great hotels, and even a few cool old cars. Overall, the skyline of Atlantic City in 1972 didn’t look too much different than it did in the 1920s or 1950s…so it’s a fun glimpse into the past.

    Atlantic City Skyline, 1972

    Atlantic City Skyline, 1972

    What? Is the movie any good? Well, that depends on your tastes, of course. If you like movies from this era at all, you’ll probably dig it a lot. Don’t look for a lot of action, suspense, or deep storyline…this move is about characters, and some intense acting  (the acting is very good). It’s basically a slice of life kind of thing, and the characters make it interesting to watch (remember, in this kind of movie the buildings, the boardwalk, the beach are as much characters as the people). It’s sometimes depressing, sometimes funny. You guys who read my posts know I don’t get all “in depth and analytical” about flicks, so if you want a “deep” convo about how groundbreaking or historically important the film is, check out this blog.

    I used to shop for trinkets at Irene's Gifts...THIS Irene's Gifts. In the late 1980s, they still had a lot of new-old stock souvenirs from the 60s & 70s.

    I used to shop for trinkets at Irene's Gifts...THIS Irene's Gifts. In the late 1980s, they still had a lot of new-old stock souvenirs from the 60s & 70s.

    Food and Booze: There’s a great scene where they’re eating in Captain Starn’s Seafood Restaurant, which was one of the world famous restaurants right on the boards in the Atlantic City Inlet. They’re entertaining potential investors….so I’d say a nice whole Maine lobster with black butter and Filet Mignon tips, rare would be appropriate. And might I suggest pairing with a 1972 vintage Baron Philippe de Rothschild Sauvignon Blanc…or, for that real old Atlantic City flavor, fried flounder and a Michelob!

    atlantic-city-1972

    Atlantic City

    My Take: Although I was born in Philly, my family moved to and operated the Star Dust Motel on the Black Horse Pike in West Atlantic City from 1969 to 1973. Like everything kool and old, it was torn down in ’73 and is now an empty lot. I grew up 10 miles west of Atlantic City, but my family hardly ever went there…it was in pretty sad shape in the 1970s, and known more for gang violence and other crimes than as a fun tourist destination. We went to the boardwalk once when I was very young…I have vague memories of looking up at the Marlborough-Blenheim, seeing the rides (but not going on them) on Steel Pier, and driving by The Knife and Fork Inn. We went again when Resorts opened as the first Casino in the old Haddon Hall Hotel (one of the few survivors) in 1978, and I have a few memories of that.

    A scene from The King of Marvin Gardens, on the Boardwalk with the world famous Traymore Hotel in the background (imploded 1974).

    A scene from The King of Marvin Gardens, on the Boardwalk with the world famous Traymore Hotel in the background (imploded 1972).

    I was only four years old when The Traymore was imploded, but remember hearing about it, remember my parents saying how sad it was. In 1988, I stood on the boardwalk and watch a crane take apart the last bits of the burned-out, crumbling Steel Pier. A few months my buddy Steve and I sneaked into the back of the house at Resorts, went up to the ballroom and watched the Steeplechase Pier burn to the ground (it was directly across the boardwalk…we could feel the heat inside Resorts).

    Ocean One Mall, as it looked when I was Tourism Director in 1989.

    Ocean One Mall, as it looked when I was Tourism Director in 1989.

    That same year I got a job working as “the balloon guy” for a display company that had 400 semi-permanent Mylar balloons decorating Resorts for its 10-year anniversary. Two years later I was working as a costumed character (kind of like Mr. Peanut) for The Shops one Ocean One, a mall built on the pilings of the original Million Dollar Pier, and eventually became Tourism & Marketing Director. I learned a lot about Atlantic City history while there, not realizing I was living it, and making it, every day. The owners went out of business in 1990, and it eventually closed in the early 00’s, was bought by Caesars, and turned into a high-end Vegas-like shopping mall connected to the casino.

    So much of old Atlantic City is gone now…all the hotels, except for The Dennis, that were in The King of Marvin Gardens are gone now, replaced by new casinos. Captain Starn’s in long gone. Marven Gardens (they spelled it wrong in the movie) is still there, in Margate, but is never shown in the movie. All of the piers are either gone, or have been completely rebuilt as modern structures except Central Pier, which still retains its original facade, although badly stuccoed and gaudily painted. The city is an insane mix of mega-modern casinos and decaying 100-year-old buildings, and will eventually become fully modern…so enjoy The King of Marvin Gardens, one of the only remaining glimpses of this great City’s past.

    Here’s a short clip from the beginning of the movie…

    -Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the Warner Theater, on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City c. 1972 (metaphysically, of course).

  • Retro Review: Pan Am, Boardwalk Empire Open with A+

    Posted on September 27th, 2011 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 6 comments

    abcs-pan-am

    Well Retro-Loving friends, you couldn’t ask for much more this weekend than these two fantastic shows: Pan Am, and Boardwalk Empire.

    We kind of knew Boardwalk Empire was going to be good. Last season was the perfect blend of gangsters, half-naked 20s chicks, Atlantic City boardwalk and booze. The season opener didn’t disappoint, with plenty of action bootleg hootch.

    But the real surprise was with Pan Am, the retro-tastic “drama” that ABC premiered to take advantage of the Mad Men-nostalgia kick. And man, did it deliver! knucky

    Opening with (the actual) Buddy Greco version of “Around the World” and ending with (the actual) Bobby Darrin version of “Mack the Knife”, this 1963-era show hit the mark on every second of film. Interesting characters in very kool garb acted perfectly through multiple storylines…and, unlike The Playboy Club, not one murder during the entire show! It was the kind of show with the kind of cinematography that made you smile throughout. Can’t wait for next week’s episode.

    The Bunny Club gets a second shot at getting my attention tonight. I have high hopes for this show…but then again, I’m on my third Scotch.

    -Tiki Chris reporting from the Television Room at Tiki Lounge Talk

  • The Lover’s Cocktail: Your Weekend Tiki Bar Drink for Valentine’s Day

    Posted on February 11th, 2011 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 3 comments

    lovers-cocktailWith Valentine’s Day on Monday I thought it would be nice to feature

    The Lover’s Cocktail

    A gin concoction that’s easy to make and fun to drink. I couldn’t find any history on this drink so I’ll make some up.

    Back in 1927 there was speakeasy in the basement of the Ritz Hotel in Atlantic City. Since prohibition made it difficult (but not impossible) to acquire good booze, the bartenders often had to make due with what they could get their hands on. An enormous shindig was held on Valentine’s Day that year, but the only liquor they had on hand was some watered-down bourbon and sloe gin…and not the best stuff. So one of the bartenders, a bloke that went by the name of Nickles, came up with this special recipe for the special day:

    2 oz sloe gin
    1 egg white
    1 tsp lemon juice
    1/2 tsp raspberry juice

    Separate the egg white and give it a little whip…just a few seconds. Combine the sloe gin, egg white, lemon juice and raspberry juice in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake it up well and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with cherries on a pick and float a red rose petal on top. If the raspberry juice doesn’t give you a nice color, add a few drops of red food dye.The egg whites give the drink a little fuzzy fizz. If you’re scared of getting salmonella, substitute with a little soda instead, but it won’t be as good (or historically accurate, which I always strive to be.)

    -Tiki Chris P. reporting from the speakeasy under the Tiki Bar at Tiki Lounge Talk! Stay tuned for more misinformation and cocktails!

  • Wild Turkey at the Tiki Bar

    Posted on May 13th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    Converstaions at the Tiki Bar

    Converstaions at the Tiki Bar

    Ah, the good things in life. A friend of mine gave a me a few bottles of liquor from about 35 years ago (he no longer drinks the hard stuff). So tonight I am drinking Wild Turkey from 1974, mixedith Coke from 2009. Bourbon and coke is great to begin with; when you ad the vintage aspect it becomes more of a ritual to drink, a sort of retro-drinker’s religious rite.
    This stuff is pretty strong too, and is knocking me on my ass. Woo hoo! I am taking a long weekend from work, so I figured I’d start tonight. Even though I have to go in for a few hours tomorrow, what the hell…maybe I’ll bring some of it into the office with me!

    When I look at this 35 year old bottle of hooch, it reminds me of that era…granted, I was only six in 1974, but i remember the times well. Disco was blossoming. The Veit Nam war was finally coming to an end, and friends of my father were coming home. There were still real hippies. Everything back then looked sort of a dull bright, kind of washed out. Not just the memories, the world just seemed a less colorful place, in spite of tie dies and bright orange VW bugs. There were Cocktail Lounges everywhere. Very few ‘bars’. 30 year old neon lights, rusty but still working, glowed day and night. Trees seemed taller. Probably because I was shorter. Radios sounded tinny and staticky. All the cars were huge and no one drove anything from Japan unless they were a weirdo. We went to stores like “Mr. Big”, “Pantry Pride”, “Grants”, and “Woolworths”. You could get a hamburger in Woolworths, and it was better than Burger Chef, Gino’s, Burger King or McDonald’s.
    At that point in my life, we lived two blocks from the bay in West Atlantic City. I remember being around water a lot. Boats, docks, beaches, sand dunes, all normal stuff. When I think of the early 70’s, what i remember most has to do with salt water.
    Funny, how a drink of bourbon can take you back to your childhood.
    I miss those days. I can never live them again. Our old house is gone, the dock where we kept our boat is gone. The boat…long gone. All the people i knew then have passed away. And even though I have some mommentos… photos, things that belonged to may parents, toys I had from when I was that age…I know that time of my life will only live on in my memories, and mine alone, for at least as long as I still have my memory.
    Now where did I put that bourbon and coke??