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Long before he wreaked havoc across the United States and the world at large, Donald Trump inflicted his horrors on Atlantic City, New Jersey.

In that case it was a string of failed casinos financed with high-interest junk bonds that he was never going to be able to pay off. Their collapse and the tremendous ten-figure debt he took away from them in the early 1990s was, at the time, Donald Trump's most public and embarrassing scandal.

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FILM & TV

Here She is…Miss America

Congrats to Nia Imani Franklin!

Atlantic City, NJ was full of America's finest females on Sunday as the 92nd Miss America (Pageant? Contest? Competition?) took place at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.

51 lovely ladies took the stage to strut their stuff, show off their smarts, and prove to the panel they have what it takes to represent the country as Miss America 2019.

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But only one woman could take home the crown and turn in her state sash for the super-sized version. And this time 'round, New York state's 25-year-old Nia Imani Franklin took first place, stealing the spotlight and the hearts of the judges, including Carnie Wilson, Laila Ali, Randy Jackson, Jessie James Decker, and other famous faces. Hosting the program was Carrie Ann Inaba, best known from Dancing with the Stars.

Along with the bragging rights that come with winning the first Miss America without the ever-popular swimsuit competition, Franklin took home a $50,000 scholarship and the aforementioned shiny crown. "The fourth runner up was Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras; third runner up was Miss Florida Taylor Tyson; second runner up was Miss Louisiana Holli Conway, and the first runner up was Miss Connecticut Bridget Oei," as ABC summed up.

A few facts about Miss Franklin. She is a classical vocalist who belted out an impressive opera tune for her talent portion of the program. As per ABC, her "pageant platform is 'advocating for the arts'," making her musical strengths a nice support system for her creative cause. As per Hollywood Life, "She majored in music composition and has dreams of winning a Grammy."

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As CNN explains, "During the competition, Franklin, who is black, described how music helped her find her identity. 'I grew up at a predominately Caucasian school and there was only five percent minority, and I felt out of place so much because of the color of my skin. But growing up, I found my love of arts, and through music that helped me to feel positive about myself and about who I was.'"

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The Miss America Organization was renamed "Miss America 2.0" in an attempt to give the long-running entity a refresh, particularly amid scandal and controversy. From heads of the organization being dumped to rampant resignations to 2018's winner alleging a toxic workplace environment, and then some, Miss America could use some positive energy. Franklin may just be the face to help turn things around as she takes the year to engage, enlighten, and energize folks who have had their doubts that the show would, indeed, go on.

"It took a lot of perseverance to get here. I want to thank my beautiful family, my mom and my dad, who is a survivor of cancer," she shared after being crowned winner. Congratulations to this beautiful, bold, and bright young woman!


Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G, Understood.org, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, Better Homes & Gardens, AMC Daycare, and more.


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Scott Disick has checked into rehab after going off the rails this past weekend in Atlantic City.

But not just any old rehab would do for the 31-year-old rent-a-Knight. Oh no, according to TMZ, Lord Disick checked into top-dollar luxury spa Rythmia Life Advancement Center in Costa Rica, where they specialize in Iboga treatment, which involves roots from a small African tree that allegedly helps people overcome addiction.

"I realize my issues are bigger than me and I'm ready to truly remedy this struggle I continue to battle,” Disick declared.

Just prior to rehab, Kourtney Kardashian’s hard partying douchebag baby daddy was pounding back tequila shots, before channeling brother-in-law Kanye West—storming a stage and slurring some nonsensical rant into a mic.

As you well know, after the party comes the after party, and after the after party comes the hotel lobby, and that’s where Scott was spotted stumbling around barefoot at 8 AM.

At 5 PM a rescue mission of hipsters knocked on his door, and found Scott having a come-to-Jesus moment.

According to reports, Kourtney has issued several ultimatums to LD regarding his drinking and carousing, and he has taken vow upon vow to stop, only to break them days, or even just hours, later.

This time however, he promises he's going to change for good.

Or at least until St. Patrick's Day...more likely.

Joe Giudice is the kind of husband you can only dream about.

Not only was he the instigator of the multi-million dollar fraud that has landed them both with a jail term, he was caught on camera on a Real Housewives of New Jersey episode allegedly speaking to his mistress and calling wife Teresa Guidice a cunt. (Not sure if that was the mistress Jacqueline Laurita said Teresa told her she caught him having sex on his desk with or a different one.)

Now he’s playing house husband to their four daughters while Teresa serves out her jail term and has been forced to deny claims that he cheated on Teresa just four weeks before she checked into prison.

Earlier this week InTouch claimed he had slept with a woman named Jamie Jackson during an alleged hotel tryst in Atlantic City. The cover story reported that there was video footage of them making out at dinner and that they then disappeared together afterwards for about 20 minutes. They claimed she emerged “buttoning her blouse and crying hysterically”.

Giudice refuted the claims and told US Weekly;

"No, I did not flirt with her. I did not make out with her, nothing happened between us. Everything InTouch is saying that happened between us are lies."

At least Teresa, who’ll be wearing orange until Christmas, will know were Juicy is when he begins his 41 month sentence when she gets out.

Still, Joe has some competition to be Top Man Bitch.

 

In 1881, eight years before the completion of the Eiffel Tower, a real estate entrepreneur named James Lafferty built a six-story high wooden elephant on a deserted stretch of barrier island beach just south of Atlantic City, in southern New Jersey.

Lafferty’s goal was simple. He owned a lot of nearby land and he needed a gimmick to attract potential buyers. The gimmick was Lucy, the Margate Elephant.

Ninety years later, Lucy was a tattered, wasting-away wreck, when two local ladies undertook her restoration. They raised $25,000 with cookies and bake sales to move the building from the ground it stood on behind a local bar to a public park next to a hot dog stand. One day shortly afterward, they approached a local advertising man and said “We need advertising help.” “What for,” he responded.   “To save Lucy,” they said.

They went on to describe how they had managed to get Lucy listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a $62,000 matching federal grant. But let the ad man, my uncle, tell the story.

“So here are these two very nice ladies, naïve as hell, thinking that we could do some ads that would sell enough cookies to get them their sixty-two thousand dollars.”

“I said, ‘Ladies, you aren’t the Girl Scouts. I don’t think even the Girl Scouts could sell enough cookies here to raise that kind of money. But I have heard of an idea that might do it for you. I heard it in New York. It’s called ‘The Connecticut Plan’.

“It seems that a private school in Connecticut needed to renovate a building, but they didn’t have the funds. They had plenty of local connections, but no money. So some clever parent came up with the idea of approaching a friendly bank for a loan, having each parent family co-sign the loan for a thousand dollars and agree to pay the annual interest until the loan was repaid by the school. The school got the money they needed. The kids got a renovated school. And, the parents got a tax deduction for the interest they paid and the warm feeling that they’d done something good for the school. So, let’s do the same thing here.

“We’ll find a friendly bank. I just happen to have a new client—friends who have started a new bank. We’ll appeal to their civic pride and need to become better known. When they say 'Yes,' we’ll throw a cocktail party for some local movers and shakers that we can ask to co-sign the loan. You’ll get your matching grant money in one fell swoop and not only that, but we’ll see if we can’t get some contributions from local labor unions and materials donations to hold costs down and do the whole thing right.

“They were flabbergasted. But we did it in a couple of months, and Lucy’s restoration was underway. Forty years later, it sits in Margate, N.J. today as a National Historic Landmark and tourist attraction that’s visited every year by people from all over the world.”

This all took place in the early 1970s when Atlantic City had hit rock bottom. As viewers of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire know, this wasn’t the first time; Atlantic City’s roller coaster economics have been a topic of fascination since its founding. But this time, a perfect storm of negative events had caused its convention and tourism business to collapse and casinos were only a dream on the horizon. The first  casino referendum failed, but the second one passed. The campaign promised the moon to local supporters, but for nearly forty years casino owners focused mainly on delivering point-to-point visitors to their fortresses, which were consciously built to diminish the natural attractions of the island.

Now, the local casino industry is in a state of disarray due to increased competition, the tourist business outside of the casinos is virtually non-existent, Atlantic City’s population has fallen, the inner-city demographics are particularly challenging, and the city budget and infrastructure are in need of a major overhaul. So what’s to be done?

The original Convention Hall provided a stable expansion of business into seasonal, shoulder seasons. A new Convention Hall and shopping area continued that trend, while the old Hall became an entertainment center.  But, they’ve all been challenged by the fading of the surrounding urban environment.

However, there are some “big time” ideas for revitalization. Relocation of portions of Richard Stockton College of New Jersey into a prime Atlantic City location would provide an important mid-city “anchor” and bring professionals and students to town—some of whom might stay to become a part of the city’s revitalization. A half-dozen or so casinos still will remain to help stabilize the City’s economy. Growth of a nearby regional airport and federal aviation research center also can play a significant future role, and the sand, sea, and Boardwalk still retain their primal appeal for nearby metropolitan masses.

Lucy was saved by local people animated by an idea borrowed from another place. Could that work now for Atlantic City? City fathers and New Jersey politicians first have to man up. Nobody wants to vacation or relax in a war zone. Public safety and reduced crime are of paramount importance and must be attended to. How was the old Times Square rescued? How were Baltimore and San Antonio revived? HBO’s Boardwalk Empire may be enjoyable entertainment but let’s not confuse fiction with fact—no blue-chip investor is going to invest today in a corrupt environment.

But with the support of enlightened New Jersey State and Atlantic County government, a new mayor and business-oriented City Council in place, and several former casino buildings available for redevelopment, well-heeled investors might take another look and new generations of visitors might discover why old ones called Atlantic City “the World’s Playground”. Elephants learn from long memories, I’m told.

Kevin Fortuna is the author of The Dunning Man (Lavender Ink Press, October 2014). His story Weddings and Burials is a finalist for the prestigious The New Guard Machigonne Fiction Contest. He obtained a Bachelors degree in English Literature from Georgetown University, where he graduated summa cum laude. He is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the Quicksall Medal for Writing, a Fellowship in Fiction at the Prague Summer Writers Workshop and a Full Fellowship in Fiction at the University of New Orleans, where he received his MFA. Fortuna lives in Cold Spring, New York.

Harry Sweeney is a rewired – not retired -- advertising executive and member of the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame. He was born and raised in Atlantic City, headed Dorland Advertising for the last six (1971-76) of its thirty years as the City’s agency, and continues to reside in the area.

Read more about Kevin Fortuna's The Dunning Man here

And, take a stroll down Boardwalk Empire memory lane with Popdust's gallery of the best pics from all five glorious seasons....