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....

It’s a sad, sad night for Boardwalk Empire fans as the series comes to an end, tying up questions we’ve all had for years and ending in with a very poignant bang.

Nucky, you poor bastard. Nucky spent the majority of the final episode tying up loose ends. He severed ties with Eli, taking him a bag full of money and telling him that he’s leaving Atlantic City for good and starting life over somewhere else.

After last week’s letter from Gillian Darmody, Nucky finds himself visiting her in the looney bin. She bizarrely plays with a ladybug on her hand while he does all the talking, telling her that he’s arranged for her to have a private room there and a trust fund for if she ever got out of that place. He also tells her never to try to contact him again, and with tears in his eyes asks “What do you expect of me?” This is all kind of cryptic, but then we see in his flashbacks and figure out what is happening.

Back in 1897, Nucky is talking to a 13 year old Gillian Darmody on the boardwalk. He’s called away to speak with the Commodore on the deck of the hotel and the Commodore fires Nucky as Deputy Sherriff saying that he doesn’t need him, never liked him, and doesn’t trust him. As Nucky turns to walk away, one of the Commodore’s henchmen approaches Nucky and tells him that if he delivers the young girl to the Commodore as an “act of charity” he will be reinstated, this time as Sherriff. In an effort to get ahead, Nucky actually delivers her to that pedophile but promises Gillian that everything will be ok and that he’ll always take care of her.

Snap back to Nucky’s present day. As he’s walking down the boardwalk to leave Atlantic City for good and start a new life, he’s approached by the young man who’s been hanging around with his crew. The young man starts talking about how his grandma would talk about Nucky, but he never knew if it was with love or hate. When Nucky asks who the young man is, he says he Tommy Darmody!! Then he unloads 2 bullets in Nucky’s chest. Presumably one for his grandmother Gillian and one for his father Jimmy. Then for good measure, a final bullet to the face. We all pretty much knew that Nucky would end up being pumped full of lead in the final episode. But Tommy Darmody?!? Talk about full circle.

Funnily enough, we all knew how some of the other story lines ended up because we took high school history. Lucky Luciano succeeds in creating the Seven Families and Capone surrenders to the feds for tax evasion. What a way to go down. Pay your taxes, kids.

What did you think of the final episode of Boardwalk Empire? Sound off in the comments below!

 

Already suffering Nucky Thompson withdrawal? Take a look back at Boardwalk Empire's five glorious seasons.....

This week marks the second to last episode ever of Boardwalk Empire, and as you might have expected, a shit ton more people wound up sleeping with the fishes.

Nucky’s world is crumbling. Between him and Maranzano they’ve lost 19 men and over $1 million in revenue in this all out turf war with Luciano and Lansky. They’re running low on man power but in an effort to “string Luciano up by his ball sack,” Nucky sends two men to New York City to kidnap Bugsy Siegel, Luciano’s bff, to send a message to back the hell off.

Meanwhile, Eli is back in town from Chicago, and he goes to see Willie outside his law building. Willie is taken aback, both by his father’s  awful physical appearance and by the fact that he’s back in NY at all. Willie doesn’t want to hear much of anything that his father has to say because it’s incriminating evidence. Willie tells Eli to go to his apartment, clean up, and wait for him to get home, but Eli decides that his son is doing fine and is better off without him. As Eli crosses the street and walks away, a car pull up and two men grab Willie and throw him in the back seat. Eli witnesses it and is forced to go to Nucky for help.

Nucky, who loves Willie like a son, calls Luciano and they decide to meet in person. In the middle of the night (and in the middle of nowhere) both sides pull up in their cars with guns drawn for the exchange of Bugsy and Willie. As the two are being exchanged, Bugsy punches Willie in the stomach and he’s immediately recaptured by Luciano’s men. Shots are fired, more people are capped, and there’s Nucky in the middle begging for Willie’s life. Nucky offers Luciano everything he has, from his strip joint to his business dealing in Cuba, all to get his nephew back. In the end, he even offers to take care of Luciano’s biggest problem, Maranzano, within 24 hours.

Nucky delivers when a group of his men go to serve Marazano with a “subpoena”, but instead he’s served with about 20 stab wounds and a bullet to the forehead. In return, Willie is dumped in front of his law office where everyone is hard out work investigating the Maranzano murder. Whoops.

Meanwhile, back in 1887, Nucky finds an orphaned Gillian Darmody stealing under a boardwalk. He feels  sorry for her and takes her home to Mabel who instantly takes a liking to her. Later that night, Sherriff Lindsey brings Nucky to the Commodore’s mansion and handed him his badge as if to say, “I’m done with this asshole. You take care of it.” When Nucky enters the mansion, he’s instructed by the Commodore’s minion to take a young girl home to her parents, and to tell them not to expect any further compensation. It seems that that sick f*ck has a penchant for young girls. Girls almost exactly Gillian Darmody’s age.

What did you think of this week’s Boardwalk Empire? Sound off in the comments below!

Seriously? What the hell went down this week? Considering there’s only two weeks left of Boardwalk Empire, the head people in charge wasted a good hour with a bunch of nonsense!

Let’s start with our main man Nucky. Basically he spent this entire episode getting wasted in a bar an trying to arrange a menage a trios with some questionable women in a bar. When that goes bust, he gets rescued by a minion who’s trying to protect Nucky and get himself ahead. Very reminiscent of a 1800s Atlantic City childhood Nucky.

In Chicago, Van Alden and Eli are on a mission to get Capone’s ledger books for the feds. They go to Capone’s office, but there their cover is blown. It’s not like they tried to cover it up very hard! In the middle of a shakedown by D’Angelo (the other fed) Van Alden breaks down and confesses to Capone that he’s a federal agent. D’Angelo has no  choice but to blow Van Alden's brains out to protect his and Eli’s cover. Literally. Brains everywhere.

Meanwhile, some weird shit is going on in Harlem with Chalky, Daughter Maitland, and Valentin Narcisse. Chalky shows up to the brothel and finds Daughter with his supposed child. In an effort to get her and the little girl out of the brothel and back into the life he knows she should be leading, Chalky convinces Narcisse to let Daughter go back to the jazz circuit, and in return Chalky sacrifices himself for her and is shot via firing squad. Again… seriously? There has been entirely too much sacrifice in this episode!

What did you think of this week’s crazy episode of Boardwalk Empire? Sound off in the comments below!

Everybody better pay close attention, because with only three episodes left in the series, Boardwalk Empire is wrapping up storyline left and right.

Nucky is having a really shitty day. He visits Johnny Torrio to vent about all the Lucky Luciano b.s. and his new role as one of Maranzano’s men, and he let’s slip to Torrio that he’s having dinner with Maranzano that night. At dinner, Nucky asks Maranzano when he’s going to get rid of Luciano, to which Maranzano replies that he prefers to deal only with Italians. Well, that really sucks for Nucky because seconds later the restaurant is riddled with machine gun bullets. Nucky escapes with his life, thanks to his Cuban bodyguard. Later he calls Torrio, who is with Luciano and Lansky, and gives him a very direct message. “I will not rest until I see you in your graves.” So much for going legit. Not long after that phone call, Nucky makes another call to his Bacardi man down in Cuba. He finds out that Sally Wheet is dead and htat there’s no possible way to punish the people who killed her. Again, not a good day for Nucky.

Eli and Van Alden are having slightly less shitty days, but not by much. Eli’s very pregnant wife Joan comes to Chicago for a visit. Eli is so happy that he asks her to move out there with the kids so they can start a new life together and have nothing to do with Nucky or his money. Later they go Van Alden’s house to have dinner, and Van Alden’s lunatic Norwegian wife Sigrid announced to the room that she and Eli, ummm, had sexual intercourse. Just when the worst of the shit was hitting the fan, some feds pounded on the door and too Eli and Van Alden to the station.

The feds basically threaten to put Eli and Van Alden in prison for murder unless they agree to help them. They’re making a case with the IRS against Al Capone for tax evasion, and they need Eli and Van Alden to steal Capone’s ledger books. If all goes according to planned, both men can earn back their badges.

Margaret Thompson was a bit of a badass this week. She apparently got Carolyn Rothstein to settle with herself and the firm for ¼ of the  $111,000, which is what Nucky suggested. In return for the settlement, Margaret demands that the firm sets up an account for Nucky under an assumed name to begin shorting the stock of the Mayflower Grain Corporation. Nucky, you sneaky bastard.

What did you think of this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire? Sound off in the comments below!

 

In case you were wondering what’s going to happen to your favorite characters on the final season of Boardwalk Empire, they’re probably all going to die in the worst possible way. Dead as dirt…that is if tonight’s episode was any kind of precursor.

Nucky awakens from a monster hangover to find Margaret in his sitting room with Joe Kennedy, just shooting the shit. Joe seems to have taken a fancy to the Irish lass, and that really crawls right under Nucky’s skin. That a-hole Kennedy just came around to officially refuse Nucky’s offer with Bacardi, as if we didn’t get the hint last week. Later, Nucky and Margaret discuss “their” problem with Carolyn Rothstein. Nucky is impressed that Margaret was able to finagle an apartment deal with Arnold Rothstein (considering he was a crooked crook) but is disappointed that she didn’t demand a cut of the money from Bennett. They reminisce and begin to rekindle at least a mutual admiration for one another, although the cheap red wine probably helped things along. Nucky tells Margaret that she needs to go to Carolyn and offer her ¼ of the $111,000, and he’s pretty sure she’ll take it.

Lucky Luciano is in Chicago to see Al Capone. Basically Lucky wants Capone to consider joining forces with the major mob bosses from around the country to for a union of sorts. Capone isn’t really interested because he’s doing juuuust fine on his own, but he tells Lucky that he’ll think it over. While meeting with Capone, Lucky notices Van Alden (aka Mueller) walk into the room and a bit later tells Capone that he recognizes him as a fed. Capone calls “Mueller” in and begins questioning him about who he is and where he’s from. Van Alden made something up about Minnesota and a wheat farm, and around this time Capone shoves a pistol into his mouth. Van Alden doesn’t confess though, and instead tells Capone that he thinks Lucky is being disrespectful coming into Chicago and starting problems between him and his men. Capone apparently agrees because he lets “Mueller” live. The same cannot be said for one of his minions who made one too many fat jokes at Capone’s expense. He ends up with an Empire State Building replica paper weight bashed into his skull about 25 times.

And poor little Sally Wheet. Nucky couldn’t make it to Cuba to handle the Bacardi transaction because it was raining in New York and his flight got cancelled. (It’s 1931, people. Rain cancels flights.) Sally takes care of the money exchange, then on her drive back to Havana that night she's stopped by a group of army officers. She tries hard to pay them off but they tell her to get out of her car, things get hostile, and one of the officers shoots Sally in the chest. Another one bites the dust.

What did you think of this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire? Sound off in the comments below!