Monday, June 27, 2011
Atlantic City Timeline 1614-2010
Rutgers Center on the Ameican Governor – Eagleton Institute of Politics
Home / New Jersey Governors /Atlantic City Reflections
Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, first director of what eventually became New Netherland and New Amsterdam, explores southern New Jersey coast and Delaware Bay, southern point of "Cape May" later named after him.
Thomas Budd, an English Quaker, arrives on Atlantic County mainland in late 1670's, acquires Absecon (or Absecom) Island, area comprising present-day Atlantic City and other mainland acreage as settlement of a claim he had against Lord John Berkeley, tone of holders of the royal grant from Duke of York. "Absecon"derived from,"absegami", Lenni Lenape native American name for "little water". Budd's mainland property then valued at forty cents an acre, with the island at four cents an acre.
The Leeds family become first recorded permanent European residents on Absecon Island, area comprising present-day Atlantic City.name derived from "absegami", Lenni Lenape Native American name for island, Jeremiah Leeds builds first permanent structure on island in 1785 at what is now Arctic and Arkansas Avenue.
• May: Jonathan Pitney, a 22-year-old physician, arrives on horseback in small mainland village of Absecon in presnt-day Galloway Township, Gloucester County.
• Pitney Road built on mainland from Absecon village to Port Republic bridge to provide Dr. Pitney a direct route to treat patients in Port Republic.
• Jeremiah Leeds's widow Millicent, a year after her husband's death, obtains license to operate inn and tavern called Aunt Millie’s Boarding House, located at present-day Baltic and Massachusetts Avenues, first registered business in City.
• Atlantic County created out of Gloucester County as separate county.
• Dr. Jonathan Pitney serves as Delegate of Atlantic County to the State Constitutional Convention in Trenton that adopts New Jersey's second constitution, the Constitution of 1844.
• March 19: State Legislature grants charter for Camden & Atlantic Company to build railroad connecting Camden with Atlantic County. First officers of the company include Dr. Jonathan Pitney as a Director, who with his friend General Enoch Doughty, High Sheriff of Gloucester County and a General with the New Jersey Militia, had drafted charter in hopes of spurring devleopment of coastal region.
• Growing demand for visitors to area leads to construction in Cape May of Mt. Vernon Hotel, intended to be world's larget hotel serving 3,500 guests. It is destroyed by fire in 1856 while still unfinished, but accommodating 2,100 guests at time of fire.
• January 15: Name “Atlantic City” adopted by City founders.
• March 3: Atlantic City incorporated as a municipality.
• May 1: Chalkey S. Leeds, son of Jeremiah Leeds, elected as first mayor of Atlantic City by 18 voters.
• July 4: Camden and Atlantic Railroad opens to the public and first paying passengers from Camden pass through Absecon village on mainland to new city of Atlantic City on Absecon Island.
• US Congress appropriates $35,000 for construction of “Absecom Lighthouse” to reduce shipping losses.
• First official road from mainland at Pleasntville to Absecon Island completed after 17 years of construction with toll of thirty cents.
• June 26: World's first boardwalk constructed along Atlantic City beachfront to keep sand from being tracked into hotels and railroad cars, name honored railroad conductor Alexander Boardman, who with hotel owner Jacob Keim, conceived idea of constructing a boardwalk.
• "Salt water taffy" reportedly coined as phrase when Atlantic City boardwalk shopowner David Bradley's supply of taffy is swamped by sea water during a summer storm; while cleaning up on following day, a girl walked into store and asked for a bag of taffy, to which he jokingly replied that he only had "salt water taffy". Fellow boardwalk candy seller Joseph Fralinger soon added a taffy concession and perfected salt water taffy formula, first using molasses, then chocolate and vanilla, eventually reaching 25 flavors which he boxed and sold as the "Atlantic City Souvenir".
In 1925, United States Supreme Court held that term "salt water taffy" had been in common use for too long to allow it to be trademarked in a suit against John Edmiston, who had attempted to trademark the term and collect royalties from other taffy makers.
• Smith E. Johnson elected sheriff of Atlantic County for a three-year term. In order to continue in public office despite prohibition on sheriff succeeding himself, he would serve as undersheriff in between terms as sheriff.
Steel Pier and famous "diving horse" attraction
Image source: Library of Congress
Steel Pier opens, becomes most widely advertised amusement pier in world. During inaugural season,
W. C. Fields performs as a member of a minstrel group. Subsequent entertainers in 20th century included John Philip Sousa, Guy Lombardo, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Bob Hope, Amos 'n Andy, Frank Sinatra, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Dinah Shore, Frankie Avalon, Ricky Nelson, Peggy Lee, Pat Boone, and the Allman Brothers.
• 1903: Josiah White III purcases parcel of land near Ohio Avenue and the boardwalk and builds the Marlborough House hotel, later combined in 1906 with the new Moorish-style Blenheim hotel into the Marlborough-Blenheim.
• Enoch "Nucky" Johnson, son of Sheriff Smith E. Johnson, named by his father as undersheriff.
• Nucky Johnson elected sheriff when his father’s term expired, a position he held until ousted by a court order in 1911.
• November 17: Republican Governor John Franklin Fort appoints Edmind Wilson, Sr. (father of noted literary critic Edmund Wilson, Jr.) as Attorney General. Wilson prosecutes several Atlantic County Republican machine leaders for corruption, including longtime Atlantic City boss Louis Kuehnle. Indictments are filed utilizing State law providing for grand juries to be drawn by specially appointed "elisors" in order to avoid influence from Atlantic County Sheriff Nucky Johnson, who was suspected of hand-selecting grand jury lists to pack them with political supporters.
• Louis Kuehnle convicted of corruption related charges and imprisoned. Nucky Johnson succeeds him as head of Republican political organization controlling Atlantic City and Atlantic County governments.
• City Commissioner Harry Bacharach first elected as mayor, would serve over nine years (1916-20, 1930-35), known for flamboyant style as "No. 1 Booster" of Atlantic City.
• Duval Giants, Negro Baseball League team in Jacksonville, Florida relocated to Atlantic City by two African-American politicians, renamed "Bacharach Giants" after Harry Bacharach, the City's mayor.
• May 10: Mayor William Riddle defeted for re-election by ticket headed by City Commissioner Harry Bacharach, ticket includes C.D. White, owner of Marlborough Blenheim Hotel.
• November: Atlantic County State Senator Walter Evans Edge, founder and publisher of Atlantic City Daily Press (now Press of Atlantic City), elected New Jersey governor, with campaign managed by Nucky Johnson. Johnson reportedly facilitated Edge’s election by reaching out to Democratic Hudson County boss Frank Hague, who disliked Democratic candidate, Otto Whittpenn, and directed Democrats to cross over and vote for Edge in Republican primary.
• January 16: 18th Amendment to the US Constitution ratified to authorize Congress to prohibit production or sale of alcoholic beverages.
• October 28: Volstead Act enacted setting penalties for production or sale of alcoholic beverages as of January 16, 1920.
• May 16: Walter Edge resigns as governor to become US Senator, a position he would hold for ten years.
• January 16: Volstead Act prohibiting making or sale of alcoholic beverages goes into effect. Lack of enforcement by Atlantic County and Atlantic City law enforcement officials aids growtth of region. Between 1926 and 1933, an estimated 40 percent of all illegal alcohol brought into US came ashore in or near Atlantic City. Gang leader Charles "Lucky" Luciano reportedly agrees to provide Nucky Johnson with 10 percent of Luciano's illegal bootlegging and gambling activities in exchange for Johnson's protection and exclusive rights to importing iquor into Atlantic City.
•September 8: "Inter-City Beauty Contest" held as event during Atlantic City Pageant in effort to extend summer tourist season, with 16-year-old Margaret Gorman winning $1,000 top prize, title changed in following year to designate her as "Miss America."
•Nucky Johnson hosts Atlantic City meeting of loose organization of other East Coast bootleggers and racketeers forming the "Big Seven", "the Combine" or "Seven Group", which apparently leads to convening of subsequent Atlantic City Conference of national organized crime leaders
•May 13: Nucky Johnson also hosts three-day "Atlantic City Conference", first known meeting of national organized crime leaders, including Al Capone, Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, Willie Moretti, Abner "Longy" Zwillman, Dutch Schultz and Ben 'Bugsy" Siegel. Among other things, Conference reportedl;y leads to plan to invest in legitimate liquor businesses and gambling in order to offset loss of profits from anticipated end of Prohibition .During Conference, Capone and Johnson are photographed walking together er on boardwalk.
•October 29: "Black Tuesday" sees stock prices collapse on New York Stock Exchange, continued fall over following weeks leads to Great Depression. municipalities issued scrip in the payment of salaries to their workers and for other purposes. By 1932, Atlantic City municipal government was forced by lack of revenue to issue scrip to pay municipal employees, receivable by City for payment of back taxes.
•December 5: 21st Amendment to US Constitution ratified, repealing 18th Amendment imposing prohibition on production or sale of alcoholic beverages.
•Charles Darrow begins marketing his version of board game known as "Monopoly" featuring street names of Atlantic City in buying and trading property. Darrow sells rights to game in 1935 to Parker Brothers.
•November: Republican lawyer Frank S. "Hap" Farley elected to represent Atlantic County in the New Jersey Assembly.
•May 1: Nucky Johnson indicted for evading taxes on about $125,000 in income from numbers operators during 1935, 1936 and 1937.
•November: Frank Farley elected to New Jersey State Senate.
•July: Nucky Johnson, boss of the Atlantic City/Atlantic County Republican political machine, convicted of income tax evasion after two-week trial and sentenced to ten years in federal prison and fined $20,000. Senator Frank Farley, after a struggle with rival Thomas D. Taggart, Jr., mayor of Atlantic City, succeeds Johnson as the leader of the GOP organization.
•August 11: Nucky Johnson enters Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary to serve sentence.
•January 18: Atlantic County's Walter Edge, who previously served as governor from January 1917 to January 1919, is inaugurated for a second three-year term as governor.
•Senator Frank Farley elected by fellow senators as Senate President, also becomes president of "21 Club" composed of New Jersey's county Republican chairmen, providing a base for Farley to exert statewide political influence into the 1970s
•August 15: Nucky Johnson released from prison on parole, takes pauper's oath to avoid paying $20,000 fine.
•July 1, 1955: Governor Robert B. Meyner became first person to cross Paramus toll plaza, effectively opening to traffic full 165-mile length of Garden State Parkway from Cape May to Paramus.
•July 31: Atlantic City Expressway opens between its western terminus in Camden County and Garden State Parkway in Pleasantville, with construction completed a year ahead of schedule. Opening ceremonies presided over by Seantor Frank Farley, leading proponent of project.
•August 21: Democratic National Convention holds opening session in Atlantic City. After becoming president upon assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson reportedly fails in efforts to persuade Democratic Party officials to reverse earlier decision to hold Convention in Atlantic City and select alternative location. Democratic National Committee had previously agreed to accept City offer of $600,000 to host Convention, along with City commitment to undertake $2 million refurbishing of Convention Hall. On August 24, delegates nominatie Johnson for president and Hubert H. Humphrey for vice president. National media coverage includes extensive reports of City's deteriorated condition.
•Assemblyman Robert Littell (R-Sussex County) sponsors resolution to legalize casinos in New Jersey in anticipation of Playboy Enterprises opening a casino as an attraction for a major ski area in Sussex county.
Brendan T. Byrne, as president of Public Utilities Commission and former Essex County Prosecutor, is only State official to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to endorse casino gambling in hearing on hearings on resoutuions to authorize casino referendum.
•New Jersey Senate defeats proposed legislation to authorize referendum to legalize gambling in Atlantic City sponsored by Senator Frank X. McDermott (R-Union), but opposed by Governor William T. Cahill.
•Democrats end reign of Atlantic County Republican organization under Frank Farley, with Dr. Joseph McGahn, mayor of Absecon and an obstetrician, defeating Senator Farley in a campaign focused on corruption following federal investigation of Republican machine in Atlantic City. Attorney Steven Perskie is elected to General Assembly.
•Poll conducted in February of NJ residents by Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University asking "Would you be in favor of Las Vegas style gambling casinos in New Jersey?" reports 48% responding "no"; 44% "yes"; and 8% "don't know."
•Poll conducted in March of NJ residents by Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University asking "Would you be in favor of gambling casinos in New Jersey?" reports 49% responding "yes"; 44% "no"; and 8% "don't know."
•April 24: Brendan T. Byrne tenders resignation as Superior Court judge and enters the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
•June 5: Byrne defeats Ralph DeRose and Ann Klein in the Democratic primary, winning the party's nomination for Governor. Congressman Charles Sandman defeats incumbent Governor William Cahill for the Republican nomination.
•June 10: Electrical fire destroys The 500 Club on Missouri Avenue, entertainers during Club's heyday in 1940s and ’50s included Frank Sinatra, Martin and Lewis, Jimmy Durante, Sophie Tucker, Nat “King” Cole, Vic Damone and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
•November 6: Byrne elected Governor of New Jersey, defeating Conressman Sandman by 721,000 votes, the largest plurality in the state's history.
•On January 15, Brendan T. Byrne sworn in as 54th Governor of New Jersey.
• November 5: NJ voters reject referendum to amend State constitution to allow State-owned casinos throughout NJ. The referendum is defeated in 19 of NJ's 21 counties, with about 60% of all votes cast against it.
•Senator Joseph McGahn (Democrat-Atlantic) introduces proposed resolution to amend Constitution to allow private companies to operate Atlantic City casinos and dedicate the use of local revenues to help alleviate local property taxes.
•Assemblyman Steven Perskie (Democrat-Atlantic) introduces proposed resolution to authorize State-owned casinos and dedicate revenues from casino taxation to provide assistance to senior citizens and the handicapped.
•In May, Assembly votes 52-23 to place casino question on November ballot.
•In June, Senate votes 25-10 to place casino question on November ballot.
•Steel Pier closes after declines in visitors and revenue, deterioration of Pier and amusement attractions.
•October: Resorts International purchases Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel on the Boardwalk.
•October: Poll of NJ residents conducted by Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University asking "If you had to decide right now, would you vote for this amendment to the Constitution that would permit casino gambling in Atlantic City, or would you vote against it?" reports 60% responding "for"; 34% "against"; and 6% "don't know"
•October 27: President Gerald Ford campaigns in Atlantic City and delivers speech on boardwalk.
•November 2: NJ voters approve referendum by 1.5 million to 1.2 million votes to amend State Constitution to authorize casinos limited to sites in Atlantic City. In presidential election, Governor Jimmy Carter defeats President Gerald Ford by 50.1 to 40.8% margin in national popular vote.
•November 3: Governor Byrne instructs his special counsel and State’s attorney general to formulate a plan to regulate casino development.
•Governor Byrne creates Staff Policy Group on Casino Gambling with objective to design legislation that would revitalize economy of AC and keep casino operations under law enforcement controls.
• Playboy Clubs International President Victor Lownes testifies at a public hearing that his company was prepared to spend $32 million on a casino project. Lownes further suggests that the “English system” be adopted—casinos would be limited to 16 hours; barred from offering players drinks at tables; prohibited from offering live entertainment; and required to impose tight restrictions on player credit.
• In February, Staff Policy Group on Casino Gambling issues initial report, subsequently revises recommendations to extend the hours of casino operations; reduce the number of casinos that had to be ready to open before any casino could begin operations; and modify its opposition to credit and alcohol.
• On February 17, Governor Byrne meets with staff to review options on creation of Casino Control Commission, casino taxation, etc. (see Governor Byrne notes)
• On June 2, Governor Byrne signs Casino Control Act in Atlantic City, issues warning in speech at ceremony: "I've said it before and I will repeat it to organized crime. Keep your filthy hands off Atlantic City. Keep the hell out of our state!"
• June 7: Governor Byrne defeats nine opponents, including Representatives Robert Roe and James J. Florio, to win the Democratic nomination for Governor.
• June 11: Governor Byrne names Joseph Lordi, who succeeded Governor Byrne as Essex County Prosecutor, as first chair of Casino Control Commission.
• July: Governor Byrne appoints Robert Martinez, Assistant Attorney General who had headed the Staff Policy Group on Casino Gambling, as the first Director of newly-created Division on Gaming Enforcement in the Department of Law & Public Safety.
• August 9: President Richard Nixon--facing impeachment as a result of the Watergate scandal--resigns from office, and is succeeded by Vice President Gerald R. Ford.
• September 24: Former Senator Frank Farley dies at his home in Ventnor City, New York Times obituary describes him as "probably the most powerful legislator in New Jersey history".
• October 4: Casino Control Commission holds first meeting.
• In October, Governor Byrne issues Executive Order to create a cabinet committee on Atlantic City to coordinate departmental projects and to respond to complaints from City’s elderly and minority communities.
• November 8: Governor Byrne defeats Republican State Senator Raymond H. Bateman by 300,000 votes, winning re-election as Governor of New Jersey. Assemblyman Steven Perskie elected to Senate seat held by fellow Democrat and incumbent Senator Joseph McGahn, after Perskie defeats McGahn for Democratic nomination and also in general election when McGahn runs as an independent in three-way race with Perskie and Republican candidate Frederick Perone. Senator Perskie becomes youngest person to serve in Senate in 114 years. Republican Atlantic County freeholder William Gormley elected to General Assembly.
• November: Resorts International’s attorneys circulate a memo arguing that regulatory agencies were not functioning properly and warned of the impact of their delay.
• February 21: U.S. Supreme Court lets stand an August 1976 ruling allowing the sale of $1.1 billion in offshore oil drilling leases in the Baltimore Canyon Trough off the Jersey Shore.
• May 26: Resorts International opens first casino hotel in Atlantic City on 55-acre boardwalk site of former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel.
• September 20: President Jimmy Carter visits Atlantic City, delivers remarks at groundbreaking ceremonies for the National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center; at Convention of United Steelworkers of America; and Democratic Party Campaign Luncheon.
• February 8: Governor Byrne signs Executive Order 71 establishing 15-person Pinelands Planning Commission to oversee development while also mandating a construction moratorium in a 576-square-mile core of Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, and Ocean counties. The action comes two years after Executive Order 56 created a Pinelands Review Committee and five months after Congress passes National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, making t Pinelands the country’s first National Reserve, and restricts development pressure generated by Atlantic City growth.
• June 26: Caesars Boardwalk Regency (now Caesars Atlantic City) becomes second casino-hotel to open in Atlantic City after receiving temporary operating license in May following agreement by Caesars controlling shareholders Clifford and Stuart Perlman to forego role in New Jersey operations pending hearings on permanent license. The Perlmans were the subject of controversy over their past business dealings with alleged mob-associated individuals.
• February 3: FBI authorities announce that they will present a grand jury with evidence of a political corruption resulting from the "Abscam" investigation, a "sting" operation in which federal agents masquerading as an Arab sheik and his American employees purported to offer bribes to facilitate investments in Atlantic City casinos and real estate, an American titanium mine and East Coast port facilities. The sting operation ultimately implicates seven members of Congress, including New Jersey's U.S. Senator Harrison Williams and Representative Frank Thompson, Jr., of Trenton. Kenneth MacDonald resigns as vice chairman of New Jersey Gambling Casino Control Board after FBI charges him with accepting a bribe, and on February 11 Governor Byrne calls for abolition of Board, with subsequent legislation creating full-time Casino Control Commission and insulating commissioners from contacts with development interests.
• December 9: Golden Nugget, Atlantic City’s sixth casino, is opened by Steven Wynn, who also heads Golden Nugget casino-hotel in Las Vegas. Despite small size and second-lowest number of table games, it ranks fourth in total revenues during first year, out-earning, per capita, bigger casinos like Resorts and Bally’s Park Place. By 1983, it leads all Atlantic City casinos in revenue.
• December 30: Casino Contol Commission grants Bally's Manufacturing a temporary license for its Park Place casino on site of former Marlborough-Blenheim and Dennis hotels.
• In November election, Congressman Frank Thompson, one of six Congressmen implicated in the Abscam sting, is defeated for re-election by Republican Christopher Smith, and resigns his seat in the House of Representatives on December 29, 1980.
• April 3: Motion picture "Atlantic City" premieres in U.S., starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon and directed by Louis Malle, depicting gritty neighborhoods of the City at outset of casino era.
• May 1: Senator Harrison Williams convicted on nine counts of bribery and conspiracy to use his office to aid in business ventures as a result of the Abscam scandal. Following a vote by the Senate Committee on Ethics recommending that the Senate expel him because of his "ethically repugnant" conduct, he resigns his Senate seat on March 11, 1982, and subsequently serves two years of a three-year prison sentence.
• Joseph Lordi retires in July after completing his fourth year as the first chairman of the state's Casino Control Commission.
• November, Caesars World buys out shares held by Clifford and Stuart Perlman for $98.2 million, with Perlmans agreeing to resign from the boards of both the Las Vegas and Atlantic City casino-hotel operations.
• November: Thomas H. Kean elected governor, defeating Democratic nominee James J. Florio.
• January: Thomas H. Kean sworn in as 55th Governor of New Jersey.
• March 11: Senator Harrison Williams resigns his Senate seat following vote by Senate Committee on Ethics recommending that the Senate expel him because of his "ethically repugnant" conduct in Abscam scandal. He subsequently serves two years of a three-year prison sentence.
• Governor Kean appoints Senator Steven Perskie as a Superior Court judge.
• December 19: The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is created by legislation signed by Governor Kean and sponsored by Senator Gormley to provide casino tax revenue to facilitate redevelopment through financing of infrastructure, public improvements and housing.
• March 13: Mayor Michael Matthews loses a recall election to James Usry by a vote of 7,021 to 4,086, with Usry elected as his replacement as mayor by a 62% majority.
• March 27: Former Mayor Matthews is indicted on federal charges of using his office to extort bribes from businessmen to benefit himself and alleged Philadelphia and South Jersey organized crime figures Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo and Phillip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti. and enters federal prison in December. The former mayor serves 51⁄2 years and works as a golf director at a country club upon his release.
• November 27: Four weeks after it began, trial of former Mayor Matthews is cut short when he pleads guilty to one count of extorting $10,000 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer tied to crime boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo.
• November: Atlantis Casino Hotel, originally opened as Playboy, files for bankruptcy protection, operates under bankruptcy reorganization for nearly five more years until spring 1989 purchase by Donald Trump for $63 million. Trump closed the casino and operated the property as the hotel-only Trump Regency and Trump World's Fair until permanently closing facility in October 1999 and demolishing it in 2000.
• June 11: Mayor James L. Usry re-elected to his first full four-year term by a margin of 1,329 votes over Republican Assemblywoman Dolores G. Cooper, who had enetered race against Uassry against wishes of national and State Republican leaders. Republican Governor Thomas Kean campaigns on Usry's behalf.
• November: Governor Kean appoints Atlantic City Electric Co. Chairman (and former President and Chief Executive Officer) John Feehan as first Chairman of Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
• Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation opens original high-stakes bingo hall.
• Steve Wynn sells Golden Nuggett Casino for $440 million to Bally's Entertainment Corporation, which changes name to Bally's Grand Casino/Hotel.
• February 25: United States Supreme Court holds by 6-2 decision in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U. S. 202 (1987), that California statutes regulating bingo games could not be enforced on Indian reservations in absence of federal legislation expressly granting states such authority.
• Mayor Usry elected as delegate to the Republican National Convention, but later strains relations with national and State Republicans by endorsing Reverend Jesse Jackson's bid for the Democratic nomination that same year.
• May: Atlantis Casino Hotel, the former Playboy now owned by Elsinore Corp., becomes the first casino to close, four years after creditors forced it into bankruptcy.
• June: Senator William Gormley finishes fourth in Republican gubernatorial primary won by Congressman James Courter.
• July 27: Mayor James L. Usry and 13 other political leaders and business executives, including the City Council president and two other Council members and the chair of the Zoning Board, are arrested and charged with influence peddling, corruption and official misconduct following a seven-month State investigation. State Senator Richard Codey (D-Essex), a co-sponsor of the law that legalized gambling in the state, is among legislators calling for the state to step in. Most of those charges are later dropped.
• Steven Perskie resigns as a Superior Court judge to manage gubernatorial campaign of Congressman James Florio. Following Florio election over James Courter, Perskie named chief-of-staff by Governor Florio.
• James Florio elected governor over Republican Congressman James Courter.
• January: James J. Florio sworn in as 56th Governor of New Jersey.
• June: Governor James J. Florio gives speech in Atlantic City but avoids direct response to media questions about a potential State takeover of the resort.
• Governor Florio appoints chef-of-staff and former Senator and Judge Steven Perskie as chairman of Casino Control Commission.
• December: Mayor Usry admits taking $6,000 in campaign cash without intending to report it and enters a pretrial-intervention program, which subsequently allows his record to be expunged.
• First phase of Foxwoods Resort Casino opens in Connecticut, increasing competition for Atlantic City casinos.
• November: Christine Todd Whitman elected governor, defeating Democratic incumbent James J. Florio.
• January: Christine Todd Whitman sworn in as 57th Governor of New Jersey.
• March: Casino Control Commission Chairman Steven Perskie Perskie resigns as chair to become vice president and general counsel of Players International, an operator of riverboat casinos with no interests in New Jersey.
• South Jersey Transportation Authority and New Jersey Department of Transportation announce plans for four-lane Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector highway and tunnel between Atlantic City Expressway and island municipality of Brigantine and improving access to Atlantic City marina district. After meeting with Steve Wynn, chief executive of Mirage Resorts fproposing to build new $2 billion casino complex on city-owned land, Governor Whitman endorses proposed plan for Mirage to contribute $110 million of total $330 million cost, with remainder funded by State and local governments. The project is delayed by legal challenges from residents whose homes were in its path and by lawsuits from two Atlantic City casino operators, Arthur M. Goldberg of Hilton and Donald Trump of Trump Casino Resorts, who contended that tunnel would provide unfair advantage to proposed Wynn project.
• November: Christine Todd Whitman reelected governor, defeating Democratic nominee James McGreevey.
• January: Christine Todd Whitman sworn in to second term as Governor of New Jersey.
• November: Groundbreaking held for controversial $330 million Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector. Construction commenced after settlement of litigation challenging project, including Donald Trump agreeing to drop lawsuits in return for State adding a ramp to the tunnel project, creating direct access between existing Trump Marina casino resort and the proposed Borgata project of Steve Wynn.
• January: Christine Todd Whitman resigns as Governor to accept nomination by President George W. Bush as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration.
• January: Donald T. DiFrancesco as Senate President sworn in as Acting Governor.
• July 31: Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector opens for traffic after 32 months of construction following ceremony presided over by Governor Donald DiFrancesco.
• November: James McGreevey elected governor, defeating Republican nominee Bret Schundler
• November 14: Mayor James Whelan concedes 900-vote defeat in November 6 mayoral election to Lorenzo Langford and states that he will drop earlier plan for court challenge to results in court.
• January: James McGreevey sworn in as 58th Governor of New Jersey.
• July 3: The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa opens, with its success spurring existing casino-hotels to renovate and expand. Developers announce plans for building four new major casino resorts in the City worth a combined $10 billion. South Jersey Transportation Authority also opens ramps from the Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector to the new casino-hotel.
• November: James McGreevey resigns as Governor.
• November: Richard Codey as Senate President sworn in as Acting Governor, Title later changed to “Governor” by act of the New Jersey legislator.
• July: Casino Commission reports that Atlantic City casino win set all-time monthly record of $504.8 million for July.
• August: Miss America Organization officials announce relocation of Pageant to Las Vegas after 85 years in Atlantic City.
• November: Jon S. Corzine elected governor, defeating Republican nominee Doug Forrester.
• January: Jon S. Corzine sworn in as 60th Governor of New Jersey.
• February 15: Senator William Gormley resigns seat after announcing in prior month that he would not seek reelection.
• November 6: Former Atlantic City Democratic Mayor James Whelan elected to New Jersey Senate, defeating Republican incumbent James J. McCullough, mayor of Egg Harbor Township who had been appointed to remaining term of Senator Gormley.
• November: Chris Christie elected governor, defeating incumbent Democratic nominee Jon Corzine.
• January: Chris Christie sworn in as 61st Governor of New Jersey.
• February 3: Governor Christie issues Executive Order 11 creating the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission to “provide recommendations to comprehensively address the unprecedented financial and structural challenges confronting New Jersey's gaming, professional sports and entertainment industries.”
• February: Pinnacle Entertainment announces cancellation of construction plans for new casino resort and intention to sell land acquired for the project.
• July 12: Casino Commission reports that Atlantic City casino revenue declined for 22nd consecutive month In June, down 11.1% for month compared to June 2009 and down 8% for 2010 compared to 2009, earning $1.77 billion through first six months of 2010.
• July 21: Governor Christie releases recommendations of his New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission, including proposal to create Atlantic City tourism district with State oversight and stronger crime prevention and preparation of a Master Plan focused on developing new gaming and non-gaming attractions.
• August 10: Casino Association of New Jersey releases Contribution of the Casino Hotel Industry to New Jersey's Economy, study it commissioned prepared by Center for Urban Policy Research at Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University reporting that casino industry in 2008 supported approximately 101,500 New Jersey jobs, about 2.0 percent of total 5.2 million New Jersey jobs, that generated $4.2 billion in payroll income and $6.5 billion annually in Gross Domestic Product. Casino industry taxes and fees in 2008 were reported to be approximately $664.3 million in state tax revenues/fees and $238.9 million in local tax revenues—a total of $903.2 million.
Sources: New York Times archives; Encyclopedia of New Jersey; Wikipedia; Atlantic City Library; Library of Congress; New Jersey Division of Archives and Records Management; New Jersey Legislative Manual; Casino Reinvestment Development Authority; New Jersey Casino Control Commission; Atlantic City Casino Connection
A Virtual Tour of Nucky Johnson’s Atlantic City. What's left of it.
Those American and international fans of HBO’s “The Boardwalk Empire” who come to town to experience Nucky’s Atlantic City will be disappointed to learn that there aren’t many real, tangible remnants left from when Nucky walked the boards.
Stephanie Schwartz, charter and convention sales manager for Cape May, N.J. based Great American Trolley Tours, started the first “Roarding’20s Tour of Atlantic City,” with AyCee historian Allen "Boo" Pergament.
The two-hours-plus tour, which began June 2, departs from Historic Gardner's Basin off New Hampshire Avenue in the city's Inlet District, and take passengers to nine local landmarks. That may not sound like a lot, but the sad truth is the advent of legal casino gaming in the late 1970s led to the demolition of many historic buildings. 609-884-7392 or gatrolley.com.
There are a few left however, and because they’ve survived they standout and are gems in the rough, and worth experiencing when you come to town.
Before casinos came to town, and in some cases, until relatively recently, you could easily find Old Atlantic City everywhere - the original Bus Station – marble and tile archetecutural wonder at the foot of the Parkway, and where the trains once brought tens of thousands of visitors daily. Gone.
Then there were the old barbershops, Lloyd’s at South Carolina and Angelo’s Barber Shop at Gordon’s Alley. Angelo once gave Al Capone a shave, not an easy task.
St. Nicholas-Tolentine Church still takes care of the forelorn, but Gordon’s Alley, the first pedestrian mall in New Jersey, is now a shell of its old self.
The Rum Point Pub at the inlet is gone, now a casino, but there are still a few of the old back bay boathouses some owned by Nucky Johnson and Al Capone, reminiscent of Twistie’s in Strathmere, one of the last of the old prohibition joints that’s been pretty well preserved.
But gone are the Inlet’s Tuna Club, Captain Starn’s, the Longport Inn and the Steel Pier, all venerable institutions that, in their heyday, you would think would be there forever.
Snake Alley, the Longport Log Cabin, Club Harlem & Kentucky Avenue as we knew it, are totally gone. Snake Alley, in the shadow of the lighthouse, was a small one-way alley that ran with a sharp chicane between Atlantic and Pacific and among a small slum of French Quarter style apartments and rooming houses where the prostitutes and drug dealers lived. The alley is still there but the buildings are all gone.
At the other end of Absecon Island, where the rich and powerful lived in Longport, there was the log cabin house, a local landmark featured in Louis Male’s film “Atlantic City,” and raised shortly after the premier of the movie, which also included scenes filmed at the Club Harlem on Kentucky Ave., now a parking lot.
At one time there were over 200 bars and restaurants, many ethnic, or named after cities – like the Pittsburg Pub and Hotel, where people from Pittsburgh often met on vacation. Driving down Artic Avenue you could tell when you were in the Irish or Italian neighborhood by the names of the bars. And for the most part, they were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for years and decades.
When the casinos came in during the late 1970s, they were given as many liquor licenses as they wanted and developed a policy aimed to keep people in their buildings, provided everything that was needed for a good time and discouraged visitors from going outside at all.
In many cases the casinos bought up their nearby neighborhoods to build parking lots and garages and only a few local businesses held out and survived. The Trop tried to buy the Baltimore Grill for years, but its owners held out and didn't take the money and run to Florida, like so many others did.
Now that policy has changed, and they want to attract new guests, and get a broad spectrum of visitors rather than just the serious gamblers. Nostalgia is back, and people are anxious to discover the real, and old Atlantic City, the one portrayed in the Boardwalk Empire, or at least what’s left of it.
For beginners, Atlantic City still has many of the things that Nucky Johnson and his contemporaries enjoyed – especially the world famous boardwalk, beaches and the steady roar and lapping of the ocean waves, sometimes complete with broken bottles of booze.
In taking this virtual tour of Nucky’s Atlantic City, we’ll start where Nucky began each day, at the Ritz Hotel. The Ritz is still there on the boardwalk, and though it has been renovated a few times over the years, and is a bit run down, its still pretty much the same as when Nucky lived there.
When he walked out on to the boardwalk and looked up and down, he would see the lighthouse that still dominates the north end landscape.
Walking down the boards, Nucky would see a few big hotels that are still there – Haddon Hall is now Resorts, the first casino, the Dennis is Bally’s and there’s the Claridge, as well as the venerable old Convention Hall. Now known as the Boardwalk Hall, it stands as a testament to Nucky’s commitment to making the town a destination resort, and opened in 1929, the year he hosted the organized crime convention of racketeers.
Just off the boards is the Madison House, one of the few classic, non-casino hotels that survived into the casino era. Down Pacific Avenue is the Carnegie Library building, a granite and marble wonder that was preserved and restored and then pretty much discarded.
Walking off boardwalk, you can find a few old, pubs and taverns that have maintained their traditional style – the Irish Pub on St. James Place, the Chelsea Hotel outside the Tropicana and on Atlantic Avenue there’s the Los Amegos, formerly a German pub with a brass rail and gutter that flushed every time the tap opened for a beer.
Also on Atlantic Aveue, Dock’s Oyster House recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and continues serving the best seafood in town.
Continuing the tour there’s the Italian Ducktown neighborhood, with Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern, which also has a brass rail and a flushing gutter at the foot of the bar. Angelo’s is one of the last of the old time Italian joints.
Not far away, down Artic Avenue, is the White House Sub shop, nestled among the neighborhood Italian bakeries, which was just becoming popular when Nucky got out of the big house.
Over on Atlantic Avenue is the Baltimore Grill, also a popular neighborhood bar and grill that has a large dining room, good pizza and inexpensive means anytime, day or night.
The same neighborhood sports a few other historic buildings that were there during Nucky’s day, including Princeton Antique Books, the nerve center of all things historical in town. There’s also a few firehouses that have been maintained because of their architectural uniqueness.
Further south is the Masonic Hall, a huge building that was once as police headquarters, and now sits empty. It should be a museum. An organized crime museum.
Down at the circle, where the Black Horse Pike enters town, there’s the World War I monument, meant to honor and remember the America war veterans, like Nucky’s protégé Jimmy.
Oceanside of the same street, just past where old Atlantic City High School once stood (now a parking lot), is the venerable Knife & Fort, one of the oldest and most endearing eating establishments in town and frequently mentioned in the “Boardwalk Empire” as a place to meet.
Across the street from the Knife & Fork is a parking lot that used to be the President Hotel, where many of the mobsters stayed when they were in town. It will be the site of the Hard Rock Hotel, the first casino with less than 500 hotel rooms.
Further south, Downbeach as they say, is Lucy the Elephant, which was a bar and rooming house in Nucky’s day, the Greenhouse on the Margate beach, and over on the bay, Strotbecks, a private club that is now a fine restaurant – Steve & Cookies.
Not all the “Boardwalk Empire” action took place on the island, and there’s still some remenants of Nucky’s Atlantic City left on the Mainland.
Both the Atlantic City Country Club and Seaview were popular get-a-ways, not only to play golf, but for playing cards, fine dining and dancing and both clubhouses still reflect today the style that Nucky and his friends enjoyed back in the day.
Also on the Mainland, and still standing, one of the homes where Nucky lived before moving to the Ritz, and his grave, in the old cemetery down Zion Road.
While much of what Nucky knew is gone, there are a few choice nuggets left, and worth experiencing, especially if you are a “Boardwalk Empire” fan since they give you a good idea of what it was like to live in the days when Nucky ruled and walked the boards.
A Virtual Tour of What’s Left of Nucky’s Atlantic City
1) The Ritz Hotel
2) Absecon Lighthouse
3) Convention Hall – (now Boardwalk Hall)
4) Resorts-Haddon Hall
5) The Claridge Hotel
6) Dennis Hotel – Ballys
7) Madison House
8) Carnegie Library on Pacific Ave.
9) Irish Pub – St. James Place/Pittsburgh Hotel-
10) Doc’s Oyster House
11) Los Amigos - Mexican Pub – former German Pub
12) Angelo’s Tavern
13) Chelsea Hotel – Outside the Tropicana on the side street.
14) Baltimore Grill
15) Fire Houses
16) Princeton Antique Books
17) Masonic Hall
18) WWI Monument at circle where the Black Horse Pike comes to an end.
19) Knife & Fork – mentioned in “Boardwalk Jungle” as a place to meet.
20) Greenhouse /Lucy the Elephant –Drive Downbeach
21) Strotbeck’s (Steve & Cookie’s Margate) -
22) Atlantic City Country Club clubhouse
23) Seaview Country Club clubhouse
24) Nucky’s Home – Birthplace house on mainland.
25) Nucky’s Grave - zion rd on the mainland.
Nucky Johnson’s Pad at The Ritz – http://www.ritzac.com/about.html
2700 Boardwalk at Iowa Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ 08401 609-347-7889
The Ritz Condominiums in Atlantic City originally existed as The Ritz Carlton. The Ritz Carlton was opened in Jun 24, 1921 with a gala party attended by prominent national figures of the day.
The original cost of construction was six million dollars ($6,000,000.00). Its Merry-Go-Round Bar, considered a marvel of the age, was but one feature of the Ritz Carlton which made it outshine anything of the period. During World War II the Ritz Carlton served as a local barracks for servicemen. In 1969, the Ritz Carlton was converted to an exclusive apartment hotel.
Although plans to convert the Ritz into a casino/hotel with the advent of gambling in Atlantic City never materialized, an extensive renovation program was completed to once again restore The Ritz to its former state of splendor and to offer luxurious residences at affordable prices for the discriminating purchaser.
LOCATION: Directly on the boardwalk in the Chelsea area of Atlantic City on one of the finest stretches of beach in the world. The famous Atlantic City Beach Patrol assures top safety for many hours of leisure. Shopping, houses of worship and excellent transportation are minutes away.
ENTERTAINMENT: Adjacent to the Tropicana Hotel & Casino, which is currently expanding and renovating to become a destination family themed resort providing fun for the whole family. A 15-minute stroll in either direction brings the casino excitement to your doorstep. Dine in the finest restaurants, see the finest live stage performances in the world or try your luck at the casinos.
PARKING: Permanent parking adjacent to The Ritz Condominiums available to all purchasers for an additional charge. Valet service at your option.
RECREATION: The second floor has a beautiful health club with the finest gymnastics equipment and saunas available for your enjoyment. Our enclosed pool area, with ample space for lounging or swimming will enable you to relax at your leisure all year round
HE BLUE ROOM: An exquisite ballroom reminiscent of the roaring twenties is available to our residents to socialize and entertain guests. Many additional public areas have been provided for card rooms, meeting rooms, etc. Naturally, ample space has also been set aside for bicycles and extra storage.
Jim Waltzer’s AC Weekly Article: Nucky at the Ritz http://atlanticcitynj.net/view.php?id=5255
Meet Me at the Ritz – Where the party never stopped – until it did.
Posted by By Jim Waltzer on Wednesday Sep 29th (2010)
The Roaring ’20s, bootlegged liquor and a one-time Atlantic City party central.
They were a pair the envy of any Hollywood scriptwriter. The tall elegant boss man with a penchant for hand-tailored suits and a stranglehold on power, his valet-bodyguard wider than he was tall and loyal to the last detail.
Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, treasurer of Atlantic County, ruled the rackets and the Republican Party in Atlantic City. Former cabbieLouie Kessel ordered his master’s life. Home base was the posh Ritz Carlton Hotel at Iowa Avenue and the Boardwalk (near today’s Tropicana). It was the Roaring ’20s and life was good. Nucky had breakfast with an ocean view. Louie handled the wardrobe and daily rubdowns.
Some of Nucky’s guests were better known for rubouts. In 1929, when crime lords from across the land gathered in Atlantic City to sort out their differences, Nucky installed the likes of Al Capone in suites at the Ritz, or perhaps at the nearby President, spiking the ambience with a generous supply of bootlegged liquor and female companions. The seashore kingpin leased the entire ninth floor at the Ritz, where it was said he kept one closet stuffed with cash. He was a soft touch for both bigshots and people down on their luck until the IRS nabbed him and his signature red carnation in 1938.
The Ritz, though, coninued to dazzle in the sunshine.
The red-brick rectangular structure had opened at a cost of $6 million in June 1921, its prestigious name promising a new era of splendor by the beach. The grand hotels along the Boardwalk had all — except for the Claridge, which would come nine years later — been operating for years when the Ritz added its profile to the Atlantic City skyline. A gala party marked its debut, and with Nucky regularly entertaining political, showbiz and gangland celebrities, the Ritz was party central for many years. New York’s natty Mayor Jimmy Walker favored the Ritz, as did seashore perennial Sophie Tucker. Metropolitan opera star Lawrence Tibbett serenaded Boardwalk audiences by belting arias from his beachfront suite.
Big-dollar card games added to the hotel’s lure and lore.
Two decades later, the stakes had changed. Starting in 1942, the Ritz Carlton served a three-year hitch for Uncle Sam, as did its fellow beachfront hotels — the Army Air Force had commandeered the town for training. In the fall of 1945, AAF Redistribution Station No. 1 restored private ownership to the Ritz, but the world had changed. In the 1950s, new motels grabbed the budget-conscious, while expanding jet travel ushered high-rollers to distant destinations. The Ritz and the city lost their luster. In 1958, giant hotelier Sheraton purchased the Ritz Carlton for just $4.25 million. In 1969, the hotel converted many rooms to apartments; two years later, it was all apartments.
The building still stands at Iowa and the Boardwalk. Gone are the rooms — all on one floor — dedicated to pantry service. No longer does a special elevator take patrons in bathing gear down to beach level and back up. There is no Merry-Go-Round Bar to spin guests packed under a canvas awning. And up on the ninth floor, the powerbroker is long gone from his perch overlooking the ocean, during a time when sin was a commodity and life a carousel.
[Editor’s note: Plans are in the works to offer tours of the historic Ritz building in Atlantic City, which is currently condominiums.]
Jim Waltzer’s ‘Tales of South Jersey,’ co-authored by Tom Wilk, is published by Rutgers University Press.
'Boardwalk Empire's' Winter: I Pretended I Was a Messenger ... and an Agent
By Eric Estrin
HBO’s best chance to solidify its appointment-TV crown for years to come rests firmly in the hands of a fast-talking ex-Brooklynite who studied to be a car mechanic and scammed his way into Hollywood by creating a phony agency to represent him.
Terry Winter, the creator and showrunner of the highly anticipated “Boardwalk Empire,” which premieres Sept. 19, is a former lieutenant to David Chase on “The Sopranos,” where he won two Emmys as writer and executive producer and was nominated for six more. He spoke with Eric Estrin about how he got into NYU without a clue, why he once chose being a doorman over journalism and how pretending to be a messenger boy and an agent helped him open the door to a new career.
I came to writing in a really circuitous manner. I had grown up in Brooklyn and had gone to a vocational high school, where I studied auto mechanics; so the idea of ever becoming a writer for a living was something that was completely alien to me.
I was really not prepped for college at all; I had never intended to go and didn’t even take the SAT’s. But a few years out of high school I changed my mind-- I was in Greenwich Village, and I was on the campus of NYU, and I thought, well, this is a college; I’ll go here. It’s the God’s honest truth. I went into NYU and got a brochure, and that was pretty much the extent of my college research.
It became pretty apparent early on that my auto-mechanics degree was not gonna cut it in terms of getting into this college. But then I thought, well, if I took a major nobody else wanted, maybe I could eliminate my competition and get in that way. So I looked at the list of the most obscure majors they offered, and one was medieval history. I thought, well, who could be competing for this, so I said that that’s what I wanted to do.
A few weeks later I got a call from somebody at NYU, and they said, we have your application, and you have an auto-mechanics degree and you want to study medieval history - how did that happen?
I said, well, I’ve always been a fan of the Knights of the Round Table, and I think this is something I might like to do. And suddenly I was in NYU, without really having any idea of how to be a student. I was determined to get out of there in four years, so I went to school full-time during the day and worked full-time as a doorman at night. My education was fully financed by student loans.
I didn’t even know at the time that NYU taught courses in film and television. I didn’t know that world existed. But I did like to write, so I started taking journalism classes.
I was a fan of movies and TV, but the idea of doing that for a living was so far outside the realm of my world view that it just didn’t even occur to me to study that.
When I was graduating I found out that starting pay for a journalist was less money than I was making as a doorman. I was working the midnight-to-8 shift and I was in a union and I was making probably in the mid-twenty thousands at the time in the early ‘80s, and starting salary if you were lucky to get a journalism job was probably gonna be like $12,000 a year. So I set my sights on law school and ended up going to law school at St. Johns University, and also ended up going to night school.
I was four years again and work during the day and student loans. So when I graduated from law school I was now $70,000 in the hole, and the only thing I was pretty convinced of was that I really didn’t want to be a lawyer.
I ended up taking a job at a big corporate law firm and was bored to tears. I was the world’s worst lawyer, and it was pretty clear to me that I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. So I did some soul-searching, and you know, my deep, dark secret, once I was able to admit it to myself, was that I wanted to be a writer. Once I was able to say out loud I want to be a TV writer, I want to be a sitcom writer, which is where I kind of started, the world opened up for me.
So I packed up and I moved to L.A. I’d never been west of Chicago. I didn’t know a soul, but I just quit my job and I showed up in Los Angeles and started writing spec scripts.
I got a job as a paralegal just to pay the bills during the day and I started writing at night. I wrote a couple of sitcom specs that people really liked. But you need an agent to get a job and you need a job to get an agent. It was this catch-22 that I found myself in.
I would cold-call agents and try to get them to read my stuff, and weeks would go by and then they’d forget who I was, and I thought, God, I’ve gotta figure a way to break into this.
So I went down to the Writer’s Guild. At the time they offered a list of agents who would take unsolicited manuscripts from people, and on the list was a guy I went to law school with -- just sheer coincidence. So I called him up; he was an attorney in New York.
I said are you an agent now? And he said, No, I’m a real-estate attorney. I’m bonded as an agent, but I really don’t know anything about it. And I said, I don’t either, but I know I need an agent, so you’re it. Congratulations, you’re representing me.
So we made deal where I would create basically a phony agency with his name. I did this out of the Mail Boxes Etc. on Santa Monica Boulevard, and I got a voice-mail system and letterhead printed up. I said I’m gonna submit my work under your name, and if I get anything, I’ll give you ten percent like a real agent.
I took a day off from work and hit like every sitcom office in L.A., which at the time, there were like 26 sitcoms on the air. And I just walked in wearing a baseball cap and said, Yeah, hi, I’m the messenger from this agency and here are the scripts you wanted. And I thought, all right, at least my scripts are in the building where people theoretically could hire me.
A couple of weeks went by and I got a call on a Friday from Winifred Hervey Stallworth, who at the time was the showrunner for “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and she was calling for Doug, who was my agent. And she said, Yeah, Doug, it’s Win Hervey from “Fresh Prince.” I read Terry Winter’s scripts and really think they’re great. We’d love to maybe talk to you about having him come in to pitch.
So I called Doug in New York. At this point it was like 4 in the afternoon in L.A. and 7 in New York, and he was already gone for the weekend. So I thought, Oh, God, I’ve gotta wait until Monday now. And then it occurred to me that Doug didn’t really know anything about being an agent, so I thought, you know what, I can just call and say I’m Doug and it’ll be easier to cut out the middleman.
I called her and she said, Oh, great, Doug. Oh, you know, “Fresh Prince” is sort of a teenage-oriented show. Does he have like one more teenage kind of script?
And I said, Yeah, he just finished a “Wonder Years” spec that’s really terrific -- which was a lie. I didn’t have anything else at that point; she had everything I wrote.
I said, Terry’s out of town for the weekend, but I could probably get this to you by Tuesday. And she said, Yeah great, Tuesday’s fine.
I hung up the phone, and from Friday night until Tuesday afternoon, I cranked out a “Wonder Years” script, and then I threw the baseball hat back on, went as a messenger again and showed up at the office, flung it in the door, made sure nobody saw me, because at this point I was like the messenger, the agent, the client …
And they called me back and had me in to pitch some ideas.
That was my first foot in the door.
Shortly thereafter I got accepted into the Warner Bros. sitcom writers workshop, which is really a godsend. And that led to my first job on a show called “The Great Defender” on Fox. That show was co-created by a guy named Frank Renzulli. Frank and I became good friends.
A couple of years later I got a videocassette in the mail from my agency; it was a pilot for “The Sopranos.” I watched this thing and I said, Oh my God, I have to be on this show.
I know these guys. I grew up in Brooklyn sort of around this kind of world a little bit. I called my agent and said, You’ve gotta get me on this show.
My second call was to Frank, who was familiar with this world as well and, as it turned out, Frank had seen the pilot and he was in fact meeting with David Chase later that week. It turns out that Frank was the last guy David hired on the show, but Frank talked me up quite a bit to David, and when there was an opening, David brought me on, too.
I got to learn at the feet of David Chase at “The Sopranos” for nine years and watch him run that show, so when I had an opportunity to run “Boardwalk Empire,” I felt like I had learned from one of the best ever.