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By David J. Spatz

Spend an enchanting evening with this iconic beauty THE BIGGEST WINTER HEADLINER AT BORGATA Hotel Casino & Spa isn’t some hot young singer with a string of chart-topping hits, or a cutting-edge band with a stack of Grammy nominations. Nor is it an explosively funny comedian who can fill a mid-sized arena and is on tour promoting Hollywood’s next big box office bonanza. It’s an 81-year-old Italian grandmother who’s never appeared in Atlantic City — well, not live, anyway. But this is no ordinary grandma. This one has an Academy Award on her mantle and was once considered one of the most beautiful women and talented actresses ever to grace the silver screen. Sophia Loren, the first actress to win an Oscar for a foreign language film, the 1960 drama Two Women, will bring her presentation, simply titled “An Evening with Sophia Loren,” to Borgata for a one-night-stand on March 11. “She’s doing a small run throughout the country,” says Joe Lupo, Borgata’s senior vice president of operations. “We’re very fortunate to have her, and we’re really looking forward to this event.” During her appearance, Loren will offer an intimate career retrospective as seen through the eyes of one who lived it and will spend time answering audience questions. Hollywood heavyweights aren’t the usual casino showroom fare, but they do occasionally pop up with shows like the one Loren will bring to Borgata. Most recently, Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino made a similar type of appearance at Caesars Atlantic City. If it seems like there have been fewer shows in Atlantic City this winter, that’s not an illusion. Casinos tend to scale back on entertainment during the off-season months for several reasons. For starters, there aren’t as many acts touring now as there are during the spring and summer, Lupo said. And, given the drop in casino revenue because of increasing regional competition since 2008, Atlantic City’s casinos are being cautious about how they spend their entertainment budgets. The proof was never clearer than in

mid-December. While other cities around the country were hosting major events marking the centennial anniversary of the late Frank Sinatra’s birth, there were no public celebrations in Atlantic City, which Sinatra always considered one of his favorite places to perform anywhere in the world. With the exception of an invitation-only high roller party at a casino where Sinatra never performed, the closest thing to a public celebration may have been at Planet Rose in The Quarter at the Tropicana, where a few of Ol’ Blue Eyes younger fans performed his music karaoke style. The drop in gaming revenue — it’s now half of what it was in 2007 — plus cost-saving measures designed to boost profitability, is the biggest reason why casinos weren’t willing to invest in a public celebration. There’s no way to guesstimate the ROI — return on investment — on an event like that, according to one casino executive who asked not to be identified. “Unless we can prove, without a doubt, that it would drive significant revenue, we won’t do it,” the executive said. “At least with a (high-roller) event, we can theoretically predict an aggregate revenue.” Even though it’s been leading the market in casino revenue virtually since opening its doors in 2003, Borgata is spending its winter entertainment dollars wisely while still maintaining an eclectic schedule. For instance, the same weekend that Loren will be at Borgata, the casino will also present former teen singing idol Donny Osmond and rhythm and blues trend-setters the Isley Brothers, who have been around, in one form or another, for more than 60 years. Borgata will also continue its policy of presenting newer or emerging artists who are just beginning to make names for themselves. The goal, Lupo said, is to bring new people to the casino in particular and to Atlantic City in general. “The thing about Borgata is that we have such wide and diverse demographics that walk in our building,” he said, “so it’s important to have people like the Beach Boys and Tony

Bennett, as well as The Killers and new great artists like Gary Clark Jr.” Borgata has even scheduled a show called “America’s Drag Stars” for March 20. The show is an obvious effort to appeal to an LGBT crowd. “We want to enlighten (new visitors) to what Borgata and Atlantic City has to offer,” Lupo explained. “So it’s really important to continue to drive new business and continue to get those new demographics in here. Entertainment’s a great way to do that.” *** KING OF NEW YEAR’S EVE When Tony Orlando welcomed 2016 from the stage of Resorts Casino Hotel, he merely added to his unprecedented string of end-of-year performances in Atlantic City. Out of the 38 New Year’s Eves Atlantic City has seen since the beginning of the casino era in 1978, Orlando has worked 25 of them at six different casinos. No other entertainer even comes close; none has even reached double digits. Orlando, who’ll turn 72 in April, considers it a major honor — and a genuine challenge — when a casino asks him to perform on one of the most important nights of the year. “It’s a big responsibility,” Orlando said. “My job that night is to present a party. To make sure when that midnight moment comes, it has the energy and excitement that you would see on television at Times Square. When they call me back to do New Year’s Eve, it’s a big compliment for any performer. The casino is trusting you to entertain their people on the biggest night of the year. And (the audience) is the boss, they’re the people who are really in charge. I owe them a great deal of gratitude for all they’ve done for me and my family.” Orlando may have an advantage over other artists because of the type of high-energy show he presents all year. Out of the 135 shows he does each year, Orlando plays each one as if it’s New Year’s Eve. Orlando is also one of the few performers to successfully transcend the theory that a

LIFESTYLE | Winter 2016


NJ Lifestyle Magazine Winter 2016  
NJ Lifestyle Magazine Winter 2016