ATLANTIC CITY - The scene at Resorts Casino Hotel was circuslike Friday, with the unveiling of a Roaring Twenties theme taking the center ring, so to speak, just in time for the busy Memorial Day weekend.
Seven vintage cars from the 1920s were parked on the Boardwalk outside the casino, and cocktail waitresses modeled their new black "flapper" dresses. There was even a high-wire act involving trapeze artists and a motorcycle.
As it turns out, Resorts also plans to bring the real circus to the Shore. New owner Dennis Gomes announced Friday to a Boardwalk audience of a few hundred spectators that a 2,000-seat pavilion near the casino's front entrance would be built to host at least three circuses per day this summer.
"This is what Atlantic City is about. We're bringing it all back," Gomes said on a raised stage that also featured comedian Joe Piscopo and Mayor Lorenzo Langford.
Bringing in the circuses - including an adult-themed "Naked Circus" - will provide another attraction as Atlantic City digs in to compete head to head with Pennsylvania's casinos, which over the last four years have been siphoning off this town's gaming revenue, customers, and workforce.
Friday's events were part of Resorts' unveiling of its new look, a revamped Asian noodle bar, and 480 remodeled hotel rooms in the Ocean Tower. Even the bellman and valet greeted customers in period uniforms - long, red blazers.
In December, gaming-industry veteran Gomes partnered with Morris Bailey of JEMB Realty Corp., of New York, to purchase Atlantic City's first casino from its lenders for $31 million. Resorts opened May 26, 1978, at North Carolina Avenue and the Boardwalk.
The new flapper dresses were designed by Gomes, who previously held senior executive positions at Tropicana and Trump Taj Mahal. "I'm proud of them," he said as cocktail waitresses paraded onstage.
Lorraine Bridda, 62, of Flushing, N.Y., watched the festivities and said they were what Atlantic City and Resorts needed "to bring the luster back."
"I think it's great. It needed something, and it's going to bring it back to where it originated," said Bridda, a retiree and longtime customer, referring to Resorts' inaugural-casino distinction.
With a 99,030-square-foot gaming floor, Resorts is the fourth-smallest casino here, leading the Atlantic City Hilton (75,416 square feet); the former Trump Marina, now Golden Nugget (78,535); and Trump Plaza (86,923).
"Size is not always good," Gomes said in an interview in late January after taking over Resorts. He purchased the property from RAC Atlantic City Holding L.L.C., which obtained the title after the former owners defaulted on the mortgage.
Across town, another small venue, the former Trump Marina next to Borgata, is undergoing a $100 million conversion into a Golden Nugget Atlantic City Casino by new owner Landry's Inc., of Houston, which took over Monday.
Gomes said Resorts, which generated $52.2 million in total gambling revenue from January to April this year - fourth lowest in town among 11 casinos - was "so far down the trough" that it could only go up.
As "Putting on the Ritz" played from the speakers, and champagne was served by the cocktail waitresses, Gomes said a "sexier Atlantic City" was part of Resorts' marketing package.
"That's part of it," he said. "Everything that Las Vegas has, we're going to have."
An example: One of the casino's circus themes will be a "Naked Circus," he said, in which the performers will be wearing just enough to cover their privates, including pasties for the women.
Gomes said, smiling: "Whatever the law will permit."