ATLANTIC CITY - The epic swoon of Atlantic City continued Tuesday as the Trump Plaza was put out of its stained-carpet, squeaky-revolving-door, no-room-service, center-of-the-Boardwalk misery, as its dedicated hospice workers dealt a final hand of blackjack.
"Sit down and play a hand, you won't get another chance," said Shelly Orloff, an IBM mainframe system programmer from Bergen County, around 3 a.m.
Gambling operations were stopped at 5:59 a.m., the official end of the gaming day by state regulation. Four minutes before, casino manager Johnny Leach Jr. said to remaining table game bosses and dealers: "We all survived it; what are you gonna do?"
Orloff said he had shown up to play the final hand of blackjack at all four of the Atlantic City casinos that have closed this year so that he could "put it in my memoirs." He missed the last hand by one at the Plaza.
All told, Orloff was ahead in his last-hand quest, having lost $25 on Atlantic Club's last day in January and $375 to Showboat on Aug. 31, and having won $925 from Revel on its last day Sept. 2 and $340 early Tuesday from the Plaza.
A Boardwalk stalwart for 30 years, Trump Plaza tumbled to oblivion in the wake of Atlantic Club, Showboat, and Revel. About 1,000 employees lost their jobs at the Plaza.
Instead of Donald Trump standing on the casino floor in a dark topcoat, as he did on opening day, May 14, 1984, waitresses in tasteful red dresses held long conversations with customers detailing more trouble expected along the Boardwalk.
A small number of hotel guests, some left over from the Miss America Pageant, were given the morning to check out. By 5 p.m., the hotel was shut down, though its Boardwalk tenants - EVO restaurant, Nathan's, and Rainforest Cafe - remained open, with employees saying they had not been told definitely when their time would be up.
Their corporate owners are fighting to remain open, much like the HQ Nightclub at Revel. "The restaurant is open, and it is business as usual," said Katelyn Roche, a spokeswoman for Landry's Inc., which owns Rainforest.
And so, oddly, there remained plenty of dining options at the closed hotel.
Jose Ramirez, a cook at EVO for the last six years, was philosophical. "Everything has a start and everything has an end," he said, standing on the Boardwalk around midnight. "We don't know."
Inside the casino, the mood was predictably deadening, with just a few gamblers cheering when the Eagles, unlike the Plaza, made a last-minute comeback before midnight.
"Last time I looked up, they had six points," said one man at a craps table as the Eagles kicked their final field goal, twice, to win, 30-27.
By 2 a.m., there were just two craps tables going, and one blackjack table still manned by a dealer. A dozen or so people roamed various slot machines, with no discernible good fortune.
By 5 a.m., a blackjack player was walking away from the table cursing. Employees were lingering after their shifts, looking at forms and procedures. Everyone seemed a little dazed.
"Weird," said Ken Gonsalves, 54, a Day One worker who dealt the last hand of blackjack shortly before security cleared and roped off the casino floor.
Tammy Powell, a craps dealer, wore a No. 32 Ricky Waters Eagles jersey as she corralled the dice and called the rolls, which seemed appropriate.
And it was, if nothing else, a "for who, for what" kind of finish for the storied casino whose opening May 14, 1984, drew thousands to the Boardwalk.
"Greeting them was a casino that seemed to roll on forever," a reporter wrote. "A dazzling expanse of purple carpet, crimson walls, mirrored ceilings and crystal chandeliers."
Fast forward 30 years, and it seemed likely that the same carpets were in place, stained and mildewed. By its last day, instead of dazzling, the place was squeaky. Everything squeaked - escalators, revolving doors, elevator doors. Marble was chipped, restrooms were closed, water was leaking into bar areas.
One escalator was shut, and patrons were directed to a stairwell with confusing paper signs and crisscrossed arrows. Plants had been removed from planters lining another escalator. The East Tower was shut down.
The restaurant called Fortune yielded none on this last night, shut tight. In one random hallway, there was a grand piano pushed off to the side.
Employees like Joy Bates, a 26-year cocktail server from Pleasantville, were, she said, "very reflective." Bates started as a 20-year-old, taking time out from college with a job "in the meantime" that lasted a near-lifetime. She has returned to college to pursue a degree in finance, she said.
"It's amazing to think it's happening," she said, hugging patrons even as she brought them cognac instead of scotch because the casino had run out.
But what might once have been unimaginable had become inevitable, as Plaza revenue declined and the property deteriorated. Most observers expect the property to be imploded or demolished, perhaps yielding to an extension of the successful Tanger Walk outlet shops.
On this last night, Bates was on till 4 a.m., when another shift of workers would report, scheduled until just 5:59 a.m. "I was here for the Tyson fights," she said "I've seen a lot of celebrities, Donald Trump. We spent a good portion of our adult lives here, and find it hard to separate."
The hotel stopped checking in guests around 10 p.m. On Twitter, someone calling himself "Sgt. Howard Payne, a former Atlanta Police bomb and arson squad member" (a character from the 1994 movie Speed), tweeted that "Trump Plaza confirmed we are last guests to check in. The long kiss goodbye begins."
In truth, the goodbye has been excruciatingly long. The lights went out on Trump Plaza in varying ways over the last few months, with one entrance showing a darkened 'A' in Plaza and "ino" in casino. So, goodbye "Trump Plaz Hotel and Cas."
Another facade on the Boardwalk could only manage "U Laza."
Trump himself took to Twitter, a bit defensively, then aggressively, clarifying that he currently has "nothing to do with Atlantic City," and praising himself for his "great timing." Trump sold most of his interest in Trump Entertainment in 2009, and most recently had been trying to get his name off the properties.
But two hours after Trump Plaza shut down, he tweeted: "Now I may buy back in, at a much lower price, to save Plaza & Taj. They were run badly by funds!" He was also insisting that his Miss Universe pageant was classier than Miss America. Classy.
Meanwhile, like an ailing diva with a new problem every hour, the remaining alcohol, chips, loyalty cards, and Survivor-esque reality drama were ordered shifted to the Trump Taj Mahal, which some bankers are giving only two months more to live, and where a Trump-branded helicopter landed in the afternoon, causing a brief, unfounded stir.
"We're staying at the next one," said Scott Cohen, leaving Trump Plaza after midnight. He meant Trump Taj Mahal.