THE FORMER Shell showroom at Trump Marina will once again be alive with the sound of music.
That's the word from Tilman Fertitta, CEO of Landry's Restaurants Inc. which on Tuesday assumed ownership of the Marina, which will now be called Golden Nugget Atlantic City.
Fertitta told us that entertainment will play a significant role in his new gaming hall's marketing strategy - a 180-degree turn from the recent past when the Shell had only been in regular use during the summer because of the Marina's ongoing financial problems.
According to Fertitta (pronounced fer-TEE-ta), a 53-year-old Texas billionaire, the Nugget's show-business philosophy will be more of a "big tent" affair than one that targets specific demographic groups. "You're not going to see alternative bands," he said, "but you will see who cater to people 21 and up. Whoever we get here a 21-year-old will like and a 60-year-old will like."
Most importantly, Fertitta promised, "There will always be a show in that showroom. We will always have an act in there."
So far, the Nugget has announced three bookings for what is now simply known as the Showroom: jumpin' jivers Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (June 17), "Great American Songbook" vocalist Steve Tyrell (June 22-July 3) and "The Rat Pack IS Back," a tribute to the turn-of-the-'60s showbiz phenomenon composed primarily of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
Fertitta also suggested he'd be open to having a resident star in the manner of singing impressionist Gordie Brown, who for the past couple of years has performed at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. "I would like to find someone like [Brown] but we'll bring in some big-name entertainers, too."
Having a regular schedule of entertainers at the bayside gambling den is welcome in a town that needs every nongaming attraction it can get to ensure its survival. And there's certainly plenty of showbiz history within the Showroom's walls.
During the property's heyday, the mid-'80s to mid-'90s, the 500-seat jewel-box of a performance space hosted a parade of headliners, from high-roller favorites like Tom Jones and Frank Sinatra Jr. to Steve Martin, who once did a silent, seven-minute magical act as "The Great Flydini" (the entire turn consisted of him pulling various objects from his fly) and Roseanne Barr, who, in the summer of 1990 at the height of her popularity, taped an HBO comedy special there.
While it'll be another few weeks before the Showroom opens, Golden Nugget visitors won't have to wait to see signs of the $100 million-plus renovation project, expected to be completed by the end of the year, that will transform the long-neglected Marina into the glittering, upscale Nugget.
Yesterday, a Chart House restaurant (one of the chains owned by Landry's) was scheduled to open on the site of what was the Harborview seafood house. And construction workers are busy turning the Bayside coffee shop, which has had spotty hours of operation, into a 24/7 casual dining spot.
Other rehab projects include:
* The redoing of all 740 guest rooms and suites (the sleek and modern new designs bring the hotel into territory of such high-end facilities as the waterfront Tower at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City and the Chairman's Tower at Trump Taj Mahal).
* Face-lifts of the main entrance and casino-level lobby.
* The introduction of several new retail outlets.
* A casino makeover that will include a 35-table poker rooms as well as keno parlor and horse-betting book.
* New bars (including a temporary saloon called the Red Room, which opens today).
* The eventual opening of several more upmarket dining rooms including Vic & Anthony's, a steak house that should be in business by July.
* A pool complex that will feature Jacuzzis and fire pits allowing it to be used year-round.
Fertitta replied "absolutely" when asked if expansion on 14 adjacent acres that are part of the Nugget's property are on his agenda. "This property only has 740 rooms," he said. "It needs more rooms."
Fertitta believes Atlantic City has a bright future. "It's still a $3 billion gaming market," he said. "And I think with the Golden Nugget brand and the potential of the facility, we're gonna be fine. I think this is gonna be the most up-to-date property in Atlantic City."
Just a reminder that Harrah's Resort has introduced two dining concepts. Luke Palladino is a gourmet Italian room named for and run by the movie star-handsome chef who originally came to AyCee to operate two Italian eateries at Borgata. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, and 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday. Dos Caminos is part of the New York-based Mexican operation. Hours are 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. For info, reservations for either place, call 609-441-5575.
Subs ahoy at Taj Mahal
The first satellite outlet of the famed White House Sub Shop is open on Spice Road, Trump Taj Mahal's second-level dining and shopping area. The White House is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday. For takeout, 609-449-
7827, or 609-345-0275.
Chuck Darrow has covered Atlantic City and casinos for over 20 years. Read
Saturdays at 1:45 a.m. with Steve Trevelise on WIP (610-AM) and 3:05 p.m.
on Atlantic City's WOND (1400-AM) with Marc Berman.