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Chandeliers to bug zappers

The Sands, A.C.'s smallest casino, has quite a gone-out-of-business sale.

Bed frames purchased at the Sands' liquidation sale are carried out by Steve Simons (left) and Eric Ford for ARC of Atlantic County.
Bed frames purchased at the Sands' liquidation sale are carried out by Steve Simons (left) and Eric Ford for ARC of Atlantic County.Read more

ATLANTIC CITY - The price tag on the gaudy gold chandelier from Frank Sinatra's suite? A cool $4,250.

The pink leather banquette from a high rollers' lounge that screams Zsa Zsa Gabor? Available for $625.

And the oddly shaped electric blue armchairs that would have been perfect in George Jetson's living room? Priced to move at $425.

Those and other pieces of late 20th-century casino kitsch are expected to draw thousands of people to the defunct Sands Casino Hotel today for the public opening of an "everything must go" sale.

Invited guests - hoteliers, restaurateurs and other industry insiders - got first crack yesterday at the items being offered, everything from $2,250 canopy beds to $2 logoed bottle openers.

In the former baccarat pit sat metal shelves piled high with cake pans, metal pitchers, mixing bowls and baking trays from the casino hotel's kitchens. Nearby were 200 television sets (starting at $89).

Over in the old slot machine parlor, piles of in-room safes ($75) beckoned to be taken home. In the former blackjack area, a "boutique" of items was being offered that had been pulled from the storage cabinets where promotional goodies for mid-level gamblers had been kept: bird feeders ($15), water filter pitchers ($12) bug zappers ($15), and cheap kitchen knife sets ($15).

Nearby were stacks and stacks of dishes ($1 to $10 each) glassware ($1 to $3 apiece) and other tabletop items.

The event is a sale, not an auction, and buyers have to pay a 10 percent "buyers' premium." The sale will continue until everything is gone.

And so, in homes and businesses across the region, there will soon appear entire room suites, or perhaps just one mismatched piece, that will always help get the conversation started with the question, "Where on earth did you get that?"

"I need to have this piece, it's so rock 'n' roll," said Danielle Morris, who had come to look for items for her family's Toms River restaurant, but ended up shopping for her daughter's bedroom instead when she spotted a lamp with a mod-looking purple vinyl shade. "Besides, despite what it looks like, it is a piece of history."

On a less sentimental note, Alka Patel, who owns a motel in Somers Point, couldn't leave the sale yesterday without buying 36 irons - one for each of her motel rooms.

The Sands, one of Atlantic City's original gaming halls, closed its doors in November. The property opened as the Brighton Hotel & Casino in August 1980 and was renamed the Sands within a year.

The city's smallest casino became known as the "Players Place" and marketed its connection with such celebrities as Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack that orbited him.

But some observers say the Sands never found a niche, and continued to attract a bus-and-buffet crowd even after other Atlantic City casinos had morphed into more upscale destinations. Mogul Carl Icahn, who owned the Sands for six years, sold the property to Pinnacle Entertainment last September.

Pinnacle closed the casino hotel after two months of ownership and will implode the property this fall and build a larger, more upscale replacement, said spokeswoman Carmen E. Gonzales.

In the meantime, Pinnacle is betting it will make more than $1.5 million on the sale, which is being operated by National Content Liquidators.

For a $10 entrance fee, souvenir hunters can traipse among the casino's 21 floors, looking for bargains - or just taking in the sights.

One of the most popular may be the famed Copa Room, where Frank Sinatra performed. Most of the items in the storied nightclub will be sold separately from the liquidation sale, according to a Pinnacle spokeswoman. But you can still marvel at the red velvet stage curtain (expected to sell for about $10,000).

The 21st floor, previously off-limits to the common folk, is a hidden world of luxury suites.

In the two-story Hollywood Suite, reserved for the casino's highest of high rollers, everything glitters in gold: the floors, the walls, the pool table ($4,000), the carved wood furniture, even the TV cabinet ($1,500) and the bathroom faucets ($400 and up) around the Jacuzzi ($1,495).

But that's not where Sinatra chose to make his lair when visiting the Sands. His domain was the 19th floor, a relatively modest set of adjoining hotel rooms set up so that he didn't have to use the hallway.

But for all the fanfare, certain areas of the property emit the stale stench of a place whose days are numbered.

"It made me cry when I came down the escalator this morning and saw what the place looks like. It was heartbreaking," said Betsy Blowers, 67, of Vineland, who worked at the casino for 25 years before it closed.

Blowers will be on hand to work the logo concession, where pens, key chains, dice, cards, bottle openers, T-shirts, and anything else bearing the Sands logo will be sold.

"I remember I had the chance to do an ad with Frank Sinatra. His eyes really were as blue as they say," Blowers said, fighting back tears. "At least I'll always have my memories of the place."