Archive: March, 2009
Et Tu, Atlantic City Surf? We've seen em come, we've seen em go in this town. Not just beauty queens. But minor league sports teams who burst into town with great hopes and dreams and then, inevitably, leave town or go bellyup (sorry, Splash) in a fog of indifference. In the decade-plus I've been here, I've cheered for minor league basketball (the Atlantic City Seagulls, who oddly enough had R. Kelly on their roster one year), minor league hockey (the still missed Boardwalk Bullies, who actually drew a lot of fans but still left town) and minor league baseball (the Surf, who on Monday announced they were going out of business after 11 seasons). Honestly, the Surf was fun the first few years, but in recent years, hardly anybody remembered to go at all, except when there were fireworks, when it was a sellout. My daughter once sang the national anthem before a game there with her middle school chorus, and I think they had more people watch them in the concert at school than were in the stands that day. I always felt sorry for the promotions manager, who ran around the stadium all game trying to find enough people to join in on the dizzy bat games and the like, ketchup and mustard group games that used up the entire crowd, etc. But the staff there was excellent and enthusiastic and although many reasons have been given for their demise, I think one obvious one that was overlooked is the Phillies. Given the choice of heading up to Citizens Bank Park to see a team headed for greatness or sitting in Bernie Robbins stadium on the Black Horse Pike, where would you take your kid? But the Surf had its moments, and my children really dug Splash (in picture) and gave him many hugs (having not inherited their mother's mascot-phobia). We'll miss Splash, and hope he finds work, maybe even as a mascot with the Ocean City fire department (above). In 2002, Mitch Williams was the manager and pitching coach, and that was awesomely weird too. I got to hang with him for a story, in which he offered his advice on the head game: "Short memories." Yankee great Cecil Fielder managed last season and is kind of bummed about the demise of his team. It just wasn't in the cards.
So of course not everybody rejoiced when former Sen. Vince Fumo was convicted this week of 137 counts of, as one juror said, running his State Sen. office like a family business. Down here at the shore, where Fumo operated outposts of his dynasty, Fumo had his fans, and none more loyal than Mortimer Spreng (see photo) the famed drag queen and past winner of the inimitable Miss'd America Pageant held every year the day in Atlantic City after the Miss America Pageant until the pageant mother left town (sigh). Fumo, along with Gay News publisher Mark Segal, was a regular judge at the raucously joyful event (at which Spreng dispensed with generous doses of his signature lipstick kisses.) Fumo leant the proceedings some of its absurd gravitas and was never anything but a good sport. It's stuff like this that makes the Fumo saga a bit complicated and not a little bit sad. It's hard for Spreng to see people celebrating Fumo's downfall. "See, the problem is, I really liked Vince," he says. "He used to judge our Miss'd America pageant. He was always nice to me."
Fumo also had his hands and his non-profit moneys in the protracted fight to block the building of sand dunes in Ventnor, which were opposed mainly by people from the Philly area who, like Fumo, had summer homes whose views might be blocked by the dunes. His involvement, always suspected and ultimately confirmed, irritated locals to no end, who saw the dunes as necessary to perserve their town. Fumo lost that fight in Ventnor, but the dunes were never built in Margate, where they would have obstructed Fumo's view from his home on Kenyon Avenue. I'm sure the future occupants at that beach block home will be grateful.
Today, the feds are back in court seeking to seize Fumo's properties, including his homes in Margate and condos in Ventnor (see photos above, including the Fumo hot tub), though there was no word if they were trying to seize his half-million boat, christened the 888. Over in Ventnor this morning, at the docks outside Fumo's house, Mark Worrell was working in his little motor boat at the adjoining docks and also had some sympathy for Vince, who sometimes asked him for boating advice. (Worrell gave Vince another acronym, BOAT, which stands for "break out another thousand" though presumably that thousand came out of Vince's OPM stash (other people's money).
We got our share of snow at the shore overnight, a good ten inches or so and it's still snowing. At least one cross country skier was spotted this morning on the Boardwalk. Driving down the Atlantic City Expressway last night was like being transported either in place, to a Vermont back country road, or in time, to the 19th Century before there even was an Atlantic City Expressway. Visibility was almost nonexistent between Blue Anchor and the Egg Harbor Tolls, but that did not stop the handful of people with pressing business in Atlantic City, including a couple of limos either transporting some real risk takers or, more likely, returning back from getting someone the heck out of there. This morning, with a snow day at last, shore kids looked for any kind of incline on the flat barrier islands to get some sledding in. Boardwalk ramps are an old standby, but this year, my kids found a new, steeper thrill. With the wind blowing toward the beach, the steps leading to the porch at the nuns house on our block were nicely covered with snow, and a quick ride down on a sled was like a winter version of the log flume at Jilian's in Ocean City. The sand dunes were their next stop.