DURING THE course of a close friendship and creative partnership of more than 20 years, entertainer Joe Piscopo and I have spent countless hours in conversations that have covered topics from "The Honeymooners" to Trenton and Washington politics to the joys and frustrations of fatherhood. But it's doubtful no subject of the past two decades has claimed our attention more than Joe's desire to have his own nightclub in an Atlantic City casino.
"How cool would it be," he has rhetorically and repeatedly asked, "to have a home base down there, where I could play and hang out?"
Well, it may have taken Piscopo longer than he had hoped, but he finally has what he's craved for so long: Tonight, Club Piscopo opens in the ornate, but criminally underused for years, Starlight Room on the second floor of Resorts Atlantic City.
Piscopo will spend at least the rest of the summer performing and emceeing at the four-night-a-week operation whose format is a new-old wrinkle in casino entertainment.
Not just another three-comic-a-night joketeria, Club Piscopo will blend stand-up with other forms of entertainment, primarily jazz, a type of music that has historically received short shrift from the local gaming industry. There are also plans to bring in specialty acts. This weekend, the featured performer is comic Jeff Norris. Next weekend, up-and-coming jazz-pop crooner Tony DeSare will be showcased. July 14-17, "SNL" alum Father Guido Sarducci shows up.
Most important, said the Passaic, N.J. native, the cabaret will reflect his show business sensibilities, which he has no problem acknowledging as "old school."
"As a child in the 1950s, I can remember seeing Tony Bennett sitting in a chair and singing [on TV]," he offered. "Seeing great entertainers like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. and Danny Thomas . . . "
He also remembers the lesser-known entertainers who also had an impact on his young psyche. "Guys like [Philadelphian] Guy Marks," who spent decades in nightclubs, but never achieved mainstream success, he explained. "I always had that love of the lounge, and it's still in me," he said.
For Piscopo, who pretty much put New Jersey on the pop culture radar ("You from Jersey? What exit?") as a "Saturday Night Live" star in the early 1980s, opening Club Piscopo isn't so much a dream fulfilled as it is a lifelong "purpose" realized. And it's as much about Atlantic City as anything.
"This is where I always wanted to be, and where I always thought I belonged," he insisted. "If you created a town just for me, you couldn't invent a better place, with its spirit, its character, history, people. There's not a better town for me anywhere. Not Las Vegas, not L.A. . . . I played The Hague. Not the Hague!"
For Piscopo, who credits Resorts' envelope-pushing CEO Dennis Gomes for providing him this opportunity, his own AyCee nightery is just one facet of what looks like a busy stretch on the horizon. Besides his regular schedule of performances (check the club's schedule as he'll be on the road a couple of weekends this summer) he is also preparing a CD of pop classics as well as an upcoming Showtime cable TV special. Not that he is complaining.
To the contrary, he declared, "I couldn't be happier."
Resorts Atlantic City, Boardwalk at North Carolina Avenue, 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, $35, $25, 1-800-736-1420, ticketmaster.com, joepiscopo.com.
Foxx on the move
Multi-tasking entertainer Jamie Foxx is calling Atlantic City home this weekend thanks to a full slate of events.
Tonight, the chart-topping recording artist, Oscar-winning (for "Ray") actor and stand-up comedy star hosts the "Foxxhole Comedy Jam" at Caesars Atlantic City. The 8 p.m. show, named for Foxx's Sirius-XM satellite radio comedy channel, features a slew of funny people including Earthquake, Aries Spears and Tony Roberts. Admission is $85, $65, $55 and $40.
Tomorrow at 6 p.m., Foxx will preside over Showboat Atlantic City's Blackjack Tournament at the Backstage casino. Admission is free. And Sunday at 9 p.m., he'll do his full comedy show at House of Blues inside Showboat. Admission is $75, $65 and $50.
Tickets for tonight and Sunday are available by calling 1-800-736-1420, or at ticketmaster.com.
The rockets' red glare
It's only fitting the region's gaming halls sponsor fireworks displays this weekend. After all, couldn't it be said the Founding Fathers were the biggest gamblers in American history? Talk about going all-in!
Anyway, several casinos have ensured a colorful Independence Day holiday: Tonight at 10, the bombs will be bursting over Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack. And Monday, Bally's, Borgata, Caesars, Harrah's Resort and Atlantic City Hilton will ante up for two different programs, at 9:20 p.m. in the Marina district, and at 9:45 p.m. from the mid-town Boardwalk.
While it's not an official part of the festivities, SugarHouse is hosting a fireworks-watching party on its deck from 7 to 10 p.m. Music and food will be part of the skygazing mix.
Chuck Darrow has been covering Atlantic City and casinos for over 20 years. Read
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