Former Trump casino going out with a bang
A spot on the Atlantic City Boardwalk where movie stars, athletes and rock stars used to party - and a future president honed his instincts for bravado and hype - is set to be reduced to a smoking pile of rubble.
The former Trump Plaza casino is to be imploded after falling into such disrepair that chunks of the building began peeling off and crashing to the ground.
And the one-time jewel of former President Donald Trump's casino empire will be gone, clearing the way for a prime development opportunity on the middle of the Boardwalk, where the Plaza used to market itself as "Atlantic City's centrepiece."
"The way we put Trump Plaza and the city of Atlantic City on the map for the whole world was really incredible," said Bernie Dillon, the events manager for the casino from 1984 to 1991.
"Everyone from Hulk Hogan to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was the whole gamut of personalities. One night before a Tyson fight I stopped dead in my tracks and looked about four rows in as the place was filling up, and there were two guys leaning in close and having a private conversation: Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty."
"It was like that a lot: You had Madonna and Sean Penn walking in, Barbra Streisand and Don Johnson, Muhammad Ali would be there, Oprah sitting with Donald ringside," he recalled. "It was a special time. I'm sorry to see it go."
But go, it will, at 9am on Wednesday. Demolition crews have positioned explosives at strategic points along the building's support structures designed to knock its legs out from under it, bringing the building down on itself, Fire Chief Scott Evans said.
"It will crumble like a deck of cards," he said.
Though the former president built it, the building is now owned by a different billionaire, Carl Icahn, who acquired the two remaining Trump casinos in 2016 from the last of their many bankruptcies.
Opened in 1984, when Trump was a real estate developer in his pre-politics days, Trump Plaza was for a time the most successful casino in Atlantic City. It was the place to be when mega-events such as a Mike Tyson boxing match or a Rolling Stones concert was held next door in Boardwalk Hall.
Ron Gatewood, a food and beverage worker at Trump Plaza from 1986 until its closing in 2014, brought food and drinks to stars including Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross and Barry White in their hotel rooms.
"They were very down-to-earth people," Gatewood recalled. "They never made you feel less-than. They tipped very well. Well, some did, anyway."
But things began to sour for Trump Plaza when Donald Trump opened the nearby Trump Taj Mahal in 1990, with crushing debt loads that led the company to pour most of its resources - and cash - into the shiny new hotel and casino.
Trump Plaza was the last of four Atlantic City casinos to close in 2014, victims of an oversaturated casino market both in the New Jersey city and in the larger northeast.
By the time it closed, Trump Plaza was the poorest-performing casino in Atlantic City.