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  • Tim Blake Nelson, who's a jack of all things theatrical [maybe except for dancing], in addition to numerous stage and film roles, is a playwright. His acclaimed 1997 film Eye of God, a Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner, comes to Theatre Row's Kirk in a new stage adaptation on October 2 [opening, October 7], presented by Theatre East.


    The 90-minute drama is set in Nelson's home state Oklahoma against the backdrop of a boy who witnesses a murder. It is described as "a love story between the lonely, the troubled, the forgotten, and the radical believer who can save them."

    Acting coach Lisa Devine [a Chicago Joseph Jefferson nom for Eye of God's premiere], will direct the 11-member cast - a large one for Off Broadway. Christa Kimlicko Jones is assistant director and, along with Joseph Parks and Daryl Wendy Strauss, a producer. Judson Jones is T.E.'s A.D.

    Nelson wrote, among others, MCC's 1996's Lortel Award-winning holocaust drama The Grey Zone, directed by Doug Hughes. He appeared at the Delacorte for the NYSF in their 2007 Midsummer Night's Dream and 1995's Troilus and Cressida, as Shakespeare in NYTheatre Workshop's Drama Desk-nominated 2003 Beard of Avon, and at CSC with Frances McDormand and Billy Crudup in Oedipus. In addition to MTC and Playwrights Horizons, he's worked regionally at Yale Rep and Portland Stage.


    He's acted in over 35 films. Following his featured role in Michael Almereyda's all-star 2000 Hamlet, one of Nelson's most memorable roles was as Delmar, opposite George Clooney and John Turturro, in Joel Cohen's "serious comedy" O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Ethan Cohen's loose adaptation of Homer's Odyssey set in the 30s deep South.

    In addition to playing a supporting role, he wrote, directed, and co-produced the comedy/thriller Leaves of Grass - no! not that one [by Whitman] but the one about an Ivy League professor lured back to Oklahoma, where his twin brother, a small-time pot grower, attempts to take down a drug lord. Starring Edward Norton [as the brothers], Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss, and Kerri Russell. It just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.

    Nelson wrote/directed the film adaptation of Grey Zone [ starring Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi and Mira Sorvino]. Nelson was awarded Best Director at the Seattle Film Festival for 2001's O, a contemporary adaptation of Othello [starring Martin Sheen, Julia Stiles, and Josh Hartnett].

    Tickets are $18 and available through Ticket Central, (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com. For more info, visit www.theatreeast.org/Eye-of-God.html.

    She's Back - and WOW!

    Before her incredibly energetic concert [her first such televised event in seven years] on Wednesday afternoon in Central Park and televised yesterday morning on ABC's Good Morning, America, to publicize her first CD in seven years, I Look to You [Arista; 11 tracks, SRP $19], it was noted that Whitney Houston sold 140 million albums and won more awards than any other female performer.


    From the sound and look of things, the comeback gal, still a stunner at 47, is on her way to selling and winning more and restoring her fabled musical legacy. In fact, the CD debuted at #1 on Billboard's Album Charts.

    In addition to being in what has been reported as an abusive marriage to "bad boy" singer Bobby Brown, Houston had her share of hard-core substance abuse headlines. From all indications, she has pulled herself together; and also pulled out of the marriage.

    Houston ran through several numbers from her very autobiographical album, which she co-produced with label exec/composer/artist Larry Jackson. The audience was in rapture, especially when she sang what will surely become her - and millions of women' - anthem, the stirring "I Didn't Know My Own Strength," by Diane Warren and David Foster.

    The album and "comeback" are being cited as an image rebuilder intended to restore dignity into Houston's tabloid-battered personal and professional lives.

    I was reminded of the time in the mid-80s when Houston's mom, soul/gospel singer Sissy, was appearing at Town Hall and Whitney did a cameo and brought the house down; and, not long after, in a small club on Third Avenue in the 50s, when Sissy had her as special guest star. Barely out of her teens, she displayed surprising vocal prowness and promise.

    Evidently, Mrs. Houston never gave up on her daughter. Before singing the CD's title song, about life's trials and tribulations, Houston exclaimed to her Mom, "You never left. You stayed, I love you. I owe this to you." As she performed, she embraced her Mom from afar and often looked to the heavens with outflung arms.

    She sang:
    "As I lay me down, heaven hear me now.
    I'm lost without a call, after giving it my all.
    ...After all that we've been through
    Who on Earth can I turn to?
    I look to you, I look to you.

    After all my strength is gone,
    In you I can move on.
    I look to you, I look to you..."

    The poignant tune was written by none other than R. Kelly, known to have some problems in his past, but probably not as many as Houston. It was written 10 years ago, in happier times for both. When the tune was submitted for the new album, says Houston, "I felt its time had come."

    The lyrics had immense meaning to Houston, who was brought up ultra-religious and singing spirited gospel in her church choir. This time around, however, she saw it as a tribute to her mother, who, tiring of all the headlines and scandal, finally came to the resuce, at Houston's L.A. digs, with a sheriff and dupities in town, and gave her daughter an ultimatum. It was rehab or else! The singer chose rehab.

    It was clear one thing that hasn't been damaged is Houston's crystalline voice. However, there were some rough patches and flat notes. This might be a reason many thought the concert was airing live in the 8 A.M. GMA segment [though it was stated it was taped.] Rolling Stone reported Houston attributing her inability to reach some high notes that should be as high as an elephant's eye to her just having taped Oprah.

    The highly-anticipated "no topic off limits" interview airs as Winfrey's season opener September 14 and 15. It was taped at Town Hall, and also includes a studio mini-concert. Throughout the interview, Whitney sounds hoarse. She explains to O that as much as she wanted off drugs and out of her very emotionally abusive marriage that she couldn't leave Brown because she loved him so much. Then, with the help of prayer, counseling, rehab, and biblical study, she was able to find the strength to do what was needed, with her Mom always there as a staunch ally [even threatening to have Brown arrested if he got in the way].

    The Park event, sponsored by Walgreen's drug stores, was hosted by GMA's Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts. Sawyer reminded Houston of their 2002 interview where she told the singer she had been "worried for you" after Houston admitted to struggles with substance abuse. Houston replied, "Don't be worried anymore. If you know God, then don't be worried, It was my faith that brought me here." She credited the folks who cared about her "in the good and bad times" and acknowledged the love and support of her family. In spite of her absence from the vocal arena, she told the cheering mob, "I never left. Your prayers mean so much and I love you for coming."


    Among the I Look to You CD highlights are "Like I Never Left," a duet with [Aliaune Badara] Akon, the Senegalese-American R&B singer-songwriter; and a stunning remake of Leon Russell's "A Song for You."

    A big quibble about the CD is that there're only 11 tracks - maybe why several on-line sites have slashed the sale price. After such a long wait and all the comeback stories, when you're going to do something this big, there should be at least 15 tracks.

    Legendary producer and discover of hitmakers Clive Davis signed Whitney in her early 20s while she was modeling. Her 1985 self-titled album topped the charts and became a world-wide blockbuster. Houston's later cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," which she sang in the film The Bodyguard, has become an all-time classic.

    Subsequent films were Forest Whitaker's very watchable Waiting to Exhale, based on the Terry McMillan novel and which co-starred Angela Basset and Loretta Devine; and the so-so The Preacher's Wife. Another classic Houston hit is "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)."

    Visit www.whitneyhouston.com/home for more information, song samples, video, ringtone downloads, etc.

    Coming Soon:

    Bway on Bway

    Michael McKean, never to be forgotten as Lenny of Lenny and Squiggy fame on TVs Laverne & Shirley [not to mention David St. Hubbins in This Is Spinal Tap] and star of the upcoming Broadway play Superior Donuts, will host the free megashow Broadway on Broadway 2009September 13 beginning at 11:30 A.M. It stretches from 43rd to 47th Streets.


    Celebrating the beginning of a new theater season, the show brings together stars and performances from current and upcoming Broadway productions. Here's a sneak peek at some who'll participate: Kate Baldwin (Finian's Rainbow), Daniel Breaker (Shrek), Kerry Butler (Rock of Ages), Jennifer Damiano (Next to Normal), Sutton Foster (Shrek), Anya Garnis (Burn the Floor), Deidre Goodwin (Chicago), Cheyenne Jackson (FR), Brian d'Arcy James (Shrek), Chad Kimball (Memphis), Pasha Kovalev (BTF), Beth Leavel (Mamma Mia!), Caissie Levy (Hair), Constantine Maroulis (ROA), Christiane Noll (Ragtime), Laura Osnes (South Pacific), Alice Ripley (NTN), and Aaron Tveit (NTN).

    There'll be over 200 cast members from musicals Billy Elliot, Burn the Floor, Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, Fela!, Finian's Rainbow, Hair, In the Heights, White Christmas, Jersey Boys, The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Mary Poppins, Memphis, Next to Normal, The Phantom of the Opera, Ragtime, Rock of Ages, Shrek, South Pacific, West Side Story, and Wicked.

    McKean has performed on Broadway in Hairspray and the Pajama Game and Homecoming revivals. The latter received a 2008 DD for Outstanding Ensemble. He wrote the Oscar-nominated "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" [with wife Annette O'Toole] for A Mighty Wind , in addition to co-writing the Grammy-winning theme.

    Superior Donuts is by Tracey Letts, the Pulitzer, Tony and DD-winning playwright of August: Osage County. Set in one of Chicago's most diverse communities, it "explores the challenges of embracing the past and the redemptive power of friendship." It's the first play of the season and begins previews September 16, with an October 1 opening, at the Music Box.

    Sponsors of Broadway on Broadway are the Broadway League, Times Square Alliance, Buick LaCrosse and Continental Airlines. For more information, visit www.broadwayonbroadway.com. The program is part of Back2Broadway Month, which includes Kids Night on Broadway, talkbacks, talent panels, dance lessons, and Tweet-ups.

    Garland's Back and Tommy's Got Her

    JudyG returns in the form of seven-time MAC award-winning impersonator Tommy Femia, who'll be flying over the rainbow with two shows a month in Judy Garland Live! at Don't Tell Mama beginning September 21 at 6:30 P.M. All other shows through the end of the year are Saturdays at 8:30 P.M. Guest stars from theater, TV, and cabaret appear at each show. Christopher Denny and David Maiocco music direct.

    Admission is a $20 cover and two-drink minimum [cash only]. To reserve, go to www.donttellmama.com or call (212) 757-0788.

    Star-studded Benefit

    Susan Charlotte's Food For Thought, devoted to lunch and the one-act play, is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a gala at Sardi's on September 21 at 7 P.M.

    Artists performing with FFT over the decade who'll be in attendance include Lucie Arnaz, Zoe Caldwell, Kathleen Chalfant, Joan Copeland, Richard Easton, Penny Fuller, Tammy Grimes, A.R. Gurney, Anne Kaufman, Louise Lasser, Laurence Luckinbill, Larry Pine, Roger Rees, Tony Roberts, Marian Seldes, Frances Sternhagen and Elaine Stritch.

    Resident directors helm approximately 75 works annually by such playwrights as Tony Kushner, Lynn Redgrave, Murray Schissgal, Tennessee Williams, and Charlotte. Guest directors have included Bob Dishy, Ulu Grossbard, and Arthur Miller.

    There will be performances by, among others, KT Sullivan accompanied by David Lewis. Tickets are $225 and available by calling (646) 366-9340. For more info and the lineup of plays for the new season, visit www.foodforthoughtproductions.com.

    Last Call

    It's always sad to report show closings, but they open and sooner or later [except in the case of POTO, Wicked and Mamma Mia], they close.

    Run, don't walk, to the box office or TKTS, to catch last performances of Dolly Parton's multiple Tony and DD-nominated 9 to 5, which won DDs for Alison Janney and Marc Kudisch - closing September 6; and Robert Lopez/Jeff Marx's 2004 Tony-winning and DD-nominated Best Musical Avenue Q, which also scored a Tony Best Score Award - closing September 13. Last weekend we said bon voyage to Disney's Little Mermaid.

    Broadway TV

    Check out these video features at Broadway.TV:
    Jude Law The Dane: Broadway Hamlet video; Bye Bye Birdie Set to Make Broadway Smile; Broadway Bye Bye Birdie and John Stamos' Happy Face; The Neil Simon Plays: Bounding Again On Broadway; and Spike Lee Goes Broadway with Stew and Passing Strange

    Holiday Weekend Escapes

    With the Labor Day holiday weekend approaching, you might consider some escape options.

    Would flying down to Rio be a plan? You can sort of have your samba and avoid the pratfalls of airport security. This weekend, a lot of Rio will have flown here. The occasion is the annual, festive Brazil Day in NYC, celebrating 25 years with samba artists, drum corps and recording and novella stars, and of course vendors on Sunday along 25 blocks of Sixth Avenue and Little Brazil [West 46th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues], with the main entertainment stage at West 43rd Street.

    At dinner, much of the action switches to Plataforma Churrascaria Rodizo [316 West 49th Street, between Eight and Ninth Avenues; reservations suggested, (212) 245-0505], with lively entertainment nightly. Try such Brazilian treats as the native zesty cocktail Caipirinha [cachaça, sugar, lime], Brahma and Xingu beers, and the rain forest high-energy Guarana soft drink.

    How about rootin' for the home teams in their spanking new, colossally expensive stadiums? The Mets play the Chicago Cubs tomorrow at 7:10 P.M. and Saturday and Sunday at 1:10 P.M. For tickets and schedules, go to www.NewYorkMets.com. Monday, the Yankees host a double-header [with separate admissions] with the Tampa Bay Royals at 1 P.M. and at 7:05 P.M., a make-up game for a rain-out. For tickets and schedules, check www.NewYorkYankees.com.

    For tennis fans, there's the U.S. Open in Flushing, Queens. For tickets, schedules and directions, visit www.usopen.org.

    How about a voyage on the Titanic? However, this one won't be ill-fated. At the Discovery Times Square Exhibition Center [West 43rd Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue], Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition offers a poignant remembrance of the magnificent ship's 1912 crossing to New York that never arrived. There are meticulously-restored salvaged treasures from the burial site, such as the ships' fine China; and reconstructions of the ship's grand staircase and first class cabins. For more info and tickets, visit www.discoverytsx.com.


    You want to get further away? Clebrating its 140th anniversary, is magnificent Mohonk Mountain House, only 90 miles North in New Paltz, with acres of rustic elegance nestled along a half-mile lake and mountains. Mohonk is an old Native American word for "lake in the sky," so the name is quite apt. It's famous for its service, over-sized rooms, huge hearths, antique furniture and vast array of activities. There's swimming in the lake along a sandy beach, outdoor heated mineral pool, indoor pool and a spa with a solarium. For more information, visit www.mohonk.com.

    There's always a weekend trip to mighty Niagara Falls, where the American side has been spruced up. If you cross into Canada, don't forget your passport. Expect long lines through customs going/coming. Both sides have their share of carnie attractions [Dracula's House, Frankenstein's Lair] and casinos. On the Canadian side, one of the best bargains is the giant Ferris Wheel that provides breathtaking views of the entire landscape.

    On and Off the Boardwalk in Atlantic City

    Remember when the Atlantic City casinos only wanted you to gamble? Not anymore! With the A.C. Convention and Tourist Bureau, they've repositioned as a vacation destination. Of course, the casinos pray you'll drop a few bucks on the tables or slots. A.C. today isn't mother's A.C.

    Its temptations and vices are close by [two to two-and-a-half hours] via weekend Amtrak ACES express, Academy Bus and Greyhound. The options range from deluxe rooms with wide-screen TVs, marble shower stalls accommodating two to six], wi-fi and iPod docking stations. A variety of packages, reflecting the economic downturn, are being offered - some include breakfast or spa visits.

    Labor Day weekend attractions include: through September 6, Walking with Dinosaurs, Boardwalk Hall; tomorrow, the Roots and tomorrow and Saturday, Journey, Borgata; tomorrow through Sunday, Dane Cook,Taj Mahal; Saturday, Chelsea Handler, Borgata; Sara Evans, Harrah's; and Anita Baker, Caesars; Sunday, Pet Shop Boys, House of Blues at Showboat, 30 Rock and SNL vet Tracy Morgan, Borgata. For tickets and show times, visit www.acweeky.com/casinos.


    How about some magic? It's your last opportunity, probably until next year, to catch the exciting Illusions and hilarious comedy of Kalin, Jinger & Hobson in the sumptuous production Carnival of Wonders at Trump Plaza. The run ends Sunday. Like most magic shows, for some reason there has to be choreography. It turns out Jinger's a very good dancer. She particularly shines in the Fossesque "Rhythm of Life" number.
    As good as Magicians of the Year/husband and wife Mark Kalin and Jinger Leigh [TV's World's Greatest Magicians, Masters of Illusion] are [their levitation illusion is outstanding]j, it's Jeff Hobson's outrageous, irreverent, flamboyant antics that steals the show. Is there anything he won't do for a laugh? No! And what this combination Rip Taylor [without the confetti/Belle Barth/Harvey Korman [he even resembles him] gets away with could get us arrested. Tickets are $25 and available at the Trump Plaza Theatre box office, through Ticketmaster by calling (800) 736-1420 or on-line at www.ticketmaster.com.

    Michael Turco's Wonder at Bally's had a very casual setting and costuming - apt for this amazing 27-year-old Jersey magician. There's the requisite choreography [with some ballet thrown in!] and gorgeous assistants. Turco's done his homework since being seduced by magic at a very early age. Some of his illusions are quite jaw-dropping, but what makes the show work is his sincerity and warmth.

    And if A.C. itself is not circus enough for you, the very colorful Cirque Dreams: Pandemonia! is playing its last performances in the Cirque Dreams Theatre at Taj. It's not to be confused with Cirque du Soleil, although it is. C.D. has all the CdS whimsy, surreal visuals, Fellinish costumes and beyond-bright colors, but it's an intimate, proscenium-bound version with jawdropping acrobatic feats by a roster of international artists. And, WOW!, what a finale! It's one you'll long remember. Ticket are $25 and $35 and available at the C.D. box office, just off the Boardwalk, through Ticketmaster by calling (800) 736-1420, or on line at www.ticketmaster.com.


    One thing for certain, you can never leave A.C. hungry! Food options along the Boardwalk or across the way along the Bay run the gamut from buffets [but don't expect any for $1.99!] to star chef restaurants, milk shakes and hamburgers to health salads and stir-fry [in a casino? You betcha!; and that's in the upscale Borgata's Cafeteria food court].

    Each casino has high-end restaurants. Homesick, try the A.C. outposts of NY's Old Homestead [Borgata], Patsy's [Hilton], Carmine's and the Palm [Tropicana] and Morton's [Caesars]. Since A.C. is about half way between NYC and Philly, you can expect several tastes of Philadelphia's fine restaurants, such as George Perrier [Le Bec Fin] and Chris Scarduzio's smashing Mia at Caesars.

    Taj has the stunning A.C. outpost for New York's famed Il Mulino. Here's there's a twist: no long lines, they take reservations, and seat you on arrival. It's also unique in that there are two restaurants side by side. There's formal dining under wrought iron chandeliers, tapestries with a tuxedoed waitstaff. To book, call (609) 449-6006 or 6004. Adjacent is the casual tratt with a pizza oven, exposed brick walls, and nooks and crannies with sliding doors for private dining.


    Taj also boasts the classic Safari Steakhouse and, for Indian, Royal Albert's Palace.
    The second floor has the Sultan's Feast buffet and several attractive, modestly-priced, restaurants. Chow down with a fav chef, try Wolfgang Puck's and Bobby Flay's at Borgata or enjoy casual Southern Italian at chef Stephen Kalt's underground Fornelletto Cucina and Wine Bar. Along with the modestly-priced menu, there're 13,000 bottles of wine to choose from.

    Harrah's Waterfront Buffet is always a top choice. It differs a bit because exec chef Edward Batten and restaurant chef David Suscavage have reinvented the way customers are served with "customerzation," which means at many of the nine stations such items as salads, steaks, grilled salmon, and pasta (where veteran chef John puts on quite a show with his skillet over high flames), are made-to-order. There's sushi and dim sum; and if you're into crab legs, this is the place. Over a millions pounds of U.S., Canadian, Norwegian and Arctic snow crab are brought in annually. Restaurants include the super elegant Steakhouse that should be renamed Steak and Seafood House, seafood house McCormack & Schmick's.

    Restaurant Row, on Trump Plaza's sixth floor, features Max's Steakhouse, Roberto's, and 24 Central. Overlooking the Atlantic is China Café, featuring a fusion of Asian cuisine, noodle and sushi bars. For traditional Italian cuisine, there's Evo; for family friendly, try the popular Rainforest Cafe, but expect long waits. The sixth floor of Bally's has 24/7 service and a modestly-priced menu at 6ix [Six, not 69, just in case anyone else remembers Roman numerals]. In consideration of the economic situation, they're running several daily "blackboard" $7.77 blue plate specials; and available all day is the very popular $7.77 steak [rib eye] and eggs [three] with hash browns or fries and toast.

    At their adjacent, fun property, the Wild West, not only is there a Western theme to make losing your money easier, but antique trains that circulate through the casino. Upstairs is the sumptuous Virginia City Buffet, where exec chef Rolf Weithofer and long-time exec sous chef Sandro Marcado pride themselves on supervising every item exiting the kitchen. It's become one of A.C.'s most popular and most popularly-priced dining choices - so except long waits or be a high roller!. The choices are abundant and the staff abundantly friendly.

    How about comfort? How about fun? Remember when suites were reserved for high rollers? Not anymore. With the new economy, comes a change in attitude. Welcome to a wonderful world of suites, with some that defy your fantasy imagination and others reaching the height of elegance. And they don't want you to come alone. Bring friends, family. Book a reunion, a bachelorette. Showboat has HOB's kinky, large, well-appointed [and not like you'd expect], multi-level suites.

    Rates for standard rooms have been slashed across the board in A.C. There're also some great package deals that include breakfast and a spa visit.


    Pools, anyone? Can't get into the pool at the Gansevoort or Standard? Or belly up to the wet bar at Room Mate's Grace's pool? Not to worry, just dive in A. C. pools. They're not your mother's swimming pool either! At Borgata, you have a stunning Olympic-size pool with adjoining Jacuzzi, but over in their sister hotel [no gaming], the very chic Water Club, you can choose from five pools, with one up, up, up on the 32nd floor with a view to die for. Harrah's magnificent pool under the dome is not only a swimming hole but a tropical resort in itself. By nightfall, when everyone has dried off, it transforms into Party Central.


    Move over salt water taffy! A.C. can boast of the number of luxuriating, pampering spas. We're not talking a little dip in a Jacuzzi and a pat-on-the-back massage. No sir/ma'am. We're talking the Qua Baths at Caesars, inspired by the jaw-dropping, dripping-wet Roman Baths at Caesars Las Vegas, Elizabeth Arden Red Door at Harrah's, the Borgata's Toccare, and the W.C.'s high-end, high-up Immersion.

    Tired of snobby door policies at Manhattan bottle clubs? A.C. has more high-end bottle clubs where you can dance your bootie off 'til dawn in one boardwalk block than Manhattan has in one mile. And they're friendly! Try Borgata's mur.mur and mixx, Harrah's The Pool and Resorts' Boogie Nights. The casinos along the Boardwalk also have jumping beach bars. For info on all the joints that are jumpin', go to www.atlanticcitynightlife.com.

    How about some blues? - at the House of Blues at Showboat, which is always in a festive Mardi Gras mode. In addition to entertainment and a bar that gives "full service" new meaning, HOB is home to one of the chain's stunning high end restaurants, the Foundation Room, decorated in to-die-for lush Moroccan and kinky decor.

    Shopping, anyone? The casinos haves high-end, over-priced designer boutiques. Chances are you can find what you're looking for much cheaper at The Walk, four-square-blocks of 40 + chain-store outlets, between Atlantic and Baltic Avenues. If they make it, it's here - along with a variety of restaurants, including a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

    Must side trips from The Walk are the unimposing White House, within walking distance, famous for subs and the waitresses' attitude. Not far away, is the Irish Pub on St. James Place, just off the Boardwalk, an A.C. institution for bargain dining [with dinner specials at $7] and drinking in an old-world setting surrounded by memorabilia.

    Across from Caesars are the Pier Shops have 78 high-end and specialty stores and a spectacular free hourly dancing waters/light/sound show. The third floor features seven feature restaurants - including Buddakan, with it's giant golden Buddah, the 50's Continental, Phillips Seafood, the old-world Trinity Pub, and the reasonably-priced Piazza di Giorgio with an large selection of gourmet salads, sandwiches, Philly steak, and Smoothies. A Pier highlight is sand "beach" with replicas of those large Cape May seaside chairs where you can sit and watch the waves and sunset.

    Along the boardwalk, you'll find all kinds of salt water taffy, corn dogs, fun and strange stuff, collectibles and objects d'arte. At Taj, there's Nathan's Famous; on the Steel Pier, thrill rides and daredevil shows.

    Ellis Nassour is an international media journalist, and author of Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline, which he has adapted into a musical for the stage. Visit www.patsyclinehta.com.

    He can be reached at [email protected]

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