Appearing on a dignitaries' platform draped with red, white and blue bunting, Mayor James L. Usry welcomed the crowd and took a poke at Nevada gambling mogul Steven Wynn, Trump's archrival, who last fall opened the $600 million Mirage Casino Hotel on the Strip.
"This Taj Mahal is not a mirage," Usry declared to approving hoots from the audience.
Entertainer Merv Griffin, who owned the partially completed Taj for one day in 1988, made reference to the novelty song that launched his career, "A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts."
Griffin, whose purchase of the neighboring Resorts Casino Hotel and other gaming properties from Trump have turned into such a disaster that Griffin's gambling empire has sought refuge in bankruptcy court, joked that "I used to have a lot of coconuts."
Griffin's gambling empire is trying to shed $527 million of debt. A number of Resorts International Inc. bondholders have persuaded Griffin to put up $5 million to sue Trump for fraudulent conveyence in the deal in which Griffin briefly acquired the Taj and then sold it to Trump. No suit has yet been filed while Griffin negotiates with Resorts' creditors.
Griffin aides last night insisted that his appearance at the Taj opening was of no significance to the bankruptcy.
On the platform, Griffin noted that a week of rainy weather had given way to a clear sky and a half moon rising above the 42-story hotel, from which a giant red ribbon and bow were draped down one side. Then he introduced Trump as "America's foremost entrepreneur."
Trump then stepped up to the giant lamp - an image from Persian literature and not Mogul-era India - and rubbed it. It lit up and began to smoke, and a chord running 25 feet to the giant screen sizzled with green light.
"Good evening, master," said Fabu (short for Fabulous), an actor whose image was projected on the giant screen. Trump stood, his right hand in the pocket of his black overcoat, alternately grinning and looking sheepish. "Is this not a magnificent house?" the genie declared before saying, "Open sesame."
With that, a green laser appeared to cut the giant red ribbon. Actually, unseen workmen inside a suite simply deflated the bow and yanked it through an open sliding glass door.
Suddenly, the Trump Taj Mahal entrance sign came on in an array of flashing
lights, and fireworks went off over the Boardwalk. A virtual firefight of lasers broke out from the tops of the two garages that line the entrance while loudspeakers blared a medley of "The Theme from Star Wars," "Darth Vader's Theme" and John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever." The crowd poured onto the casino floor, where casino manager Bobby Yee said the minimum table-game bet was $10. That figure indicates a strong level of business and is unusual for an off-season, midweek day when many casinos offer some $5 tables.