Last week, Gov. Chris Christie - a fictional name if there ever was one - stepped in to reclaim Atlantic City as state property, a tough-guy move out of On the Waterfront and the "Final Dinner" episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. (Is Christie more a Caroline or a Danielle? Debate.)
Month after month, the governor increasingly becomes the stuff of entertainment, exhibiting the approximate body-mass index of Tony Soprano while carrying the George Bush-bestowed sobriquet "Big Boy." Last year, mystery scribe Harlan Coben, Christie's pal from Livingston, recalled meeting him when they were age 10. "I wonder if he's for real. I will wonder that a lot over the years, but the answer will always be yes."
Atlantic City has never seemed quite real either, with its rich history of corruption, a perp walk of mayors and council members displaying astonishing hair and Tolstoyan-length rap sheets. Its history is the inspiration of HBO's forthcoming series Boardwalk Empire.
Christie announced he wanted to make over the town of multiple makeovers. "Atlantic City is dying," he said.
Big Boy, Atlantic City has always been dying. It's like Venice but, you know, without the culture.
He called the town "a historically corrupt, ineffective, inefficient local government that has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars it has gotten over the years."
But that's what we love about it.
Christie reclaimed the water-hugging sliver of the city that historically produces $1 billion annually in state revenue, then left the rest - where people, mostly poor, actually live - to fend for itself.
The governor's commission report recommends a "clean and safe" tourism district, suggesting that the area has been otherwise, while developing the Boardwalk with "improvements" like "a NASCAR track." Which sort of deep-sixes the clean-and-safe objective.
Christie said he wanted to remake Atlantic City into "Las Vegas East."
Whenever anyone says he wants to remake a place to resemble a place that already exists, beware. This Sisyphean underdog approach reminds me of all those schools that say they're the "Harvard of the Whatever." You know what school never compares itself to any other institution? Harvard.
Atlantic City is never, ever, ever going to be Vegas. Atlantic City is mythical and interesting enough in its own right. The town should stick to what it knows.
Atlantic City should go full-out Jersey. The casinos can host a Real Housewives beauty pageant. Miss America never fit in there pushing that "values" and modest-swimsuit nonsense.
The town could cultivate being destination entertainment, the Jersey version of Cirque de Soleil, but perhaps modeled on The Situation's GTL - gym, tanning, laundry. A.C. needs its own Cher. Actually Cher, in hair, manner, even accent, is total Jersey.
Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, homegrown guys known for aiding the underdog, might agree to play regular, extended gigs at America's Favorite Playground.
This is Jersey's aha moment. Big Boy should seize A.C. by the slots and let its freak flag fly. To many, the state is a wonderland. In the immortal words of Snooki, "My ultimate dream is to move to Jersey, find a nice, juiced, hot, tanned guy, and live my life."
Contact columnist Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or email@example.com.