Let's Get This Party Started. Please.

In search of Atlantic City's pulse, the author finds hits (an exceptional vodka tonic) and misses (a bare dance floor).
In search of Atlantic City's pulse, the author finds hits (an exceptional vodka tonic) and misses (a bare dance floor). (Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority)
By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 6, 2007

An enlightened vandal is on the loose in Atlantic City.

The oceanside billboard was vast and white, stripped by the elements of its previous ad, and featured three lone phrases of black graffiti:




A summer reading list for fanny-packed boardwalkers. Existential, beatniky, absurd. Like Atlantic City. Which is why I love it.

On my first trip there two years ago, I remained ensconced in the womb of Donald Trump, simpering as my fortunes rose and fell, adoring every minute of it. This time, though, I returned with two friends to experience the world off the casino floors, to gamble not just with my money but with my mojo, to dive into the night life and test the city's promotional boast: Always Turned On.

Always turned on? We would see.

If the buzz is to be believed, then the cluster of buildings at Atlantic and Mount Vernon avenues is the manifestation of the motto. It's the site of the Surfside Resort Hotel -- which includes a sun deck with a pool and outdoor bar -- and a pair of contiguous dance clubs called Studio Six and Club Tru. In theory, it's one square block of everything a guy could want: places to swim, eat, drink, dance and collapse, all within walking distance of casinos and the boardwalk.

When we arrived on a recent Friday night, the pool was tarped. Club Tru was closed for renovations. Maybe a mid- to late-summer reopening, said a receptionist. Okay, fine. Parking was free and easy, our room at the Surfside wasn't as horrendous as some Internet reviews had warned, and Studio Six was still open.

We popped in there around 11:30 that night. A DJ pumped a Jackson 5 remix onto an empty dance floor. Empty except for the barfly.

"You want me to take a picture?" the barfly asked, sidling up. Sure, we said, handing her a camera and posing. She held her arms up, took a picture of herself and cackled. We decided to leave Studio Six.

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