PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: We stayed at the Claridge Hotel, a 1930, twenty-six story, grande dame of a hotel, a survivor, set back from the boardwalk by what once must have been a gracious plaza. The lobby was clean, well-furnished, vast and empty. There was never more than one person at the front desk. The only other person attending to the front of the hotel was the car valet who spent most of the day napping in a two-foot by six-foot enclosure that seemed set into the hotel’s granite base.
Rooms were $69 and $79 per night, but for a small premium we were given rooms on the 21st floor, in the front of the hotel, overlooking the ocean. Our rooms were identical except mine was only half-furnished. I realized this after dark when I found myself huddling beside the bed lamp to use my computer, and realized Gary’s room had two lamps, a desk and two tables my identical room lacked. In our entire time at the Claridge I don’t think we saw another guest, though we repeatedly passed through the halls and lobbies of the hotel.
The hotel connects directly by a second-floor street overpass to Bally’s Casino & Hotel. The path leads from the Claridge elevators through a maze of empty passages and lobbies that may once have been ballrooms, and through a small, sour-smelling food court and on to a slightly grand central space linking the Claridge and another hotel to the glitter and lights of Bally’s casino. We often chose that way to reach the boardwalk, down several terraces of gaming and across the gaming floor. Everywhere the lights of slots and machines flashed and chattered. All seemed alive though looking closely, there were only a few gamers, people sitting alone, more women than men. In early evening we saw a few people at a roulette wheel and a lively group of five around a Blackjack table, at other times just lone gamers. Gamers or no, there were always extra guards and hostesses watching to see we took no pictures.