Before HBO unveils “Boardwalk Empire” featuring Steve Buscemi as the fictional Nucky Thompson, area residents will be able to learn the real story of Nucky Johnson, whom “Boardwalk Empire” is based on, in the first documentary produced by The Press of Atlantic City.
“Boss of the Boardwalk,” a 45-minute documentary by staff writers Michael Clark and Dan Good, premiered at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, on NBC TV-40. It will receive six additional airings throughout August and September, including 3 p.m. Sept. 19, the same day “Boardwalk Empire” will begin its 12-episode first season.
“From the first time I previewed the documentary I was impressed with the quality of their work,” said Press of Atlantic City Publisher Keith Dawn. “Clark and Good have done an outstanding job of capturing the ‘Nucky era’ and producing an entertaining and informative video. It’s as good — if not better — than some of the stuff you’ll find on the History Channel or A&E.”
The video features interviews with Hammonton’s Nelson Johnson, author of “Boardwalk Empire,” as well as Atlantic City Free Public Library archivist Heather Perez, officials with the Ritz Condominium, where Johnson used to live, and Atlantic City historians including Margate’s Allen “Boo” Pergament and Ventnor’s Pinky Kravitz. Good and Clark also spoke with people who actually knew Johnson, such as former Atlantic City Democratic organizer Eddie Devlin, who now lives in Margate, as well as Johnson’s nephews.
“Our favorite find was Nucky — and his wife Flossie Osbeck’s — nephews, Richard, Raymond and Ronald Osbeck,” Good said. “No one had interviewed them about their aunt and uncle, from Nelson Johnson to HBO. Their insights helped us paint a picture of the man, rather than just his story or influence.”
Good and Clark previously discussed making a documentary about Atlantic City corruption, and the tie-in with Johnson and the HBO series seemed like a perfect opportunity to turn their ambition into reality.
The intriguing story of Johnson traces his beginnings to his leadership as the city’s “benevolent dictator” to his wild times to his downfall. “Boss of the Boardwalk” offers viewers a chance to learn the real story of Johnson before they view the fictionalized version. The documentary also features historic video and photos of the resort and Johnson.
Although it was created to be viewed on the Internet, TV-40 management was so impressed by the finished product, that they wanted to air the series on numerous occasions.
“It really is an outstanding documentary that will give nonresidents and young people, in particular, a very good history lesson on early Atlantic City and the area, and does it in a very entertaining yet educational way,” said TV-40 General Manager Ron Smith. “Once I saw it and saw the caliber of the documentary, I wanted to give every person who wanted to view it an opportunity to see it. That’s why we’re running it as often as we are.”
“Boss of the Boardwalk”
Re-airs 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, followed by additional screenings 7 p.m. Sept. 17 and 18, and 3 p.m. Sept. 18 and 19 on NBC TV-40.