ATLANTIC CITY — Resurrections do not happen in broad daylight.
They occur at night, with entertainer Jamie Foxx on the microphone and fireworks in the sky.
When the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Ocean Resort Casino opened for their first official night Thursday, the South Inlet section of the Boardwalk — deserted so often these past few years while the casinos were closed — suddenly became the place to be.
The fun started even before the sun went down, when Foxx grabbed the microphone and turned the Ocean Resort Casino’s Ovation Hall into his own private nightclub. Dressed in a green and red sweatsuit, Foxx waded into the crowd, led a conga line and sung along with Michael Jackson and Prince songs played by a DJ.
During Foxx’s performance, actor and former Calvin Klein underwear model Mark Wahlberg created a stir when he entered Ovation Hall. Many in the crowd rushed to take pictures of the star.
“Mark Wahlberg is in the building,” Foxx said as the Bruno Mars song “24K Magic” blared. “His Calvin Kleins still ring in women’s ears.”
The Ocean Resort Casino saw a continuous stream of people walk through its doors and hop on the tall escalator to the casino floor. Every few minutes a stretch limousine pulled into the casino’s circular driveway.
John Hancock of Dallas, Texas, and Bryan Dougher, of Scotch Plains, Union County, hung out in the casino’s William Hill Sports Book, where the televisions above the bar showed Millville’s own Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels playing the Boston Red Sox. Hancock and Dougher were in town for a bachelor party that coincided with the casino opening.
“It’s a lot more open than a Vegas casino,” Hancock, 40, said. “It’s not as packed on the floor. You have room to move.”
Dougher, 28, had visited Atlantic City before.
“I can spend a whole weekend here without leaving,” he said referring to the casinos’ numerous restaurants and attractions. “You can’t do that a lot in Atlantic City.”
Ted Gill, 25, traveled down the Boardwalk from Ventnor to check out Ocean Resorts. He ate dinner with a friend at the Mexican restaurant Distrito and then headed to watch the fireworks.
“This is more like a resort than a casino,” he said. “It’s great for Atlantic City — more jobs.”
Meanwhile, up the Boardwalk from Ocean Resort, the Hard Rock bustled with energy.
The casino boasts a dizzying array of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. Electronic images of Bruce Springsteen, Tupac Shakur, David Bowie and Madonna flashed on a screen near the casino’s entrance.
“This looks like a mall,” one woman said.
Plenty of small bars sprinkled throughout the casino featured live music. All the seats at the Hard Rock’s Center Bar were filled as a piano player by request entertained the crowd with Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”
As was the case at Ocean Resort, most of gamblers played slot machines or found themselves at blackjack and craps tables, where the minimum bet was mostly $25.
Maria Stellato joked she was standing in front of the Hard Rock on the Boardwalk because she didn’t do that great at the slot machines. Her friends, however, were still inside the casino gambling and winning.
“It was new and nice,” said the 36-year-old from Holbrook, New York. “I wish I had more time to walk around and see (the memorabilia). It was kind of crowded and I was getting my bearings. I liked it, though. I would definitely come back.”
A large crowd began to form on the Boardwalk in front of the Hard Rock as the time for the 10 p.m. fireworks drew near. There were couples of all ages, groups of guys, groups of girls and families.
Four glow-in-the-dark dancers on stilts took over the Boardwalk before the fireworks started. They led the crowd in several dances, the most popular The Wobble.
Eventually, the crowd counted down from 10 and the fireworks shot into the sky just to the left of the Steel Pier. They were accompanied by soundtrack that included Springsteen’s “Born to Run” to “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
About 30 minutes after the fireworks ended and 11 p.m. approached, Bob Marley’s “Jamming” played outside the Hard Rock. Most of the fireworks crowd had left. But the night was not over.
Most people headed back into the casinos. A dancer on a podium at the entrance to upscale strip club Scores in the Hard Rock caught the eye of several people on the boardwalk.
Joe Jingoli walked throughout the Hard Rock on Thursday. The casino’s lead developer and property partner would occasionally walk the same route at night the past few months. He would bump into a security guard or have coffee with a construction worker.
On Thursday, he saw people — lots of people.
“It’s kind of surreal,” he said. “They’re smiling and they’re happy.”