New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.65: Family Ties – The Keatons DO A.C!

“Look at this Dad, fortunes won and lost, hearts broken, lives ruined, 
free drinks…this is what America is all about!” – Alex P. Keaton

The Keaton’s trip to Atlantic City didn’t quite reach the levels of hilarity that The Griswald’s Vegas Vacation did, but this trip took place 13 years before that and still it was still a lot of fun.

I watched Family Ties religiously as a kid and now I’m getting a chance to view some of my favorites all over again thanks to Netflix who offers every season streaming. Let’s look back at Family Ties Season 3 opener “The Gambler” that originally aired on September 20th, 1984. The episode saw The Keaton family make their way from Ohio to Atlantic City in order for Elyse to give a speech at an architect’s convention. Elyse’s speech gets tossed aside when a new she gets caught up in a new past time.


Alex has developed a new gambling system called “The Alex Keaton Blackjack System” and he claims it’s “the work of a genius.” He’s pushing his parents to use the system (which he printed out in little booklets for them) at the tables once they get to the casino. Stuffy Elyse has no interest in gambling and she even tells her husband Steven that gambling is like throwing money away.

Elyse was more interested in the tourist aspect of Atlantic City rather than the abundant gambling opportunities. She explained to Alex that A.C is “the most exciting place on the east coast. It’s so rich in history, the old hotels, the beaches, the boardwalk.” “Gambling, mom don’t forget gambling!” Alex replied.

They get down to the hotel and Alex finally convinces his mom to go down to the casino and take a shot at some blackjack. Before they head down, Jennifer asks if they can order some room service. What was odd about the writing in this part of the episode is that although Elyse tells Mallory that maybe they will all get tickets to go see Tom Jones, right afterward she tells Jennifer that she can’t order room service because it’s too expensive. Was Elyse already beginning her descent into the dark underbelly of America’s Playground? The blonde bleeding heart mom was refusing her youngest (at that point) and hungriest child a meal, but she was all geared up to shell out wads of cash for Tom Jones? Where were her priorities? “What’s New Pussycast” or “What’s Wrong With My Malnourished Child?” It didn’t take long until the flashy and vibrant allure of Atlantic City broke Elyse’s will. Once she started winning she grew mystified. She was overcome by temptation and she kept winning. How could she quit now?

One of the reasons that I appreciated Family Ties was because its humor was smarter than many other shows of its time. It was amusing to see Elyse develop into a degenerate gambler because she is the last character you’d expect that to happen to. The fact that her son egged her on with a full methodized gambling plan laid out for her was quintessential Alex Keaton. At one point during Elyse’s blackjack binge, she tells Steven that she wants to move down to A.C and the kids can go to school “right here in the casino.” “They can learn the 3 R’s reading, writing and roulette!” Steven added sarcastically. Ah that’s good shit. They don’t make shows like this anymore. As much as I loved the humor in the show, naturally, the resolution was cheesy, as most sitcoms were back then. Ultimately, Elyse wins back all the money she wound up losing (and then some) and decides to give it to a midnight Church mission.

“OK, OK, let’s not panic here. I don’t think any pledge made at 3:30 in the morning 
is legally binding in the state of New Jersey…” – Alex P. Keaton

While the episode focused on what became a serious gambling addiction, Atlantic City has risen from some dark times and emerged as a much more family friendly trip than Las Vegas. If your young kids really want to complete their collection of cards advertising strip clubs or coupons for escort services, just bring ’em to Vegas! The streets aren’t littered with them! Of course I’m being facetious, but you won’t see any of that stuff on the A.C boardwalk or outside of its casinos. There may be a lot of weirdos on the A.C boardwalk, but that’s typical of most boardwalks worth walking.

Jersey girls should heed this episode as a warning. I know so many of you have this overwhelming desire to go to AC and gamble. Take it from Elyse Keaton and cash out while you are ahead so you can feed your starving children.

*Trivia Alert – In this episode, Elyse sticks Mallory with the task of presenting her speech. Later, Mallory comes back with a woman from the convention who has a question for Elyse about the relative advantages of wind power over solar power. That line hit me because it sounded like some kind of weird premonition on the part of the writers. Atlantic City opened the first coastal wind farm in the U.S about 20 years later in 2005 consisting of five huge wind turbines. WEIRD RIGHT?

The Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival

Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival 2009

Do you enjoy watching Guy Fieri, Tom Colicchio, and Ingrid Hoffman? Then you should have been at the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival that took place all weekend at Harrah’s, Bally’s, Showboat, and Caesar’s. If you couldn’t make it, The Sexy Armpit was there to experience it for you. Oh and some guy named Emeril Lagasse was there too. Now, I’m no Tommy Salami (he’s my Guy Fieri), but allow me to recount the trip, from breakfast through dinner.

Our attempt at a nights sleep at Harrah’s was interrupted by some maniac screaming at his girlfriend in a nearby room at 2 a.m and trying to break a door down, while we were also graced by having a troop of guidos staying in the connecting room who never learned how to speak at normal decibel levels. By some miracle, my girlfriend and I did manage to get some rest in between all the Riff Raff. If only Riff Raff was in an adjacent room maybe we’d actually be invited to get up in the middle of the night to do the time warp with him again.

I was opposed to eating breakfast because I knew we’d be in for a day of engorging ourselves with a variety of different kinds of food and liquor. My girlfriend convinced me that we would need some breakfast because we wouldn’t be eating for a while. I caved in. We went downstairs to the Sack O’ Subs in Harrah’s and placed our order for breakfast. I was excited to find out that they offer wheat wraps as an alternative to regular sub rolls. It’s become a standing joke with my friends at work that I ask if they have “wheat wraps,” everywhere we go, as in “Yo, you got wheat wraps?” in my best, albeit unintentional, Nick Moore from Family Ties impression. “Ay, yo Mallory, you got some wheat wraps?” Roasted peppers and eggs on a wheat wrap was my breakfast of choice and damn it was delicious. It was cooked up perfectly, and I dabbed on what tasted like hot pepper relish that was in little clear containers stacked by the pickup counter. Sack O’Subs’ lineage can be traced back to the legendary White House Sub Shop in A.C which opened in 1947.

It was on to Bally’s where Sunday’s chapter of the Food and Wine Festival was happening. The line to get in was intimidating at first, but it went quickly. Before we knew it we had our wristbands and wine glasses and we were about to wreck house. An interesting tidbit about me is that when I go into these trade show type events, I tend to pretend that I’m in a first person shooter. I want to annihilate each table and leave dust in my path. I have no time for dilly dallying. If mofos want to linger around and ask silly questions then I’m taking my sample and moving on! To make the whole event go quicker, why don’t they just sit me down somewhere and bring me all the samples? That would be a cool overload, which is rare.

From Pinot Noir samples to Magic Hat brews, I downed it. I don’t even drink that much, but we were there and it was free. As I walked through the aisles I wondered how it was possible that people weren’t aware of some of these brands. For instance, does Blue Moon beer really need to advertise and give out free samples? It doesn’t seem like they’re hurting considering every girl and every girly man I know LOVES sipping it. To me, I don’t care if your drinking gourmet beer, strawberry flavored beer, milk stout, or Mr. Fancy Pants Oatmeal Brew…it’s still f–king beer. Beer’s been around for an eon without having all these exotic additives, so let’s cut the crap OK? Of course, I’m joking if you love Blue Moon, you’re NOT a girly man, but on the other hand, I may very well be. Perhaps the best drink I tasted all day was a Pina Colada from Bally’s Bikini Beach bar which was graciously served to me by a young girl in a teenie weenie bikini. Those are the best kind. It was possibly the greatest Pina Colada I’ve ever had.


As for the actual food, there were only a few products that left a big impression on me. All you need to do to get my attention is put “Jersey” in your ad or sign and I’ll stop in my tracks and squint my eyes like Batman does in the intro to Batman the Animated Series after targeting some thugs. And coincidentally, “weed” is also a grabber, so when I saw the sign that said “Get Your WEED at the Jersey Shore” I naturally stopped in my tracks for a taste test of southern style Jeremiah Weed’s Flavored Iced Tea Vodka on the rocks (nothin’ to do with the pigtailed cowgirl with the bare midriff, of course). The flavor I tasted combined two of my favorite drinks, Iced Tea and Bourbon. Scarily easy to drink, it’ll probably sneak up on you and make you sick without even realizing it because it tastes so good. Go easy on it!


The award for best chili ever goes to Pistol Pete’s Steakhouse and Saloon in Pleasantville, NJ. I gulped down a sample cup of chili that the guys at the their table handed to me, and I was immediately sold. Just by that tiny portion I was able to savor the chunkiness and intense flavors their Chili had. Literally amazing. The next time I’m in A.C, that’s where I’m going for dinner.


Unfortunately we weren’t able to get into the show Guy Fieri was running, but we were able to sit in on Aaron Song’s demo. I’m like a 5 year old, aside from cartoons and pro wrestling, I actually don’t watch much TV, so I had no idea who “The Asian Guy” from Hell’s Kitchen was. Sweating profusely, Song was entertaining as he cooked, when he wasn’t being buried by fellow chef Guy Mitchell who was clearly trying to live out his dreams of being the next David Letterman. Regardless of his culinary accomplishments, Mitchell had no business with a microphone, especially considering the extremely racist Chinese and Japanese jabs he continuously took at Song (he didn’t even know the difference between Chinese and Japanese). Damn Emeril for making these cooks think they’re all entertaining! This wacky chef routine is getting old! Next thing you know we’ll be heading to the Stress Factory where they feature Stand-Up Chefs. Instead of one liners, he’ll throw appetizers at you. In between his shtick, Song whipped up macadamia encrusted scallops drizzled with wasabi verblanc sauce and asparagus rolled in Italian pancetta. Champagne was also handed out like it was gatorade on the sidelines of a New York Giants game.


Ketchup has always been my favorite condiment, even to the extent of finding it in my stocking on Christmas morning, but barbecue sauce is in my top 3. You can’t really lose when it comes to barbecue sauce because they all have strong points. There aren’t many BAD barbecue sauces out there, some are serviceable and do the trick, while others bowl your mouth over and make you want to jump into the bottle and bathe in the sauce. Upon sampling two pieces of meat dunked in the sweet and spicy versions of Funni Bonz barbecue sauce, it made me want to grab a basting brush and start lathering myself up with it. The only thing that comes close to comparing the feeling I got when I came in contact with this sauce is when Saul first introduces Dale to the Pineapple Express weed in Pineapple Express. Saul hands Dale the bag of bud and tells him to smell it:

DALE: Ohhhhh!
SAUL: what do you want to bathe in it?
DALE: I just want to live in here
SAUL: Yes, you want to BE it?
DALE: Oh my God! I just want to shove it up my nose and have that smell all day! That’s amazing…
SAUL: Shove it anywhere you’d like.

Later, after trudging through torrential downpours on our drive home, we dunked some delicious breaded chicken in both the spicy and sweet sauces that I bought. I was literally licking the spoon as if we had just made chocolate chip cookies. Do your damndest to get your hands on several jars of Funni Bonz BBQ sauce! The company was founded by 2 best friends from New Jersey. For more visit or

I left this event with one complaint. If you’re an exhibitor or salesman for a company at this festival, you need to step up your game. When it comes to food and alcohol, you need to be smooth. People want free stuff when they go to these events, not to be given the hard sell. When they get samples and free swag, they’re more apt to recommend your product to friends. So if I hear you utter the phrase “You want to buy some?” it’s probable that I won’t. I want to hear information as to why I want your product in or around my mouth. Fill my ear with the subtle nuances that make your product better than its competitors. Does it have natural ingredients? Damn, do I have to do your jobs for ya?

The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival has been going on since 2007, and judging by this years expansive event, it will only get bigger. If you find yourself watching Food Network constantly and you have an appreciation for fine cuisine and liquor, then make it a point to be a part of it next year!

Ode to Mallory

family ties,justine bateman,poem,'80s,television,mallory keaton,love,skippy handleman
I was just a small boy
when I dropped my toy
and glued my eyes
to your show Family Ties
But madness came over me
when I realized we would never be
you were just an airhead
but I so badly wanted to take you to bed
so what if I was only 4
Still with Nick Moore?
damn, that shit’s poor!
Oh my darling Mallory
you’re sweeter than a calorie
and such a little flirt
I just want to eat you for dessert
and stare at your chest when it’s nippy
Oh baby I’m so much cooler than Skippy
I fantasize about making you moan
’till then I’ll sit and wait by the phone
for maybe one day you’ll call
and if you do, I’ll buy you some clothes at the mall
You and I should stop with this fuss
because what would we do baby…without us?