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'Riddler' son lights iconic ball on AC casino

His father played "The Riddler" on TV's "Batman" series, but Mitch Gorshin cooked up a puzzling mystery of his own: Just what IS that big ball on the top of the Revel casino?
/ Source: The Associated Press

His father played "The Riddler" on TV's "Batman" series, but Mitch Gorshin cooked up a puzzling mystery of his own: Just what IS that big ball on the top of the Revel casino?

On Wednesday, he came clean, telling The Associated Press that the constantly changing work of art is designed to become the identity of the soon-to-open casino, a beacon of ever-changing light visible for 10 miles at night.

And he has a greasy slice of pizza to thank for it.

Gorshin, a former Disney executive whose title with Revel Entertainment is "executive director of fun and creative," got the idea for the ball while walking back to the casino from a nearby pizzeria.

"The foil my pizza was in was empty, so I crumpled it up into a tiny ball and was about to throw it away, when I held it up and looked at it lined up with the top of the casino, and then it hit me," he said. "A ball, by nature, is the universal symbol of fun. There's a great visual tension; if you put a ball on the top of a slanted roof like we have, your eye senses that it's about to fall off."

Gorshin's father, Frank, was a famous stage and screen actor, best known for his role as the green question-mark-clad villain who tried to do away with Batman and Robin in all sort of hopelessly complicated ways. Mitch Gorshin grew up in Las Vegas, where his father performed, and nurtured a love of creative designs.

"This is a work of art," Mitch Gorshin said. "I look at this as something you might see at the Museum of Modern Art."

Although the ball has sat atop the casino for several months, Revel has kept silent about it until Gorshin spoke to the AP on Wednesday. That was also the first day the ball was fully illuminated during testing, although earlier preliminary testing had been done in recent weeks — usually in the dead of night so no one would notice.

It took six months and $2 million to build the ball, which the casino plans to call "the pearl." It consists of 250,000 programmable LED lights that span a 40-foot-diameter sphere. Its electronics and wiring are wrapped in special insulation to withstand rain and snow, and it has 71 lightning rods, which it will doubtless need: At 710 feet, It is the tallest structure in the city, and the second tallest in New Jersey, behind only the 781-foot-tall Goldman Sachs offices in Jersey City.

The ball was built in Las Vegas by YesCo, and trucked to Atlantic City, where it was hoisted by a crane to the top of Revel.

It is designed to be programmed in many ways: illuminated in solid colors or patterns of varying colors, as well as kinetic patterns. One configuration will give the ball the appearance of rolling off the edge of the building, Gorshin said. It can become an eyeball, or light up in red and white if the Philadelphia Phillies make it to the World Series.

"On a moonless night, we can light it up in all white and make it be the moon," he said. "We can make it be the sun. We can put stripes on it and make it a giant beach ball if we're having a beach party. People can look up at the ball and take their cue as to what's going on here from what the ball looks like."

One thing that will never go on the ball is any sort of logo or promotional material.

"We wanted this to be the un-sign," Gorshin said. "You'll never see 'Total Slots Night!' or the name of an entertainer or even Revel's name on this. We consider it to be a work of art. We could show photos or videos on it. But we won't."

So far the testing is going well, said Mitch Olorenshaw, YesCo's project manager.

"It's doing exactly what we wanted it to do," he said. "We're working through some issues with wiring, but we're very excited about this."

The ball is expected to be fully functional and placed into permanent service by the time Revel opens on April 2.


Wayne Parry can be reached at