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Trump officially opens Taj Mahal

By MICHELE DIGIROLAMO

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Donald Trump officially opened his $1 billion Taj Mahal Casino Resort Thursday by rubbing a giant glowing Alladin's lamp that produced a puff of smoke, a blaze of lasers and a fireworks display over the Boardwalk -- but not Marla Maples.

Trump had originally invited Maples, a Georgia model and fledgling actress said to be at the heart of Trump's marital woes, to be his guest at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Atlantic City's newest casino.

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Trump has filed for divorce from his wife, Ivana, who reportedly is seeking half his fortune.

When requests for press credentials for the opening ceremony, spurred by rumors of Maples's first public appearance since the war of the Trumps made national headlines, soared from the anticipated 200 to more than 1,000, the New York billionaire several weeks ago retracted his invitation.

He has reportedly ended his relationship with Maples, the so-called 'other woman.'

Instead, Trump made a last-minute invitation to entertainer Merv Griffin, whom he once battled to win the Taj, to join him in the festivities.

'We are all gathered here tonight to see who Donald is going to bring,' the rotund Griffin quipped to the thousands of people jammed into the porte cochere at the main entrance to the Taj.

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'He brought his mother, his father, his brother, Robert, and his wife, Blaine, and his two sisters, but most of all he brought me, and I am very appreciative,' Griffin said.

Griffin called the palatial Taj the 'most exciting thing to hit Atlantic City' and sparked a roar of laughter from the crowd when he said 'to think that I owned this for 24 hours.'

It wasn't too long ago that Trump and Griffin fought for control of Resorts International Inc., which once owned the Taj. They eventually agreed in November 1988 to split the company, with Trump getting the Taj and Griffin getting ResortsInternational Casino Hotel and a casino in the Bahamas.

Griffin then introduced Trump, and while the song 'The Eye of the Tiger' from the hit movie 'Rocky II' blared over loudspeakers, the crowd jumped to its feet in a standing ovation.

'They talk about a million dollars a day,' Trump said, referring to the view of many in the industry that the Taj will have to rake in $1.3 million a day from gamblers to survive. 'I think we've done that in a few hours.'

Trump told the crowd that he had always viewed Trump Tower in New York City as his masterpiece, but that now 'this really has to take the mantle.

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'What has happened here is really beyond my wildest expectations,' said Trump, clad in his usual red 'power' tie and a navy overcoat.

The Taj features a 120,000-square-foot casino with more than 3,000 slot machines and $14 million worth of Austrian crystal chandeliers. The facility, adorned with colorful minarets, sprawls over 17 acres along the Boardwalk.

Trump then walked over to an oversized golden genie's lamp with glowing red lights that shared the stage with him and rubbed its top with his hands.

Smoke poured from the lamp and neon-green lasers shot through the air to a huge video screen, where Fabu the genie appeared and said to Trump: 'Your dream is our command.'

Then a gigantic red ribbon draped over the 42-story hotel tower came apart in a puff of smoke and lasers, and fireworks laced the night sky to 'Star Wars' music and the 'Stars and Stripes Forever.'

Throughout it all, Trump hung on to the handle of the genie's lamp to steady himself in the strong wind on the raised platform.

'Some people have to go to India to see the Taj Mahal,' said Atlantic City Mayor James Usry, who delivered the opening remarks. 'The world comes to Atlantic City for our Taj Mahal.'

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The host of celebrities rumored to attend the opening, including Liza Minelli, Tom Cruise, and Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, failed to materialize.

The only 'stars' that could be found were one-time heavyweight boxing champion Michael Spinks and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Elle MacPherson.

Pop star Michael Jackson will reportedly visit the pastel-colored casino on Friday.

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