From the Record:
There was much excitement for miles around the North Jersey area when Hugh Hefner built and officially opened The Great Gorge Playboy Club in Vernon in 1972. Some were excited about the top entertainment and gourmet food that would be available. Others were overjoyed at the amount of local jobs that were being created.
My own favorite memories are of swimming in the luxurious Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool. The club also had an indoor pool and Jacuzzis that also were crowd-pleasers. The buffet with its variety of food was amazing too.
Every newspaper was filled with news around the grand opening of the multi-million dollar resort complex. Descriptions were that the building was “natural” in the mood created by the décor and windows – giving a feeling of being outdoors when one was inside. Public areas included the VIP room, Playmate Bar, Sidewalk Café, a deli, the Living Room and a discotheque. A sauna and health center were available too. A wading pool was available for children who came to the resort with their parents.
The top entertainers of the day performed. Some of those who initially come to my mind are Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Frankie Avalon, Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Diahann Carroll, Johnny Cash, Sammy Davis Jr. Duke Ellington, Englebert Humperdinck, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Johnny Ray, The Supremes, Dionne Warwick – they all were there.
The hotel was sold to the Americana chain in 1982. Reports at the time said the resort had been losing money for years.
Later, sold again it was turned into the Seasons Hotel. Still later Seasons was sold to Metairie Corp. which turned into the Legends Resort and Country Club. The hotel has been derelict and permanently closed to public operations for many years.
In February 2017 Vernon Township began to evict low-income full -ime residents of the hotel. Township officials said the owner rented rooms out illegally and that health and safety issues had to be addressed.
There was a murder at the site in 2008. A 36-year-old Oklahoma man who was living at Legends Resort while working on the pipeline project was found dead on a sidewalk outside the resort at 3 a.m. There were arrests and two brothers from Port Jervis, N.Y., were charged with first-degree murder.
Those who remember the elegant, classy Playboy Club of the 1970s would not recognize it today. Its present condition is a sad site for those of us who remember the club in its prime years. We will continue to treasure those memories and still visualize the original Playboy Club and Hotel of Vernon as it was. How lucky we were to have experienced it!