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Poconos Hot Spot Hits Skid Row

Heart-shaped bathtub, anyone?

More than 80 of them will be auctioned off next month, along with Engelbert Humperdinck's gold-painted headboard and thousands of other items from the once-celebrated Mount Airy Lodge.

Closed since 2001 because of financial problems, Mount Airy is now boarded up and falling apart. Owner Louis DeNaples wants to sell pretty much everything that isn't bolted down — and some things that are.

Auctioneer Bob Teel expects the March 5-6 sale to attract antique dealers, hoteliers and restaurateurs, and nostalgia-seekers who stayed at Mount Airy, once the largest resort in the Poconos.

"This sale has generated tremendous interest, not only because of the items but because of the history," he said.

Mount Airy had its heyday in the 1960s and '70s, when it grossed upward of $50 million a year and sold more liquor than any other licensee in Pennsylvania. Its catchy jingle — "Beautiful Mount Airy Lodge" — aired incessantly in the New York media market.

The 1,200-acre resort "was really the class of the Northeast, never mind the Poconos," said Dario Belardi, a retired Caesars executive.

Some of the biggest names in show business appeared there regularly, from Humperdinck to Bob Hope to Tony Bennett. Humperdinck always stayed in Room 519, outfitted especially for him with a sunken whirlpool tub, round bed, faux-gilded facade and billowing drapes.

"They were legendary. Every major star of the time appeared there," Belardi said. "It's unfortunate that time passed it by."

The years have not been kind. Damaged ceiling tiles, peeling paint and faded carpeting line the hallways. Black water fills the Olympic-sized indoor pool. The entire place is damp and musty.

DeNaples, a Scranton-area businessman, recently bought the lodge for more than $25 million, and he is widely expected to apply for a slot-machine casino license.

Items to be sold next month include about 260 RCA 27-inch televisions, commercial-grade restaurant equipment, crystal chandeliers, disco balls, paddle boats and a nine-hole miniature golf course. And, of course, the heart-shaped bathtubs, although buyers should have plenty of disinfectant ready.

David Reighard, 45, of Greenwood Lake, N.Y., who spent a weekend at Mount Airy in the late '80s, plans to return for the auction to look for items for his antique store in Hamburg, N.J.

Reighard remembers the resort as being dated even then. But, he said, "it was still a fun place to come."

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