By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

We ain’t gonna play Sun City

Somewhere in my record collection is an album called “Sun City,” a project put together in 1985 by Steve Van Zandt, Miles Davis, “News Dissector” Danny Schechter and others to protest the apartheid regime in South Africa. Please click on the clip below — if you haven’t seen it before, you’ll be amazed. It might be the greatest music video ever made. It’s certainly the most socially conscious.

Sun City was a resort casino aimed at luring a wealthy white clientele. The idea was that money from high rollers would be used to prop up a crumbling, corrupt system that had exploited and oppressed the black population, whose most visible symbol, Nelson Mandela, had been imprisoned for many years. Eventually, of course, the regime fell, but not until incalculable damage had been done.

Who would be willing to profit from such evil? Sol Kerzner, for one. In today’s Boston Globe, Sean Murphy reports that Kerzner was the developer of Sun City, earning him accolades from Frank Sinatra as “the world’s best saloon keeper.” It’s not a secret. I had known about Kerzner’s South African ties. But I hadn’t made the connection to Sun City.

The main theme of Murphy’s story is not Sun City, but the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. It seems that Kerzner and Len Wolman, the principal investors in Mohegan Sun, found a loophole in a federal law that has allowed them to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars while the Indian tribe that nominally controls the casino receives relative pennies.

Getting rich by exploiting an oppressed native people? Well, that’s really old hat to Kerzner.

Kerzner and Wolman, as you may have heard, are also the lead investors in the proposed Middleborough casino. And Kerzner, as Stephanie Vosk and George Brennan remind us in today’s Cape Cod Times, “was charged in 1986 with bribing a South African official in exchange for exclusive gaming rights. The charge was dropped in 1997, but it has followed him each time he has bid on a casino license.”

The Middleborough deal was negotiated on behalf of the investors by Glenn Marshall, who chaired the tribal council of the Mashpee Wampanoags until he was forced to resign in August after his lies about his military service and a past rape conviction were brought to light. Tribal members tell the Globe that the details of the Middleborough deal remain a secret to them to this day.

And so it goes. This is what you get when you try to make common cause with casino gambling. This is what the Middleborough selectmen fail to understand. This is what Gov. Deval Patrick thinks he can avoid through extensive governmental regulation.

What legislators need to understand is that the best way to avoid such sleaze is not to head down this road in the first place. We ain’t gonna play Sun City.

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10 Comments

  1. Larz

    What!?! Sleazy fat cats sucking bucks from the “Indian” casinos? I’m shocked!This is probably why none of them have filed suit to overturn the racially discriminatory Indian casino law.

  2. Bellicose Bumpkin

    Great article.Ironic how the casino boosters are trying to paint casino opponents as racist – but are willing to give Kerzner a get out of jail free card. A card which will undoubtedly come in handy for someone of his ilk.

  3. MeTheSheeple

    Hrm! And I was just wondering if any friends or relatives were going to be weird enough to get “The Bang-Bang Club” from my Amazon wishlist.It’s sad that lobbyists and back-door anonymous action can prevent changes in the law, too. If I understand correctly, the executive types are getting 5 percent of gross, regardless of any profit. There’s nothing in the article to say whether that would ever get phased out, or whether there are periodic negotiations.

  4. Anonymous

    Sun City? Great album! Between that, and the Special AKA’s “Free Nelson Mandela” and Peter Gabriel’s “Biko” apartheid inspired some great songs.

  5. O-FISH-L

    What a contrast, seeing the beautiful people (Bono, Springsteen, et al) passionately clamoring for regime change in South Africa in the late 80’s, juxtaposed with the fury of the same men less than twenty years later when brave US soldiers brought an end to a far more brutal regime in Iraq. I guess if Saddam had segregated blacks instead of exterminating Kurds, President Bush would have the popular support of the entertainment industry and perhaps even a song and music video accompaniment. While apartheid needed to go, many would argue that post-apartheid South Africa is a far worse place for blacks.One other note, I recall the summer of 1988, when then-WBCN DJ Charles Laquidara received wide acclaim, including a NY Times puff-piece, for encouraging listeners to destroy their Shell gas cards, due to Shell’s presence in South Africa. Fast forward 19 years and Joe Kennedy is venerated for obtaining “discount” oil for the poor from Citgo, the state run oil company of Venezuela, where human rights are being trampled with increasing frequency. Yet no local DJ’s are coming forward asking us to destroy our Citgo gas cards, there’s only praise for Joe K. The selective outrage of liberals cheapens their preferred causes.

  6. Anonymous

    Yeah but nobody in the Sun City video unzips themselves like that couple in the Foxwoods commercial.

  7. Anonymous

    Dan, thanks so much for putting the pieces together. This is all starting to make sense: the racists are calling everyone else racists so no one will notice they’re the racists. Gotcha!Bottom line is $$$$

  8. Anonymous

    bombazzzzzzzzzt”Chelsea Dagger” is the greatest viddy ever

  9. mike_b1

    What a contrast, seeing the beautiful people (Bono, Springsteen, et al) passionately clamoring for regime change in South Africa in the late 80’s, juxtaposed with the fury of the same men less than twenty years later when brave US soldiers brought an end to a far more brutal regime in Iraq.How Rush of you, Go-fish. There’s that little distinction known as “method” that you like ignore. I don’t recall Bono saying, “Bomb Botha.”

  10. liamstliam

    Dan, I usually think you are great, but The Day in New London made that connection a long time ago.And to the person who made the comment on “Indian” casinos, of all the tribes involved in these things, the Mohegans are one of the bets of the bunch. They are long-time town residents — unlike many of the Pequots — and they really worked closely with local residents.There are so many evil things going on at Foxwoods that it’s frightening.

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