JOSEPH LAZAROW, 84
Former Atlantic City mayor
Joseph Lazarow, a record-breaking glad-hander who presided as mayor of Atlantic City, N.J., during the dawn of the casino industry, died Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla., after a long illness, said his daughter, Robin Lazarow. She declined to identify the illness.
With little political experience, Mr. Lazarow was elected to the Atlantic City Commission - now the City Council - in 1972. His counterparts on the council named him mayor in 1976, the start of the aging beach town's transformation to a glittery gambling mecca.
The first casino opened in 1978 after Mr. Lazarow was named chairman of the Committee to Rebuild Atlantic City, which supported a ballot measure to open casinos as an urban redevelopment tool.
On the committee and as mayor, the soft-spoken Mr. Lazarow argued to no avail for a rule that casinos hire only Atlantic City residents, angering nearby communities. He also opposed casinos along the famous Boardwalk, contending that they would displace residents.
But he was best known for his low-key leadership style and stunts promoting his beloved city.
In July 1977, Mr. Lazarow bested a world record set by Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 for shaking hands in a single day. Mr. Lazarow did it 8,514 times, beating Mr. Roosevelt's record of 8,513, according to Guinness World Records.