E.P. and the $7 million plan
Caesars Boardwalk Regency, one of those Atlantic City hotels built around its casino rather as a spider's web is built about the spider, has hired an interior decorator - who has, in turn, hired an ''environmental psychologist'' - to improve the trap. It seems that the present ambience - art deco - does not stimulate the gambling patrons to lose their money fast enough to please management.
The interior decorator, Robert DiLeonardo of Cranston, R.I. - with the help of his anonymous environmental psychologist, to be known henceforth as E.P. - has defined his mandate thus: ''to create an atmosphere that relaxes the morality of people.''
Management must have loved the ring of this manifesto, for, according to the figures of the Wall Street Journal, $7 million has been invested to carry out the strategies of Mr. DiLeonardo and his friend, E.P.
If we've succeeded in translating designer's rhetoric - a foreign language in itself - the ambition of the decorating duo is to make the Caesars customer feel like one of the more decadent Roman emperors: Nero as a high-roller.
To this purpose, the new lobby is being lined in Italian marble, with a Roman statue here and there to put the bread-and-circus crowd at their ease. All windows will be eliminated so that ''people won't be able to relate to time. Once they step inside, they'll be in an adult Disneyland.''
Now there are always the lotus-eaters who - whether they've come to rest in Atlantic City or Boise, Idaho - check into their hotel room, click on the old TV set to an ''I Love Lucy'' rerun, and promptly forget where they are or why they've journeyed in the first place. Mr. DiLeonardo and E.P. have prepared a fiendish ambush for such dropouts. The suites will be so garishly colored, so brilliantly lit, and so noisy that their inhabitants will run, not walk to escape the psychic inhospitality.
If Caesars' customers still fight the spider's web by heading for one of the hotel's restaurants instead of the roulette wheels and blackjack tables, another firm subliminal nudge is in store. The restaurants, in the phrase of the devious designers, will be done in ''vestment colors'' - gold, plum, deep red - to persuade the diners that they are people to whom royal treatment is given, and from whom a certain royal extravagance is expected.
Adroit lighting, like a moving finger, will lead a beguiled Walter Mitty straight to the dealers and croupiers. By now, presumably, the last of the Big Spenders has been made to forget all about mortgages, rainy-day savings, or children coming up for college. But in case a dim memory still persists of life outside the ''adult Disneyland,'' Mr. DiLeonardo and E.P. will drown it in a kind of casino din, contrived to promote a mood of euphoric excitement.
Does any of this make any sense?
A dangerous silliness lies in the notion that crude ploys with color, lighting, and sound can make people forget their moral standards, not to mention their bank accounts.
The old cynicism - that every man has his price - is nothing compared to this newer cynicism, that every man has a subconscious button, and all another man has to do is push it to make him salivate like Pavlov's dog.
The world is marking the 50th anniversary of the rise to power of Hitler - the man who made popular the pseudo-sciences of manipulation of the masses. Can anyone doubt that his contemptuous estimate of people, as sheep to be herded, is directly connected to his barbarous treatment of human beings, as less than animals?
As we all know, but keep trying to forget, life remains a game of one-on-one - a series of individual choices worked out in solitary. The rest is a montage of mob scenes.
If E.P.'s tricks really worked, we could color the world's war rooms pink, lower the lights, play Frank Sinatra records, and guarantee ourselves a hundred years of peace. The project would certainly be more deserving than relaxing public morality - a task, alas, that appears to require little, if any, outside help these days.