Legends Resort: The Death of David Haulmark

Legends Resort: The Death of David Haulmark

What once was the Great Gorge Playboy Club Hotel in Vernon, NJ, eventually became the Legends Resort & Country Club. It was at Legends Resort in 2008, that the alleged murder of David Haulmark took place.

Photo: nj.com

Photo: nj.com

According to Nj.com, “In 1971, one year before President Nixon won a second term, Playboy Enterprises Inc. finished construction of an eight-story, 617-room building, accessible by a half-mile private road leading from Route 517 and about four miles from the New York border.

It was the latest Playboy Club in the empire of Hugh Hefner, then in his mid-40s, the co-founder of Playboy Magazine. Launched in 1953, the magazine featured nude and nearly naked female models, unheard of at the time for a mainstream publication, and made Hefner an international business success.

Photo: dynamic-dns.net

Photo: dynamic-dns.net

A strong start ...

A video posted to YouTube in 2011 uses nearly three minutes of footage from a 1972 awards presentation, made not long after the Playboy Club opened.

It shows the Playboy Bunnies serving drinks around an outdoor pool, couples riding a horse and golfing, men in suits making small talk and a conference center.

The unidentified narrator asserts that the Playboy Club is transforming Sussex County from nowhere land into a bustling business hub.

The resort, in its first year, reportedly draws 15,000 for conventions and trade shows, spends $2.4 million on supplies and services, and employs 825.

"The right industry arrived in the right place, at the right time," the narrator says in conclusion.

An ad touting the Playboy Club (Courtesy of Vernon Township Historical Society)

... And then it was over

The Playboy Club was banking on gambling becoming legal in the area, but when that didn't happen, Hefner and his bunnies departed in the early 1980s.

Memorabilia from its decade-long run abounds on the Internet, such as the metal keys presented for club access.

A 1972 magazine ad featuring singer/actress Ann-Margret performing in Vernon is available on Amazon for $7.

"Exciting entertainment in the Playmate Bar. Superstars in the Penthouse ... the Great Gorge Playboy Club-Hotel. There's no place quite like it," the ad reads.

Two decades later, a burst of nostalgia

Photo: njherald.com

Photo: njherald.com

Johnny Moretti, who says he was a waiter and dining room manager at the Playboy Club, made a video of his return in 2001, when the building was less active than before but still functioning as a hotel.

"Oh, look, they have guests," he says as a woman and man carrying bags enter through a revolving door.

Visiting the former cabaret room, Moretti describes seeing a boxing match there. He doesn't say who was fighting, but asserts that the Spinks brothers — Michael and Leon Spinks — were present, along with Ernie Shavers and famed broadcaster Howard Cosell.

"A lot of big stuff going on here. Long time ago," he says.

File photo of Superior Court in Newton (Robert Sciarrino / NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

A brawl ends in death

Photo: njherald.com

Photo: njherald.com

In 2008, Jacob Gentry was charged with murder after killing David Haulmark during a brawl outside the former Playboy Club, where both had at varying times rented rooms.

Gentry said he was acting in self-defense, but was convicted of first-degree aggravated manslaughter and sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

Four years later, an appellate court overturned his conviction, stating the jury was not properly instructed on a justification defense.

It noted that Haulmark was about 80 pounds heavier than Gentry, and cited defense testimony that Haulmark had harassed and acted aggressively toward Gentry and others.

Gentry was acquitted at his second trial in February 2016.

By 2011, crickets ....

Moretti returned in April 2011 and encountered a dramatically changed, barren landscape.

His second video shows him driving up to where there used to be valet parking, getting out of his car and looking through the same swinging doors shown at the end of his 2001 video. The lobby is unoccupied.

"I'm not sure I can get in," he says.

Instead, he took viewers on a tour of the once-sterling outdoor facilities.

His camera showed outdoor tennis courts no longer in use. The pool from 1972 is covered over. He peers through a window at an unoccupied fitness center.

Throughout, no one else appears.

Sounding somewhat downcast, he wound up his video, explaining, "That's all I have left on my battery.

His video ends with a posted message — "falling apart."“