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The Greenbrier's owner Jim Justice, center, leads Brooks Shield, Jessica Simpson, Barbara Eden, Shaquille O'Neal and other celebrities in a star-spangled opening of the new Casino Club. Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

The opening of The Greenbrier’s new Casino Club brought high-wattage Hollywood glamour to the fabled resort tucked into the foothills of West Virginia.

By John Arundel

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin,  Greenbrier owner and chairman Jim Justice, Brooke Shields, Cathy Justice, Jessica Simpson and Debbie Reynolds attend the ribbon cutting at The Greenbrier for the gala opening of the Casino Club on July 2, 2010 in White Sulphur Springs, WV.  Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, Greenbrier owner and chairman Jim Justice, Brooke Shields, Cathy Justice, Jessica Simpson and Debbie Reynolds attend the ribbon cutting at The Greenbrier for the gala opening of the Casino Club on July 2, 2010 in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

Jessica Simpson, meet Rhett Butler.

The opening of The Greenbrier’s new Casino Club brought high-wattage Hollywood glamour to the fabled resort tucked into the foothills of West Virginia.

Screen sirens like Jessica Simpson, Brooke Shields and West Virginia native Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner arrives at The Greenbrier for the Grand Opening of its news Casino Club.  Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

Jennifer Garner arrives at The Greenbrier for the Grand Opening of its news Casino Club. Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

emerged from antique sports cars to walk the red carpet and help new owner Jim Justice cut the ribbon of the $80 million casino.

Garner’s hubby Ben Affleck arrived separately, huddling inside the grand lobby with golf greats Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, and basketball superstars Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. Raquel Welch, Barbara Eden and Debbie Reynolds represented Hollywood’s Golden Era.

Reynolds had not returned since her 1955 honeymoon with Eddie Fisher. “It’s much better the second time,” she effused.

About 1,500 VIP guests, clutching tickets which read “No Longer Sleepy Time Down South,” followed the stars into the black tie dinner and intimate concert by Lionel Richie.

Begun less than a year ago, the 100,000-square-foot casino designed by Carleton Varney was constructed entirely underground to avoid changing The Greenbrier’s historic facade. For years, the ground below was known for its secret U.S. Government bunker where high officials from the Nation’s Capitol could escape to survive a nuclear attack. In 1992, Washington Post reporter Tad Gup famously exposed the bunker’s existence, causing its immediate closure by the government.

On July 2, as guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres passed by servers dressed as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, Justice encouraged a new, cheerier reputation for the underground Casino Club which once lay next to a nuclear fallout shelter: “It’s like Monte Carlo meets ‘Gone With the Wind!”

Jim Justice and Shaquille O'Neal share a light moment at the Casino Club's ribbon cutting.  Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

Jim Justice and Shaquille O'Neal share a light moment at the Casino Club's ribbon cutting. Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

A folksy West Virginia coal baron who teaches girl’s basketball at a local high school, Justice rescued the Greenbrier from bankruptcy by purchasing it for the bargain price of $20 million from CSX in May, 2009. He has since sunk millions more into updating its rooms and facilities, adding two new restaurants and dramatically improving the golf greens.
In July, the inaugural Greenbrier Classic was held, which by six-year agreement will be part of the nationally-televised PGA Tour.

Adding to its appeal as a destination resort, June marked the debut of year-round, daily non-stop flights to Greenbrier Valley Airport from New York’s La Guardia and Atlanta’s Hartsfield airports on Delta Airlines.

These are big changes to the The Greenbrier, a National Historic Landmark founded in 1778 and perched on 6,500-acres of lush landscape in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains.

Long known as a world-class haven for business conferences and sophisticated leisure travelers, the property provides access to more than 50 recreational activities and a luxurious 40,000 square-foot spa.

“CSX owned this place for 99 years and I hope to own it far longer than that,” said Justice, with a mountainous grin.

The Greenbrier is located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, about a four drive from Washington, D.C. For more information or reservations, visit www.thegreenbrier.com or call 800-624-6070.

PGA greats Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at The Greenbrier.  Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

PGA greats Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at The Greenbrier. Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

The Greenbrier's new $80 million Casino Club, which is open only to resort guests. Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

The Greenbrier's new $80 million Casino Club, which is open only to resort guests. Courtesy Photo/The Greenbrier

Barbara Eden

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