The on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again saga of John Strong’s Freak Show returning to Coney Island for a second season is on again! Or so we’re told…
After losing his bid to rent Thor Equities’ Grashorn Building and Stillwell lots, Strong says he’s now made a deal to set up on the north side of Surf Avenue across from the Cyclone. The lot, which is not owned by Thor, is next to the West 8th Street subway exit and was cleared at the beginning of the 2010 season for parking cars. Having met John last summer and covered this story since January, we can’t say we’re surprised by his unstoppable efforts to make a Coney Island comeback. It’s telling that the logo of his show is Atlas carrying the globe on his shoulders. It’s quite a burden since Strong will have to travel all the way from Bossier City, Louisiana, where he is playing the fair at Harrah’s Lousiana Downs.
If the deal is indeed a go, the surprising thing is that Strong’s show would be the first amusement business on the north side of Surf since the B & B Carousell closed in 2004. The north side has long been considered the wrong side of Surf to make money since it gets very little foot traffic. People who’ve come for carnival fun aren’t about to cross the street for furniture stores galore. But John Strong intends to prove them wrong. Here is an excerpt from an email that he sent us yesterday…
It is with pride and pleasure to announce that the John Strong World’s Finest Shows will return to Coney Island and open across the street from the Cyclone on May 28th. Todd Robbins will warm them up and I’m going to take their money home. We have a giant 200 x 100 lot across Surf from the Cyclone. The bannerline will be the largest and the most beautiful in the world stretching from the Cyclone to Little Russia… 200 feet. I don’t give up too easily. I’m one of the very few in all of showbiz that has enough experience, flash and knowhow to get the people to cross in the crosswalk at the corner of Surf and 10th to our ticket box a mere 25 ft away on a lot that nobody else could utilize except me.
We may put a bellydancing snake charmer on the bally. We may put a live two headed cow on the bally or the six legged cow on display for free photos. We may have six live human oddities on display. We may have the Chupacabra breaking out of a crate….
Since I’m at a casino, I will be taking bets on how many people we can get to cross the street this summer. My show will turn heads and turn the tip into the greatest freakshow on earth.
John Strong World’s Finest Shows
World’s Greatest Sideshow Showman
Savior of Coney Island
Director of the Coney Island Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center
Proud Producer of the Greatest Sideshows on Earth
If Strong’s sideshow returns, Coney Island will boast a trio of sideshow operators come summer. Coney Island USA’s world-famous circus sideshow starring Donny Vomit, Heather Holliday, and Serpentina will be operating 7 days a week with the addition of a new girlie freak show. Tickets cost $7.50 for adults, $5.00 for kids, and are well worth the price. New kid on the block Luna Park will feature two free sideshow performances on Friday and Saturday nights starring sideshow luminaries like Erik “The Lizardman” Sprague and Natasha Veruschka, the world’s only sword swallowing belly-dancer. The Lizardman, who performed at CIUSA as a guest artist last August told ATZ, “I’m just happy that reports of Coney Island’s death continue to be greatly exaggerated and I am looking forward to working there again this summer, both at Luna and Sideshows by the Seashore.”
The Luna Park shows are produced by Todd “Coney Island Wonder Worker” Robbins, former president of the board of CIUSA and current “Post-Modern Master of the Sideshow.” When Strong writes, “Todd Robbins will warm them up and I’ll take their money home,” he is referring to Robbins’s show in Luna Park. But we think a free sideshow is more likely to cut into the receipts of ticketed attractions than send them customers. Mom to kids: “But honey, we already saw the sword swallower!”
When Strong came to Coney last year, the media played up the Battle of the Sideshows angle, just as they did years ago when Strong’s stepfather Bobby Reynolds had his show in the bank building on 12th Street and the tabloids wrote about “dueling sideshows.”
The more the merrier school of thought is that a concentration of sideshow talent is good publicity for Coney Island. The new Luna Park is expected to draw bigger crowds to the amusement area, too. It will be fascinating to see how this friendly rivalry plays out on the bally platforms and at the cash registers this summer.
Related posts on ATZ…
December 1, 2009: TLC’s Cake Boss Sweet on Marie Roberts’ Coney Island Sideshow Banners