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Archive for November, 2010

Coney Island’s Parachute Jump and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park are a wondrous backdrop for the new music video by The Wanted, the UK’s top boy band. Set for Dec 26th release, “Lose My Mind” is online now on YouTube. In the vid by Nigel Dick, the adorable five play ride and game operators at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. The boys sing, flirt and cut loose while the park’s scowling manager (an actor) looks about ready to lose his mind.

Do you have a fave music video filmed in Coney Island? ATZ would love to know about it. We’re fond of Joe McGinty’s “Million Dollar Mermaid: A Coney Island Tribute,” a mix of old and new footage of Coney’s amusement parks.

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March 15, 2011: Hail, Hail Garland Jeffreys! Coney Island Has a New Anthem

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

November 26, 2009: Coney Island Boardwalk Music Video: The Supertones “I Surf in Black”

July 19, 2009: Coney Island Hip-Hop Anthem: AMO1’s Fight for Your Right to Save Coney

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In celebration of the birthday of Harpo Marx, who made his stage debut in Coney Island’s soon-to-be-demolished Henderson Music Hall in 1908, we’ve assembled some of our fave scenes from Harpo’s film and television career. Happy Birthday to Harpo (born November 23, 1888) and Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers. Enjoy!

When Harpo appeared on “I’ve Got A Secret” in 1961 to plug his new memoir Harpo Speaks!, he acted out the answers to interview questions from host Garry Moore while the panelists, including Johnny Carson, try to figure out what he’s miming.

As for Harpo’s debut in show business on June 1, 1908, here’s what he had to say about it in Harpo Speaks

It was not until Minnie got me on the El that the awful truth of her mission struck me, like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky. We were headed for Coney Island. I was being shanghaied. I was being shanghaied to join Groucho, Gummo and Lou Levy. On a stage. Singing. In front of people.

On the train, Minnie screened me with a newspaper, while I changed into a white duck suit, my costume. At the same time she tried to teach me the words to “Darling Nelly Grey.” I was too weak with dread to protest. My mind went blank. I couldn’t possibly learn the song before we got to Coney Island.

As one of “The Four Nightingales” performing at Henderson’s, Harpo had such a bad case of stage fright that he wet his pants…

It was probably the most wretched debut in the history of show business.

Nobody could hear me sing that night in the quartet at Henderson’s. It was all I could do to open my mouth at approximately the same time that Groucho, Lou and Gummo opened their mouths. But I sang, a voiceless swan song. I sang farewell to the streets of the East side, to hurtling and hopping trolleys and swindling ticket choppers, farewell to happy-go-lucky hired today and fired tomorrow wandering from job to job…Like it or not I was in show business for the rest of my days.

Harpo’s Place, a website lovingly put together by Harpo’s son, Bill Marx, features a wonderful collection of family photos and memorabilia. From a list of the Harpo Marx Family Rules–we like #8: “If things get too much for you and you feel the whole world’s against you, go stand on your head. If you can think of anything crazier to do, do it.”

As his father’s “prop man” for 12 years, Bill Marx has a complete list of the unusual items that were part of Harpo’s repertoire, including knives that come out of a coat (and the coat), a clarinet (with mechanical bubble machine and tube), and signs for sewing on the singers’ rear ends! In this BBC clip, a rare voice recording of Harpo speaking is played and Bill explains why Harpo never spoke in film or TV appearances.

In Coney Island, preservationists have tried to save the historic Henderson Music Hall where music and vaudeville acts such as the Marx Brothers, Al Jolson and Sophie Tucker performed. But the building failed to win consideration for landmark status since it has been altered extensively. The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission also rejected an application by Coney Island USA, Save Coney Island, the Coney Island History Project, the Historic Districts Council and the New York City Landmarks Conservancy to create a historic district. Ironically, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation wrote that “the historic core of Coney Island appears to meet the criteria for listing to the Registers as a historic district.”

There’s also the unfortunate fact that the Henderson is owned by real estate speculator Joe Sitt of Thor Equities and occupies a prime site at the corner of Surf and Stillwell that was rezoned for a high rise hotel in 2009. A demolition permit has been issued and the former music hall is expected to be demolished soon, though there are no immediate plans to build a hotel.

At the same time, the 93rd Street Beautification Committee has been advocating for the preservation of “Marx Brothers Place” in Manhattan. The grassroots group wants the City to extend the Carnegie Hill Historic District one block to include the Marx brothers childhood home at 179 East 93rd Street. For info, visit their blog or e-mail 93rdst.beautification[AT]gmail.com.

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 27, 2010: Video: The Museum of Wax by Charles Ludlam

September 20, 2010: Movie Monday: Teaser Trailers from the Coney Island Film Festival

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

February 26, 2010: Happy Belated Birthday to Coney Island’s William F Mangels

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Demolition of Thor Equities-Owned Bank of Coney Island. November 23, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

Demolition of Thor Equities-Owned Bank of Coney Island. November 23, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

R.I.P. Bank of Coney Island (1923-2010)

Eternal memory. Eternal memory. Grant to this demolished piece of Coney Island history, O Lord, blessed repose and eternal memory.

Thanks again to Eric Kowalsky for his excellent photo documentation of the Bank of Coney Island. For more info on the building, see “Photo of the Day: The Bank of Coney Island, Now & Then” (ATZ, October 14, 2010) and “A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island” (ATZ, October 9, 2009).

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October 29, 2010: Photos from the Demolition: Knocked Out Wall at Bank of Coney Island

October 8, 2010: 40 Day Demolition of Historic Coney Island Buildings Set to Begin

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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Sodexo Kiosk at Luna Park Coney Island. May 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Sodexo Kiosk at Luna Park Coney Island. May 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

If you had Fresh Fruit Fresca, Dippin’ Dots, Coke or any other food or beverage at Luna Park Coney Island this summer, you were experiencing the “Quality of Daily Life Solutions” of Sodexo, one of the world’s largest food and facilities management companies. Zamperla’s new Luna Park was one of Sodexo’s “wins” in 2010, though the partnership is certainly news to the public since it wasn’t mentioned at any of the NYCEDC/Luna Park press conferences.

In addition to managing the kiosks in Luna Park, Sodexo’s involvement extends to planning and running the restaurant currently under construction at Surf and 10th Street in the Gregory & Paul’s location which closed two years ago. Luna Park CEO Valerio Ferrari told ATZ that $1.4 million is being invested in the new sit-down restaurant. It will be open year-round and feature waiter service and a variety of food. As for the Boardwalk, Sodexo-run restaurants are set to take over “some but not all” of the Boardwalk locations, Ferrari says, including Paul’s Daughter and Pio Pio Riko, which flank the Boardwalk entrance to Luna Park.

In May, a Sodexo manager posted news of the win on the company’s Facebook career page: “Sodexo is excited to announce the newest addition to our Leisure account portfolio is none other than Coney Island. We look forward to a wonderful partnership!” Luna Park Coney Island is also listed in Sodexo’s third quarter press release. It is Sodexo Operations LLC’s name on the liquor license at 1000 Surf Avenue. And if you look up Dippin’ Dots retail locations for 11224 on their website, you’ll find the listing Sodexo Inc – Luna Park @ Coney Island.

Sodexo Careers Page on Facebook: "Sodexo is excited to announce the newest addition to our Leisure account portofolio is none other than Coney Island. We look forward to a wonderful partnership!"

Sodexo Careers Page on Facebook: "Sodexo is excited to announce the newest addition to our Leisure account portofolio is none other than Coney Island. We look forward to a wonderful partnership!"

Though Sodexo’s partnership with Luna Park may be news to New Yorkers, the company’s presence was known within Coney Island. The Sodexo rep setting up the food service for Luna was a gregarious fellow who introduced himself to people working in neighboring businesses. It wasn’t till mid-summer, when some Boardwalk business owners who’d never heard of Sodexo received a visit from the rep asking details about their business and leaving his card, that some began to ask who is Sodexo?

Founded in France in 1966 by Pierre Bellon with a single dining room, the company now has more than 350,000 employees on 30,600 sites in 80 countries. According to the company’s official bio: “In North America, Sodexo Inc has 7.7 billion (USD) in annual revenue and 120,000 employees and Sodexo serves more than ten million customers daily in corporations, health care, long term and retirement centers, schools, college campuses, government, and remote sites.” Sodexo is an acronym that comes from a French phrase, Societe d’Exploitation Hoteliete, which means a company of service and hospitality. In 2009, “Food and Facilities Management Services” became “On-site Service Solutions.”

Sodexo Kiosk at Luna Park Coney Island. May 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Sodexo Kiosk at Luna Park Coney Island. May 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

According to the Leisure and Entertainment page of the company website….

Sodexo is a global leader in providing guest and facilities services to museums, zoos, aquariums, historic properties, sports venues, and more.

While you focus on your core business and mission, we create and offer a wide array of services specific to your venue that enhance your guests’ experience. A few examples of our services:

Guest Services, Restaurants & Dining
Catering & Special Events
Gift Shops & Retail
Vending

Facilities Services, Planning & Assessment
Operations & Maintenance
Landscaping & Grounds
Housekeeping & Custodial
Construction Services
Unarmed Security

Sodexo Kiosk at Luna Park Coney Island. May 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Sodexo Kiosk at Luna Park Coney Island. May 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Wherever people come together, Sodexo matches the menu to the venue and creates a truly unique dining experience for your guests. We feature fresh, seasonal cuisine presented in a style appropriate to your venue and to creating a truly memorable dining experience. Our customized services will maximize participation and guest satisfaction.

From fine dining at our museums, aquariums, and historic properties to elegant tea rooms in botanic gardens to family meals or high volume concessions at your zoo or arena, we have the perfect solution.

Halloween Treats at Luna Park Coney Island. October 15, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Halloween Treats at Luna Park Coney Island. October 15, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

After the Boardwalk businesses received the November 1st notice to “vacate the premises” from Luna Park/CAI, Cha Cha’s told the blog Grub Street that “a French company that was handling Central Amusement’s food and beverage program asked him to submit a business plan and he did so, promising to spend half a million dollars turning his dive into ‘the lost city of Atlantis, with live music and entertainment and food.’ ” Another Boardwalk owner told us he was promised a multi-year lease by the Sodexo rep and was asked to sell some of their products. The business owners, now known as “The Coney Island 8,” are going to court to try and hold onto their longtime spots on the Boardwalk. A plan has also been floated to relocate the evicted businesses to the north side of Surf Avenue.

UPDATE March 31, 2013:

Surf’s Up for CAI Foods in Coney Island, Sodexo Is Out. Sodexo’s departure had long been rumored and is something to cheer about. According to the partnership agreement, after 3 years either party was free to terminate the lease, with CAI having to reimburse the remaining value of Sodexo’s initial investment, with interest.

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 31, 2013: Surf’s Up for CAI Foods in Coney Island, Sodexo Is Out

December 2, 2010: Under Construction: Luna Park Coney Island’s $1.4M Sodexo-Run Restaurant & More

November 10, 2010: This Week in Coney Island: Party at Paul’s Daughter, Hypocrisy at NYCEDC

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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Thank you to Paul Georgoulakos and his family and staff for more than 40 years of service to Coney Island. Here’s our slide show from November 13th’s “Thank You Coney Island! We Love You” party along with additional images.

Writing about the closing of Paul’s Daughter, formerly known as Gregory & Paul’s, is so overwhelmingly sad that we keep postponing it. We keep hoping the Coney Island Rumor Mill has it right this time and the rumors that some or all of the evicted Boardwalk businesses will get one to three year leases from Luna Park turn out to be more than wishful thinking. The legal wrangling begins in court on Monday.

Paul Georgoulakos behind the counter on Paul's Daughter's last day. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Paul Georgoulakos behind the counter on Paul's Daughter's last day. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The evicted business owners and their attorney will be rallying on the Boardwalk on Monday at 2 pm. A politician is expected to show up. We can’t say the pol’s name, but considering the absolute silence from officials since November 1st’s Monday Morning Massacre, a politician’s support would be news. UPDATE... ATZ learned that the event previously described to us as a “rally” and which we were unable to attend was actually a meeting on the Boardwalk in front of the Grill House. In attendance were the business owners, their attorney and a politician, as well as the press and bystanders. The pol was State Senator Carl Kruger, who said “Coney Island should be evolution not revolution” and promised to fight for their cause. Watch News 12 Brooklyn at 5 pm for a report and check Rich Calder’s blog in the NY Post.

When Mayor Bloomberg visited Coney Island this season, we’re told that he posed for a photo with 81-year- old Paul Georgoulakos. If somebody would send us the photo, we’ll gladly post it with an appropriate caption: @MikeBloomberg: Please show respect for Coney Island’s elders & renew Boardwalk leases. In the meantime, call 311 or 212-NEW YORK outside of NYC and leave a comment for the Mayor.

The Best French Fries in Coney Island. Paul's Daughter on the Boardwalk. November 13, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Best French Fries in Coney Island. Paul's Daughter on the Boardwalk. November 13, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Paul’s hand-cut french fries are the best in all of Coney Island–yes, better than Nathan’s! Our fondess for G & P’s fries is linked in our memory to Gregory’s appearance in the lede of our travel feature for Islands Magazine in 2000. Color photos of Coney’s characteristic “Shish-Kabob Hot Dog French Fries” signage were splashed across the pages along with pix of the Wonder Wheel and the Mermaid Parade. “Greetings from Coney Island!” was published in the Best Beaches Issue along with Thailand, Greece, Kauai, Puerto Rico and Bermuda! A sticker proudly proclaiming “Coney Island NYC” appeared on the cover of issues for sale in New York.

Here’s the beginning of the story…

Last summer in Coney Island, I discovered that a freshly-spun cotton candy from Gregory and Paul’s was my equivalent of Proust’s madeleine. I was waiting for my order of crinkle-cut, Coney Island-style french fries, when the sight of cotton candy being turned out by a deft hand caught my eye. One, two, three twirls round a paper cone — and it was done. But instead of handing the confection to the fellow who was putting the finished products into clear plastic bags, Gregory handed it to me.

“How did you know I wanted one?” I was incredulous.

“I could see it in your face,” the canny showman explained.

He was right. Though it never would have occurred to me to eat cotton candy as an appetizer to french fries, that’s exactly what I did at Coney Island that day. And blissfully. The moment the magical stuff began to melt on my tongue, I was transported back to the little New England carnivals of the 1950s and ’60s, when I was a carny kid who had the run of the midway, and “floss,” as we called it—along with french fries, hot dogs, popcorn and snowcones — was everyday fare.

Cotton Candy, Saltwater Taffy and Hand-painted Signs at Paul's Daughter. November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Cotton Candy, Saltwater Taffy and Hand-painted Signs at Paul's Daughter. November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

When the magazine came out in December 2000, Coney was on the cusp of a renaissance. Now it’s come to this: out with the old-timers and the quintessential Coney Island eateries and every little bit of authenticity. Why can’t old and new co-exist in the new Coney Island?

Last French Fry.  Paul's Daughter 'Thank You Coney Island" Party. November 13, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Last French Fry. Paul's Daughter 'Thank You Coney Island" Party. November 13, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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December 9, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Signs 8-Year Lease for Coney Island Boardwalk

November 13, 2011: The End of Paul’s Daughter As We Know It–Will They Return?

October 13, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Americana Looking for New Beach

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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Ruby's Rally, Party & Last Call. November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Ruby's Rally, Party & Last Call. November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The venerable Ruby’s Bar & Grill, which was evicted by new kid on the Boardwalk Luna Park, is partying on! Word comes from Rubys Host that Ruby’s will be open one mo’ time on Saturday, November 20, though they were supposed to “vacate the premises” by today. Cheers to the headline on Grub Street: “Ruby’s Digs Nails Into Boardwalk, Opens Past Move-Out Date.”

Beer will be served from 11 till 7 pm for final last call X 3. Robert “Bluesman” Ross, who wowed us at previous shows at Cha Cha’s and Coney Island USA, will be singing the blues on the Boardwalk in front of Ruby’s from 1 till 4 pm. Drink up, because all proceeds go toward the Save Ruby’s Fund. The legal wrangling will begin in court on Monday, when a judge will be asked to sign an Order to Show Cause to prevent the eviction of Ruby’s and 7 other Boardwalk Mom & Pops. The proceedings are expected to drag on for some time. Other businesses fighting the eviction are Cha Cha’s, Paul’s Daughter, Grill House, Gyro Corner, Shoot the Freak, Beer Island and Coney Island Souvenir Shop.

Ruby's Rally, Party & Last Call. November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Ruby's Rally, Party & Last Call. November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Sunday at 3pm, Rubys Host will celebrate her birthday at Bratva, the new Russian bar on the north side of Surf Avenue. “I moved my B-day party to Bratva on Sunday after the Bears swim – u should come by – 3 pm – live music etc,” says the invite. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul Sanchez of Coney Island band Neptune Jam is playing till 7 pm.

Bratva Bar is an upscale sports bar and restaurant across the street from Coney Island USA and down the block from the new Luna Park. Does Luna’s management, which plans to replace Ruby’s with an upscale year-round sports bar, realize the neighborhood already has a new upscale year-round sports bar? The north side has long been considered the wrong side of Surf for seasonal amusements since it gets very little foot traffic. But year-round bars and restaurants such as Footprints Cafe seem to do fine. Bratva opened this summer: “We’re a casual lounge owned for and by good old friends and welcome you to join us for beer, cocktails and a wide range of American pub and Russian-style snacks and meals. We’re major motorcycle enthusiasts, but our bar is not a a biker clubhouse. It is a place to meet new friends and have a good time.”

Ruby's Rally, Party & Last Call. November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Ruby's Rally, Party & Last Call. November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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We’re happy to be able to report a piece of good news from good ol’ Coney Island, which is reeling from a series of deaths, demolitions, and evictions. The good news is Eldorado Auto Skooters, Coney’s famed disco palace of bumper cars, will reopen in 2011. It’ll be “Bump, Bump, Bump your Ass Off” at 1216 Surf Avenue in memory of the Eldorado’s heart and soul, Scott Fitlin, who died in October.

ATZ received a personal note from Sheila and Sandy Fitlin, the owners of the Eldorado Bumper Cars, to thank us for ATZ’s eulogy to their son. We can’t tell you how happy we were to read the words: “Stop by to see us at the Eldorado this summer.” The Coney Island Rumor Mill had been speculating whether or not the Eldorado would reopen. Some were worried that the building, which is owned by the Fitlin family, would be sold.

We were amazed and moved by the response to “Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney’s Eldorado Man” (ATZ, October 13, 2010). Our eulogy was read by thousands of people from all over the world! As Sandy Fitlin writes, “Tricia, Scott had friends he probably didn’t know cared for him so much.” We think Scott would have been surprised by the many remembrances and condolences posted on ATZ and the audio discussion forums Audio Heritage and Wave Music, among others. Scott’s friends will want to stop by the Eldorado this summer to hear the legendary sound system and “Turn that Wheel!”

Eldorado Marquee at Night. September 5, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Eldorado Marquee at Night, Surf Avenue in Coney Island. September 5, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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