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French Spidora

La Femme Araignee. Cirque Daniellis. Paris: Aussel, ca. 1937. One-sheet. Potter and Potter Auctions

This rare and delightful 1937 French circus poster is on the auction block today at Potter and Potter’s sale. “La Femme Araignee” is an advertisement for Cirque Daniellis’ spider woman. Known as the Spidora sideshow illusion on American carnival midways, it features a young lady with the head of a beautiful girl and the body of a giant spider.

Missed it? Check out the video below of Walt Hudson’s Spidora pitch and see her for yourself. “She’s strange, she’s unusual, she’s a lovely little girl. I’m going to let you look at her. Shortly afterwards we’re going to take her off the web and feed her, and you’ll have an opportunity perhaps to see that…” Little Spidora was an attraction at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, Hudson says. And why by the way do we not currently have a Spidora single-o in Coney Island?

Potter and Potter’s live auction is on February 6 in Chicago but the catalogue is online and you can bid on the poster now or in real time during the auction.

Update: The poster sold for $1,200 plus a 22% buyer’s premium.

Related posts on ATZ…

June 27, 2013: Photo Album: The Front of the Show at Meadowlands Fair

May 22, 2013: Art of the Day: Girl to Gorilla Showfront by Lew Stamm

September 2, 2012: Art of the Day: World’s Smallest Woman Arrives in Coney Island

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

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Save your quarters, it’s only 7 weeks till Miss Coney Island’s first dance of the 2016 season. The Coney Island amusement area’s traditional Palm Sunday opener is early this year — March 20 — and it’s still costs only 25 cents a a dance. Miss Coney’s twin mottoes are “25¢ to Fall in Love” and “Don’t Postpone Joy.” The doll and her dancing cats are located on West 12th Street below the Wonder Wheel and next door to the Coney Island History Project.

Related posts on ATZ…

October 4, 2015: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2015 by Jim McDonnell

April 6, 2014: Photo of the Day: Miss Coney Island’s Dancing Cat

September 30, 2012: Photo of the Day: Last Dance With Miss Coney Island

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

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Merry Christmas from Amusing the Zillion! Here’s our holiday compilation of videos showing seasonal celebrations at parks and attractions around the world. Among the wonderful and sometimes wacky gems are the Christmas Parade at Seoul’s Lotte World, the world’s largest indoor theme park; a choral group singing while riding a roller coaster at Sweden’s Liseberg; and the mermaids at Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs trimming their underwater tree.

The Mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Spring Hills, Florida, is presented daily, including Christmas. This year’s “Elf on a Shelf” music video was created by Merstar​ and Andrew Brusso.

The underwater entertainment at South Korea’s COEX Aquarium currently features Scuba Santa delivering presents to the fish.

Last week, Christmas came early to the San Diego Zoo. Polar bears Kalluk, Chinook, and Tatqiq got a gift of snow – 26 tons of it! The surprise snow was made possible by donors who contributed to the animal care wish list on the San Diego Zoo website, sandiegozoo.org. The bears, who came to the zoo as orphans, rolled around in the fresh powder and wrestled with each other all morning long. “This was a special day for the polar bears, and I could tell they really loved it,” said Susan Purtell, senior keeper, San Diego Zoo. “It was great seeing them roll around in the snow, showcasing their natural behaviors.”

In Pennsylvania, Kennywood’s annual Holiday Lights celebration, which concludes this weekend, includes a spin on the park’s 1926 Dentzel carousel. YouTube user 20th century Wurlitzer recorded the ride’s band organ, a 1916 Wurltizer #153, which is considered the oldest of its kind, playing Christmas music. Here’s “If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas,” which is appropriate considering the warm temps in the Northeast.

One of the most popular feast days in Sweden leading up to Christmas is St. Lucia’s Day, when celebrants wear white garments and a wreath of candles and there are processions galore. This year, Hellmans Drengar, known as Sweden’s bravest men’s choir, probably broke the record for the world’s fastest St. Lucia procession. Their approach was a novel one: singing Lucia songs at 56 miles per hour, on the Balder roller coaster at Gothenberg’s Liseberg Park.

In Scandinavia, it is said that celebrating St. Lucia’s Day will help one thrive during the long winter days with enough light. Christmas at Liseberg runs through December 30.

At Germany’s Europa Park, the Winter Wonderland celebration continues through January 10th. The park is elaborately themed for the winter season, with Yule logs ablaze on ice floes, sleigh rides, parades, and a Christmas Market. The park’s Giant Wheel is dressed in candy cane colors and the Eurosat roller coaster is beribboned in red.

Last but not least, from Walt Disney World in Orlando, here’s a magical time lapse video of the resort’s famed Christmas parade and fireworks.

Related posts on ATZ…

November 30, 2015: ATZ’s Coney Island Holiday Gift Guide for 2015

December 25, 2014: Traveler: Merry Christmas from Mulberry Street

December 22, 2013: Traveler: Christmas Holidays at Parks in Northern Climes

December 18, 2013: Photo Album: Christmas Peddlers in Old New York

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The 2015 edition of photographer and film editor Jim McDonnell’s annual “Coney Island Dancing” video was released over the weekend. Miss Coney Island and her dancing cats, who are still open for business at 25 cents a dance, start the show! Its the fifth year in a row that Jim has compiled his fabulous footage of Boardwalk dancers extraordinaire. “Dancing and music is an integral part of Coney Island,” he says. “This year’s soundtrack is ‘I Know You Got Soul’ by Bobby Byrd (James Brown’s legendary sideman) Enjoy!”

Related posts on ATZ…

April 6, 2014: Photo of the Day: Miss Coney Island’s Dancing Cat

January 24, 2012: Dance Video: Ringmasters Crew in Coney Island

September 6, 2011: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2011 by Jim McDonnell

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

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Ten years in the making, the much-anticipated SeaGlass Carousel at Battery Park will open to the public on Thursday, August 20th, from 1pm till midnight. Today, at a press preview, ATZ captured the unique ride’s inaugural spin in the above video. For its second go-round, we hopped aboard one of the 30 bioluminescent fish and shot an on-ride video through its porthole. Glowing Angelfish, Lionfish, and Butterflyfish changed colors as they swam by in a 360-degree aquatic dance. It is a very calming, otherworldly experience and totally unlike any other carousel or amusement ride.

George Tsypin

George Tsypin set to ride one of the fish that he designed for the SeaGlass Carousel. August 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Among the carousel’s riders was George Tsypin, the internationally acclaimed opera designer who created the opening ceremony for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. His latest creation is what he calls “the dancing fish.”

“I always try to do something I’ve never done before,” he remarked at the press conference. “SeaGlass Carousel allows visitors to experience a ‘mini-opera’ in which they are spectators, actors and participants.” He describes it as a reinvention of the carousel for the 21st century with the choreography of movement being the most important thing. “You can program the movement in many different ways. It’s a living organism that we tried to create.”

The fiberglass fish are a bit like a capsule, Tsypin adds, noting that you can’t ride a shark as you would a horse. “Children can feel like they’re in a secret world in their own little capsule.”

SeaGlass Carousel

Girl riding SeaGlass Carousel at press preview. August 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Celebrating the history of the Battery as the first home of the New York Aquarium, which was located in Castle Clinton from 1896 until 1941, the carousel was designed to simulate a dive to the bottom of the sea. “Most New York City children will not scuba dive or snorkel,” said the Battery Conservancy’s Warrie Price. “This is a simulation of them being fish.”

The SeaGlass Carousel’s iridescent fish are set on four moving turntables within a nautilus shell structure. The 46-foot grand turntable gently rotates 360 degrees. Within it are three on-board turntables, which slowly rotate 120 degrees in each direction on their own axes, adding an oscillating motion. Eighteen of the fish move up and down. “These various systems generate up to 25 axes of motion…swimming indeed,” according to the Conservancy. Since all mechanisms are located below the floor, there is no centerpole, as is customary with carousels.

SeaGlass Carousel

SeaGlass Carousel features iridescent fish set on four moving turntables within a nautilus shell structure. August 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Last year, the Battery Conservancy issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the operation and maintenance of the SeaGlass Carousel along with food and merchandise carts in Battery Park. Ride Entertainment Group’s New York division, NY Carousel, was selected to operate the ride, which after opening day will spin daily from 10am to 10pm. The cost is $5 per ride. The group also operates Fantasy Forest at the Flushing Meadows Carousel and the Forest Park Carousel in Queens, as well as Fantasy Shore at Midland Beach in Staten Island and carousels in Boston and Baltimore.

SeaGlass Carousel

Moms and kids aboard the SeaGlass Carousel at Battery Park. August 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Created by the Battery Conservancy together with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, SeaGlass Carousel was conceived and designed by WXY Architecture + Urban Design and their engineering teams, George Tsypin Opera Factory and Show Canada. The $16 million dollar project was funded with $8 million in public funds and $8 million in private funds. The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Woodland Gardens encircle SeaGlass Carousel.

Tiffany & Co. Foundation Woodland Gardens

The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Woodland Gardens encircle Battery Park’s SeaGlass Carousel. August 19, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

April 13, 2015: Video of the Day: Century-Old Forest Park Carousel Awhirl After Off-Season Overhaul

October 21, 2013: Traveler: Osteria Ai Pioppi’s Homemade Amusement Rides

December 8, 2010: Children’s Book Tells Coney Island Carousel Carver’s Story

February 26, 2010: Made in Brooklyn: The World’s Only Jet-Powered Merry-Go-Round

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Famous Nathan

Poster for Famous Nathan courtesy Film Movement. Photo of Nathan by Barton Silverman/ New York Times/Redux Pictures

Mazel tov! We’re happy to report that “Famous Nathan,” Lloyd Handwerker’s documentary about his grandfather, who founded Coney Island’s Nathan’s Famous nearly a century ago in 1916, is getting a theatrical run this summer. After premiering last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, the doc screened at film fests from Coney Island to Jerusalem. The film opens on July 17 for a one-week engagement at the Cinema Village in Manhattan, including some Q & A’s with the filmmaker, followed by a July 31-August 6 run at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. New York-based indie distributor Film Movement will release the Handwerker doc in North America across multiple VOD and digital platforms on August 4th, with a DVD release on September 29th.

Pieced together over a 30-year period, the film was a labor of love for the filmmaker, who was 17 when his grandfather died. It is also a remarkably candid family memoir. As we wrote last year after seeing the film at Tribeca: Nathan Handwerker, the founder of Nathan’s Famous hot dog empire, is a mythic figure in Coney Island history. The story of the young Polish immigrant working at Feltman’s and saving his salary to open a competing restaurant where hot dogs sold for a nickel instead of a dime is the stuff of legend. His grandson Lloyd Handwerker’s documentary “Famous Nathan” humanizes him and at the same time makes us see that he truly was larger than life.

The documentary is told through home movies, archival photos and footage, the filmmaker’s interviews with a colorful cast of characters including family members and former Nathan’s workers, and the voice of Famous Nathan himself. A 16-minute oral history, condensed from nearly four hours taped by Lloyd’s cousin David Sternshein when their grandfather was 82 is central to the narrative. The cadence of Nathan’s voice and his story reverberate in the imagination even after the film is over: “I want to go to America. I was dreaming about it.”

Famous Nathan directed by Lloyd Handwerker, July 17-23 at Cinema Village, 22 East 12th St, New York, NY. Q & A’s with the filmmaker will be held at the 7pm shows every night, plus the 9pm shows on July 17, 18 and 23, and at the 5pm show on Sunday, July 19.

Related posts on ATZ…

April 22, 2014: ATZ Review: ‘Famous Nathan,’ A Documentary by Lloyd Handwerker

April 8, 2014: Photo Album: Classic Chevrolets at Nathan’s Coney Island

March 6, 2014: Tribeca Film Fest to Premiere ‘Famous Nathan’ Doc by Grandson Lloyd Handwerker

March 24, 2013: “Notorious BOB” and Larell Marie Win Nathan’s Hot Dog Qualifier

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Chinese-style cotton candy

Rocky makes Chinese-style, flower-shaped cotton candy in a booth on Coney Island’s Bowery. May 30, 2015

Chinese-style cotton candy has come to Coney Island’s Bowery, where a friendly vendor nicknamed Rocky spins and shapes the flossy threads into a multi-colored pastel flower. In the video that we shot it takes him just one minute and several seconds to create the amazing confection. Rocky says this style of cotton candy is popular in southern China and that he learned the technique by watching videos on the web. Videos shot in China of street vendors making the flower-shaped cotton candy are prolific on YouTube but it’s our first sighting of the phenom in New York City.

The quintessential carnival food debuted as “fairy floss” at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where it was served in a wooden box and took in more than $17,000 over the fair’s six-month run. The new booth on the Bowery at West 12th street has also introduced frozen yogurt with toppings sold by the ounce to Coney Island. It is owned by 5D Cinema proprietor Terry Zheng and located next-door to his theater.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 28, 2015: Coney Island Openings & Closings: Power Surge, Arcade, Rainbow Shops, Vintage Shooting Gallery

May 19, 2015: Gargiulo’s Russo Brothers to Open Italian Fast Food on Surf Avenue

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave

May 5, 2015: New Owner of Surf Ave Lot Across from Coney Island Cyclone Seeks Ideas for Seasonal Use

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