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Archive for the ‘video’ Category

It’s summer Down Under but British-Australian artist and illustrator Sarah Beetson is already dreaming of next summer in Coney Island, which she calls “her favourite place of inspiration.” At home in her studio in Gold Coast, Queensland, Beetson has painted dozens of Polaroids that she snapped during a three-month residency in Coney last summer. Now she has assembled them into a lively and inventive new video.

“Sara Beetson’s Coney Island Painted Polaroids” gathers shots of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s painted clown faces (originally in Astroland) and signage and the B&B Carousell’s horses set to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Carousel.” The frame by frame addition of hand-lettered lyrics is delightful and will make you want to sing along: “Lost my heart on the carousel to a circus girl who left my heart in pieces…”

Sarah Beetson

Sarah Beetson with Stanley Fox, and her painting of him, at the Coney Island History Project. June 21, 2014. Photo © Coney Island History Project

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Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Coney Island Polar Bear Club. November 2, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Sunday, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club went for their first swim of the season. “Summertime has gone away, Polar Bears are here to stay,” the Bears chanted as they warmed up by doing jumping jacks on the beach.

The Club swims at 1:00pm every Sunday from November through April. Membership is currently closed but you can join them for a guest swim. Just turn up at the Bears Clubhouse at the Aquarium’s Education Hall on the Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30pm with your bathing suit, a towel, surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers, and some warm clothing. Or welcome the New Year by joining the annual January 1st Polar Bear Dip in Coney Island, a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine.

Polar Bear Club member and filmmaker Jim McDonnell shot this short video of Sunday’s swim to mark the 111th season of the winter swimming club. It was a windy day on the beach and boardwalk with air temps in the 40s.

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January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

February 7, 2012: Video of the Day: The Coldest Thing on Coney Island

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

December 26, 2010: Video: Today’s Snow Swim with Coney Island Polar Bears

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Last evening at 6:55pm, Zamperla’s Thunderbolt roller coaster went for its first test run, evoking cheers from fans gathered on the Boardwalk. Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy had been standing by for the historic moment and captured “The Thunderbolt’s Maiden Voyage” in this short video.

As previously noted (“High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster,” ATZ, March 10, 2014), Coney Island has been home to dozens of roller coasters since the Switchback Railway debuted in 1884 but it’s been a long 87 years since one was custom built for Coney — the Cyclone in 1927. Luna Park’s newest ride is named in honor of the 1925 Thunderbolt and is expected to open as soon as the test runs and permitting process are complete.

UPDATE June 2, 2014

To anyone who watched this video of the Thunderbolt’s first test run and jumped to the conclusion it would open over the weekend, hang in there! There’ll be multiple test runs, some of which were conducted today, before the new coaster opens. On Saturday, Luna Park employees variously said the coaster would open next Saturday or in two weeks, but there’s been no officially announced date.

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May 19, 2014: New Thunderbolt Loops the Loop Again in Coney Island

February 23, 2014: Sunday Matinee: Under the Roller Coaster (2005)

September 22, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Coney Island’s Mite Mouse Coaster (1992)

April 21, 2012: Saturday Matinee: A Switchback Railway (1898)

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This week, British Pathé announced the release of more than 85,000 newsreels from its archives to the public via YouTube. Among the films dating from the early 20th century though the 1970s are several documenting Coney Island. “Let’s Go Coney! Island” (1932) was shot inside Steeplechase Park’s Pavilion of Fun and provides a glimpse of patrons riding the Hoopla, Human Pool Table and Panama Slide. At Luna Park, Victor Zacchini, “The Human Cannonball,” is seen being shot from a cannon across the park’s lagoon as part of the season’s outdoor show.

Other newsreels show riders on the Witching Waves (1919) and the residents of New York Aquarium eating a “Whale Of A Lunch” (1964). (Update: We removed one of the films, Dizzy-Dive Land (1932) which is mis-ID’d as a Coney Island coaster but turns out to be Rye Playland’s Aeroplane (1923-1957), according to American Coaster Enthusiasts co-founder and historian Richard Munch.)

While the British Pathé archive is available online via their own website, going public on YouTube allows viewers to comment, share and embed the historic videos.

“The archive contains unique footage from both World Wars, the Titanic, boxing legend Muhammed Ali and more,” said British Pathé and Mediakraft Networks in a press release. “On top of this startling content, the material also paints vivid pictures of almost forgotten lifestyles, peculiar technical inventions and everyday life that British Pathé presented in newsreels, cinemagazines, and documentaries from 1910 until 1976.”

In “Do You Reverse” (1928), couples slide down a water chute together into Steeplechase Pool. Camera trickery is used to show this in reverse. Divers are also seen jumping out of the water and back onto boards.

Dorothy de Mar wins the title of Miss Venus from hundreds of other bathing beauties at Steeplechase Park in “Is She Your Choice?” (1931).

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April 21, 2012: Saturday Matinee: A Switchback Railway (1898)

January 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island at Night by Edwin S. Porter

August 16, 2011: Video of the Day: “IT Girl” Clara Bow in Coney Island

January 15, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island

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Taylors of Edinburgh Funfair

Taylors of Edinburgh Funfair at Kirkaldy Links Market, Europe’s Longest Street Fair

“For most of us it’s the start of the season,” says a showman in this 1983 video of Scotland’s Kirkcaldy Links Market, Europe’s largest street fair. This year’s fair opened on Wednesday and runs through April 21st. The nearly mile-long midway along the Esplanade in Kirkcaldy, Fife, has over 130 rides as well as sideshows, games and food stalls.

A trader’s market has been held annually on the Links of Abbotshall since 1304. Some of the showmen, estimated to number over 1,000, have played the fair for generations. If a spot opens up, the Showmen’s Guild of Scotland assigns the location.

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

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Spring is in the air and Coney Island’s Opening Day is a mere five weeks away, but this short film by Josh A. Kapusinski was shot when the beach and boardwalk were still blanketed with snow. “The King of Merriment is a film that explores the happiness and beauty of Coney Island and its regular visitors in full winter charm – mashed up and juxtaposed with archival footage from Coney in its heyday of the 1940s and 50s,” says the film-maker, an Emmy-­winning motion graphics designer.

We’re not usually a fan of mashups, but this one is very adeptly done. If some of the restaurants and shops that are open year-round were shown, it could be a promo for Coney Island in winter. Vivid, dreamlike sequences of people playing frisbee, bicycling, and walking in a snowy and silent Coney contrast with audio and video from a 1940’s travelogue in which the narrator describes “the place where Merriment is King.” Perhaps the most striking detail is vintage footage of Nathan’s hot dogs being cooked on a griddle projected onto the shuttered gates of Nathan’s Boardwalk eatery in winter.

For info on what to see and do in Coney Island before the rides open for the season on April 13th, check out our post “Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round,” (ATZ, Sept. 13, 2013).

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

February 23, 2014: Sunday Matinee: Under the Roller Coaster (2005)

March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson

February 2, 2011: Video: Coney Island —> Times Square by David Patrick Alexander

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The house under the roller coaster in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” was the real life home for 40 years of Mae Timpano, who shares vivid memories of good times and sad in this 2005 documentary by Lila Place. “If the wind was blowing towards the house, I heard everything going on in Coney Island,” says Timpano in the film. For most of those years under the Thunderbolt, her companion was Freddy Moran, who owned and operated the famed coaster built by his father over the Kensington Hotel in 1925. She recalls the two of them going for swims to the end of Steeplechase Pier at 2AM after she got off work as a waitress.

“Mae’s story is a window onto a lost world and makes us think about the importance of place in a new way,” says the film-maker. In addition to Timpano’s candid reminiscences, the 16-minute documentary includes interviews with family, friends and historians as well as old news clips. Moran tells a TV reporter asking about changes in Coney Island: “Roller coasters are a very, very stable element of the amusement business and I don’t see any way they’re going to be replaced by anything else and give the same feeling.” But after Moran died in 1982, the coaster closed and would never reopen.

Timpano was a spirited survivor who lived alone in the house for several more years. “I got used to the quietness,” she says, just as she had gotten used to the clatter of the roller coaster passing overhead and finding wigs and dentures lost by riders in her backyard. Horace Bullard, who bought the Thunderbolt and other properties with the dream of rebuilding Steeplechase Park, once said of Timpano: “She’s Miss Coney Island. When you get close to her, you get sort of the feeling of what Coney Island used to be like.”

Timpano, who died five years ago, outlived the coaster and her former home, which were controversially and illegally demolished in 2000 on the orders of Mayor Giuliani.

“Under the Roller Coaster” won a number of awards including Best Made in Coney Island Film at the Coney Island Film Festival (2005) and Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Short at Slamdance (2006).

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 22, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Coney Island’s Mite Mouse Coaster (1992)

April 21, 2012: Saturday Matinee: A Switchback Railway (1898)

March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson

January 5, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island

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