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Miss Coney Island's Dancing Cat

Miss Coney Island’s Dancing Cat. April 6, 2014 . Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

New for 2014 in Coney Island! One of Miss Coney Island‘s dancing cats is sporting a Marilyn Monroe badge. Just call her Marilyn.

The dancing doll and cats are a popular attraction on West 12th Street across from the Steeplechase coaster. It costs a quarter a dance.

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April 5, 2014: Photo Album: A Solitary Evening Stroll in Coney Island

March 29, 2014: Photo of the Day: Chomping at the Bit for Coney Island’s Opening Day

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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Jersey Devil

Takeshi Yamada and his Jersey Devils at the Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest in 2011. Photo © Takeshi Yamada

The last time Takeshi Yamada competed in the Secret Science Club’s Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest was in 2011, when he won the “Shock and Awe Award” for his Jersey Devils. He also brought along a freak snake human baby and his constant companion the Sea Rabbit Seara. The Coney Island artist and rogue taxidermist will unveil his newest wonders and curiosities when the event returns to Brooklyn’s Bell House on Sunday evening. The contest was not held in 2012 and 2013 due to Superstorm Sandy, Yamada says.

Fiji Mermaid

Rogue Taxidermy by Takeshi Yamada via takeshiyamada.weebly.com

At the 2009 contest, Yamada was awarded “The Most Twisted Prize” for his family of freak show babies made from his own skin. There’s a Two-headed Baby, Mermaid Baby, Octopus Baby, Lobster Baby, Snake Baby, Penguin Baby, and Three-headed Baby. Yamada also won the Grand Championship of Taxidermy in 2006 for his 6-foot-long mummified Fiji Mermaid. She’s the one he tried to bring for a ride on the Cyclone roller coaster during the Mr. Cyclone Contest!

Yamada, who has an MFA in fine art from the University of Michigan School of Art, considers his artwork “specimens” rather than examples of self expression. His new website shows examples of his rogue taxidermy artwork for sideshows and amusement parks, as well as TV shows and museum collections. There are also links to fan videos like this one from 2009 in which Yamada is the outside talker for his Freak Baby Museum in Coney Island. Special today, $1.00!

The Secret Science Club’s Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest, Sunday, April 6 at the Bell House, 149 7th St. (between 2nd and 3rd Aves) in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Doors 7:00 pm, show at 7:30 pm. This event is 21 and over. $12 advance, $15 at door. Subway: F to 4th Ave; R to 9th St; F or G to Smith/9th

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April 1, 2013: Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption

November 29, 2012: Coney Island Taxidermist Takeshi Yamada in AMC Reality Show

September 18, 2010: Photo of the Day: Takeshi Yamada’s Freak Baby Museum at San Gennaro

September 24, 2009: Photo Album: Coney Islanders and Carnies at San Gennaro

Luna Park Lights at Jones Walk

Luna Park Lights at Jones Walk, Coney Island. April 2, 3014. Photo © Tricia Vita

This weekend, Deno’s Kiddie Park and Ruby’s Bar on the Coney Island Boardwalk will open for the 2014 season, to be followed by next week’s official Palm Sunday Opener for the Wonder Wheel, Cyclone and the rest of the amusements. The park and concession owners are busy getting ready, but by the time we went for a stroll on Wednesday evening around 8 pm, almost everyone had gone home for the night. Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk were lit up but eerily deserted.

Wonder Wheel and A Wish

Wonder Wheel and A Wish on the Bowery, Coney Island. April 2, 3014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Wednesday was our first glimpse of the Wonder Wheel’s cars back up on the wheel. The freshly painted cars were rolled out of winter storage and put up on Tuesday. We missed it this year, but the annual ritual is the first sign of spring in Coney Island. Being there to see the red, blue and white cars go up, the Swinging ones first and then the Stationary, is like seeing crocuses bloom before your eyes.

Jones Walk Bowery Coney Island

Jones Walk at the Bowery, Coney Island. April 2, 3014. Photo © Tricia Vita

This mural at the corner of Jones Walk and the Bowery is one of the few remaining works of Steve Powers and Creative Time’s Dreamland Artist Club. It’s still holding its own. John “Crash” Matos painted the rolldown gate of the Snack Bar in 2005, but the work of Ronnie Cutrone, which was just above it, was stripped and taken away a couple of years ago, as were the rest of the signs on Jones Walk.

Miss Coney Island

The Dancing Doll ‘Miss Coney Island,’ West 12th St. April 2, 3014. Photo © Tricia Vita

On West 12th Street, the feet of the dancing doll “Miss Coney Island” and her dancing cats were peeking out from beneath the partially open metal shutter. Miss Coney as well as the window featuring the miniature rides of “Coney Island Always” will be open this weekend. They’re located on West 12th Street next to the Coney Island History Project and a few steps from the entrance to Wonder Wheel Park. Still 25¢ to Fall in LOVE!

Clown Game on West 12th Street

Clown Game on West 12th Street, Coney Island. April 2, 3014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Next door, Feed the Clown and the other independently owned games were brightly lit and the only place open on the block, though not yet open for business. The joints were being flashed for Opening Day. A group of marionette prizes danced in frenzied unison. Their strings were being manipulated by an unseen force. Merry-go-round music played. We made a movie (Stay tuned.) Did you ever notice that clowns look even creepier covered in plastic tarps?

Catch 1 Ball Win This Prize

Catch 1 Ball Win This Prize, West 12th Street, Coney Island. April 2, 3014. Photo © Tricia Vita

At Ruby’s Bar on the Boardwalk, the newly refinished floor was glowing. A solitary worker, who was about to leave for the night, opened the door so we could get a photo. Coney Island’s oldest bar and its famous jukebox opens on Saturday for the season. Cheers!

Newly Refinished Floor at Ruby's Bar

Newly Refinished Floor at Ruby’s Bar, Coney Island Boardwalk. April 2, 3014. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Wednesday, the Parachute Jump was lit blue for Autism Awareness Day. There was a ceremony at 6:30 in the evening, but by the time we got there no one was on the Boardwalk. Slivers of light glimmered beneath the metal shutter of Place to Beach Bar. Workers opened the side door, ready to call it a night. A crescent moon was suspended in the sky over the Jump.

Parachute Jump and Place to Beach Bar

Parachute Jump and Place to Beach Bar, Coney Island Boardwalk. April 2, 3014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Currently, the Parachute Jump is lit nightly from 4:30pm until midnight or later. The landmarked tower’s 8,000 LEDS are illuminated year-round like the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower. The light show changes according to the day and the season. It was specially programmed with a “Happy Holidays” message and Christmas-y colors by Luna Park. In celebration of the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win, the Jump was lit in sea green and blue light, and it was green on St Patrick’s Day.

Parachute Jump Lit Blue for Autism Awareness

Parachute Jump Lit Blue for Autism Awareness Day. April 2, 3014. Photo © Tricia Vita

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February 28, 2014: Photo Album: Wonder Wheel Park Preps for Coney Island’s Opening Day

December 23, 2013: Coney’s Parachute Jump & Wonder Wheel Lit for Christmas

November 28, 2013: Photo Album: Parachute Jump Lights Way to Year-Round Coney Island

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

Antique Coney Island Ride Tickets

Collection of antique tickets for Coney Island rides and amusements, early 1900s. Eclectibles at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair

Roller coasters have evolved since the days when the Switchback Railway and Loop the Loop occupied the block where the Cyclone is now, but as far as ride tickets, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. When the New York Antiquarian Book Fair opens today at the Park Avenue Armory, among the treasures for sale will be a collection of elaborately illustrated tickets from Coney Island rides and amusements of a century ago. The collection is being offered by Eclectibles (Booth A44) as part of a selection of New York ephemera. The tickets came equipped with strings for securing to a shirt or coat button and are wonderful souvenirs of old Coney Island.

The rides and attractions represented in Eclectibles collection include such long-vanished Surf Avenue thrillers as The Ben Hur Chariot Race (1908-1923) and the Rocky Road to Dublin (1907-1912) built by William F. Mangels, Jackman’s Shooting the Rapids (1898-1901) and Loop the Loop (1901-1910). The Star Double Toboggan Races (1904-1906), the world’s first two-track racing coaster, and the Red Devil Rider (1907-1923) are among the Bowery attractions. A number of L.A. Thompson’s Scenic Railway and Steeplechase Face tickets round out the collection of 14 tickets, which is priced at $3,500.

Die Cut Tag from Coney Island’s Bostock Arena in Dreamland circa 1904. Courtesy of eBay Seller monsonantiques

Considering that an especially rare ticket and advertising tag for Coney’s early attractions can sell for several hundred dollars on eBay, the price is fair. The last time ATZ wrote about one of these hard-to-find tickets was in 2011, when a die cut tag from Dreamland’s Bostock Arena was snapped up for nearly $400 in the last few seconds of an auction.

Currently on eBay, seller childhoodthings is offering a collection of Coney Island tickets, including Loop the Loop (“Heels up, Heads down”), the County Fair Musical Railway, L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway (“Ain’t It Lovely!”) and Steeplechase Park for $1,000.

Lopp the Loop Ticket

Loop the Loop Ticket, early 1900s. Via eBay seller childhoodthings

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February 21, 2014: Rare & Vintage: See Them Spinning Glass in the Sideshow

November 1, 2013: After 80 Years in Popcorn Biz, Family’s Heirloom Wagons Up for Sale

March 22, 2011: Rare & Vintage: Souvenir of Frank Bostock’s Coney Island

March 9, 2011: Inexhaustible Cows & Bottomless Cups of Chocolate Milk

Muffler Man Restoration Project in Mortons Gap

Muffler Man Restoration Project in Mortons Gap, Kentucky. Photo by Joel Baker/US Giants

Thanks to girlie motorcycle blogger and Roadside Americana fan Fuzzy Galore, ATZ learned about the website “American Giants: A journal of my muffler men travels and findings.” Videographer Joel Baker and his crew have been traveling the country documenting the roadside giants known as “Muffler Men.” In Episode #4, our favorite, they visit Peoria’s UniRoyal Girl, the female version of the Muffler Man, and the Launching Pad Restaurant’s Gemini Giant, a twin to the long lost Astroman of Coney Island’s Astroland.

Now Baker is asking for help via Kickstarter to restore a headless, armless Paul Bunyan in rural Kentucky. We have a soft spot in our hearts for the fiberglass figures which date back to the 1960s and ’70s and were a common sight during our travels with the carnival but currently number less than 200. There’s something poignant about a collective effort to make this roadside character whole again.

In addition to cowboys, Indians, pirates, astronauts, and other variations, International Fiberglass also produced a 14 foot tall Paul Bunyan statue. It is not known how many of these were made but there are only about 15 of them known to still exist. This statue in Mortons Gap is an example of this model. However, it is in very poor condition.

You can help preserve this unique piece of Americana by supporting this Kickstarter campaign. Your contributions will raise the money needed to reproduce the statue’s original head, arms and axe. The statue will also be refurbished and repainted. This restoration project will be documented in an American Giants’ video episode.

The campaign has raised $976 of a $4,500 goal, but Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing funding model. The project must be fully funded by April 20th for the Muffler Man to be restored. Why not contribute in memory of Astroland’s Astroman? Thank you gifts include a time capsule message ($10 or more), American Giants T-shirt ($35 or more), and a reproduction of a 1970 International Fiberglass Catalogue featuring all the Muffler Men and other statues ($100 or more).

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October 31, 2013: Missing in Storm: Have You Seen Coney’s Mama Burger?

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July 17, 2012: 50 Years on Coney Island Boardwalk for Paul & His Daughter

July 4, 2012: Photo of the Day: Mangels Pony Cart Ride

Friede Globe Tower

1907 Postcard for Friede Globe Tower, which was never built. The Strong Museum

More than a century after it was first announced and subsequently declared a swindle, the Friede Globe Tower is once again being proposed for Coney Island’s Surf Avenue. ATZ received a translated copy of an offering to investors for “a ground floor chance to share profits” in the project which is expected to cost $2 billion and pay up to 100% interest. A Russian billionaire plans to erect the 700-foot-tower on one of the lots on the south side of Surf rezoned for high-rise hotels.

Dubbed “The Globe Tower 2.0,” the structure will house a luxury hotel instead of the world’s largest amusement park of the original proposal. In order to comply with the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009 requiring a percentage of the property be used for amusements, Globe of Death Motorcyclists will perform a free act in the globe twice daily, weather permitting.

According to the offering, the hotel rooms will be small but luxuriously appointed and padded with sound proofing for undisturbed sleep despite the roar of the motorcycles. The tower will be crowned with the largest revolving searchlight in the world and lit by thousands of LED lights, making it visible from Mars.

Friede Globe Tower

Cover, illustrated supplement of the New York Tribune. January 20, 1907

When ATZ expressed skepticism that the new offering, which contained wording similar to Samuel Friede’s 1906 ad in the New York Herald, was genuine, the source replied that the Globe was an architectural wonder that had captured the developer’s imagination. He plans to make the penthouse his home away from home. “Remember when your Mayor Bloomberg said ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?’” Then he quoted the popular adage: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

The ceremony for laying the cornerstone is expected to be on May 26, 2014, on the 108th anniversary of the Globe’s original groundbreaking, and will feature a band concert, speeches and fireworks.

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Automatic Pleasures by Nic Costa

Nic Costa’s classic Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Op Machine is once again in print and as relevant as ever, considering the resurgence of pinball in bars and the popularity of a new Cupcake ATM on Lexington Avenue that had a line of people 12 to 15 deep on opening day. There’s also the nearly 10,000 slot machines at New York’s Aqueduct and Yonkers racetracks, a harbinger of many more to come with the legalization of casinos in New York State.

Gambling machines, the one armed bandit, penny arcades, fortunetelling machines, strength testers, shooting games, viewers, and vending and service machines are among the automatic entertainments covered in the book, which is illustrated with both black & white and color photos.

Did you know the first-ever vending machine was a coin-operated holy water dispenser invented by Hero of Alexandria nearly 2000 years ago? Costa writes that it wasn’t until the development of markets and a society based on paid labor that devices saving time were valued and produced in number.

The first coin freed patent was in 1857, for “A Self-Acting Machine for the Delivery of Postage and Receipt Stamps.” A penny inserted would automatically feed out a stamp from a roll. By the mid-1890s more than 1,000 patent applications for coin freed machines had been received by the U.K. Patent Office. Tellingly, many of the early machines could be used either as fortune tellers or games of chance. Games with automatic payouts of a cigar, a card or a token became increasingly popular on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1890s.

Automatic Pleasures by Nic Costa

In the U.K. in the first years of the 20th century, there was a spate of prosecutions against businesses, including saloons and shops, which had the automatic machines. The intent was to suppress “public corruption” and “juvenile depravity.” The enforcement of anti-gambling laws resulted in European manufacturers having to concentrate on games of skill with a low pay-out, which led to the later American domination of the world market.

Automatic Pleasures is enlivened by numerous excerpts from firsthand accounts of the era. Herbert Mills of Chicago’s Mills Novelty Company, once the world’s leading manufacturer of coin operated machines, writes about the Automatic Vaudeville or Penny Arcade business in the early 20th century:

The Penny Arcade has become a permanent institution as much as the theater, the opera, the circus, the concert, the lecture or the gymnasium, for it combines in a modified form of all of these and because it makes such universal appeal, particularly to the poorer classes, it is destined to grow constantly in popularity and size. Only about 10 per cent of the total population have an income of more than $1,200.00 per year, and therefore, the percentage of those who can afford a dollar for a concert ticket or two dollars for a theater ticket is very small. But everyone can patronize the Penny Vaudeville and afford ten cents for half an hours entertainment.

Automatic Pleasures: The History of The Coin Machine by Nic Costa, D’Aleman Publishing, 2013. Paperback, $32.42

Automatic Pleasures by Nic Costa

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March 9, 2011: Inexhaustible Cows & Bottomless Cups of Chocolate Milk

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