HBO VINYL Coney Island

HBO’s Vinyl brought this portable Ferris Wheel to Thor Equities lot on 12th Street. Photo © Charles Denson. August 11, 2015

Nope, it’s not a mirage. A little Ferris wheel has been set up within sight of Coney Island’s mighty Wonder Wheel! For two days and nights, HBO’s new rock ‘n’ roll series Vinyl has transformed Surf Avenue, including Thor Equities’ long vacant properties, into a 1970s carnival. In prep for Tuesday night’s shoot, a portable Ferris wheel was set up on the West 12th Street lot across from Coney Island USA. The lot has been vacant since the Bank of Coney Island was demolished by Thor in 2010. A vintage sideshow bannerline featuring a gorgeous cavalcade banner by the legendary Fred Johnson was hung from the forlorn-looking Grashorn Building, Coney’s oldest, also owned by Thor. Historian Charles Denson shot these surreal-looking photos on Tuesday afternoon before filming got underway.

The HBO series from Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter is set to premiere in 2016. Surf Avenue businesses were reportedly paid several thou each to keep the lights blazing while the production company pulls an all nighter. What a bonanza! Too bad it’s only for a day and a night and the amusements can’t return for real to good ol’ Surf Avenue where they belong.

VINYL HBO Coney Island

Vintage sideshow banners emblazon Coney Island’s oldest building, the Grashorn, vacant since 2008. Photo © Charles Denson. August 11, 2015

The only use that the circa 1880’s Grashorn has seen since we started blogging in 2009 was as the Susquehanna Hat Company set for HBO’s Bored to Death (2011) and an office for the production company filming Men in Black 3 (2012).

The Jones Walk side of the Grashorn building has been vacant for several years, as ATZ reported in “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks.” Why? A business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us in 2009 that the rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island, never to return.

In the summer of 2010, Save Coney Island published renderings showing the potential of the building if restored, but their plan to create a Coney Island Historic District along Surf Avenue was crushed by Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s demolition of all but one of his historic buildings. Only the Grashorn remains. And apparently only HBO and Hollywood can afford the rent.

VINYL HBO Coney Island

Vintage sideshow banners on Coney Island’s oldest building, owned by Thor Equities. Photo © Charles Denson. August 11, 2015

Related posts on ATZ…

April 19, 2015: USA Network’s Mr. Robot is Filming Again in Coney Island

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

November 15, 2012: ATZ Review: Coney Island Documentary ‘Zipper’ Debuts at DOC NYC

June 6, 2011: HBO’s Bored to Death Brings Susquehanna Hat Co. to Coney Island

enterprise style ride

Screenshot of New Enterprise-style ride set to debut at Luna Park Coney Island via TV Paese Mio

A new Enterprise-style ride called the Endeavor has been on Luna Park Coney Island’s map–“Coming Soon! Get ready for an experience that is out of this world” — and ATZ’s radar since the park opened this spring. But the newly built ride has yet to arrive in Coney and a photo of what it looks like has not been seen till now.

Thanks to a tipster for alerting us to a video tour of Italian ride factories including Zamperla’s Soriani factory, in which the ride is seen in action for about a minute from 2:59 in the video below. ATZ’s source says the new ride is en route to Coney Island, where it is expected to debut within the next six weeks.

What will ride aficionados have to say about the ride experience compared to the classic Enterpise and how long will the operator keep the ride in a vertical spin? The Enterprise, which first came out in 1972, was named after the Star Trek Starship. Manufactured by Huss, the spinning thrill ride was a fave at Coney Island’s Astroland from the 1970s until the early 2000’s when it was sold to New Jersey’s Casino Pier. Lake Compounce, Dorney Park and Strates Shows are among the owners of the 20 or so Enterprises operating in the U.S. today.

At New Jersey’s Meadowlands Fair, ATZ snapped photos of Strates Shows’ Enterprise. It is mesmerizing to watch and an intense thrill to ride. Jersey amusement ride blogger The DoD3, who has ridden both the Strates’ and Astroland Enterprises, had this to say in his review of the ride:

Once secured, the wheel begins to spin until it hits warp speed. Once riders are nice an plastered to the seat, the arm holding the wheel begins to rise up to 87 degrees (basically vertical.) Most Enterprise rides will keep the wheel vertical for less than a minute, however I’ve seen some go for longer. Strates’ Enterprise goes for at least a minute and a half. Astroland’s old Enterprise went for three plus minutes!

Related posts on ATZ…

June 16, 2015: Coney Island Businesses Racing to Open by Mermaid Parade Day Now Aiming for July

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

May 21, 2015: Coney Island Fireworks 2015: Every Friday Plus 8 Saturdays Including July 4

April 10, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Power Surge and Enterprise-Style Ride Set for Comeback

Sand Sculpting Contest

William Sandman Petrosino with his Sculptures at Sand Sculpting Contest, Coney Island. August 17, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Wow! This year is the 25th anniversary of Coney Island’s Sand Sculpting Contest. The free event will be held on Saturday, August 15, from 11am. If you’re planning to join the competition, we recommend registering now. Spots for some of the categories are already closed but you can still register as a group here. The event is open to amateurs and semi-professional sand sculpting artists of all ages and offers cash prizes as well as bragging rights. The Sand Sculpting Contest was founded in 1990 by Judi Orlando of Astella Development and is now run in partnership with Brooklyn Community Services.

Related posts on ATZ…

June 16, 2015: Coney Island Businesses Racing to Open by Mermaid Parade Day Now Aiming for July

May 21, 2015: Coney Island Fireworks 2015: Every Friday Plus 8 Saturdays Including July 4

April 20, 2015: Art of the Day: “Greetings from Coney Island” Blends Past & Present

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

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

Coney Island Talent Show

Got talent? Jen Gapay of Thirsty Girl Productions, the creator and producer of the Coney Island Talent Show, has posted an open call for contestants for the sixth annual contest, which offers over $2,500 in cash and prizes. The talent show’s three categories are Creative Kids 9-12 years old, Creative Kids 13-17 years old, and Song, Dance & Variety, 18 and up. The stage is on the Boardwalk before thousands–no, wait–zillions of people, as well as the Wonder Wheel and the Parachute Jump. You’ve got to be in it to win it, and July 15 is the deadline to apply for the July 25 show.

Coney Island Talent Show

Coney Island Talent Show 2014. 3rd place winner of Creative kids 9-12 years old, Elana Caceres. Photo © Robin Souma

So far, Jen has gotten more adults and older kids and “could use a little push for the little ones,” she says. In past years, the talent show has presented singers, musicians, dancers, comedians, magicians, ventriloquists and snake charmers, among others. Here are a few photos of last year’s winners in the Creative Kids, 9-12 Category. Last year, Tori Famularo won first place in the her age group for her rendition of The Girl in 14G. To apply to perform in the show, visit coneyislandtalentshow.com.

Troi Famularo

Tori Famularo singing The Girl in 14G in the 2014 Coney Island Talent Show. Photo © Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Related posts on ATZ…

June 16, 2015: Coney Island Businesses Racing to Open by Mermaid Parade Day Now Aiming for July

May 21, 2015: Coney Island Fireworks 2015: Every Friday Plus 8 Saturdays Including July 4

April 20, 2015: Art of the Day: “Greetings from Coney Island” Blends Past & Present

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

Arancini Bros

Arancini Bros. Rice Balls now available during Brooklyn Cyclones games at MCU Park. Photo via Arancini Bros.

Italian street food is popping up this summer in Coney Island’s amusement area. Bushwick’s Arancini Bros– whose motto is “We’ve got balls!”– is serving their Sicilian rice balls during Brooklyn Cyclones’ games at MCU Park. On the Bowery at Stillwell, Luzzo’s, which has an old-school pizzeria with a coal-burning oven in the East Village, is making wood-fired pizza from a mobile cart with a tiny oven.

We first tried Arancini Bros basil pesto ball at San Gennaro and went back for seconds, thinking all the while: this would be perfect for Coney Island. The business is owned by David Campaniello and his cousin Giulia Della Gatta, who says of the new Coney Island venture, “Arancini Bros. is honored to bring the best of Brooklyn, for the best of Brooklyn!”

Six varieties are offered at MCU Park, priced at three for $6 or six for $10. There’s Classic Ragu (saffron risotto with tomato meat sauce peace and mozzarella); Bianco Verde (Basil Pesto w Mozzarella); Buffalo Ball (Spicy Chicken with Gorgonzola Cheese); Philly Cheese-Steak (grilled rib-eye, caramelized onions, provolone cheese); Bucatini Fritti (Italian-style mac & cheese) and Nutella (Cinnamon risotto with chocolate hazelnut, rolled in cinnamon sugar).

We only wish they sold the rice balls outside the ball park too!

Luzzo's Pizza

Luzzo’s Pizza Cart on the Bowery at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. July 4, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Luzzo Group headed by Neapolitan pizzaiolo Michele Iuliano operate a quintet of restaurants as well as pizza carts in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Their cart in Coney Island debuted over the July 4th weekend and is set to stay the summer, according to its manager Anisa. Luzzo’s is located on Thor Equities property on the Bowery, across from the Brooklyn Nets Shop and the yet-to-open Wahlburgers, and has a roped-off seating area. The personal-size pizza comes in two varieties: the Margherita, with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella ($6.00), and the Diavola with spicy salami ($8.00). Also on the menu for $2 each are Rice Balls (rice, meat, fresh Mozzarella) and Potato Croquettes.

While new is news and street food is convenient, if you’re looking for an Italian sit-down restaurant in Coney Island, you should keep in mind two of the City’s and the neighborhood’s oldest and most revered: Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana on Neptune Avenue since 1924 and Gargiulo’s on West 15th Street since 1907. As ATZ previously reported, the Russo Brothers, owners of Gargiulo’s, which is Coney Island’s bastion of fine dining, are planning to open a fast food Italian restaurant on the north side of Surf.

Luzzo's Pizza

Seating area at Luzzo’s Pizza Cart on the Bowery at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. July 4, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

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

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

Coney Island Mermaid Parade

2014 Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Photo © Norman Blake. all Rights Reserved

Happy Mermaid Day! Today is the 33rd Annual Mermaid Parade produced by non-profit arts org Coney Island USA. America’s largest art parade is worth the trip from anywhere. If you plan to march as a mermaid or other sea creature, or simply watch it from the curb or the boardwalk, we recommend getting here early, say 11:00am. To avoid traffic jams, take the D, F, N or Q train to Stillwell Avenue and leave your car at home unless it’s one of the vintage cars in the Parade.

The Mermaid Parade starts rolling down Surf Avenue at 1:00pm, but parade-goers can also take photos in the staging area on West 21st Street from 10:30am till 12:30pm, for a fee of $20. Check out our post from last year, Fave Spots to Photograph Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade (ATZ, June 19, 2014).

Although the Mermaid Parade is free to watch, it costs a lot of clams to produce, say the folks at Coney Island USA, who are trying a new method of fundraising this year. Fans of the Parade are being asked to text MERMAID to 91999 and make a donation. Everyone who makes a text donation of $20 or more on the day of the Parade will be entered into a raffle for 5 pairs of tickets to one of several Off Broadway shows.

There will be no Mermaid Ball this year due to lack of a suitable venue. Make your own after-party by patronizing Coney Island USA’s Sideshow and Freak Bar, and the Coney Island businesses sponsoring the Parade including Luna Park, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island Brewing Company, Coney Island Smorgasburg, Dona Zita, Eldorado Bumper Cars, Gyro Corner, Paul’s Daughter, Peggy O’Neills, Ruby’s Bar and Williams Candy Shop.

Related posts on ATZ…

June 18, 2015: Photo Album: Making Mulch & Chainsaw Art from Recycled NYC Trees in Coney Island

May 11, 2015: Coney Island Fireworks 2015: Every Friday Plus 8 Saturdays

June 30, 2012: Photo of the Day: Queen Mermaid Annabella Sciorra Opening the Ocean

June 22, 2009: A Judge’s Photo Album of the 2009 Coney Island Mermaid Parade


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 371 other followers

%d bloggers like this: