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Posts Tagged ‘Coney Island USA’

Coney Island signage

Coney Island signage in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park with Luna Park’s Electro Spin, Air Race and Cyclone in background. March 21, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s amusements officially open for the season in just one day–on Palm Sunday! Freebies abound at the People’s Playground for early birds who relish being among the first as well as for casual visitors all day long.

–The first 100 people on line at both the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel will get a free ride. Rides open after the 11am Blessing of the Rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the 11:45am Egg Cream Christening at the Cyclone. For the rest of the day, a ride on the Cyclone, which usually costs $9, will be discounted to $6. At Deno’s, over 200 Coney Island kids from the local Salt and Sea Mission will be treated to free rides, toys and Easter bags. In addition to face-painters and stiltwalkers, Ray Balloons will be on hand to make free balloon animals for visitors and DJ Joe will spin tunes on the Boardwalk.

face-painters, balloon artists, a DJ, and stilt-walkers

–The Coney Island History Project‘s exhibition center, where historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films are on view, offers free admission from 1 till 6pm. Visitors are invited to take free souvenir photos with the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops or an original Steeplechase horse. Next door to the History Project are windows featuring the dancing doll “Miss Coney Island” and the miniature animated rides of “Coney Island Always.” “25 cents to laugh. 25 cents to smile.”

Coney Island Always

Coney Island Always. 25 cents To Laugh and Feel Good. West 12th St, Coney Island. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

–Coney Island USA’s Noisefest is a free event from 2 till 5pm featuring Rock ‘n’ Roll Karaoke with the band Mystical Children and a “Follow the Bouncing Ball Vintage Movie Singalong” by the Museum of Interesting Things.

Rita’s Italian Ice is celebrating the Grand Opening of its Coney Island store by offering free regular size ices to visitors all day Sunday as well as Monday.

The rides at Luna Park, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, 12th Street Amusements and the Eldorado Bumper Cars will continue spinning daily through April 22nd during spring break for New York City’s public schools. For the rest of April and May, the rides will be open weekends until Memorial Day Weekend, when the daily schedule kicks off for the summer.

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

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

March 25, 2013: Photo of the Day: Palms on Palm Sunday in Coney Island

March 28, 2012: Photo Album: Looking Back at Coney Island’s Opening Day

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Coney Island USA Gala.

Coney Island USA Gala, 2012. Photo © Norman Blake

On Saturday, the Coney Island Sideshow, Burlesque at the Beach and an entourage of quirky entertainers take over Webster Hall in Manhattan for Coney Island USA’s Spring Gala. Highlights of the Ides of March party include the mock assassination of Caesar, a Mini-Mermaid Parade, and over 50 performers from go go and burlesque dancers to sideshow sword swallowers and fire eaters. Tickets for the annual fundraiser start at $100. Online ticket sales end Friday, March 14th at 5pm. Tickets at the door at Webster Hall on day of show beginning at 6:30pm.

Coney Island USA Spring Gala 2014, Saturday, March 15th, 7pm – 11pm. Webster Hall, 125 East 11 St, between 3rd and 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

Coney Island USA Gala

Sasha FireGypsy Gaulin at Coney Island USA Gala, 2012. Photo © Norman Blake

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February 19, 2014: Five Coney Island Photographers Whose Work You Should Know

December 31, 2013: Amusing the Zillion’s Coney Island 2013 Year in Review

November 25, 2013: Coney Island Freak Show-Inspired Beer Takes A New Ride

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

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Rsuh Aaron Hicks

Sideshow performer Rush Aaron Hicks. Photo via Facebook

Black history month is over and guess what? There are people who still don’t know blackface is never okay. Last year, it was Brooklyn State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who wore an afro wig and brown makeup to a Purim party, and whose apologies showed his ignorance. Now New York’s sideshow and burlesque community is in a furor over the news that rubber skin man Rush Aaron Hicks did his act in blackface at the Lower East Side’s Palace of Variety, the Slipper Room, on Friday.

Initially, the performer tried to brush off criticism by posting that he did it “at random” and wasn’t racist because he “slept with two black girls this year,” which only made matters worse and provoked a rebuke on the blog Jezebel. Since then, all posts on his Facebook page that are critical of him, including outraged comments as well as friendly advice from members of New York’s sideshow and burlesque world, are being deleted.

Al G Field Minstrels

Circa 1910 Poster for Minstrel and Vaudeville Comedian Nick Hufford. Al G Field Minstrels, Otis Lithograph Co. Library of Congress Collection

What’s next for this young performer? An apology followed by an assignment to read a few books on the history of blackface and minstrelsy and write a report on what he has learned would be in order. James Habacker, artistic director of the Slipper Room, told ATZ:

The Slipper Room has always been a place that has welcomed diversity. Over the years our stage has been graced by people of every ethnicity, sexual orientation, body type, and proclivity. We do not now, nor will we ever have, a policy of telling artists what they can and can’t do in their acts. Rush Hicks made a poor choice in doing blackface. His unfortunate comments after the fact have only served to make matters worse for him. We had a few bookings with him for this spring, which we have cancelled, to give him time to reflect on his actions and their consequences.

Last season, Hicks was in the cast of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow but his scheduled appearance at the organization’s Gala later this month has been cancelled. Coney Island USA artistic director Dick Zigun told ATZ in an email:

Yes I am aware of this sad controversy. Rush is not currently under contract with CIUSA. His questionable performance took place at the Slipper Room and he was in no way there on behalf of CIUSA . He was scheduled to perform with us in a few weeks and that appearance has been cancelled.

No performer has ever appeared on any CIUSA stage in blackface. Whether or not Rush ever appears with us again will depend on his apologies and actions regarding this incident. I will personally be monitoring his personal and performance statements

William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Circa 1899 Poster of Carroll Johnson as himself and in blackface. William H. West’s Big Minstrel Jubilee. Strobridge Litho. Co., Library of Congress Collection

The Brooklyn-based performer was born with vascular Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a condition that gives him hypermobile joints and the ability to stretch his skin in the tradition of classic sideshow acts like The Rubber Skin Man and The Elastic Man. Hicks usually appears in whiteface, as seen in photos on his Facebook page. On Friday night at the Slipper Room, after showing up without a costume and white greasepaint, he decided on the spur-of-the-moment to do his act nude and in black makeup, according to a YouTube video which is now “private.”

Despite the furor on social media, Hicks is not without supporters. One friend recommends that Hicks’ critics should “get so excited about police surveillance, NSA encroachment, violent hate crimes, genetic modification of food, pollution, pay inequality and other things that actually call for 700 comments on a Facebook page and an article in Jezebel and others.” Steve Peluso, who produces a show at Lucky 13 Saloon, thinks the controversy will be good for business. As he says on Facebook:

Congratulations Rush Aaron Hicks. You are doing exactly what any good clown should. Playing the fool to expose the foolishness of others. Plus you got LOADS of FREE advertising for yourself, The Slipper Room and every other venue and performer/producer who works with you. Including me!

Thanks for saving me the expense of a full page layout in the Voice for our shows. I’m one of the few producers who understand that in showbiz Controversy like this is simply… GOLD!

The vintage posters shown above are from the Library of Congress’s collection of more than 175 original lithographs documenting the history of 19th and early 20th century minstrel shows.

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February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

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

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