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).
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