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Posts Tagged ‘Eldorado’

This weekend, the 13th Annual Coney Island Film Festival will screen 88 films in 16 different programs beginning with Friday’s opening night film and a kickoff party featuring sideshow, burlesque and an open bar. This year’s selections include films starring Coney Island characters past and present—photographer Matt Weber, sideshow talker Scott Baker, sideshow performer Tyler Fleet AKA Tyler Fyre, Coney Island Dancers “Commander in Chief” Rican Vargas and Ruby’s longtime bartender Sammy Rodriguez. There are also films featuring vampire bikers played by veteran actors from ‘The Warriors,” Coney handball champs, Coney strongmen, and Superstorm Sandy. A special late night screening of “The Warriors” is scheduled for Saturday.

Here are ATZ’s top 10 picks for this year’s Coney Island Film Festival. Yes, all of the films on our must-see list happen to be documentary features or shorts! The last three films are part of the popular Coney Island-themed Program 16 that closes the festival on Sunday night.

More Than the Rainbow – Opening Night- Friday, September 20, 7:30pm

Matt Weber’s striking black and white photos of Coney from the 1980’s –The Atlantis, the ruins of Stauch’s Baths, signage for Philip’s Salt Water Taffy, the Cyclops atop Spook-A-Rama — were our first intro to his work. “I’m very nostalgic, I like things from the the 30s, 40s and 50s,” says the New York City cabbie turned street photographer in this clip that follows him and his young daughter around Coney Island. Couples on the beach, a family in front of Nathan’s and daredevils diving from the pier are among his subjects. Directed by Dan Wechsler with cinematography by Arlene Muller, this engaging character study is set to the music of Thelonius Monk. Documentary feature, 83 minutes.

One Wall: Kings of Coney Island – Program 3 – Saturday, September 21, 3:00pm

From September 25-29, the U.S. Handball Association’s National One-Wall Championships will be held at Coney Island’s Seaside Handball Courts at Surf Avenue and West 5th Street as they have for more than 50 years. If the sport were basketball, volleyball or tennis, chances are you’d know about it already and the names of the players would be on the tip of your tongue. As Coney Island-born handball champ Joe Durso says in Joe Glickman’s film, “You need an iconic figure that can capture the public’s interest. There is no future of handball without such a figure.” The film follows Durso and other athletes as they compete for the championship in 2011. You can watch the trailer on Vimeo. Documentary feature, 86 minutes.

Mad Santa – Program 5- Saturday, September 21, 5:00pm

Mad Santa

The Coney Island Sideshow’s longtime outside talker Scott Baker is a trained actor with many stage and film credits, but we had no idea he is also New York City’s #1 department store Santa. This documentary short by Scott Shire follows “Mad Santa” as he brings seasonal cheer to young and old and tells tales from Christmases past. Baker also appears in two other films at this year’s film festival: The documentary short “The Rehearsal” (Program 15 – Sunday, September 22 – 5:15pm) follows Baker’s rehearsal of his new magic act. “Welcome to Madness” is a horror film set in the world of the theater (Program 8 – Saturday, September 21, 2013 – 8:00pm).

Scattered – Program 5 – Saturday, September 21, 5:00pm

Filmmaker Lindsay Lindenbaum uses home movies from her childhood in the 90s to delve into family memoir and discover the true story of her late father. Based on the riveting trailer, it’s clear he liked to take her to amusement parks. The clips show Six Flags and Wildwood in New Jersey, and Disneyworld as well as local fairs and carnivals in the tri-state area, says Lindenbaum. Earlier this year, she successfully raised more than $13,000 on Kickstarter to complete the film. “I started this film in the fall of 2011, soon after my father passed away. After being estranged from him for most of my life, I was left with many questions that I thought would forever be unanswered. As I started putting the pieces of his life together and delved through over 100 hours of his home movies, I began to see his world and understand his story through his own eyes.” Documentary short, 26:28 minutes

The Commander in Chief – Program 11 – Sunday, September 22 – 1:00pm

Commander in Chief

Photographer and videographer Jim McDonnell’s Coney Island Dancing videos compiling a summer’s worth of dance moves have been something to look forward to every September since 2010. ATZ has enjoyed and posted every one of them. Last year, Jim, who works professionally as a footage guru, got the idea to make a documentary feature about Rican Vargas, the founder and “Commander in Chief” of Coney Island Dancers, and his Boardwalk dance parties. With the idea of showing what is takes to get ready for the season, filming began in the fall, just after Sandy, and ended on the first day of summer at the Mermaid Parade. As it turned out, a few weeks after filming ended, Vargas made claims of racism against some members of the community, went into seclusion, and disbanded Coney Island Dancers, leaving many of his followers baffled by his actions. It will be interesting to see what “Commander in Chief” reveals in retrospect about this charismatic and controversial Coney Island character. Documentary Feature, 77 minutes. World Premiere.

Bending Steel – Program 13 – Sunday, September 22 – 3:00pm

“Bending Steel” opened at the Tribeca Film Festival to stellar reviews and is currently on the film festival circuit with upcoming screenings in Calgary, Maine, Kansas and Florida. Dave Carroll’s documentary touched viewers because the introverted Chris Schoeck doesn’t look the part of an old time strongman nor does he have the panache of a sideshow performer. His quest to become both is inspirational. The film follows Schoeck as he attempts to become a professional strongman, from training in his small basement storage unit and getting pointers from a fraternity of strongmen to his first performance onstage in Coney Island.”The sight of this very strong man tackling a moment of complete vulnerability gives ‘Bending Steel,’ however briefly, the hold-your-breath drama of a fine sports film,” said a review in Hollywood Reporter. Before and immediately after the screening, there will be live strongman demonstrations from three of the films stars–Chris Schoeck, Chris Rider and Adam Realman. Documentary feature, 93 minutes.

The Down Home Daredevils – Program 15 – Sunday, September 22, 5:15pm

Lucky Devil Thrillshow Stereovision Photo

The Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow‘s Tyler Fleet aka Tyler Fyre was the outside talker, fire-eater and sword swallower at Coney Island Circus Sideshow from 1998 till 2004. For the past several years he and his wife “Thrill Kill Jill,” snake charmer and sword swallower, have been touring the country in their Airstream. The arrival of two boys – Hank and Duke – has made for some adorable family photos, not to mention the challenge of juggling their sideshow career with parenthood. The documentary by Corcoran College of Art new media photojournalism students Ben Dorger, Jenny Harnish and Emma Scott follows the family from their home in West Virginia to the Hell City Tattoo Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Documentary Short, 12:07, World Premiere.
(Update October 6, 2013… You can watch the short online here.)

Sammy’s 80th Birthday Party at Ruby’s 2007 – Program 16 – Sunday, September 22, 6:00pm

Sammy Lou Dembrow

Sammy Rodriguez came from Puerto Rico and worked as a porter, fry cook and bartender in Coney Island for six decades. The story goes that he had a job at the spot “under the boardwalk” before Ruby Jacobs bought the place and kept him on. As one of my friends says, “He helped create Ruby’s as we know it.” Sam’s birthday is October 1st. When Lou Dembrow shot “Sammy’s 80th Birthday Party at Ruby’s 2007,” old friends came out to meet and greet the beloved bartender, who had already been retired for five years. Dembrow won Best Documentary Short at the 2012 Coney Island Film Festival for her film about the Wonder Wheel. Documentary short, 4:30 minutes, World premiere.

The Storm – Program 16 – Sunday, September 22, 6:00pm

The Storm Charles Denson

Last October, Coney Island historian Charles Denson took dramatic photos and video of the devastation at Sea Gate on the western end of Coney Island the morning after Hurricane Sandy. He rode out the hurricane in Sea Gate where his apartment flooded up to the windows and his car floated away, ultimately destroyed by the storm surge. The film covers preparation for the storm, the surge at Coney Island and Sea Gate, and the storm’s aftermath. In 2009, Denson’s film “The Prince of Mermaid Avenue” was awarded Best Documentary Feature at the 9th Annual Coney Island Film Festival. You can view some of his films and trailers on his Coneyologist channel on YouTube. Documentary short, 20 minutes. World premiere.

Last Ride…First Ride – Program 16 – Sunday, September 22, 6:00pm

Last Ride First Ride Daniel Turkewitz

When Daniel Turkewitz shot footage at the Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade “Last Ride of 2012″ party, it wasn’t clear if the famed attraction would reopen for the 2013 season. The lease renewal was up in the air. Posters advertised “Bump Your Ass Off…The End of an Era” and everyone came out to party one last time. There were sideshow stars and go go dancers on the Skeeball lanes and a raffle of Eldorado merchandise. A few days later, the lease came through but the Eldorado was wrecked by Sandy. The documentary chronicles the last ride of 2012 and Gordon Lee’s struggle to reopen in the spring. After the film, everyone will troop next door to the Eldorado for the Coney Island Film Festival Awards Ceremony followed by a spin on the bumper cars. Documentary short, 13:10 minutes. Brooklyn premiere.

The 13th Annual Coney Island Film Festival, September 20 – 22, 2013, at Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Avenue, Coney Island

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Beyoncé

Beyoncé riding the Coney Island Cyclone. August 29, 2013. Photo via beyonce-legion.com

Thursday morning’s awesome rumor turned out to be true! Woke up to a phone call from a TV reporter asking if we knew anything about Beyoncé shooting a music video on the Coney Island Cyclone today. A few hours later the chatter on twitter was that she was arriving at 4PM. Uh, make that 5.

Beyoncé and her crew conquered the Cyclone roller coaster before moving on to Coney’s legendary “Bump Your Ass Off” Eldorado Auto Skooters and Arcade. A bit later she was surrounded by adoring fans on the Boardwalk. In Wonder Wheel Park, Beyoncé went for a whirl on the landmark Wheel and the classic Spook-A-Rama dark ride with the music video’s director Terry Richardson.

By 9:30PM, they were heading back for another go at Eldorado, where the music part of the video was being shot and no phone calls or photos were allowed, said a friend who was an extra. The famed disco palace of bumper cars was closed all day for the shoot.

The music video is said to be for a new song called “XO,” which is expected to be released in about 3 months.

Beyoncé

Beyoncé and photographer Terry Richardson riding Spook-A-Rama, Coney Island. August 29, 2013. Photo via beyonce-legion.com

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June 10, 2012: Music Video: Sixteen by The Heavy

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January 30, 2011: Music Video: The Clash Overpowered by Funk in Coney Island

January 8, 2011: Music Video: Strange Powers by the Magnetic Fields

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Eldorado Ticket Window with High Water Mark from Sandy, Coney Island. November 5, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

The good news is Eldorado Auto Skooter and Arcade operator Gordon Lee, who bought the equipment from the Fitlin family last year, won a one-year lease from building owner Thor Equities. The bad news is no sooner was the lease signed than Hurricane Sandy barreled through, flooding both the ride and the arcade. The waterlogged arcade machines are believed to be ruined, but will the famed bumper cars ride again? “I can’t make that decision until I have more information,” Gordon told ATZ. He’s hoping that someone with expertise in restoring bumper car rides will come forward to help. “These cars have always been very pampered. They’ve always been indoors. I’m totally lost here. Every car was submerged under water. Salt water is very corrosive to metal.”

After Sandy: Hosing Down the Eldorado Bumper Car Motors, Coney island. November 11, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

On Sunday, the Eldorado’s crew was still cleaning up. Louis was clad in a hazmat suit while Thomas wore a face mask. Some equipment had already been sent out to be tested by a mechanic. Also damaged in the flood was the ride’s polished floor, the awesome sound system and new merchandise emblazoned with the Eldorado’s “Bump Your Ass Off” slogan. Gordon had put a lot of time and money into upgrading the Eldorado at the beginning of the 2012 season. “I’ve done a lot,” he said. “It’s aggravating to have to start over.” When we saw Gordon at a meeting for business owners at Tom’s Restaurant last week, the first thing we asked was if he was going to rebuild. He said that he had a difficult decision ahead of him and made it clear that reinvesting was a big gamble. “What would you do if you had only a one-year lease?”

Our answer was that if was too costly to invest in new bumper cars for one year, we’d stay and build something simple. How about a roller rink, a movie house, or a Dunk the Clown game? Gordon agreed it was an option. Yesterday we checked in to see what he was thinking. “Right now I’m looking for information to try and rebuild the bumper cars. I’m taking it hour by hour,” said Gordon. He was taking his inspiration from Dennis Vourderis of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, who said that’s how they were handling the cleanup at their park. Not day by day, but hour by hour. Says Gordon: “Every hour I’ve got something to do.”

This music video was shot at the Eldorado Auto Skooters in September 2012 by The DoD3.com, an amusement ride enthusiast from New Jersey. “Man, they just don’t run bumper cars like that anymore!” he wrote in his trip report. “It was three bucks to re-ride but I passed; I had thoroughly bumped my ass off.”

UPDATE March 11, 2013:

Great news from Gordon Lee of the Eldorado. The bumper cars, which were completely refurbished over the past few months, are expected to open by Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday!

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November 9, 2012: Update on Coney Island’s Amusement Area After Sandy

March 30, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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Eldorado Auto Skooters

Eldorado Auto Skooters sign by Steve Powers, Surf Avenue in Coney Island. September 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In lieu of one of the presidential debates, let the candidates come to Coney Island and ride the world-renowned Eldorado Bumper Cars! There’d be no equivocating, no need for fact-checking. The slogan here is “Bump Your Ass Off.” We have to thank conservative columnist Derek Hunter for inspiring this wacky idea with his snarky tweet:

Of course, Joe Biden did not come to Coney Island on Sunday. As everyone knows by now, he was photographed at Cruisers Diner in Ohio, winning the biker chick vote while two dudes looked on disapprovingly. The photo cracked us up. Perhaps Coney Island USA should invite Biden and the biker gang to the upcoming Tattoo and Motorcycle Festival? Obama also had an amazing photo op in a Florida pizza parlor on Sunday, where the owner lifted him off his feet in a bear hug. We prefer the pic of him riding the bumper cars with Sasha at the Iowa State Fair in 2007.

Coney Island could use this kind of publicity, especially after Labor Day. When we took these photos last Wednesday, Surf Avenue was a ghost town thanks to rain earlier in the day. Only the Eldorado, Game World and Nathan’s were open. (See comments below for clarification.) As far as we know, the last time a presidential candidate campaigned in Coney Island was on Labor Day 1960, when the GOP candidate for Vice President Henry Cabot Lodge was filmed chomping on hot dogs at Nathan’s. Fifty years is too long between campaign stops.

Eldorado Auto Skooters

Eldorado Auto Skooters Sign by Steve Powers, Surf Avenue in Coney Island. September 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Eldorado Bumper Cars

Eldorado Auto Skooter at Night. April 12, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

Coney Island photographer Eric Kowalsky captured the dazzling theater-style “Eldorado Auto Skooter” marquee on the first night that it was illuminated this season. The beloved disco bumper car ride and sassy “BUMP YOUR ASS OFF!” signs are here for your enjoyment for one more year.

In March, the Buxbaum and Fitlin families, who have operated businesses in Coney Island for more than six decades, sold the building that houses the Eldorado to Thor Equities. Arcade operator Gordon Lee, a longtime provider of arcade machines to Coney Island, is operating the Surf Avenue ride and adjoining arcade for the 2012 season. Hours at the Eldorado are “12 noon till closing.”

Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade, 1216 Surf Avenue, Coney Island

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March 20, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

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Dennys & Eldorado

Denny's Ice Cream & Eldorado Bumper Cars at Night. Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities paid $4.5 million for Coney Island’s Eldorado Building according to the deed recorded on Thursday for the March sale of the property. The recorded buyer is a newly formed foreign limited liability company with Thor Equities listed as the contact. The multi-parcel transaction included the 4,500-square-foot building at 1218 Surf Avenue housing the Bumper Cars and the 6,123-square-foot building at 1215 Bowery where the arcade is located, according to Property Shark. ATZ first reported the sale in “60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado” (ATZ, March 20, 2012).

The price per square foot was $423, which is in line with the most recent comparable sale. Last November, the nonprofit arts organization Coney Island USA bought Denny’s Ice Cream for $1.3 million. The price per square foot was $465.

Neighbors for more than 30 years, the owners of the Eldorado and Denny’s Ice Cream were among the few remaining longtime property owners with businesses in Coney’s amusement zone. The business owners were at the age of retirement and lacking a next generation to step in decided to sell. The Eldorado Disco Palace of Bumper Cars opened in 1973, but the building was purchased by the Fitlin and Buxbaum families in 1971. Denny’s Dennis Corines has owned and operated the ice cream shop, where specialties include pistachio-banana soft serve, since the late ’70s.

Both businesses are expected to continue for at least this season. As ATZ reported last week, Gordon Lee, who operated the Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade for the Fitlins last year, has plans to reopen the business in the coming days for one last year.

On Friday, we watched workers getting Denny’s ready for Coney Island’s Opening Day. CIUSA’s Dick Zigun tweeted, “Just ate the very 1st ice cream of the year at DENNY’S: a big hot fudge Sunday! There goes the diet…”

Zigun tells ATZ: “Since we own an ice cream parlor and have no money to renovate, Denny’s might or might not continue next year. Even once we renovate the building will maintain a 500-square-foot storefront taking up most of Surf Avenue frontage that will always serve light food to street plus lobby inside.”

Denny's Ice Cream

Denny's Ice Cream Getting ready for Coney Island's Opening Day. Now owned by Coney Island USA. March 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

“Some day we can transfer air rights from the landmark Childs Building, match the two-story front of Childs then do a setback with an additional five to seven story tower on top of the base,” Zigun noted. The renderings that he showed last year at a Coney Island presentation at the AIA included a whimsical homage to the Elephant Hotel.

While the rezoning of Coney Island offers property owners the opportunity to increase the FAR –floor to area ratio–of their properties, Joe Sitt of Thor Equities got a big bonus: the controversial rezoning for “hotels” of up to 27 stories on the south side of Surf. One of these parcels is the corner of Surf and Stillwell, where Thor demolished the century-old Henderson Music Hall to build a one-story building that remains vacant. Sitt is expected to tear down the Eldorado building, which dates back to 1928, and the Coney Island Rumor Mill is saying Thor will try to acquire other property on the Bowery.

Nearly three years since the Coney Island Rezoning was approved by the City Council, we’ve seen a few demolitions by Thor but have yet to see any new construction in Coney East that wouldn’t also have been possible before the rezoning. The marquee of the Eldorado and Denny’s signage enliven Surf Avenue and will forever remain in our memories thanks to many people’s photos. Their old school authenticity will be missed in the new Coney Island.

UPDATE April 12, 2012:

Good news! Gordon Lee of Coney’s Eldorado Bumper Cars phoned to say he’s operating the ride today & open for business! The arcade will also open this weekend for the season. Hours at the Eldorado are “12 noon till closing.”

Eldorado Coney Island

Eldorado Auto Skooter. June 29, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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March 20, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

March 12, 2011: Signage: Fresh Crispy Popcorn, Candy Caramel Apples

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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If you’re feeling nostalgic for the Eldorado Auto Skooter and yearn to go for the first ride of the year, this HD video will intensify those feelings. Please be patient and send positive vibes to 1218 Surf Avenue in Coney Island.

On Tuesday we talked again with Gordon Lee, who operated the bumper cars and arcade for the Fitlin family last year. He affirmed that he is preparing to open up within the next couple of weeks. We have faith that Lee can make everything come together so that the famed marquee will light up again for one glorious last season of “Bump, Bump, Bump Your Ass Off” rides before it closes forever.

As ATZ reported last week, Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin and Sandy Fitlin, whose families have operated businesses in Coney Island for more than six decades, sold the building that houses the Eldorado to Thor Equities. Their son Scott Fitlin was the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of bumper cars and his untimely death at the age of 48 left the attraction’s future in question.

“It is with deep regret that I sold Eldorado,” Sheila Fitlin told ATZ. “Due to my advancing age, the fact that I live in Texas, and, of course, Scott’s death, I could no longer continue.” It was a gift to Coney Island and a tribute to his memory that the Eldorado reopened in 2011. We’re hoping for a second gift to Coney Island in 2012.

UPDATE April 12, 2012:

Good news! Gordon Lee of Coney’s Eldorado Bumper Cars phoned to say he’s operating the ride today & open for business! The arcade will also open this weekend for the season. Hours at the Eldorado are “12 noon till closing.”

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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