Posts Tagged ‘Marie Roberts’

The Longest Friday of the Year by Jim McDonnell

Ray Valenz and Betty Bloomerz of the Coney Island Sideshow ride the Thunderbolt in this still from Jim McDonnell’s The Longest Friday of the Year

The 15th Annual Coney Island Film Festival kicks off tonight, September 18, with a doc about burlesque duo Trixie Little and The Evil Hate Monkey and an opening night party featuring live sideshow, burlesque and an open bar. This year’s selections include over 100 films in 16 programs, wrapping up on Sunday evening with a roster of Coney-centric films and a Coney Island style awards ceremony at the famed “Bump Your Ass Off” Eldorado Bumper Cars.

Several films screening at the film fest were made by or are about ATZ friends and acquaintances. We asked them to share behind the scenes anecdotes about the making of their films.

Jim McDonnell

Still from Jim McDonnell’s The Longest Friday of the Year

Photographer and videographer Jim McDonnell is following up his 2014 “Made in Coney Island” winning short doc “Thunderbolt” with a documentary feature “The Longest Friday of the Year” (Program 16, Sunday, 6pm). The Friday of the title is June 19, 2015, the first weekend and the first fireworks show of summer and the eve of the Mermaid Parade.

It was my goal to show a day in the life of Coney Island from and give a glimpse into the lives of some of the people that work in the amusement district. There were 11 different people that shot footage for me that I staggered over the course of the day, and that’s not including myself. We shot from 4:30 in the morning until 1:15 the next morning.

Despite only being a one day shoot – it was the largest and most ambitious production I’ve ever done. Some of my cinematographers were Coney greats including Bruce Handy, Eddie Mark, Lloyd Handwerker, Kenny Lombardi and Raymond Adams (just to name a few).

I conducted a total of 22 interviews/conversations but only used 18. Some of the interviewees are DJ Vourderis from the Wonder Wheel; Ray Valenz, Betty Bloomerz and Patrick Wall from Coney Island USA; Louis Beard from Eldorado; and Fernando Velasquez from Luna Park. I really wanted to emphasize the diversity of the community.

This Side of Dreamland by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

Still from This Side of Dreamland, a documentary portrait of banner painter Marie Roberts by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

“This Side of Dreamland” by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick (Program 16, Sunday, 6pm) is about Coney Island artist Marie Roberts, whose sideshow banners have emblazoned Coney Island USA’s building since 1997. Lester A. Roberts, Marie’s uncle, was a talker extraordinaire with the Dreamland Circus Sideshow in the 1920s.

I think they looked at a bit of Coney Island through me. I started a painting on camera (which I cursed myself no end for doing, it was the Kavadlo Brothers painting, and I had to use a photo) and I worked over that thing a lot. Patrick’s eye was sensitive, he got my arm painting, which was really the important thing in the shot.

I think they got me, and the culture of the place, the amusement part anyway, and that they did an incredible job in less than ideal situations. They even got the animals. There is a scene in my yard with the Dreamland animals graves and Hyjinx from CIUSA (all buried there). Momma cat appears, Patrick put some animated cats in which I am not wild about but he is.

As the story goes, Lester came back from his traveling sideshow and left the snake and monkey at the house. My father took care of them. Have photo of him and monkey. She died because the house was drafty and she caught a cold. They are buried in the yard along with Hyjinx and my Floyd and Bessie cats. Graves were not marked but my father pointed them out many times. There are flowering bushes there now.

This Side of Dreamland by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

Still from This Side of Dreamland a documentary portrait of banner painter Marie Roberts by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

In previous years at the Coney Island Film festival, Lou Dembrow has shown short docs about John Dorman of Philips Candy of Coney Island, which moved to Staten Island, and Jimmy Prince, who retired from Mermaid Avenue’s Major Market. In 2012, her film about the Wonder Wheel won Best Documentary Short. This year’s entry is “Deno’s 2007, A Kaleidoscope View” (Program 16, Sunday, 6pm).

A kaleidoscope is a cylinder with mirrors that creates a colorful pattern, due to the reflection of beads or pebbles, off the mirrors. I used the ‘mirror’ filter in imovie to create the kaleidoscope effect and edited the film in Final Cut,” says Dembrow. These images from the movie demonstrate the kaleidoscope effect.


Still of Airplane Ride from Deno’s 2007, A Kaleidoscope View by Lou Dembrow

Painter Marc Kehoe, for whom Coney Island has been an inspiration for more than 25 years, is also a film school alum who has two films in Program 2, Saturday, 2pm.

“When” is a film noir set in the near future of a large coastal city- after the climate and environment have radically changed, causing rising waters to engulf the city at unpredictable intervals. Our guide through this disturbingly upended society is the Narrator, an operative who works for The Control an agency or a person that/who maintains order in the city-or what is left of it. The Narrator recalls his own version of what daily existence was before the waters began rising. Love, Art, Freedom & Trust converge during the films climax, in the ruins of what was once the city’s beach resort. It was shot off season in Coney Island, soon after Luna Park was opened. There are shots of the late great AstroTower.

WHEN by Marc Kehoe

WHEN, a film by Marc Kehoe. Program 2, September 19, Coney Island Film Festival

“Ruby’s Last Call,” also by Marc Kehoe, was shot on November 6, 2010. (Luckily, Ruby’s later won a reprieve and a lease.)

“Ruby’s Last Call” records what was touted as the last day of business of Ruby’s Bar and Grill, the venerable Coney institution on the Boardwalk between W 12th Street and Stillwell Avenue. Ruby’s, along with other long-term businesses, was threatened with eviction – at very short notice. The film depicts a celebration/protest featuring Ruby’s daughters Cindy and Melody, patrons and concerned citizens- and music by local bands Sean Kershaw and the New Jack Ramblers. The finale features a poetic surprise.

Ruby's Last Call

Michael Sarrel in Ruby’s Last Call, a film by Marc Kehoe

The Plight Of Cecil is the pilot for Carla Rhodes’ upcoming web series starring Cecil Sinclaire and directed by Ed Hellman. Rhodes, who has been a ventriloquist since she was nine, performs monthly at the Slipper Room with her sidekick Cecil in a show featuring burlesque and vaudeville.

“The Plight Of Cecil” is my opus and my attempt to modernize ventriloquism again and break boundaries as an artist. I used such varied inspiration as I Love Lucy, Shari Lewis, The Marx Brothers, Joe Franklin’s Office (for aesthetic purposes) and my head full of geeky ephemera.

I enjoyed adding little touches like casting my actual pet dove, Pearl Friday as Cecil’s secretary. She changes between a real dove and a puppet dove (for action shots) as a throw-back to early TV. I’m such a geek there is even Morse Code in the episode that spells out a hidden message which no one has noticed or deciphered yet. These are little touches that I always loved seeing in TV/film.

The idea behind the series is Cecil Sinclaire is a vaudeville agent in modern times, and I’m his modern assistant. Potential clients come in and audition with the hopes of being added to Cecil’s roster, and each episode is sponsored by a product. Just like early tv!

Related posts on ATZ…

July 14, 2015: ‘Famous Nathan’ Documentary Gets Theatrical Run, VOD and DVD Release

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

September 27, 2010: Video: The Museum of Wax by Charles Ludlam

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Greetings from Coney Island

Greetings from Coney Island mural on LunaTics Ice Cream building, Surf Avenue near Stillwell. April 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The eye-popping “Greetings from Coney Island” mural on the side of LunaTics Ice Cream building that we wrote about last week as a work-in-progress is finished and already a magnet for tourists and cellphone cameras. Coney Island sign painter Tommy Holiday and former graffiti artist Victor Ving speedily completed the work in just a few days. On Saturday we stopped by to catch the artists’ signing ceremony.

Greetings from Coney Island

Greetings from Coney Island muralists Tommy Holiday and Victor Ving in front of the “N” and the “E,” featuring the Steeplechase Funny Face and Wonder Wheel Park’s Spook-A-Rama Cyclops. April 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Tommy’s Coney creds include painting the cars on the Cyclone roller coaster and signage for Coney Island USA and Wonder Wheel Park. Later this month, Victor and photographer Lisa Beggs are embarking on a year-long “Greetings Tour” of the U.S. to paint vintage postcard inspired murals. You can follow them at @GreetingsTour on twitter and Instagram. Besides the work in Coney Island, “Greetings from…” murals have already been painted in Chinatown, Red Hook in Brooklyn, Jersey City, and Canton, Ohio, in collaboration with local artists.

Greetings from Coney Island

The letter “N” in Tommy Holiday and Victor Ving’s mural features the Cyclone roller coaster. April 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“When I got the wall, I didn’t know what I was going to do, ” Tommy told ATZ. “I wanted it to be historical as well as current.” Each letter of the mural puts a Coney landmark or luminary in the spotlight and is a work of art unto itself. Our favorite is the “E,” an intricate mingling of the Wonder Wheel’s neon sign and the Cyclops from Spook-A-Rama. The Cyclone’s “N” and Luna Park’s “Y” offer a hat tip to the vanished Astroland. The “S” is the landmark Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk, which is currently under renovation. The design is a throwback to the days when it was vacant and tagged by graffiti artists and features the tags of old friends.

Greetings from Coney Island

The letter “S” in Tommy Holiday and Victor Ving’s mural features the landmark Childs building on the Boardwalk. April 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Other letters showcase the Boardwalk, Steeplechase Funny Face, Eldorado Bumper Cars, Parachute Jump, Nathan’s, and the wall’s owners, LunaTic Ice Cream. The artists also paid homage to a Coney Island artist whose public art has endured: Marie Roberts’ sideshow banners adorn Coney Island USA’s landmark building and one of them is the “D” in Coney Island.

Victor Ving @GreetingsTour

Victor Ving signing a corner of the mural, His @GreetingsTour starts on April 28. Photo © Tricia Vita

Let’s hope the mural inspires more property owners to donate wall space. The years since the Coney Island rezoning have not been kind to public art. When the Dreamland Artists Club’s murals and signage debuted in June 2004, Steve Powers told the Times: “A large percentage of them will be up forever.” More than a decade later, only a handful remain including Powers’ “Bump Your Ass Off” signs for the Eldorado and his staircase mural for the Coney Island Museum. Daze’s fish on West 12th Street and Os Gemeos’ mural on Stillwell are badly peeling.

Greetings from Coney Island

Tommy Holiday signing a corner of the mural. April 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

If you want to party with the new “Greetings from Coney Island” mural, the chain-link fenced lot adjacent to it is the former Shore Hotel site owned by Thor Equities and is for lease for $25,000 for the season.

LunaTics Ice Cream

The mural is on the side of LunaTics Ice Cream building at 1224 Surf Ave in Coney Island.

Related posts on ATZ…

June 27, 2013: Photo Album: The Front of the Show at Meadowlands Fair

August 8, 2012: Art of the Day: Madame Twisto by Marie Roberts

June 8, 2012: Art of the Day: Steve Powers New Signs for Coney Island

April 15, 2011: Photo Album: Whimsical Murals Blossom in Coney Island

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Creepshow at the Freakshow

Creepshow at the Freakshow Banner by Marie Roberts, painted in 2004. Photo taken October 27, 2012. © Tricia Vita

Artist Marie Roberts, whose sideshow banners adorn Coney Island USA’s facade, painted this one for Creepshow at the Freakshow in 2004. ATZ snapped this photo last October, but never got to post it or review the play since it was cancelled the very next day due to Superstorm Sandy! This year’s Creepshow, titled “Coney Island Criminals,” is opening this weekend, and Marie’s banner, which survived the storm, is once again in the window on Surf Avenue beckoning passersby to stop and buy tickets.

Written and directed by Dick Zigun, the interactive play takes its inspiration from an episode in the early career of Al Capone. The gangster got his nickname “Scarface” in 1917 after getting slashed at Coney Island’s Harvard Inn where he worked as a bartender/bouncer. More of Marie Roberts art will be seen in the show, including a painting of an Ivy League rowing club and the logo of Yale University’s secret society Skull and Bones, which is beguiling considering that the Harvard Inn was owned by a gang boss known as Frankie Yale and Dick Zigun is a Yale School of Drama grad.

The play also features CIUSA outside talker Scott Baker as Jimmy Durante, who got his start playing piano in Coney Island. Set design is by Kate Dale, the Juilliard prop shop supervisor and veteran “Best Mermaid” who has been the Creepshow’s designer for the past eight years. Since the Harvard Inn burned down long ago and even Seaside Walk, the street it was on, is no more, being in the audience at “Coney Island Criminals” and possibly getting hit in the face with spaghetti or made into the mob is as close as you’ll get to this place.

Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Ave. Corner of Surf Avenue and West 12th Street, Coney Island. Creepshow at the Freakshow runs from October 11 through Halloween. Check website for days and showtimes. Tickets are $15 in advance or at the door.


Related posts on ATZ…

October 4, 2013: Art of the Day: John Dunivant’s Bizarre Midway

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

June 27, 2013: Photo Album: The Front of the Show at Meadowlands Fair

August 6, 2012: Art of the Day: Madame Twisto by Marie Roberts

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THRILLS. Copyright Philomena Marano

“Thrills,” a group show featuring Coney Island and carnival-themed photography and art opens today at Smart Clothes Gallery on the Lower East Side. The artists are Lawrence Berzon, Charles Denson, Jane Dickson, Richard Eagan, Hazel Hankin, Marc Kehoe, Philomena Marano, and Marie Roberts. The reception is tonight from 6-9pm and the show runs through July 28th.


Thunderbolt. Photo copyright Hazel Hankin

Photographer Charles Denson is the author of “Coney Island: Lost and Found” and director of the Coney Island History Project. Artists Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano founded the Coney Island Hysterical Society in the 1980s. Coney Island has also been a longtime source of inspiration for painter Marc Kehoe and photographer Hazel Hankin, who have exhibited with CIHS. Marie Roberts is artist-in-residence at Coney Island USA, where she paints the banners for Sideshows by the Seashore and the Mermaid Parade.

“Thrills” at Smart Clothes Gallery, 154 Stanton Street, New York, NY 10002. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 12:00 pm – 6:30 pm. Phone 212-627-3276.

Coney Island

Critical Blue © Charles Denson


Related posts on ATZ…

August 6, 2012: Art of the Day: Madame Twisto by Marie Roberts

March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Philomena Marano of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Richard Eagan of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

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Fire Eater Sideshow Banner

Fire Eater Sideshow Banner © Marie Roberts. Photo by AmusingtheZillion.com

If you happen to be in Chelsea, stop by Blue Mountain Gallery to see this lovely fire eater sideshow banner by Marie Roberts, though you have to know where to look. Along with two smaller banners, the former advertisement for the Coney Island Circus Sideshow hangs on the back wall adjacent to the desk. It’s an extra added attraction to the main exhibition “Occupied and Unwelcome,” a collaboration by Deborah Stern (Tucson, Arizona) and Marie Roberts (Brooklyn, NY) that merges the landscapes of Zuccotti Park with the Sonoran Desert. The show is on view through October 27th.

Blue Mountain Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10001. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-6pm. Phone 718-486-4730.


Related posts on ATZ...

October 10, 2012: Up for Auction: Sideshow & Magic Banners by Fred Johnson

October 4, 2012: Art of the Day: Coney Island Hysterical Society

August 21, 2012: Art of the Day: Out of Disorder (Coney Island) by Takahiro Iwasaki

August 6, 2012: Art of the Day: Madame Twisto by Marie Roberts

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Banner painter Marie Roberts in her Studio at Coney Island USA. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Banner painter Marie Roberts in her Studio at Coney Island USA. January 1, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

This weekend, five of our artist friends who live, work or find their inspiration in Coney Island are opening their studios for the Brooklyn Museum’s “GO! Brooklyn” event. The crowd-curated art project asks visitors to register online, “check in” at least five studios in person and vote for three of them. The ten artists who win the most votes will have a shot at being in a group exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. With over 1,700 artists from 45 Brooklyn nabes participating, creating an itinerary is half the fun. To browse the studios and register, visit the project’s website. The open studio weekend is on September 8 and 9, 2012, from 11am until 7pm.

Let our portraits of the People’s Playground’s truly unusual and talented artists be your guide to “Go! Coney Island.”

Marie Roberts is a third-generation Coney Islander who grew up going to Steeplechase Park and listening to her family’s reminiscences of Dreamland. A professor of art at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Marie found her métier painting the vibrantly colorful banners advertising the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. You can view her work 365 days a year on the CIUSA Building at Surf Avenue and 12th Street. Her studio is located on the second floor of the landmark building.

ATZ first met sculptor, painter and performance artist Daniel Blake aka Africasso in 2007 when he exhibited his sculptural mashup of historic Coney Island rides at the Coney Island History Project. The lifelong Coney Island resident will be showing his giraffe sculptures at Marie’s studio this weekend. Marie Roberts, Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11224

Daniel Blake

Africasso’s Art Guitar, Daniel Blake AKA Africasso. June 8, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Coney Island resident Takeshi Yamada’s Neptune Avenue studio is his Museum of World Wonders. Among the Osaka-born artist’s curious creations are Fiji mermaids, two-headed babies, a dog-headed spider and other sideshow gaff art. The Grand Champion of Taxidermy at the Secret Science Club’s 2006 Carnivorous Nights shows his work in a variety of venues, from traditional art galleries and museums to midway sideshows. The portrait of Takeshi and his freak baby show was taken at Dreamland, the amusement park set up on the former Astroland site in 2009. One of Coney’s most recognizable eccentrics, Takeshi is frequently seen and photographed clad in a black tuxedo strolling the Boardwalk with his sea rabbit Seara, a taxidermied wonder with webbed feet and a mermaid’s tail. Takeshi Yamada’s Museum of World Wonders, 1405 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11224

Artist Takeshi Yamada's Freak Baby Show in Coney Island's Dreamland, Summer 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Artist Takeshi Yamada’s Freak Baby Show in Coney Island’s Dreamland, July 12, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Brooklyn artists Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano co-founded the Coney Island Hysterical Society in 1981 because they were “Hysterical” at the rate that the amusement rides and attractions were shutting down. Joined by like-minded artists and friends the group restored and operated a Spookhouse behind Nathan’s and created an homage to souvenir cut out photo boards. Thirty years later, Eagan and Marano continue to make art “dedicated to keeping the spirit of Coney Island alive” (CIHS motto) in their Gowanus studio.

Richard Eagan AKA Kay Sera with Oceanic Baths at Coney Island Hysterical Society Studio in Gowanus. October 2, 2010. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

These portraits were taken in 2010, when ATZ visited Coney Island Hysterical Society’s studio on the Gowanus Artists Studio Tour. “The short hop to combining the Coney work with the exploding architecture was a no-brainer once I accepted that the Coney Island of my childhood was imploding, burning, and would never return,” Eagan said of “Oceanic Baths,” which is not an actual Coney Island place name.

Bensonhurst native Philomena Marano is known for her bold and colorful cut paper collages and prints of Coney’s amusement rides and signs. The Wonder Wheel, the Cyclone, and Parachute Jump as well as shooting galleries and bumper cars are all part of her iconography. Faber’s Fascination, which went dark in 2010, inspired the cut paper piece “Play Fascination” in the portrait.

Coney Island Hysterical Society, 62 18th Street, 3rd floor, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Philomena Marano

Philomena Marano with ‘Play Fascination’ at Coney Island Hysterical Society Studio in Gowanus. October 2, 2010. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr


Related posts on ATZ...

August 6, 2012: Art of the Day: Madame Twisto by Marie Roberts

December 7, 2010: Art of the Day: Freak Taxidermy Skull by Takeshi Yamada

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Richard Eagan of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Philomena Marano of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

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Madame Twisto Sideshow

Madame Twisto Sideshow Banner © Marie Roberts. Photo by AmusingtheZillion.com

Artist Marie Roberts is a third-generation Coney Islander who has been painting the banners that emblazon the facade of Coney Island USA’s headquarters since 1997. Madame Twisto, the name bestowed on the girl who contorts herself inside the bladebox, was Marie Roberts’ very first sideshow banner. Countless Madame Twistos have graced the sideshow stage since the banner was painted. Honestly, we were surprised and delighted to see it again. Having first met Marie in 1999, the banner seems like an old friend.

This early canvas is one of dozens of the artist’s works from the past 15 years on view at the Art Room in Bay Ridge. At the opening reception on Saturday night, banners trumpeting the 2000 Mermaid Parade and Coney Island sideshow stars Insectavora, Scott Baker, Donny Vomit and the Black Scorpion mingled with a miniature banner line and recent paintings on Japanese paper. All of the work is for sale and may be viewed by appointment through August 24. You may also commission a banner portrait for your home, office, or stage persona. The Art Room will be open for Friday night’s Summer Stroll on August 10 and 17 from 6pm- 10pm.

The Art Room, 8710 Third Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11209. Phone 347-560-6572. Email theartroomnyc@gmail.com


Related posts on ATZ…

May 18, 2011: New Coney Island Freak Show Banners Pay Homage to Past

May 11, 2010: 21st Century Bars: Coney Island’s Freak Bar Featured in New Book

January 25, 2010: March 14-17: Coney Island Sideshow Banner Painting School with Marie Roberts

December 2, 2009: Dec 12-13: Open Studio with Coney Island Artist & Banner Painter Marie Roberts

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