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Archive for May, 2010

Queen of Swords Natasha Versuchka on stage at new Luna Park, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Queen of Swords Natasha Versuchka on stage at new Luna Park, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

On Saturday night in Luna Park, we caught the first sideshow performance of the season on the park’s free stage. Emcee and host Todd Robbins aka “Coney Island Todd” did the blockhead act (hammering a nail up one’s nose) and a bit of fire eating before introducing his guests. As previously reported in “Will Coney Island Host a Trio of Rival Sideshows?” (ATZ, May 17), Robbins has booked sideshow luminaries like Erik “The Lizardman” Sprague and Natasha Veruschka, the world’s only sword swallowing belly-dancer.

Saturday’s show featured MelissaMarie Wilhelm from Cirque-tacular and Queen of Swords Natasha Veruschka. We first wrote about Natasha a decade ago when this modern-day Scheherazade was entertaining high rollers in Las Vegas with a cabaret act torn from the pages of A Thousand and One Nights. “I always looked different from the other belly dancers. I performed differently,” Natasha says. The first time she danced with a balanced sword it felt so natural that the idea of incorporating sword swallowing into her act began to crystallize in her mind.

At Luna Park, Natasha swallowed seven 22-inch swords at once. The medallion around her beautiful throat is inscribed “Guinness World Record.” Her sixth and current Guinness World Record is for swallowing seventeen 22-inch swords at once!

Todd Robbins Performing at Luna Park Preview Event. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Todd Robbins Performing at Luna Park Preview Event. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Other acts on Luna Park’s summer schedule include Chris McDaniel, Champion Bullwhip & Trick Roper; Ravi the Scorpion Mystic, Contortionist; and sideshow legends Johnny Fox and Harley Newman. The free sideshows are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and 10:15 pm, beginning June 11.

Luna Park Coney Island, 1000 Surf Avenue, Coney Island, 718-373-LUNA (5862)

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Related posts on ATZ…

August 31, 2010: Snapshots of the Coney Island Illuscination

August 29, 2010: Video: Grand Prize Winner of Luna Park Coney Island’s Film Contest!

May 19, 2010: Photo of The Day: The Lizardman on Stage in Coney Island

February 22, 2010: Coney Island’s Luna Park Launches Blog Site, Lists Job Openings

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Luna Park's Grand Opening is Saturday, May 29th. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Luna Park's Grand Opening is Saturday, May 29th. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Today at 11 am Coney Island’s new Luna Park opens to the public and will be open all weekend. Don’t miss this historic occasion: It’s the first new amusement park in Coney in four decades! On Friday morning ATZ attended the press event and preview of the park’s attractions. Here are a few photos from our album – you may view the complete flickr set here.

Aerialist at Luna Park's Opening Ceremony.May 28, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Aerialist Melissa Marie at Luna Park's Opening Ceremony.May 28, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Kids from P.S. 100 wearing “I’m the first LUNAtic on earth” T-shirts were the very first New Yorkers to ride the new rides.

Kids from P.S. 100 visit the new Luna Park. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Kids from P.S. 100 visit the new Luna Park. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Kite Glider as well as the Coney Island-themed Lynn’s Trapeze and Coney Island Sound were among the rides operating at yesterday’s preview. The park will have 19 rides, including two roller coasters and two water flumes.

Race to Ride at Coney Island's Luna Park. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Race to Ride at Coney Island's Luna Park. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Look for more photos and commentary tomorrow. We work in Coney Island and are in a bit of a rush to get there to open our booth. Visit the Coney Island Fun Guide online or check out ConeyIsland’s twitterers for detailed info about all of the events and attractions in the People’s Playground. See you soon!

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Related posts on ATZ…

August 29, 2010: Video: Grand Prize Winner of Luna Park Coney Island’s Film Contest!

May 28 2010:You Are Invited to the Opening of Luna Park in Coney Island!

April 14, 2010: Photo Album: Heroic 24/7 Race to Build Coney Island’s New Luna Park

February 22, 2010: Coney Island’s Luna Park Launches Blog Site, Lists Job Openings

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LUNAtics. Photo © Charles Denson

It’s official! The “I’m LUNAtic Campaign” kicked into high gear at today’s opening ceremony of Coney Island’s newest amusement park. Best photo op: Luna Park operator Alberto Zamperla was joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Councilman Domenic Recchia and Coney Island Development Corp President Lynn Kelly for a sitdown on the Electro-Spin aka the Disk’O. Jon Benguiat of the Borough President’s Office, Seth Pinsky and Robert Lieber of the EDC, the Italian Consul, a Ringling Bros. clown and the Wonder Wheel stand behind them.

The new park is a project of Central Amusement International (CAI), which received a 10-year contract to build and operate the park on city-owned land in Coney Island. “Millions of people, here in Brooklyn and around the world, are crazy about Coney Island,” said Valerio Ferrari, president of CAI. “These are the LUNAtics, and come May 29th, we open our gates to them.” Thank you to Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project for providing us with this wonderfully LUNAtic photo.

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Related posts on ATZ…

May 28 2010:You Are Invited to the Opening of Luna Park in Coney Island!

May 8, 2010: Photo of the Day: Iconic Luna Park Logo Rises on Coney Island’s Horizon

April 28, 2010: New Coney Island Coaster Pays Homage to Luna Park’s 1906 Tickler

January 26, 2010: Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!

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Here’s a sneak peak of the new Luna Park’s magnificent entrance on Surf Avenue in Coney Island. The pinwheel and crescent moon design pays homage to the gate of the original 1903 Luna Park. Photographer and Coney Island native Barry Yanowitz happened to be there last night when technicians were testing the lights.

Luna Park! Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

Luna Park! Photo © Barry Yanowitz via flickr

ATZ announces with great pleasure that we’ll be reporting today and all weekend on the grand opening of the new Luna Park, Coney Island’s first new amusement park in four decades. It’s an historic event for Coney Island and we hope zillions of New Yorkers will come out to Coney Island to welcome the newest addition to the People’s Playground.

Media coverage started at 6 am with the CBS morning show reporting live from the Boardwalk. Luna Park’s ribbon cutting ceremony and press event is scheduled for 9:30 am, followed by an invitation-only community event from 4 – 7 pm. The new park opens to the public on Saturday, May 29th at 11 am. See you there!

Invitation to May 28th Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the New Luna Park. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Invitation to May 28th Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the New Luna Park. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

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Related posts on ATZ…

May 8, 2010: Photo of the Day: Iconic Luna Park Logo Rises on Coney Island’s Horizon

April 30, 2010: Can You Identify This Mystery Object at Coney Island’s Luna Park?

April 28, 2010: New Coney Island Coaster Pays Homage to Luna Park’s 1906 Tickler

January 26, 2010: Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!

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Under construction: New Luna Park, Coney Island’s soon-to-be famous gate.  May 22, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Under construction: New Luna Park, Coney Island’s soon-to-be famous gate. May 22, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Construction crews in Coney Island’s new Luna Park continue to work round the clock this weekend. On Saturday, the most exciting photo opportunity was on Surf Avenue at the park’s magnificent gate. Workers from Zamperla and Paul Signs were putting four giant pinwheel and crescent moons into place. Shouts in Italian and Brooklynese rang in the air!

New Luna Park, Coney Island: Pinwheel # 4 being put into place on gate. May 22, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

New Luna Park, Coney Island: Pinwheel # 4 being put into place on gate. May 22, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

It was an all day job. As each pinwheel was hoisted aloft by crane, word would spread of the photo op. Photographers flocked. We ran out from our booth to witness this historic occasion. At 6:30 pm, when the fourth pinwheel was in place, we stood with two other photographers in the middle of Surf Avenue getting shots of the entire gate. The rest of the gate is expected to go up today!

New Luna Park, Coney Island: Pinwheel # 4 being put into place on gate. May 22, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

New Luna Park, Coney Island: Pinwheel # 4 being put into place on gate. May 22, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Here is Zamperla’s rendering of the new park’s Surf Avenue entrance. The design pays homage to the original Luna Park’s 1903 gate...

Rendering of Gate for the New Luna Park

Rendering of Gate for the New Luna Park

Coney Island’s new Luna Park is set to open Memorial Day Weekend. The ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Friday morning in advance of the grand opening on May 29th. In the photo below, the globes are ready to be set atop the pillars.

New Luna Park, Coney Island: Crescent & Globes. May 22, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

New Luna Park, Coney Island: Crescent & Globes. May 22, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Related posts on ATZ…

May 8, 2010: Photo of the Day: Iconic Luna Park Logo Rises on Coney Island’s Horizon

April 30, 2010: Can You Identify This Mystery Object at Coney Island’s Luna Park?

April 28, 2010: New Coney Island Coaster Pays Homage to Luna Park’s 1906 Tickler

January 26, 2010: Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!

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Would you like to win free tickets for the Coney Island circus’s opening weekend show? Skip down to the next graf! First off, we’re thrilled that Ringling Bros. Circus is coming back to Coney Island this summer after last year’s successful run of their Coney Island Boom-A-Ring, which entertained over 160,000 visitors and employed over 300 local residents. In 2009, the Coney Island circus made history by bringing “The Greatest Show On Earth” back under “The Big Top” for the first time since 1954.

The Big Top will be back at the Boardwalk and 15th Street from June 17 through September 6 with an exciting new show. Coney Island Illuscination stars master illusionist David DaVinci, the Kung Fu Kings from China, a trio of Italian clowns and more. ATZ is giving away two Family Four Paks –that’s 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, 4 drinks– donated by the Ringling Circus. The tickets are VIP floor seats (!) good for all ages and are for Sunday, June 20. The winners can choose between the 1 pm or 5 pm performances.

Kung Fu King, Sun Junjie diving through hoops of razor-sharp sabers -- blindfolded! Photo courtesy of Ringling Coney Island

Kung Fu King, Sun Junjie diving through hoops of razor-sharp sabers -- blindfolded! Photo courtesy of Ringling Coney Island

Instead of just picking a couple of names out of a hat, ATZ wanted to make it more interesting for our readers, so we’ve created a Coney Island history trivia contest. All you have to do to be eligible for the drawing for the circus tickets is send us one correct answer to one of the questions. The more correct answers you submit, the more chances you have to win. We’ll post the answers along with source links when the contest is over.

The deadline for submissions is either Thursday, May 27, or when we’re up to our eyeballs in hundreds of correct answers, whichever comes first! We’ll post an update here if it begins to look like the contest will conclude before the 27th. This is our first contest, so we’re winging it. Send your answers via email to hello[AT]triciavita[DOT]com.

Now for the questions….

1. Boyton’s Sea Lion Park, Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, Dreamland, and Astroland are the most famous of Coney Island’s historic amusement parks. Can you tell us the names of any other Coney Island parks from the past and their approximate dates of operation?

2. Tell us the name of a Coney Island attraction that was named after a member of the inventor’s family! Name of inventor and relationship to family member also required!

UPDATE June 5, 2010:

Congrats to our two winners –Bill F. of Old Bethpage, NY, and Jim A. of Smithtown, NY. Enjoy the show! Bill and Jim were among several people who correctly answered question # 2. The answers are revealed in “Ringling Circus Back in Coney Island, Congrats to Trivia Contest Winners!”

Ringling Bros. Big Top in Coney Island, August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Ringling Bros. Big Top in Coney Island, August 15, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ...

August 31, 2010: Snapshots of the Coney Island Illuscination

December 23, 2009: Coney Island School Bus Lot Has Gotta Go! The Circus Is Coming

September 3, 2009: Coney Island Baby: Cyclone, the Mini Donkey at the Ringling Circus

August 20, 2009: Q & A with Coney Island Boom A Ring Circus Star Justin Case

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The Lizardman on Coney Island USA's Bally Stage, August 8, 2009. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

The Lizardman on Coney Island USA's Bally Stage, August 8, 2009. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Save the dates! As we reported on Monday, “The Lizardman” will return to Coney Island this summer to perform in a free stage show at the new Luna Park. “I will be there July 30 and 31 and August 6 and 7,” he tells ATZ. “I’m excited about it even though I don’t really know much yet. It’s just great that there will be another performance venue in Coney that by all I can tell thus far will be putting on great shows and I get to be part of it thanks to my friend Todd Robbins.”

If you missed the Lizardman’s appearance as “Guest Freak” at Coney Island USA last August, you have to see his photo to begin to understand why he is one of the luminaries of the sideshow world. This totally tattooed, self-made freak’s body mods include subdermally implanted horns, fangs and a lizardlike split tongue. “My physical appearance is part of a transformation project I began as an undergraduate working in body based performance art,” writes the Lizardman on his website. His new book Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass documents his transformation.

In addition to his striking looks, the Lizardman performs classic sideshow acts like sword swallowing, fire-eating, and escaping from a straitjacket as well as the weirdest stunt we’ve ever seen: mental flossing with live snakes! We’ll be curious to see if the Lizardman comes up with a lunatic new stunt for Luna Park.

“I’m just happy that reports of Coney Island’s death continue to be greatly exaggerated,” the Lizardman told ATZ. “And I am looking forward to working there again this summer, both at Luna and Sideshows by the Seashore.”

Related posts on ATZ…

May 17, 2010: Will Coney Island Host a Trio of Rival Sideshows in 2010?

May 4, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Major Debert the Tiniest Man’s Sideshow Banner

March 10, 2010: Coney Island Sideshow to Add Girlie Freak Show, Run 7 Days a Week

December 1, 2009: TLC’s Cake Boss Sweet on Marie Roberts’ Coney Island Sideshow Banners

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