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Archive for May, 2011

Target

Target the Cat, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Nobody makes calling in customers look easier than Target, the world-famous Coney Island Cat. All he has to do is sit in his spot on the counter of Jimmy’s Balloon Dart. Some girls can’t walk by without stopping to pet him and ask his name. Next thing you know they’re busting balloons and winning prizes.

When Target the Cat is not working, he likes to patrol the Bowery or hang out across the way at Deno’s Super Shot. Of course, Target and his owner, Manny Cohen of Coney Island Arcade, plan to ride the Wonder Wheel at the Coney Island park’s first annual Pet Day on June 11. The cat declined to enter the pet costume contest though. “He’s natural, ” Manny says.

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Notice

Notice to All Park Users... May 23, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

“Notice to All Park Users…Effective May 23, 2011, smoking will not be allowed within the park. Thank you for your cooperation.” This solitary warning posted in a vitrine at the Parks Department’s restrooms on the Coney Island Boardwalk has been up for quite a few weeks. The citywide smoking ban at parks, beaches and plazas went into effect on Monday and the beach officially opens this weekend. The Wall Street Journal reported that Parks is in the process of putting up thousands of permanent signs and launching a media campaign to alert people to the new law.

If the ban is enforced, we expect to see smokers step off the Boardwalk onto the sidewalks of West 10th and 12th Streets just to have a cigarette. We also expect to see some interesting pix of people having a surreptitious smoke in Coney Island this summer, despite the ban.

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Strange Girls

John Strong's Strange Girls Sideshow at Cha Cha's of Coney Island. May 21, 2011 Photo © Diana Taft Shumate

Cha Cha’s Club on the Coney Island Boardwalk is already a sideshow and we mean that as a compliment. On Saturday, the longtime home of wild women and wise guys welcomed John Strong’s sideshow aka the “Strangest Show on Earth.” Starting this weekend, Cha Cha’s will feature a troupe of Strange Girls, including a totally tattooed leopard woman.

Around 5:30 on Saturday, John Strong and his crew were seen raising a couple of gorgeous banners on the rooftop of the club, which is adjacent to Scream Zone’s Boardwalk entrance. The banners tout a beautiful girl with the body of a snake, a double-bodied girl and other female freaks. As old-pro sideshow banner painter G.M.Caldwell famously proclaimed: “It’s the front of the show that gets the dough.”

Once the banners were flying, a girl with a Burmese albino python draped round her neck stood on John Strong’s ticketbox while the showman brought out another snake. The bally began. Cha Cha’s has hosted the Squidling Brothers and other sideshows as late night entertainment, but as far we know this is the first time they’ve had a bally out front, which is a time-honored way for sideshows to gather potential customers. Patrons paid $2.00, the price of a child’s ticket, to see the show.

John Strong

John Strong's Strange Girls Sideshow at Cha Cha's of Coney Island. May 21, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

The Strange Girls and Giantess banners were last flown in Coney Island in “Dreamland,” a temporary assemblage of amusements brought by Thor Equities to the former Astroland site in 2009. But Joe Sitt shut down the amusements and John Strong, whose Texas- based sideshow tours the carnival and fair circuit, has been trying to make a Coney Island comeback ever since.

Strong’s “World’s Finest Shows” with its 150-foot “world’s largest bannerline,” is currently playing Kings County Fair with Reithoffer’s carnival. The fair is at Aviator Sports in Marine Park through May 30. Strong is also eyeing two additional locations in Coney Island for his museum and freak animal show: 1109 Surf Ave near Jones Walk and another spot on 12th St. and the Bowery. The 12th Street location is the former site of the Coney Island Arcade, which was destroyed by a fire and is currently being demolished. We’ve heard of at least two other parties hoping to rent the site for rides and/or games, so Strong may have to make do with two locations in Coney island.

Last May, Strong’s on-again, off-again deal to lease the Grashorn Building, Coney’s oldest, from Joe Sitt fell through and he made a deal to set up on the north side of Surf Avenue across from the Cyclone. ATZ contemplated the possibility of Coney Island hosting a trio of rival sideshows in 2010, but it was not to be. Will Coney Island host a multiplicity of sideshows this season? The more the merrier school of thought is that a concentration of sideshow talent is good publicity for Coney Island.

Update, May 31…

Cha Cha’s stint as a sideshow with a Boardwalk bally was officially over on Saturday night. John Strong’s sideshow can now be found at the 1109 Surf Avenue location near Jones Walk. From the F train on Sunday afternoon, I could see he’d already gathered a crowd. Having the sideshow bally and ticketbox out front at Cha Cha’s drew onlookers, but Cha Cha’s bar lost business. People didn’t realize you could walk past the talker and just have a drink at the bar. Or they’d buy a ticket for the show, but not a drink. Now if you go to Cha Cha’s, there’s live music with a $5 cover which includes one drink.

Update, June 5th…

John Strong’s freak animal show, including live as well as mummified and pickled specimens, is set up at the corner of West 12th and Bowery, on the site of the now-demolished Coney Island Arcade. Both shows left Coney Island on June 12th and are on the state and county fair circuit.

John Strong

John Strong's Strange Girls Sideshow at Cha Cha's of Coney Island. May 21, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

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