Archive for August, 2011

Brooklyn-born silent screen star Clara Bow was known as “The Brooklyn Bonfire” and “The ‘IT’ Girl.” What is IT? “Self-confidence and indifference as to whether you are pleasing or not and something in you that gives the impression that you are not at all cold,” explained Elinor Glyn, whose novel was the basis for the 1927 film “IT” that made Clara Bow a sex symbol.

In this scene from the film, Bow is a shop girl who goes on a first date with her boss to Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park. It’s fun to watch old-fashioned “date rides” like the Human Roulette Wheel and the Barrel of Love help them get acquainted. When the couple try the slide, “Mr. Waltham” jauntily wraps his legs around her and she asks him to hold her tight. But when he drives her home and tries to kiss her goodnight, she slaps his face and says “So you’re one of those minute men. The minute you know a girl, you think you can kiss her!”

Our favorite real-life quote from Clara Bow: “I’m a curiosity in Hollywood. I’m a big freak, because I’m myself!” And here’s a delicious bit of trivia from Matt Kennedy, the longtime executive secretary of the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce, who was born in 1905, the same year as Clara Bowtinelli: As a teenager, the future IT Girl sliced hot dog rolls for Nathan’s!


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Playing Flipper Parade at Silver Ball Museum Arcade and Pinball Hall of Fame, Asbury Park Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita

Back in May, I visited Asbury Park on assignment for Games Magazine to write a feature on the Silver Ball Museum Arcade and Pinball Hall of Fame. This year-round mecca for pinball wizards and wannabes is a great day trip via NJ Transit from Penn Station. A $20 wristband lets you play all day. Silver Ball is quite a playground, with 200 lovingly restored machines from the electromechanical wonders of the 1930s and ’40s up to the solid state electronic games of today. The little boy in the photo is playing Gottlieb’s Flipper Parade, a 1961 add-a-ball game featuring pop bumpers, slingshots, gobble holes and an animated cannon that fires a ball when a free shot is made. My article on Silver Ball and other places where you can play vintage pinball year round is published in the October 2011 issue of Games (on sale through September 12).


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Across the street from the Coney Island Cyclone. August 6, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

This surreal window display is across the street from the Coney Island Cyclone. Located on the north side of Surf Avenue, where the original Luna Park was in business until 1944, the shop is sandwiched between furniture stores that are forever having going out of business sales. If the days of furniture stores named after amusement parks (Luna Park, Astroland) are numbered, it’s because bars and restaurants are blossoming down the block. The flower shop’s window unexpectedly conjures up memories of set pieces from Coney’s vanished wax museums and historical shows, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever see such amusements again on the north side of Surf.


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