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Archive for May, 2012

Carnival Scale

‘Fool the Mad Genius’ Carnival Scale. Image Courtesy of Skinner, Inc. Marlborough, Mass.

In the carnival business, the Fool the Guesser concession used to be known as “Age and Scales” and every midway had one. My mother and her first husband worked it for a spell in the 1940s. They had a sit-down scale similar to the beauty pictured above and for years afterward it remained a fixture in the barn at our winter quarters. “We’d guess their name, age, weight, shoe size, their mother’s name, their husband’s name,” Mom would tell me. “You name it, we guessed it.”

The season that stood out was the time they gave away name-brand, gift-boxed chocolates as prizes and everyone who played won a prize. Mom said they got a truckload for practically nothing because the boxes were cellophane wrapped with best wishes for the holiday, which they carefully removed. Was the holiday Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day? I’d have to go back and check the transcripts of the oral history interviews with Mom. But I clearly remember my mother saying there was nothing wrong with the chocolates. The biggest problem was giving away all of the prizes before they melted in the summer sun!

On June 2nd, Skinner is auctioning this rare example of a vintage carnival scale along with the original hand-painted sign used by the operator. The catalogue description for Lot 134 reads:

“Fool the Mad Genius” Carnival Scale, America, 20th century, wooden tripod stand supporting an oak armchair and 21-in. dia. silvered brass scale marked Frederick C. Allen, Los Angeles and calibrated 0-400 hundred pounds, together with a painted sign where the “Mad Genius” challenges participants that he can guess their weight, their age, how many cigarettes they smoke, number of family members and the age of their car, ht. 102 in.

Saturday’s live auction will be held at Skinner in Marlborough, Mass. Absentee, phone and online bidding are also available on the day of the sale.

UPDATE June 3, 2012:

The price realized for the carnival scale and sign was $4250.00.

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New Coney Island ‘Funny Face’ Mural on Thor Equities Building at Surf and Stillwell. May 28, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Memorial Day Weekend in Coney Island saw the debut of new lights and signage as well as the return of some old favorites. The cute blue-eyed Funny Face pictured above is the first sight visitors will see when they exit Stillwell Terminal. It was painted on Memorial Day afternoon, along with a swath of yellow, on Thor Equities plywood-encased building at Surf and Stillwell. The muralist began work on Sunday, blocking out the words “Coney Island.”

Having complained that while everyone else in Coney Island has been busy painting and beautifying their property in preparation for Memorial Day, Thor has done nothing, ATZ was very happy to see this mural-in-progress. Of course, the generic-looking new building underneath, which was revealed when construction fencing came down in February, still looks like it belongs in a suburban mall. The plywood remains dotted with signs touting “CONEY ISLAND – The RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME – for leasing contact…” As we wrote last May: “Ain’t it just like Joe Sitt to tout retail when Coney Island, the birthplace of the amusement industry, is expecting its best season yet because of the success of Luna Park on land purchased by the City from Thor?”

New Sign for Grimaldi’s Pizzeria on Surf Avenue, Coney Island. May 26, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Grimaldi’s new sign also appeared in time for the holiday weekend, though the pizzeria isn’t open yet. Located on the north side of Surf Avenue next to the Tattoo Shot Lounge, the opening of Grimaldi’s second Brooklyn location in the coming weeks is sure to set off a Best Pizza in Coney Island contest with Neptune Avenue mainstay Totonno’s. The two pizzerias are already longtime rivals for the title of Best Pizza in New York. Grimaldi’s, whose original location is under the Brooklyn Bridge, chose a New York City skyline for their sign.

Coney Island Boardwalk

Brooklyn Beach Shop and Scream Zone, Coney Island Boardwalk. May 26, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The new look for the Boardwalk includes lighted custom signs replacing much of the quirky hand-painted signage of recent decades. One of the Boardwalk’s new stores, the Brooklyn Beach Shop, is a shining example of the new Coney Island. Located between the entrance to Scream Zone and Ruby’s Bar, the glass-fronted storefront features custom brickwork and a 6-foot-tall stone Steeplechase face sculpted by Italian artist Mario Ambroselli. The piece de resistance is a classic bare bulb sign in script that says “Beach Shop.” The airy renovated space formerly occupied by Coney Island Souvenir Shop is filled with private label T-shirts and beach gear.

Brooklyn Beach Shop also has roots in the past. The store is owned by Maya Haddad and her father Haim Haddad, who has owned and operated businesses in Coney Island since 1996, starting with Mermaid Horizons at Mermaid and Stillwell Avenues. In 2002, Haim opened Coney Island Beach Shop on Stillwell Avenue behind Nathan’s. They also operate a second Coney Island Beach Shop inside Stillwell Terminal and the new Nathan’s Gift Shop on the Boardwalk.

Coney Island Raceway Sign for New Go Karts. Scream Zone. May 26, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Memorial Day Weekend marked the return of go-karts to Coney Island’s Stillwell Avenue and the debut of a thrilling new ride on the Boardwalk. We snapped this photo of Coney Island Raceway’s new sign on the eve of the go-kart track’s opening day at the expanded Scream Zone. Go Karts were a popular attraction in Coney Island until 2006, when Thor Equities bought the Stillwell Avenue property leased by Batting Range and Go Kart City and evicted them. The second new ride to open this weekend at Scream Zone was the Skycoaster, a high thrill ride combining elements of skydiving and hang-gliding. It is already proving to be as much of a show as a ride with crowds gathering for the vicarious thrill of watching riders soar over the Boardwalk.

Lola Star Gift Shop

Lola Star Gift Shop, Coney Island Boardwalk. May 28, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Lola Star’s fashionably skinny boutique on the Boardwalk is crowned with a dazzling sign designed by the shop’s eponymous owner Lola Star aka Dianna Carlin. ATZ wrote about the sign’s upcoming debut several weeks ago, but this weekend was the first time we saw it illuminated and in action. On the new sign, blinking white lights encircle “Lola Star,” which is pink neon, as well as the 3D clouds and the words “Gift Shop.” Says Lola: “In Phase 2 there is going to be a gigantic disco ball rotating on the roof with a 3D Lola Star on Roller skates standing on the disco ball!” Bravissima!

Wonder Wheel

Deno’s Wonder Wheel cars are newly lit by solar powered panels. May 26, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The solar-powered lights on Deno’s Wonder Wheel debuted on Memorial Day Weekend! In this photo taken from West 12th Street, you can see the jewel-like lights on the corners of the Wheel’s Swinging Cars as well as the Mangels lights around the park’s perimeter and the Wonder Wheel’s vintage neon sign and row of new booths on West 12th Street. Installing solar panels atop the cars is a longtime project of DJ Vourderis, whose family owns the New York City landmark. The goal is to bring back the wheel to the way it originally looked when it opened in 1920. Though the perimeter and spokes of the Wonder Wheel were lit, the cars had been in the dark since the 1980s, when park founder Denos Vourderis removed the lights due to safety concerns over high voltage.

Miss Coney Island

Miss Coney Island and Coney Island Always, West 12th St. May 26, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The dancing mannequin “Miss Coney Island” and the miniature animated rides of “Coney Island Always” got some new lettering over their windows: “Watch Her Dance Until the End of Love.” Along with Skin the Wire and other games, the whimsical windows moved to West 12th Street this year after 14 years on Jones Walk. The new booths look more delightful than ever, but the old overhead signage had to be left behind since the new space couldn’t accommodate them. More new signage is in the works. Miss Coney Island’s motto remains “Don’t Postpone Joy” and it’s still only “25 cents to fall in LOVE.” She occasionally has more to say on twitter!

Mr Shrimp

Mr Shrimp is back at Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. May 26, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

As we reported last week, Paul’s Daughter and Ruby’s Bar opened their renovated stores on the Coney Island Boardwalk. We were happy to see the Mom & Pop businesses bring back some of their quirky old hand-painted signage. The popular favorites Mr. Shrimp, shown above, and Chiefito and Chiefita — the Nice N Sweet/Fluffy Cotton Candy Kids–were among the restored signs returned to the new facade of Paul’s Daughter. At Ruby’s Bar, the hand-painted sign advertising clams and fried shrimp was set out on the Boardwalk amid new tables and chairs. Along with the rest of Coney Island, both stores were packed with visitors over the Memorial Day Weekend. Cheers to a bright and prosperous new season!

Ruby's sign

Ruby’s Seafood Clam Bar Sign, Coney Island Boardwalk. May 26, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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June 25, 2012: New Club Atlantis, MegaWhirl Ride Open in Coney Island

June 15, 2012: Amusing the Zillion’s Guide to Free Summer Events in Coney Island

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

May 19, 2012: Paul’s Daughter & Ruby’s Bar Reopen on Saturday, Restored Signs to Return!

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Paul's Daughter Coney Island

Cheers to the Return of Paul’s Daughter! Coney Island Boardwalk, May 19, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Saturday was a glad day for Coney Island. Tina Georgoulakos, owner of Paul’s Daughter, and her father Paul “The Chief” Georgoulakos, 83, the oldest operator on the Coney Island Boardwalk, finally opened their store for the season. Michael and Melody Sarrel, owners of the venerable dive bar Ruby’s, founded by Melody’s father Ruby Jacobs, officially reopened as well. In the photo that we took of Michael and Melody, they looked tired after working late and getting up early to greet runners from the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Tina Georgoulakos looked tired as well. We promise to take better photos of them next week!

Ruby’s Bar Will Get New Exterior Signage and Striped Awnings. May 19, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

For the first time in their history, both Ruby’s and Paul’s missed out on Coney Island’s Opening Day –Palm Sunday– as well as Easter Sunday, which is one of the busiest days of the season if the sun shines. They were in the midst of a grueling and expensive gut rehab of their Boardwalk stores. Words can’t express how happy we are to welcome back these feisty Mom & Pops, who fought eviction and in a turnabout won eight-year leases. Now that the days of “Last Call” protest parties and photos of the “The Last French Fry” are over, another chapter in the history of the Coney Island Boardwalk is about to begin.

Ruby's Coney Island

Original Handpainted signage at Ruby’s Bar, Coney Island Boardwalk, May 19, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

How do the new stores look? Check out our first day photo album, but keep in mind Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter are still very much works in progress and some of the changes that you will notice this summer were required by Boardwalk landlord Zamperla or city regulations. Most of the signage, inside and out, and other decorative elements has yet to be done. We’d recommend holding off any critique of the Boardwalk redo until all of the stores are finished and the changes can be viewed in their entirety. That said, our first impression was Ruby’s and Paul’s stores looked refreshed and ready to compete for customers in the new Coney Island while paying tribute to the spirit of the past and continuing to embody the personalities of their owners.

Paul's Daughter Coney Island

A Work In Progress: The New Paul’s Daughter on the Coney Island Boardwalk. May 19, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

At Paul’s Daughter, the winsome fiberglass figures of Papa and Mama Burger still stand sentinel on the roof. They never left. Half of the storefront is now a stand-up bar made with wood salvaged from the roof joists of the former Club Atlantis/Cha Cha’s, which is undergoing a gut rehab by Tom’s Restaurant of Prospect Heights.

Today, the vernacular signage depicting Mr Shrimp, Chiefito and Chiefita (the Nice N Sweet/Fluffy Cotton Candy Kids), Shish Kebab (“Made with Love”) and other enticements was returned to its rightful place on the building’s lower facade. Some of the signs have been here since the restaurant’s earliest days and were restored and mounted on wood. A temporary banner with the name Paul’s Daughter as well as striped blue awnings were also installed today.

Paul's Daughter Coney Island

Bar at Paul’s Daughter Made from Recycled Wood from Club Atlantis. Coney Island Boardwalk, May 19, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

As Tina Georgoulakos told ATZ: “It’s a brand new place with the same people.” Gaby, seen in the photo at the top of this post, is one of the same people who has been serving us French fries and beer for years, and we were happy to once again see him behind the counter. We asked him to raise a cup in a pose reminiscent of a favorite photo that we took at Paul’s closing party in 2010.

The photograph on the wall behind him is a 1954 snapshot of Paul Georgoulakos in his store on West 12 Street and the Bowery. The business on the Boardwalk is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year! Gregory & Paul’s was co-founded by Paul and his partner Gregory Bitetzakis in 1962, with a lease from the then brand-new Astroland, which closed in 2008 and also would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

Ruby's Coney Island

Behind the Bar at Ruby’s, May 19, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

At Ruby’s Bar, an LED sign spelling Ruby’s in red letters and the striped awnings mandated for the Boardwalk stores have yet to go up, but friends and fans came out on Saturday to raise a toast to the reborn bar. Formica tabletops as well as the bar itself were redone with ipe wood salvaged from the Boardwalk reconstruction. On the Boardwalk in front of the bar, white plastic tables and chairs have been replaced by wrought iron. The best of the best vintage photos will be put back up behind the bar, but for now the freshly painted blue wall is dotted with a few colorful posters and photos of the bar’s founder.

Ruby Jacobs, who died in 2000, has a nearby street named in his honor. At a rally, party and “last call” at Ruby’s in 2010, his daughter Cindy Jacobs-Allman said: “When people used to come and ask him what is the best item on the menu. He used to take people out to the boardwalk rail and say look at that tapestry of humanity. It’s the people that make Coney island and he called his Coney the elixir of life. And I hope in some way we’ve given back to the community and we’ve done my father proud by keeping this restaurant going as long as we have.”

Ruby's Bar

Tabletops made from salvaged Boardwalk wood at Ruby’s Bar, Coney Island Boardwalk, May 19, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Saturday, a paper plate advertised the menu of hot dogs, hamburgers and soda. Today in Coney Island, signage with the full menu was being installed. Ruby’s, which merited a Critics’ Picks in New York Magazine and was voted one of the World’s 21 Sexiest Beach Bars by the Travel Channel, will now be open year-round, thanks to a new heating system. The restrooms have also been modernized, with the ladies room gaining a much appreciated second stall.

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May 19, 2012: Paul’s Daughter & Ruby’s Bar Reopen on Saturday, Restored Signs to Return!

April 16, 2012: Art of the Day: Fresh Corn on the Cob at Ruby’s Bar & Grill

December 8, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Signs 8-Year Lease for Coney Island Boardwalk

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

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