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.


Related posts on ATZ…

April 10, 2012: Up for Auction: Collection of Carnival Knockdown Dolls

September 28, 2011: Rare & Vintage: Auction of French Fairground Art

March 9, 2011: Inexhaustible Cows & Bottomless Cups of Chocolate Milk

December 19, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Original Coney Island Motordrome Bike

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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


Related posts on ATZ…

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.


Related posts on ATZ...

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

Read Full Post »

Brooklyn Half Marathon

After the Half Marathon, Stillwell and Surf, Coney Island. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Nope, this is not the warm up for Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, though it’s the same corner. Stillwell Avenue was a sea of runners after Saturday’s Brooklyn Half Marathon, which is turning into a huge crowd-pleaser for Coney Island. New York Road Runners called it “The Race to the World’s Most Famous Hot Dog.”

More than 14,000 runners finished out of the 15,000 who registered, compared to last year’s tally of just under 6,000. The reconfigured 13.1 mile course took them through Grand Army Plaza, around Prospect Park, down Ocean Parkway, and along the Coney Island Boardwalk to a finish line just shy of the Scream Zone.

Our favorite tweet about the Brooklyn Half came from the venerable New York Athletic Club:

If that other borough’s half marathon, the one that starts in Central Park and ends at South Street Seaport, got two hours of live television coverage for the first time this year, why not Brooklyn’s? Here’s photographer Bruce Handy’s slide show of the race, from the construction of the finish line outside Ruby’s Bar to the runners arriving in Coney Island and sprinting past the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel to victory.


Related posts on ATZ…

March 29, 2012: Photo Album: Looking Back at Coney Island’s Opening Day

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

June 16, 2011: Last Chance to See Mermaid Parade Before It Turns 30!

Jan 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

Read Full Post »

Clam Bar

Clam Bar: Original Signage Restored and Set to Return to Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island. © Paul’s Daughter

On Saturday, May 19, you’ll find us in Coney Island enjoying the first plate of clams and a beer at Paul’s Daughter and raising the first toast of the season at Ruby’s Bar. After attending several “Last Call” protest parties at Ruby’s and lingering over more than one “Last French Fry” at Paul’s, there’s no place we’d rather be. The two Mom & Pops will open for the 2012 season this weekend after months of renovations and missing Coney Island’s Opening Day on April 1st. Both businesses were required to do gut rehabs of their Boardwalk establishments after dodging eviction and winning eight-year leases from Zamperla, the landlord of the City-owned Boardwalk

Paul's Daughter

Paul’s Daughter on Last Night of Business in 2011. October 30, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

“It took time to be that iconic and it’s going to take time to put some of it back,” Paul’s daughter Tina Georgoulakos told ATZ about the work in progress at her store. The family business was co-founded 50 years ago by her father Paul Georgoulakos, now 83, and Gregory Bitetzakis on the Coney Island Boardwalk as Gregory & Paul’s. Saturday will be the soft opening of the new Paul’s Daughter, with the grand opening scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend. Some work remains to be done in the kitchen, which will be finished and inspected next week. This weekend’s bill of fare will be limited to clams on the half-shell, Brooklyn craft beer and soda. “It’s a brand new place with the same people,” said Tina.

Coney Island Signage

Lollypops, Crackerjacks and French Fries: Original Signage Restored and Set to Return to Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island. © Paul’s Daughter

While the new lighted signs and striped awnings mandated for the Boardwalk stores have yet to go up at Ruby’s or Paul’s, the good news is that some of the quirky vernacular signage that gave both places such character will return after all! At Paul’s Daughter, the original signs will be be put up on Monday or Tuesday, said Tina, who sent us these photos of a few of the restored signs. Back in November, when lease negotiations were in progress, it was heartbreaking to see the cavalcade of beloved characters and foods torn from their home on the Boardwalk building’s facade: Mr Shrimp, Chiefito and Chiefita (the Nice N Sweet/Fluffy Cotton Candy Kids), Shish Kebab (“Made with Love”) and other enticements. Some of the signage has been here since the restaurant’s earliest days and was meticulously restored a couple of years ago.

The rendering for the new store released in November showed the spruced up Burger statues on the roof (where they have remained throughout this saga) and what appeared to be new hand-painted signs in the spirit of the original along the bottom. At the time Tina told us she doubted whether the age and fragile condition of the signs would allow her to return them to the building’s exterior. The happy solution was to have the thin metal signs mounted on a wood backing.

Coney Island Sign

Cold Beers Sodas: Original Signage Restored and Set to Return to Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island. © Paul’s Daughter

The announcement of Ruby’s Saturday opening was posted on their Facebook page yesterday: “WHEW! After months of construction….Ruby’s will be open Tomorrow!!! Look forward to seeing everyone.” The bar, newly trimmed with ipe wood salvaged from the Boardwalk redo, will be open, of course. The menu, still a work in progress, will include hot dogs, hamburgers and knishes. French fries are yet to come.

As we previously reported, the vernacular signage touting Hot Corn, Fried Shrimp and Shish-Ka-Bob have survived and are alive and on the inside at Ruby’s Bar and Grill. The charmingly hand-painted food and lettering surrounding the grill got a touch up and has been trimmed with recycled wood from the Boardwalk. The plastic tabletops have also been replaced with Boardwalk wood. See you there!

Ruby's Bar Coney Island

Last Call Protest Party at Ruby’s Bar, Coney Island Boardwalk, November 6, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr


Related posts on ATZ...

May 22, 2012: Photo Album: Welcome Back, Paul’s Daughter & Ruby’s Bar!

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

November 13, 2011: The End of Paul’s Daughter As We Know It–Will They Return?

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

Read Full Post »

Pinto Bros. Pony Cart

Pinto Bros. Pony Cart, Image Courtesy of Cowan’s Auctions, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio

This charming cast iron pony and wood cart manufactured in Coney Island, New York, by the Pinto Brothers is up for auction on May 19 at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati. Two bids have already been placed online via liveauctioneers. The Pinto Brothers were kiddie ride manufacturers in Coney Island during the 1940s and ’50s. Like their better known contemporary William F Mangels, who also manufactured a popular pony cart ride, the Pinto family had a factory on West 8th Street. Pinto rides turn up less frequently than Mangels, which makes this piece of Coney Island memorabilia desirable despite– or perhaps because of?– its condition: “Unrestored, horse repainted, paint loss to cart, wooden slats of cart damaged with age.”

The owner found the piece at an antique mall in Lexington, Kentucky, where its name plate and Coney Island provenance went unnoticed: Pinto Bros Mfg. Amusement Devices, Coney Island, NY, USA. Among the kiddie rides that they manufactured and advertised for sale were a carousel, ferris wheel, rocket, roller coaster, miniature trains, sail boats, fire engine and pony carts.

Pinto Bros Nov 1951

In June 1948, the Billboard reported that Pinto Bros three new kiddie pony and cart rides built in their shop at 2940 West 8th Street were featured at Feltman’s park, in McCullough’s lot adjoining the Dangler on West 15th and Surf, and in Asbury Park. The brothers Albert and Silvio, along with their cousin Henry and father Silvio Sr., also operated a variety of other rides in Coney Island, including a Mangels Whip, a Scrambler, and the Tornado roller coaster and Spook House.

When the widening of the street for the New York Aquarium construction swallowed up their shop in 1954, they continued to manufacture ride parts for customers and operate rides. In 1959, the Pinto family bought the Cyclone roller coaster, which they operated before selling it to the City a decade later. According to a post with reminiscences of the Pinto Brothers on the Coney Island History Project’s blog “Ask Mr. Coney Island,” a pony and cart was restored at the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio.

UPDATE May 21, 2012:

The price realized for the Pinto Bros. Pony Cart was $470.00.

Pinto Bros Nameplate

Pinto Bros Mfg of Coney Island, New York Manufacturers Plate on Pony Cart Ride, Image courtesy of Cowan’s Auctions, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio


Related posts on ATZ…

February 22, 2012: Rare & Vintage: 1930s Tin Litho Bumper Car Wind-Up Toy

December 19, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Original Coney Island Motordrome Bike

February 25, 2010: Happy Belated Birthday to Coney Island’s William F Mangels

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

Read Full Post »

ohn 'Cha Cha' Ciarcia's Funny Face Logo, Coney Island

ohn ‘Cha Cha’ Ciarcia’s Funny Face Logo, Coney Island

The official name of the new amusement park set to open on Thor Equities Stillwell lot in Coney Island is Cha Cha’s Steeplechase – The Fun Place Amusement Park, according to an announcement yesterday by restaurant and club owner John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia. His Club Atlantis, which was evicted from the Boardwalk at the end of last season, is making a comeback on Stillwell, too. Given that signs briefly appeared on the lot with a Tilyouesque Funny Face resembling Cha Cha heralding the return of his Club Atlantis, perhaps we should have seen this branding campaign coming when we wrote “Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello Steeplechase Park”(ATZ, March 5, 2012).

Funny Face

All smiles–The ‘funny face’ Steeplechase caricature, 1951. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection.

George C. Tilyou’s “Funny Face,” variations of which are used to promote a slew of Coney Island products and businesses today, was original to his Steeplechase Park (1897-1964) and inspired New Jersey’s “Tillie.” The world-famous park was billed as “The Funny Place, Where 10,000 People Laugh at One Time.” Word on the street is that the new Steeplechase Park’s ride tickets will be emblazoned with the Coney Island Cha Cha logo. The lot was leased to the BK Festival for last summer’s flea market and this season’s combination of amusement rides, games and food, along with a smaller selection of merchandise vendors.

There will also be a Cha Cha’s Kiddie Park and Cha Cha’s Side Show Park on Thor’s Surf Avenue lots and Cha Cha’s outdoor Club Atlantis Bar on Stillwell. His former Boardwalk location, which is now leased to Tom’s Restaurant of Prospect Heights, was the site of the original Club Atlantis. The return of Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis and an outdoor bar resembling Beer Island marks the return of all of the bar and restaurant owners who were part of the “Coney Island Boardwalk 8” evicted by Zamperla. It comes at a time that both Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter, who were offered leases after the initial evictions, are getting their renovated Boardwalk spaces ready to open on Memorial Day Weekend. Gyro Corner Clam Bar has a location at 12th Street and the Bowery. Steve’s Grill House moved to Thor’s Surf Avenue lot at Henderson Walk.

Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria in the former Surf N Turf Grill debuted on Easter Sunday. The Surf Avenue spot will have its grand opening on May 19 with special guest host Vincent Pastore of “The Sopranos” and a live performance by Killer Joe and the Mighty Lido Soul Quartet. Full press release below.

Cha Cha's

Cha Cha’s Surf Avenue Bar and Grill, Coney Island



Long time Coney Island personality John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia , who many know from his role on The Sopranos and his co-hosting of The Wiseguys Show on Sirius Radio, is back better than ever this year, just in time for the kick-off of the summer season, with several different businesses and amusement park lots, after being unceremoniously “booted” off the boardwalk last year in the very public rent/lease dispute with the giant Zamperla USA Corporation, which also affected several other longtime Coney Island business owners.

John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia and actor friend Tony Danza will preside over the official launch ceremony/press conference on Thursday, May 24th at 12 noon to announce the official grand opening of the new Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria (at 1315 Surf Ave.), the exclusive world debut of new amusement park ride The MegaWhirl, which was just developed and is the only one of its kind in the world, Cha Cha’s Steeplechase – The Fun Place Amusement Park, Cha Cha’s Kiddie Park and Cha Cha’s Side Show Park (3 parks in total), along with Cha Cha’s outdoor Club Atlantis Bar……all located along Stillwell Ave. between Surf Ave. and the boardwalk.

All these businesses combined now give John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia more business space and amusement park lot space than any other one business owner in Coney Island.

As part of the official launch ceremony/press conference on Thursday, May 24th at 12 noon, the exclusive new MegaWhirl ride, the first one of its kind in the world, is making its debut at the family friendly Cha Cha’s Steeplechase – The Fun Place Amusement Park, which has about eight rides in all, presented in association with BK Festivals. The MegaWhirl, a large flat ride, combines elements of the classic Whip with the Tilt-a-Whirl, and was developed jointly by Jonathan Gordon of Gordon Rides, LLC and Jeff Novotny of Larson International, Inc.” Gordon created the MegaWhirl as “a family thrill for kids, their parents, and everyone in between.”

All three parks……Cha Cha’s Steeplechase – The Fun Place Amusement Park, Cha Cha’s Kiddie Park and Cha Cha’s Side Show Park, along with Cha Cha’s outdoor Club Atlantis Bar (with a full bar) are all accessible from Stillwell Ave or from Surf Ave. Ciarcia wanted his ride parks to reflect the nostalgic, classic feel of the original Coney Island, so he brought in Artie Gillette at Castle Rock Amusements for some classic rides like the Retro-Scooter Bumper Cars, the old classic Himalaya, the Bavarian Fun House, etc.

In preparing for the 2012 summer season, Ciarcia first took over the old Coney Island Surf and Turf Grill on Surf Ave. and completely revamped the large restaurant space, which includes the only brick pizza oven in the Coney Island Boardwalk area, a full bar and has even built a stage for live music performances.

The space is now called Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria (at 1315 Surf Ave.) with a full menu serving brick oven pizza, various seafood dishes, linguini and clam sauce, mussels, Coney Island crab cakes, clams/oysters/shrimp at the raw bar and featuring live music several nights a week & special events. The new space also has an adjoining take-out cafe right next door, serving the brick oven pizza and various gelatos, frozen custard, frozen yogurt and Italian ices. Ciarcia plans to keep Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria open year round after this summer season.

The official Grand Opening Party for Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria will take place on Saturday, May 19th from 7pm on, with special guest host The Sopranos Vincent Pastore and a live performance by Killer Joe and the Mighty Lido Soul Quartet.

Memorial Day Weekend will feature Bobby Valli and the Jersey Boys Revue, doing a “Tribute to The Jersey Boys,” on Saturday, May 26th and Sunday, May 27th, with three shows a night at 8pm, 10pm and midnight. There is a $10 cover charge and a 2-drink minimum, or $25 per person for dinner.

** Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria is at 1315 Surf Ave. in Coney Island. Phone 718-946-1305 for reservations or more information.


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April 7, 2012: Cheers! First Drink at Relocated Cha Cha’s of Coney Island

March 5, 2012: Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello “Steeplechase Park”

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