Archive for July, 2013

Let’s twist again like we did in 2006 with the Pontani Sisters–Angie, Helen and Tara! This fun video with music by Los Straitjackets publicized their Twist Party CD/DVD featuring tunes like “The Mad Scientwist” and “Peppermint Twist” and dance instructions by the go-go-booted Pontanis. The vid was shot on Coney Island Beach and in Astroland, where the sisters and the “Twistin Gorilla” go for a spin on Dante’s Inferno, the Bumper Cars and the Astrotower. Sideshow luminaries Todd Robbins and Dick Zigun play cameo roles.


Related posts on ATZ...

September 13, 2012: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2012 by Jim McDonnell

January 30, 2011: Music Video: The Clash Overpowered by Funk in Coney Island

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

November 30, 2010: Video: The Wanted’s Lose My Mind at Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel Park

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The 4th Annual Coney Island Talent Show is tomorrow, July 27, from 3-8PM. It’s too late to register to perform, but spectating is free. The stage is on the Boardwalk between West 10th and West 12th Streets. Here’s what it looked like last year — once again the talent categories are Creative Kids, Song and Dance, and Circus Freaks and Sideshow Geeks! Produced by Jen Gapay of Thirsty Girl Productions and emceed by The World Famous *BOB*, the Coney Island Talent Show is sponsored by the Alliance for Coney Island.


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September 13, 2012: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2012 by Jim McDonnell

January 26, 2012: Dance Video: Ringmasters Crew in Coney Island

September 6, 2011: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2011 by Jim McDonnell

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

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Cha Cha’s, “Home of Wild Women and Wise Guys” and “Live Entertainment for the Hole Family” is gone from the new Coney Island, but the video “Coney Island Poker Face” lives on! Shot in September 2010 by historian Charles Denson, the video features Cha Cha’s regular Frankie Oil dancing to Lady Gaga’s hit while his pal Johnny Corona cheers him on.

Try typing “Live Entertainment for the Hole family” and Google will ask — Did you mean: “Live entertainment for the whole family”?

Nope, we meant “Hole Family.” The charmingly idiosyncratic spelling on the sign is visible in Denson’s slow pan of the Boardwalk bar and cafe, which also takes in the floral wreath for Cha Cha’s longtime manager John Thomas, who had just died, and the lettering of the doomed Shoot the Freak next door. Was “The Hole Family” a painter’s typo? An inside joke like the sign’s enigmatic “Don’t Sleep”? It definitely caught people’s attention and became a conversation piece.

“HA HA HA! Classic.”— A Guy Walks into 365 Bars

Who is this “Hole Family” you speak of? –PJ Coleman via flickr

“Where else but Brooklyn would you see a sign that offered ‘Live Entertainment For The Hole family.’ Who’s the Hole family? Courtney Love and Frances Bean Cobain?” — MemoriesofBrooklyn.blogspot.com

ATZ uncovered clues to the identity of “the Hole Family” a few years ago, but amid the upheaval over Cha Cha’s Boardwalk bar losing its lease in 2011 and the move to Surf Avenue sans the original sign, we never had a chance to write about it. Cha Cha’s officially closed after SuperStorm Sandy.

Whole Darnd Family

Coney Island, The Whole Darnd Family. circa 1910. Bain News Service

“The Hole Family” is related to the Whole Darnd family, who are pictured visiting Coney Island with their monkeys in this vintage photo, which also happens to be part of the mosaic at the top of this blog. The Darnd family is a polite takeoff on the title of Edwin S Porter’s silent screen hit “The Whole Dam Family and the Family Dog” (1905).

According to one of the many comic postcards and lithos featuring the Dam family– Mr. I.B. Dam, Miss U.B Dam and their relatives — they were the most popular and widely known family in the United States on account of their unfortunate last name. “Too much notoriety” was rumored to have killed the Dam Family. The curious thing is that at 2:36, the animated letters spell out The Hole Dam Family before the last letter, the “W,” finally tumbles into place.


Related posts on ATZ…

December 28, 2012: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island Videos of 2012

December 8, 2012: Sunday Matinee: Princess Rajah’s Chair Dance (1904)

January 18, 2012: Video of the Day: Climbing Coney Island’s Parachute Jump

August 16, 2011: Video of the Day: “IT Girl” Clara Bow in Coney Island

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Bonanza Shooting Gallery

Bonanza Shooting Gallery, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

When we came across this wonderful, old-timey Bonanza Shooting Gallery on the midway at the June 17-July 7 NJ State Fair Meadowlands, our first question was — can we photograph it without triggering all the targets? Vintage Bonanza galleries used photocell sensors activated by a bright light source, usually from the rifles. That’s why there were multiple signs saying “No Photography” at the one in Coney Island’s Astroland, which is by the way up for sale. The attendant at the Bonanza Shooting Gallery at the Meadowlands Fair said, “Take all the pictures you want.” Since their rifles got a redo, they no longer have a problem with the targets going off when folks snap photos.

“The rifle shoots an infrared beam of light instead of flashing light,” Bonanza Gallery owner Matt Gallapoo said in an interview with ATZ. “It feels like a shotgun, but the sound is digital.” The Ohioan, whose family has been in the amusement business since the early 20th century, brings the Bonanza Shooting Gallery to the Orange County Fair in Middletown, NY (July 12-July 28, 2013), Erie County Fair in Hamburg, NY (August 7-18, 2013), New York State Fair (August 22- September 2, 2013), Florida State Fair (February 6-17, 2014) and other big fairs.

Bonanza Shooting Gallery

Bonanza Shooting Gallery, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Manufactured by Taylor Engineering, Bonanza Shooting Galleries first debuted in 1958 and this one was built for his father in 1976. Gallapoo had the family heirloom refurbished in 2010 after acquiring it at a sheriff’s auction where it ended up after having been neglected by an ex-brother-in-law. The largest traveling shooting gallery of its kind has approximately 26 guns and 100 original interactive targets including a piano player and cigar store Indian. The gallery is housed in a 60-foot wide by 32-foot deep tent.

“My mother was born into the business. She was one of the original Otterbacher kids,” says Gallapoo whose family takes credit for pioneering such carnival games as the bottle-up and the softball in the milkcan and giving away live rabbits as prizes in the 1980s. He still has food concessions at some of the spots on their route including the August 23-25 Wine and Walleye Fest in Ashtabula, Ohio, where they will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most portions of fish and chips sold.

Bonanza shooting Gallery

Bonanza Shooting Gallery, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr


Related posts on ATZ…

May 16, 2013: Shooting Gallery Revival in Post-Sandy Coney Island

April 2, 2013: Shoot the Freak Reborn in Coney Island as Shoot the Clown

February 28, 2013: Coney Island Shooting Gallery from 1940s Makes Comeback

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

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Coney Island Photo Tent

Photo Tent on Coney Island Beach, 1890s. Library of Congress

Ever since the 19th century, beachside and sidewalk photo studios have offered tourists a chance to memorialize their visit to Coney Island’s fabled shore. Now sideshow performer and tech genius Fred Kahl is turning the time-honored souvenir photo into a 21st century art form with his 3-D scanning portrait studio. After launching a Kickstarter project to raise $15,000 to fund the venture, Kahl opened the tiny studio in a former fortune teller’s booth at 1208 Surf Avenue next to the Coney Island Sideshow. The Coney Island Scan-A-Rama is open Saturdays from 12 noon till 7:00 PM.

Coney Island Scan-A-Rama

Coney Island Scan-A-Rama, 3-D Portraits by Fred Kahl

“The vision is to create the world’s first affordable 3D printing portrait studio,” Kahl writes on his Kickstarter page. “As a backer, you will get your very own personal 3D action figure or family portrait!” Getting scanned takes only a minute, though one is required to stand very still on a slowly revolving platform as shown in this video. With Kahl’s custom hardware and workflow, printing the 3-D figurine can take 4-7 hours, depending on volume and complexity. Figurines of 2-3 people take longer, he says. Duplicates of the 3-D portraits will be featured in a populated scale model of 1914 Luna Park to be exhibited at Coney Island USA in 2014. Some of the 3-D towers and minarets can be glimpsed in the background of the photo below.

#-d Portriats by Fred Kahl Coney Island Scan-A-Rama, 3-D Portraits by Fred Kahl

“Coney Island has always been the place where cutting edge technology is presented as entertainment. Inventions like the elevator, electric light bulb, hot dog and the rollercoaster found their first audiences here,” says Kahl. “I wanted to update the art of amusement park portraiture for the 21st century. In the past you would have had a caricature drawn, silhouette cut or a photo taken. Well, that technology has barely changed in 100 years… Until now!”

Here’s a time lapse video showing the printing process of the 3D portrait of burlesque performer Kat Mon Dieu at the Coney Island Scan-A-Rama…

The Kickstarter campaign has raised nearly one-third of the $15,000 goal with contributions ranging from $5 to $220, but Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing funding model. The full amount must be pledged by August 8 for the project to be funded. A pledge of $50 will get you a 3-D figurine of one of a dozen Coney Island celebrities. For $60, you’ll receive a 3-D custom portrait of yourself. A group of 2-3 people can get a 3-D portrait for a pledge of $100 or more. “I am also planning to add a new reward this week,” says Kahl. “A model of the Luna Park tower!”

Visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fredini/coney-island-scan-a-rama for more info and updates.

Update: Fred Kahl’s Scan-O-Rama 3D portrait studio will be open most Saturdays from 12-5pm through December 21, 2013 at Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Avenue.

3-D Portraits by Fred Kahl

Coney Island Scan-A-Rama, 3-D Portraits by Fred Kahl


Related posts on ATZ…

June 26, 2013: Thrills: Group Show Featuring Coney Island Photos & Art

June 3, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island’s Indie Game Operators

May 26, 2013: A Portrait of Abe Lincoln on Coney Island’s B&B Carousell

July 13, 2011: Circus Portraits: Photography by Kevin C Downs

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Dragonfly Visits Brooklyn Beach Shop, Coney Island Boardwalk. July 16, 2013. Photo © Maya Haddad Miller/Brooklyn Beach Shop

“We don’t know anything about what the dragonflies do when they get in the vicinity of the city,” says Michael L. May, a professor of entomology at Rutgers University in an article in the New Yorker. Now we do, they like to shop for beach gear in Coney Island.

On Tuesday, we received an email from Maya Haddad Miller of Brooklyn Beach Shop on the Coney Island Boardwalk: “Is this an annual thing? Hundreds of dragonflies show up around the same time each year? When I arrived this morning, it looked like over a hundred of them were swarming the boardwalk. I had a few in the shop from the night before. They fly in and out all day. I had a about five in the shop at the same time. I’m thinking its cause of the heat.”

Is Coney Island on the dragonflies’ migratory path or are they simply coming out to the beach to beat the heat like everyone else? A web search turned up a tweet from last year around this time that said, “Omg Coney Island is swamped with dragonflies – Williamsburg Night at the Cyclones game…” And also led us to Backyard and Beyond’s lovely photos of “Weekend Dragonflies” in Brooklyn Bridge Park two days ago. It’s definitely dragonfly time in Brooklyn

Related Posts on ATZ…

June 17, 2013: Photo of the Day: Paquito the Chihuahua in Coney Island

May 21, 2013: Photo of the Day: Pretty the Coney Island Cat

May 8, 2013: Traveler: The Cats of Rimini’s Italia in Miniatura Park

April 1, 2013: Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption

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Pirate Ship from Surf Avenue, Sept. 7, 2008. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo57 via flickr

Since the July 4th demolition of the Astrotower, the last remnant of Astroland in Luna Park, readers have been asking “What happened to the rest of Astroland’s rides?” and there has been speculation on the Coney Island message board.

Astroland’s rides were taken down and removed from the property by the Albert family at the end of 2008 and the majority were sold to other parks, both in the U.S and abroad. ATZ spoke with Mark Blumenthal, former operations manager of Astroland, who has overseen the sale of the rides. The biggest surprise for readers will be that Neptune’s Water Flume, which was widely assumed to have been scrapped after being disassembled, was sold to a park in South America.

Water flume ticketbooth

Astroland’s last night, water flume ticket booth. September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

The only Astroland ride currently in Coney Island is the Barbieri bumper cars with their psychedelic artwork and rainbow-trimmed pavilion. The ride was refurbished by Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and brought back home to Coney Island in 2012 with new cars added post-Sandy. You can catch a glimpse of the ride in the “I Love New York” TV commercial about New York’s beaches in which Wonder Wheel Park is featured.

Bumper Cars at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. May 15, 2013. Via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park flickr

Here’s a rundown of the Astroland rides new locations, courtesy of Mark Blumenthal. He now manages Adventurer’s Park in Brooklyn, where the Astroland Teacups and Circuit 2000 have found a new home.

Dante’s Inferno, the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Scrambler are still for sale, he says, along with the Bonanza Shooting Gallery, which was next to Gregory & Paul’s on Surf Avenue.


Topspin on Astroland’s Last Night, September 7, 2008. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo57 via flickr

The Topspin relocated to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where it survived Sandy and has since been sold to Deggeller Attractions, a traveling carnival.

The Enterprise at Casino Pier in Seaside Heights also survived Sandy but is not running this year due to damage to the pier.

The Pirate Ship and Breakdancer went to Costa Rica. The Kiddie Coaster is in Australia.

One of the Astroland stars from the Surf Avenue gate is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The 8-foot by 7-and-a-half-foot lighted star will be on display with other space-age icons in the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center after construction is completed.

UPDATE January 20, 2015:

Remember Astroland’s Scrambler? It’s back at home in Coney Island at Deno’s! The Scrambler will be located between the Wonder Wheel and the Barbieri Bumper Cars, which also hail from Astroland and were refurbished and returned in 2012.

Coney Island 2015: Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park Adds Scrambler, ‘Twist & Shout’ Drop Tower

UPDATE January 6, 2014:

BLAST OFF! Today the Coney Island History Project announced: “In late December our proposal for the return of the Astroland Rocket was approved by the City and we’re now planning an extensive exhibit about the rocket and space-themed Coney attractions of the past. Ownership of the historic Rocket will be transferred to the History Project and the Vourderis family will provide a permanent home for it in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.”

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

Astroland Bumper Car Pavilion in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. June 21, 2013. Via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park flickr


Related posts on ATZ…

July 9, 2013: Photo Album: Remembering the Astrotower (1964-2013)

July 3, 2013: Long Live Coney Island’s Swaying, Singing Astrotower!

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

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

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