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Archive for December, 2015

Coney Islan New Year's Eve

Ringing in the New Year in Coney Island with the Parachute Jump’s dazzling display of 8000 LEDs and fireworks shot off from the beach. January 1, 2015. Photo © Jim McDonnell via Coney Island Fun

For the first time in decades, Coney Island will offer a glittering array of parties on New Year’s Eve and for the first time in the winter, weather permitting, a trio of major rides –The Wonder Wheel, B&B Carousell and Thunderbolt roller coaster–will be awhirl. These additions to Coney’s entertainment calendar coincide with the trailblazing New Year’s Eve celebration started last year by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and now in its second year.

On New Year’s Day, the annual Polar Bear Plunge into the not quite as icy as usual Atlantic-the water temp was only 51 on Christmas Day- is likely to draw more participants than ever, and will be accompanied by the traditional parties at Ruby’s Bar and Peggy O’Neill’s and the first spin of 2016 on Deno’s Wonder Wheel and the Eldorado Bumper Cars.

Deno's Wonder Wheel

Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be open on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for the first time in the ride’s 95 year history. Photo © Jim McDonnell

The fun begins this New Year’s Eve at 9:00pm with music and giveaways at Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, the Parachute Jump, located on the boardwalk just west of 16th Street. After performances by Coney Island USA’s Circus Sideshow, you can ring in the New Year watching the Parachute Jump’s dazzling display of 8000 LEDs featuring a digital “ball drop” at midnight and fireworks shot off from the beach. The free, family friendly celebration is sponsored by the Borough President along with Coney Island’s City Councilman Mark Treyger and the Alliance for Coney Island.

Kicking off the countdown to its 100th anniversary in 2020, Deno’s Wonder Wheel will spin for the first-time in its 95-year history on New Year’s, including free rides on New Year’s Eve from 9:00-11:00pm. The antique B&B Carousell, which until about 15 years ago was open year round, and the new Thunderbolt roller coaster will spin on New Year’s Eve for free from 8:00-11:00pm. Abe Stark, an indoor skating rink on the Boardwalk, will offer free ice skating from 7:00-11:00pm. There will be free parking at MCU parking lot.

Thunderbolt Luna Park NYC

Luna Park’s Thunderbolt roller coaster and B&B Carousell will be open on New Year’s eve for free rides from 8-11pm. Photo via Luna Park NYC

Among the Coney Island venues holding ticketed events on New Year’s Eve are Eldorado Auto Skooters, Coney Island USA, Coney Island Brewery and Gargiulo’s.

Eldorado Auto Skooters (1216 Surf Avenue) will host Studio 54 DJ Nicky Siano’s Last New Year’s Eve Disco Extravaganza with singers Rochelle Fleming, Melba Moore and D.C. LaRue performing their hits from the disco era of the ’70s. “We will be dancing on the floor, not riding,” says the invite. The Eldorado is home to a one-of-a-kind sound system built by Paradise Garage and Studio 54’s Richard Long. “Our sound is extremely powerful yet very easy to listen to, it doesn’t hurt the ear,” as Eldorado’s Scott Fitlin told ATZ in an interview before he died in 2010. “Our bass is tremendous, and I play dance music, the sound that has energy and life, and POSITIVITY!” (10:00pm – 6:00am; $75 in advance, $150 at the door, includes drinks and food. The arcade’s Skeeballs, Basketballs, and a couple of video games and cranes will be available to play.)

Nicky Siano

Banner for DJ Nicky Siano’s Last New Year’s Eve Disco Extravaganza at Eldorado. Photo via Nicky Siano

Popular arts organization and Mermaid Parade producer Coney Island USA (1208 Surf Avenue) is having its first-ever “How Cool Is This New Year’s Party.” Entertainment includes “New Year’s Eve in Heaven,” a performance art collaboration featuring Dick Zigun as Father Time vs Eckszooberante as Baby New Year; a rock and roll themed laser show; a hike to the Parachute Jump to see the ball drop; and the first performance of 2016 by the Coney Island Circus Sideshow at 1:00am (Doors open at 8:00 with half-price beer and wine till midnight for all ticket holders, at the Freak Bar. $40 in advance, $50 at the door)

The Coney Island Brewery (1904 Surf Avenue) is throwing a Coney Brew Year’s Party at their new brewery, with unlimited craft beer from eight taps and food catered by Gargiulo’s. The outdoor beer garden will be heated so guests can step outside to see the Parachute Jump’s light show and the fireworks. (9:00pm – 12:00am, brewery open till 2:00am. Tickets are $77.87 via eventbrite.)

Coney Island USA Ray Valenz

Coney Island USA Fire Breather Ray Valenz performing at last year’s New Year’s Eve Celebration in Coney Island. Photo © Norman Blake

Having served classic Neapolitan cuisine since 1907, Gargiulo’s Restaurant (2911 West 15th Street) is a veteran when it comes to New Year’s Eve parties that are elegant and old school. “Champagne all Night” is at the top of the menu, followed by Cocktail Extravaganza, dining and dancing to live music, party hats and noisemakers, and “Gargiulo’s Special Venetian Hour.” (7:30pm – 2:00am, $200 per person, tax, gratuity and valet parking included.)

A number of local bars and eateries will be open for New Year’s Eve with their regular menus and offering extended hours. Tom’s Coney Island, the Boardwalk outpost of the Prospect Park eatery, which has a full bar, will be serving till at least 12:30am. The original Nathan’s Famous on Surf Avenue will be open till 1:00am, as will Wahlburger’s, the celebrity eatery across the street. Surf Avenue restaurants with bars keeping later hours–till at least 1:00am include Peggy O’Neill’s (1904 Surf Avenue), Footprints (1521 Surf Avenue) and Applebee’s (1217 Surf Avenue), which is offering a free champagne toast at midnight. Grimaldi’s Pizzeria (1215 Surf Avenue) is open for a prix fixe dinner of pizza, appetizer, drinks and a glass of champagne for $30 per person. All will be open again for New Year’s Day.

Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge

Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge, January 1, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

if you plan to join the annual January 1st Polar Bear Plunge, it is at 1:00pm sharp, with on-site registration from 10:00am, the same hour when Ruby’s Bar opens for libations on New Year’s Day. Did you know the Bears’ hugely popular swim is also a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families can enjoy a summer vacation? You can save time with online registration and make a suggested $20 pledge for this year’s Plunge or help teams like The Ice Warriors, Never Too Cold for the Bold, and the Empire Strikes Coney meet their fundraising goals. Last year, the club raised over $70,000 for the camp and hopes to exceed that amount this year.

On January 1st, the New York Aquarium is offering free admission to all registered Polar Bear Plungers with a wristband (10:00am-4:30pm). It will cost $5 to ride the Wonder Wheel, which will be open from 11am to 2pm, and is donating 50% of the proceeds to the Polar Bear Club’s fundraiser for Camp Sunshine. The Coney Island History Project will have interviewers at the Wheel recording New Year’s messages for their Oral History Project.

On West 12th Street, “Miss Coney Island,” the legendary dancing doll whose twin mottoes are “25¢ to Fall in Love” and “Don’t Postpone Joy,” will be open on New Year’s Day, along with the animated amusement park “Coney Island Always” (25 cents). Also on New Year’s Day, the Eldorado Auto Skooter will be open for the first ride of 2016 ($7.00 per ride) and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow will be performing from 2:00pm-6:00pm ($10 for adults, $5 for kids).

A look at last year’s Parachute Jump light show and fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Coney Island via a video by dutchmazz…

Related posts on ATZ…

January 5, 2016: Coney Island New Year’s by the Numbers: 28K Visitors, Nearly $90K Raised for Charity

December 25, 2015: Holiday Videos of Parks & Attractions Around the World

December 11, 2015: Dance with Miss Coney Island on New Year’s Day

November 2, 2015: Coney Island Polar Bears Get Shout-Out from Mayor in Winter Tourism Campaign

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Merry Christmas from Amusing the Zillion! Here’s our holiday compilation of videos showing seasonal celebrations at parks and attractions around the world. Among the wonderful and sometimes wacky gems are the Christmas Parade at Seoul’s Lotte World, the world’s largest indoor theme park; a choral group singing while riding a roller coaster at Sweden’s Liseberg; and the mermaids at Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs trimming their underwater tree.

The Mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Spring Hills, Florida, is presented daily, including Christmas. This year’s “Elf on a Shelf” music video was created by Merstar​ and Andrew Brusso.

The underwater entertainment at South Korea’s COEX Aquarium currently features Scuba Santa delivering presents to the fish.

Last week, Christmas came early to the San Diego Zoo. Polar bears Kalluk, Chinook, and Tatqiq got a gift of snow – 26 tons of it! The surprise snow was made possible by donors who contributed to the animal care wish list on the San Diego Zoo website, sandiegozoo.org. The bears, who came to the zoo as orphans, rolled around in the fresh powder and wrestled with each other all morning long. “This was a special day for the polar bears, and I could tell they really loved it,” said Susan Purtell, senior keeper, San Diego Zoo. “It was great seeing them roll around in the snow, showcasing their natural behaviors.”

In Pennsylvania, Kennywood’s annual Holiday Lights celebration, which concludes this weekend, includes a spin on the park’s 1926 Dentzel carousel. YouTube user 20th century Wurlitzer recorded the ride’s band organ, a 1916 Wurltizer #153, which is considered the oldest of its kind, playing Christmas music. Here’s “If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas,” which is appropriate considering the warm temps in the Northeast.

One of the most popular feast days in Sweden leading up to Christmas is St. Lucia’s Day, when celebrants wear white garments and a wreath of candles and there are processions galore. This year, Hellmans Drengar, known as Sweden’s bravest men’s choir, probably broke the record for the world’s fastest St. Lucia procession. Their approach was a novel one: singing Lucia songs at 56 miles per hour, on the Balder roller coaster at Gothenberg’s Liseberg Park.

In Scandinavia, it is said that celebrating St. Lucia’s Day will help one thrive during the long winter days with enough light. Christmas at Liseberg runs through December 30.

At Germany’s Europa Park, the Winter Wonderland celebration continues through January 10th. The park is elaborately themed for the winter season, with Yule logs ablaze on ice floes, sleigh rides, parades, and a Christmas Market. The park’s Giant Wheel is dressed in candy cane colors and the Eurosat roller coaster is beribboned in red.

Last but not least, from Walt Disney World in Orlando, here’s a magical time lapse video of the resort’s famed Christmas parade and fireworks.

Related posts on ATZ…

November 30, 2015: ATZ’s Coney Island Holiday Gift Guide for 2015

December 25, 2014: Traveler: Merry Christmas from Mulberry Street

December 22, 2013: Traveler: Christmas Holidays at Parks in Northern Climes

December 18, 2013: Photo Album: Christmas Peddlers in Old New York

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The Sea Beach LineThe MTA’s Sea Beach Line, better known as the N train, now has a fascinating new novel named after it, by Ben Nadler. The Sea Beach Line takes the reader from the Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods of Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach to Manhattan’s Washington Square Park and the Upper East Side.

The book’s narrator Izzy Edel has a mystical bent and is well-versed in Jewish texts, both real and imaginary. After getting kicked out of college for hallucinogenic drug use, he travels to New York in search of his estranged father, who is missing and presumed dead. A postcard with a tattooed mermaid and a letter with a return address in Coney Island lead him to his first clues at a private museum run by a business associate of his father’s. A runaway from a Hasidic sect and her relatives, Uzbek gangsters, and his father’s fellow book vendors are among the novel’s intriguing cast of characters.

ATZ asked novelist Ben Nadler, who lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing at City College and the College of New Rochelle, to fill us in on the backstory of The Sea Beach Line in the following Q & A. You can preview the first chapter for free on the publisher’s website.

Q: In Stillwell Terminal there’s a sign for the Sea Beach Line which I rarely see anywhere else. What is the history of the line and how did it come to be the title of your novel?

A: The Sea Beach Railway was an independent line which went to Coney Island in the 1800s. It was bought by the BRT, but kept its name as The Sea Beach Line. The BRT was bought by the BMT, which, along with other companies, was in turn bought by the city. Eventually, everything was folded together into the MTA. So, The Sea Beach Line is known today as the MTA’s “N” train. But it retains its full name; in addition to the station signs, the words appear in the illuminated signs on the side of N train cars.

There are some crazy articles from around the turn of the twentieth century in the New York Times archives about independent “inspectors” throwing fare evaders off the Sea Beach Line, on the way to Coney. Some people were seriously assaulted, and at least two women actually died, after being run down on the tracks. These stories inspired me to invent the painting by the artist, R. Galuth, which plays a central role in my novel.

More generally, though, I’m really interested in the layering of history in New York. That’s a lot of what the book is about, digging up these layers of history, experience, and meaning. So referring to a common subway line by its historical name, and elevating into a more a mythic place, is very much in line with what the novel is.

Ben Nadler

Ben Nadler

Q: Tell us about your relationship with Southern Brooklyn– Coney Island, Brighton and Sheepshead Bay–all featured prominently in the book–along with Washington Square Park in the Village. Have you lived or worked here? Have any bits and pieces of your personal history turned up in the book?

A: I live in Midwood, Brooklyn, and have lived here over the entire course of writing the novel. This is sort of the very top edge of Southern Brooklyn, but part of the same world in some ways.

I have been fascinated with Coney Island, specifically, since I was very young. Several of my father’s relatives, including his grandmother, lived in the Amalgamated Warbasse Houses when he was a kid. They were Yiddish-speaking union members who moved down from the Lower East Side when the development opened in the ‘60s. My father always imparted to me that Coney Island is a special place. And because it was the location of the older, immigrant generation of his family, it always seemed more connected to the past than other places for me.

I first moved to New York City in 2002, and would often come down to Coney alone or with friends, to walk on the beach and boardwalk at night. In around 2008 I started dating my girlfriend, Oksana, whom I’m still with. She was born in Russia, but grew up in Coney Island, on West 23rd St. Some of her family still lives there. Oksana further introduced me to the broader Coney Island neighborhood to the west of the amusement area, as well as to Brighton to the east.

The Manhattan material has more of a direct connection to my experiences: I was a bookseller on West 4th Street for a few years. I came to New York to study at the New School in the West Village, and ended up working as a bookseller for the last couple years of college, and for a bit after. I don’t think there is anything from my own biography in the plot or the characters, but the accounts of the bookselling business, and the street culture around the park in the early 2000s, are very much a pastiche of my memories and experiences.

Q: The scenes that flash back to 11-year-old Izzy meeting and bonding with his estranged father as they go crabbing on the pier in Coney and make a meal of the catch are masterful. How did you come up with this chapter?

Thanks. This was actually the very first part of the book that I wrote. Everything grew from there.

Basically, a friend and I were spending a lot of time crabbing and fishing on the pier that summer. It was mainly an excuse to make ourselves get up early, ride our bikes down Ocean Parkway at dawn, and drink on the pier in the morning. So the scene started to come together in my mind over successive weeks, sitting on the pier bench, waiting for the tug on the line. The characters were birthed from the setting, to a degree.

Q: The mix of Jewish mysticism and noirish plot drew me in. Can you talk a little about what inspired that combo?

A: Honestly, this wasn’t a planned combination. These are just things I write about.

That being said, I think there are some natural connections between the two elements. Hasidic tales in Eastern Europe were all about taking complex religious and mystical traditions, and bringing them into narratives that could be accessibly shared amongst common people. And noir/ hardboiled/ pulp novels in America were a way of taking the literary form of the novel, and making it into something accessible (in terms of plots, language, and the actual ownership of books) to a wider, and largely working class, audience. So they fit well together. Especially in the streets of Brooklyn.

More than anything though, we are talking about different forms mystery. The search for what’s hidden.

Sea Beach lineQ: Have you written anything else about Coney Island (nonfiction/journalism) or set in Coney Island (fiction)?

A: Yeah, over the years I have done some freelance nonfiction writing about Coney Island for different blogs and publications. My favorite example of this is the article my girlfriend and I wrote about the reconstruction of Steeplechase Pier after Hurricane Sandy.

Several years ago, an editor from Sea Gate tried to start a local Coney Island newspaper. He got a publisher who was supposed to sell ads and fund it, and he hired he me and a photographer to put together some stories. I did a lot of great interviews, and got to meet some awesome people, but then the publisher skipped town, and the paper never got printed.

Coney Island pops up in a lot of my writing. A chapter of my out-of-print first novel, Harvitz, As To War, takes place in Coney Island, in the projects. One of the pieces in a comic book, Line & Hook, which I made with Alyssa Berg and is forthcoming next month from Perfect Wave, is written from the perspective of an old drunk on the Coney Island boardwalk.

Q: You seem very familiar with Coney Island – for example, putting the fictional Galuth Museum on 18th Street, which is one of Coney’s mysterious missing streets. What place in Coney Island, past and/or present, captures your imagination?

A: A missing street is such a great opportunity for a fiction writer. Because it doesn’t exist, I had total freedom to construct my own location. But at the same time, because it’s located between two real places, it was firmly grounded and contextualized in the experiential world.

In Coney Island, like a lot of New York City, the tenements were destroyed in “slum clearance” and replaced with public housing projects. It is debatable if this was the best thing for people or not (or if it could have been a better thing for people if the history of the projects unfolded differently, with more support). In any case, you can’t really talk about life in Coney Island today without talking about life in housing projects. But I am entranced by these disappeared neighborhoods. Throughout the city, there are old neighborhoods buried under NYCHA projects, under expressways, under skyscrapers, under Lincoln Center.

For pure mystery and imagination, though, you can’t beat Dreamland. This was the quintessential Coney Island amusement park, a reified world of fantasy and imagination. It lasted for just seven years before disappearing in flames. When I look at old post card photos of the front gate, with the giant angel statue in the middle, my imagination goes wild.

The Sea Beach Line by Ben Nadler. Fig Tree Books, 2015. Softcover, $15.96.

Related posts on ATZ…

October 25, 2015: Autumn Reading: Novels Starring Circus Mermaids, Coney Island Sideshows, Traveling Shows

December 1, 2014: Autumn Reading: Ward Hall – King of the Sideshow!

November 22, 2014: Autumn Reading: The Brooklyn Theatre Index of Coney Island, Brighton Beach & Manhattan Beach

November 10, 2014: Autumn Reading: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

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Weirs Beach New Hampshire

Neon sign in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire, home to Funspot, the world’s largest arcade. Photo © Tricia Vita


A recent trip to New Hampshire took us to Weirs Beach, a summer resort on Lake Winnepesaukee that is also home to Funspot, named “The World’s Largest Arcade” by Guinness World Records. The indoor fun mecca was founded more than 60 years ago by Bob Lawton, who at 84 years young still runs the place, which is open year-round.

While kids rode coin-op carousel horses and pint-sized bumper cars and families bowled and played the Famous Landmarks of New Hampshire-themed mini-golf in the 75,000 square-foot fun center, we trooped upstairs to meet Hercules, the World’s Largest Pinball Machine. Manufactured by Atari in 1970, the giant size machine uses a cue ball as a pinball and dwarfs its neighbor, a 1938 Genco Stop & Go.

Hercules, Largest Pinball in the World

Hercules, ‘Largest Pinball in the World,’ at Funspot. Manufactured by Atari in 1970. Photo © Tricia Vita

Hercules is stationed at the entrance to the American Classic Arcade Museum (ACAM), which museum curator Gary Vincent describes as “like stepping into the Wayback Machine.” ACAM has over 200 classic video games as well as a selection of pinball machines, any of which can be played for a few tokens. Four tokens cost $1.00; we splurged on 100 for $20.

“We use 1987 as a cutoff date for video games in the museum,” says Vincent. He notes that when Double Dragon came out, there was a shift in the industry from quirky puzzle-and-fantasy-based games to what he calls “the kick punch shoot games.”

Among the rare video games you can play are Computer Space (1971), the world’s first commercially available coin-operated video game. Developed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, who would go on to found Atari, th mod looking machine has a fiberglass cabinet with sparkle gel coat. “It actually has a television set in it that has been modified to run with video game hardware, which is typical of video games until about 1974,” Vincent explains.

“Having worked at Funspot since 1981, and having watched the industry go way, way, way up and way, way, way down, I saw an opportunity to save a lot of the older games here by starting a museum,” Vincent says of the nonprofit which was founded in 2002. The fact that 60 video game enthusiasts showed up for the first classic arcade tournament in 1999 convinced him of the need to collect and preserve games and put them out where the public could learn about them and enjoy them again. “It’s really funny to see dad who is about 40 with his 15-year-old kid, saying look, come here, I played this when I was a kid.”

Although Funspot donates the space to the nonprofit museum, the games in the museum don’t make enough money to support themselves. “It’s sad but true, the only money to be made in classic games is selling them on eBay,” notes Vincent. “You don’t make money putting them out where people can play them, seven days a week, 12 hours a day. It’s kind of a labor of lovejust wanting to preserve games so people can come along 10, 15, 20 years from now and be able to play things that they just can’t play anywhere else.”

Sky Jump Grand Slam Pinball Games

Sky Jump and Grand Slam, pinball games from the early 1970s at Funspot’s American Classic Arcade Museum. Photo © Tricia Vita

Among the electro-mechanical pinball games that we got to play were Gottlieb’s 1972 Grand Slam, a baseball game of which only 3,600 were manufactured, Sky Jump (1974) and Devil’s Dare (1982), and Bally’s Mr. and Mrs. Pac Man Pinball (1982). Rare video games include Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator (Sega, 1983), Cloak & Dagger (Atari, 1983), and Death Race (Exidy, 1976). The museum’s 501-c3 status lets it to run weekly bingo games as fundraisers, allowing it to buy more classics, fix them up and put them on the floor. Luminaries from the video game community such as Curt Vendell of the Atari Museum, and Robert Mruczek, the former chief referee of Twin Galaxies, have donated a number of games from their personal collections.

As we were about to leave, it was a great pleasure to meet Funspot’s founder Mr. Lawton. We talked arcades and exchanged business cards. His card entitles the visitor to $20 worth of free tokens and is tucked away in the glove compartment in anticipation of our next trip to New Hampshire.

Classic Pinball

A row of electro-mechanical pinball machines at the American Classic Arcade Museum. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2014: Spring Reading: “Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Machine”

November 15, 2013: Modern Pinball NYC Opens with New Arcade Business Model

November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

October 6, 2010: Traveler: Where You Can Play Fascination Year Round

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Miss Coney Island

Miss Coney Island – 25 cents to fall in love. December 6, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Miss Coney Island, the legendary dancing doll whose twin mottoes are “25¢ to Fall in Love” and “Don’t Postpone Joy,” will be open on New Year’s Day. Join her and her dancing cats– the cost of a dance will remain at 25 cents in 2016. She wants to show off her sweet new skirt, which her dresser did not get around to putting on till after the season was over. A favorite tape featuring reggae versions of Auld Lang Syne and Christmas carols will be played.

The doll and the cats are located on West 12th Street, under the Wonder Wheel, which will also be open for the first time ever on New Year’s, weather permitting.

Originally a circa 1935 Indian Princess at the Danbury Fair, the doll was bought at auction when the fair closed and soon underwent a sea change into Miss Coney Island. Father Time has been kind to her. Though you’d never guess it to look at Miss Coney, she is over 80, just ten years younger than Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s mechanical fortuneteller, Grandma’s Predictions.

Miss Coney Island

Father Time has been kind to Miss Coney Island, a circa 1935 dancing doll. December 6, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 4, 2015: Video: Coney Island Dancing 2015 by Jim McDonnell

April 6, 2014: Photo of the Day: Miss Coney Island’s Dancing Cat

September 30, 2012: Photo of the Day: Last Dance With Miss Coney Island

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

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Astrolands Bright and Shining Gate On Surf Avenue, September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita

Astroland's Bright and Shining Gate On Surf Avenue, September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita

One of the eight-foot by seven-and-a-half-foot lighted stars from Astroland’s Surf Avenue gate is in the National Air and Space Museum among other space-age icons, but the second one could be yours for Christmas. Along with pieces of Dante’s Inferno dark ride, the Bonanza shooting gallery, and a variety of signage, the star is among the last vestiges of the Coney Island amusement park being offered for sale. Mark Blumenthal, Astroland’s longtime operations manager, has overseen the sale of the rides since the park closed and was dismantled at the end of 2008. If you’re interested in acquiring an Astro artifact, you can email Blumenthal at astrolandmark[at]aol[dot]com.

Dante's Inferno demon

Dante’s Inferno demon on crane, Astroland Park in Coney Island- Photo © Tricia Vita. December 26, 2008.

“We’d like to sell the ride as a whole,” Blumenthal said of Dante’s, which consists of the giant demon’s head and torso from the façade, props, track and cars in storage trailers. “But if someone has a home for the pieces, we’d entertain the idea of selling them.” Dante’s Inferno was made by the Italian manufacturer Soli and brought to Astroland in 1971, according to a tribute on Laff in the Dark’s website. More than a dozen stunts created by Lou Nasti’s Brooklyn-based Mechanical Displays in the 1990s are also for sale.

At the Brooklyn Museum, the Cyclops head from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s Spook-A-Rama dark ride, which is going into its 66th year of operation in Coney, is on display as part of the exhibit Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland. Can Dante’s demon make a similar transition from the amusement park midway to the art world? Or what about bringing it home to Coney and exercising a little creative reuse?

Also being offered for sale is the old-timey Bonanza shooting gallery, where you could shoot the piano player. You may recall it was located on the Surf Avenue side of the park next to Gregory & Paul’s. Manufactured by Taylor Engineering, Bonanza shooting galleries first debuted in 1958 and this one was brought to Coney Island by Gregory in the mid-’70s.

“It was redone a couple of years before we closed,” says Blumenthal. “It’s the old technology,” referring to the fact that 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” and why we have no photos. You can catch a glimpse of it in the following video. Refurbished galleries such as “The World’s Largest Bonanza Gallery.” currently on the fair circuit, use an infrared beam of light instead of flashing light.

As we noted in a post in 2013, Astroland’s rides have found homes in Costa Rica, South America, Australia, New Jersey and Brooklyn. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park brought back the Barbieri Bumper Cars and Scrambler, and together with the Coney Island History Project, the 1960’s Astroland Rocket, which once perched on Gregory & Paul’s rooftop as an advertisement.

Signage from Astroland’s Surf and Boardwalk entrances to the park, as well as the arcade are also for sale.”I miss it, but a lot of us miss it,” Blumenthal says of Astroland. “Now it’s part of history.”

Astroland arcade sign

Astroland arcade sign. Photo © Tricia Vita. July 25, 2008

Related posts on ATZ…

June 4, 2014: Astroland Rocket Finds New Home Beside the Wonder Wheel

July 17, 2013: Astroland Rides Find Homes in Brooklyn, Costa Rica and Australia

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

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

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Holiday window Bigelow Pharmacy

Holiday window at Bigelow Pharmacy in the Village. December 6, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Sixth Avenue in the Village is C.O. Bigelow Chemists, established 1838, where you can get not only your Rx but the most wonderful perfumes and toiletries. The Washington Square Arch is in one of its holiday windows and a Ferris Wheel is in the other. It brings to mind the last time we saw an actual Ferris Wheel in the Village. Our Lady of Pompeii Church on Carmine Street had a street fair in the 1970s and ’80s with an Eli Wheel that let riders peer into upper story windows. Those were the days! Let us know if you spot any amusement park rides or circuses in holiday windows this season.

Holiday Windows at Bigelow Pharmacy

Holiday Windows at Bigelow Pharmacy in the Village. December 6, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ...

November 30, 2015: ATZ’s Coney Island Holiday Gift Guide for 2015

December 25, 2014: Traveler: Merry Christmas from Mulberry Street

December 22, 2013: Traveler: Christmas Holidays at Parks in Northern Climes

December 18, 2013: Photo Album: Christmas Peddlers in Old New York

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