“You’re going to meet Miss Atlantis, the daring young lady who will defy the devil and swim with three killer sharks,” says Brooklyn artist and performer Richard Eagan, recalling his spiel as an outside talker for the Florida Shark Show. His 1987 gig managing the Coney Island attraction is among the midway experiences that he relives in “Alive on the Inside,” on Thursday, January 28th at City Lore.
Eagan has performed the one-man theater piece since the late ’80s at venues from the Lower East Side to Coney Island, where it was last seen in 2007 as part of the Coney Island History Project’s folklore program. “Most of what I talk about is gone, so it is a memory piece,” Eagan tells ATZ. “When I was developing and performing it in earlier days, it was the last days of the old Coney Island hanging on by a thread. The characters were still there plying their trade. There’s so few of them left.”
Among the characters Eagan brings to life in the show are Buddy Cook, who is actually Norman Kaufman, owner of the Jumbo Jet coaster, whose Stillwell Avenue amusement park was evicted by Thor Equities in 2006 to make way for “redevelopment.” “I refer to him as ‘The Buddha of the ticketbox,'” says Eagan. Ronnie D is Ronnie Guerrero, the late owner of 12th Street’s famed Polar Express, which was located on Stillwell Avenue in the 1980s. Jake Fein is concessionaire Jack Merr, who operated a basketball game across from the Spookhouse.
Eagan co-founded the Coney Island Hysterical Society with fellow artist Philomena Marano in 1981 because they were “hysterical” at the rate that the amusement rides and attractions were shutting down. One of their projects was the transformation of the disused Dragon’s Cave ride on the Bowery into the Spookhouse, which they operated until 1984. Their visual art is on view in the exhibit “Boardwalk Renaissance: How the Arts Saved Coney Island,” at City Lore Gallery through March 13.
“Alive on the Inside,” January 28th, 7:00pm. Tickets are $11.49 via Eventbrite. City Lore, 56 E 1st St, New York, New York 10003. 212-529-1955
Related posts on ATZ...
January 18, 2016: Art of the Day: Coney Island at Valentine Museum of Art
November 16, 2015: Art of the Day: Remembering Spookhouse – A Ride Through Gallery in the Dark
April 21, 2011: Remembering Coney Island’s Jumbo Jet Coaster 1972-2002
October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Richard Eagan of the Coney Island Hysterical Society