Posts Tagged ‘Cha Cha’s of Coney Island’

Cha Cha Coney Island

Cha Cha in front of his Coney Island Bar, April 2, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita

Today we received the sad news that John Ciarcia, known to all as Cha Cha of Coney Island, passed away this morning. He had recently undergone surgery for cancer and was about to start a course of chemotherapy, a family friend told ATZ.

Update: Services will be held after Thanksgiving in Little Italy. Viewing will be Monday, November 30, and Tuesday, December 1, from 5-9pm at the Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral recreation hall behind the church. The funeral Mass will be on Wednesday, December 2, at 10:30am at the Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, 263 Mulberry Street between Prince and Houston.

Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis on the Coney Island Boardwalk, the “Home of Wild Women and Wise Guys,” closed at the end of the 2011 season after losing its lease. It was one of the “Coney Island 8” evicted by Zamperla. Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria relocated to Surf Avenue in 2012 but never re-opened after Sandy.

This post will shortly be updated with an obituary. In the meantime, here’s a 2009 photo of Cha Cha’s the way we like to remember it….

Cha Cha's

Cha Cha’s Bar & Cafe on the Coney Island Boardwalk. June 1, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

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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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Last Drink at Cha Cha's of 2010 Season. October 31, 2010. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Last year, we had our last drink at Cha Cha’s on Halloween, Coney Island’s last day of the season. That’s Cha Cha’s regular Johnny Corona at the end of the bar. The next day, all but two of the Boardwalk businesses received “Surrender the Premises” letters from the operator of Luna Park. This year, Cha Cha’s and Ruby’s are planning goodbye parties for successive Saturdays in October. Now that their one-year reprieve is over, the businesses must vacate the premises by November 4th. If you want to have a last drink with friends or take photos of the signage, get here before Halloween. After that, they’ll be packing up and moving out.

The home of “Wild Women and Wise Guys” is going out with a bang. Saturday, October 22nd, is being billed as the last big party for John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia and his friends, including Soprano cast members. Musical guests include Killer Joe as well as Vincent Pastore and his Lickety Split Band. Pastore played the role of Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero on The Sopranos. His friend Cha Cha, who also operates a restaurant on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, played Albie Cianflone.

According to an email invite: “This is the final Big Party at Cha Cha’s. Starts around 4 pm and will go till???” We’re told that Cha Cha’s final day is Sunday the 30th. Ruby’s Goodbye Party is Saturday, October 29th from 11 am with music by Undercover and Mystical Children scheduled from 2 till 8 pm.

This weekend, local musicians Richi Lupo of Undercover and possibly Erik Knapp of Mystical Children are doing a combo at Cha Cha’s on Saturday at 4 pm. Sunday is Super Major from Sea Gate, also at 4. All of the above-mentioned events are no cover, no minimum. In other words, it’s free to come and say goodbye.

Since October 8th, ATZ has been posting a fave photo (or two) a day to say goodbye to the Boardwalk Mom and Pops who are losing their leases at the end of the month. Click the tag “Countdown to Corporatization” to see all of the posts.


Related posts on ATZ…

October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy

October 10, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island’s Famed “Hey Joey!” Doomed

October 9, 2011: Photo of the Day: Ruby’s Old Tyme Bar by Kenny Lombardi

October 8, 2011: Photo of the Day: “The Chief” of the Coney Island Boardwalk

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