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Stump of the Astrotower

The AstroStump, all that remains of the Astrotower, decorated for Halloween at Coney Island’s Luna Park. October 5, 2013

ATZ’s award for the creepiest, most inappropriate Halloween decoration goes to Luna Park for a bizarre attempt at paying homage to the demolished Astrotower. Formerly wrapped in a tarp, the AstroStump is all that remains of the tower, which is now bedecked with skeleton props as the centerpiece of a faux graveyard for the park’s Halloween celebration. Seeing the blackened, blow-torched edges of the chopped down icon for the first time was very unsettling. It’s like seeing the tortured corpse of a dear departed friend who would have been 50 years old next year. They got the date wrong on the tombstone–the tower debuted in 1964, not 1962.

What were they thinking? Well, the original All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for humans to propitiate the restless dead and for the dead to gain vengeance before moving to the next world. Not sure if dead landmarks have restless spirits, but the Astrotower was practically human since it used to sing. It’s been three months since the genuinely horrific July 4th Week when the 275-foot tower was cut apart with blowtorches in a marathon demolition following hysterical claims that it was swaying more than usual had closed most of Coney Island. The tower’s cut-down sections were carted off to the Cropsey Avenue junkyard while the stump was hidden from view by a tarp and fenced off like it had the plague.

The Remains of the Astrotower

The Astrostump is all that remains of the 275-foot Astrotower. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Considering that not a trace remains of Astroland at the site of the former Astroland except this stump, it would have been more appropriate for Luna Park to put up a real plaque after the demolition. It’s distressing that a recollection of a tragic episode in Coney Island history, especially one that happened just three months ago, is reduced to a fake graveyard for Halloween.

However, not everyone agrees that this Halloween decoration is in bad taste. One Coney Island fan tweeted that the idea was “extremely clever.” Also in the faux graveyard are tombstones of long dead Coney luminaries such as Tilyou, Feltman, Handwerker and Mangels as well as a gravestone for Astroland Park. What do you think?

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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!

September 28, 2012: Astrotower Lit for 1st Time Since Astroland Closed in 2008

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

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John Dunivant

John Dunivant at the Lodge Gallery in New York City, through October 12, 2013

Once upon a time, there was an enchanted amusement park, hidden on the edge of a ragged city. For one night every year, this secret kingdom made itself known and sprang to life with fire and music and dance. – until the day it was exposed – and cast out.

The Expatriate Parade began as a single sketch of a scapegoat with a ferris wheel on its back. It bore my burden as it was driven from its home by an unfeeling and unseen power. This sketch led to many more, and the resulting parade of drawings – with its ceaseless forward motion in spite of the ever changing circumstances of the moment – led me to reflect on my own life. –John Dunivant

A few years before Detroit’s Michigan State Fair, the oldest in the nation, closed forever, I had a blast working a game on the midway. “It’s Crazy Ball Fun Time! You pick the colors the crazy ball picks the winners. We’re giving it all away today at the Michigan State Fair!” Friends who lived in Detroit’s suburbs wouldn’t venture to 7 Mile and Woodward Avenue to visit, which helps explain why the fair’s attendance had plummeted to a mere 217,000.

Meanwhile, across the street, artist John Dunivant spent a decade building what he calls an abandoned theme park using iconography from Coney Island and other places. In this video by Makezine, you’ll see a Hell’s Mouth sign that takes its inspiration from the neon THRILLS sign at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. The artist lists natural history museums, dioramas, Halloween, souvenir postcards, the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, roadside attractions, reliquaries and religious iconography, and traveling carnivals among his obsessions and fascinations.

The drug wars in Dunivant’s neighborhood made it possible for his friend Ken Poirer to buy up property and once a year, on Halloween, their midway came to life with a phantasmagorical underground party called “Theatre Bizarre.” In addition to elaborately costumed performers, there was an operating Ferris Wheel and a homemade roller coaster. In 2010, the same year the state fair shut down, Dunivant’s illegal amusement rides and funhouses were discovered by city authorities and shut down for code violations.

John Dunivant’s “The Expatriate Parade,” a series of paintings and bronzes inspired by the closure of Theatre Bizarre, is on view through October 12 at the Lodge Gallery at 131 Chrystie Street on New York’s Lower East Side. The artist will give a talk on Saturday, October 5, at 2 pm.

Yet Theatre Bizarre lives on, at a new location –Detroit’s Masonic Temple–and won a $100,000 grant from the Knight Foundation for fostering the arts. This year the party is set for October 18 and 19. A documentary film is also in the works–here’s the splendid trailer…

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March 18, 2013: Art of the Day: Street Art by RAE in Coney Island

June 27, 2013: Photo Album: The Front of the Show at Meadowlands Fair

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

February 26, 2010: Made in Brooklyn: The World’s Only Jet-Powered Merry-Go-Round

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Dancing Cat

Miss Coney Island’s Dancing Cat, West 12th Street, Coney Island. October 14, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

As the sign on the window housing “Miss Coney Island” says: “DON’T POSTPONE JOY.” This weekend is your last chance to spend 25 cents to fall in love with the famed dancing doll and her dancing cat. Located on West 12th Street across from the Steeplechase coaster, the mechanical duo are dolled up for Saturday’s Halloween festivities. There’s no charge to take a souvenir photo, but we suggest you bring a roll of quarters to spend on Miss Coney Island and the neighboring miniature animated rides of “Coney Island Always” and Skin the Wire game before they close for the winter.

Souvenir Photo with Miss Coney Island

Visitors Pose for Souvenir Photo with Miss Coney Island. October 14, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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

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

December 7, 2011: Jones Walk’s “Miss Coney Island” Shimmies Over to 12th St

July 14, 2009: Miss Coney Island on Jones Walk: 25 Cents to Fall in Love

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