Posts Tagged ‘Jim McDonnell’

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Surf Avenue: Flood Line on Coney Island Mural. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Jim McDonnell, whose beautiful photos and videos of Coney Island’s amusement area are frequently featured on ATZ, took this heartbreaking set of pix on Tuesday morning, the day after Hurricane Sandy struck. As you can see in the above photo of fellow photographer Bruce Handy at Surf and Stillwell Avenues, the flood line is at about 5 feet. During the peak of the storm, Surf Avenue as well as Mermaid and Neptune Avenues and adjacent streets were submerged in water that came from the bay, Coney Island Creek, overflowing sewers and the rising tide. In an image seen on the Coney Island webcam on October 29 at 7:53pm, the amusement parks appeared to be surrounded by a moat.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Surf Avenue, Coney Island: Interior of Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Looking down from his apartment window high above the Aquarium, Bruce texted ATZ on Monday night at 9pm: “Coney completely flooded. Cars floating. Car on fire.” On Tuesday morning a tour of the area began to reveal the damage. Sad to see Grimaldi’s metal gate gave way to Sandy and the interior of the popular new pizzeria wrecked by the wind and flood waters. We dined there just a few days ago and it is one of our faves! The cobwebs in the above photo, which were part of the Halloween decor, look genuinely eerie. Eldorado Auto Skooter, Game World Arcade, Coney Island USA, Denny’s Ice Cream, Popeye’s, the Coney Island History Project and the game booths on both West 12th Street and the Bowery were flooded with 4 to 5 feet of water and left with interior damage yet to be assessed. November 1st Update: Also flooded in Coney’s amusement area were Nathan’s, the stores in Stillwell Terminal, the Wonder Wheel side of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Aquarium. In fact all of the buildings on Surf, Mermaid and Neptune Avenues from one end of Coney Island to the other were inundated by the flood waters.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Surf Avenue, Coney Island: Shore Theater. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

The sign on the Shore Theater, a New York City landmark which is vacant and for sale, was twisted and appeared to be hanging by a thread. The street was blocked off with caution tape in case it fell. Coney’s landmark rides–the Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and Parachute Jump–stood their ground against Sandy, but Steeplechase Pier was damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

While the sand was piled up two feet high on the Boardwalk, the sandbagged stores–including Ruby’s, Lola Star and Brooklyn Beach Shop–suffered blessedly little or no damage. On Monday night at 7pm, Jimmy Kokotas of Tom’s Coney Island came to check on his store. This morning he told ATZ that he managed to get out just in time before the flood waters starting rising on Surf Avenue.

Maya Haddad of Brooklyn Beach Shop said she was very grateful that the Parks Department put up sand walls to protect the boardwalk businesses. She was able to get into her shop on Tuesday and was happy to find no water damage from the storm surge. “It didn’t look like any water got in,” Maya said. On Stillwell Avenue it was another story: “Coney Island Beach Shop was flooded 4 feet high. Most merchandise and fixtures destroyed. Wasn’t able to get into the shop in the train station either. I will assume the merchandise there was most likely also damaged.” November 21 Update: While the Boardwalk businesses escaped structural damage, with the exception of Tom’s and Paul’s Daughter, all have electrical issues due to flooded basements and do not yet have power. The two parks have partial power or are using generators. The entire neighborhood is suffering from the same situation. Many have to redo the electrical wiring before they can get power restored.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Coney Island Boardwalk: Ruby’s Bar and Lola Star Boutique. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

A beloved icon is gone though. “So sad, it looks like Mama Burger is missing,” said Tina Georgoulakos, owner of Paul’s Daughter, in an email to ATZ. “She must have blown away, We don’t know where she is. After all these years!!” Papa Burger, the other half of the A & W root beer duo, withstood Sandy and anchors the other end of the building. “One of the gates blew open during the storm so the store is filled with sand but its way better than what happened on Surf,” Tina added. November 1st: GOOD NEWS Update from Paul’s Daughter: “Just wanted to let you know that we found Mama Burger!! I posted about it on FB but wanted to let you know as well. She was on the roof, Burger-less and Beer-less but ok. We tried to find the Burger on 15th street (where someone posted a picture of it) but we couldn’t find it. At least we have her. Now we just have to get all of the sand out of the store.”

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Coney Island Boardwalk: Mama Burger Blown Off Roof of Paul’s Daughter. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Deno’s Wonder Wheel, built in 1920, has withstood many a storm including this historic hurricane. On Monday morning, co-owner Steve Vourderis put extra cables on the Wheel to further secure the landmark from Hurricane Sandy’s high winds.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Coney Island Boardwalk: Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

Luna Park, which took down its Halloween mazes and prepped for Sandy on Sunday, thankfully appeared to have no visible damage to the rides. A steel fence at the new Scream Zone annex was bent, but the 85-year-old Cyclone roller coaster withstood the storm. However, waterlogged equipment and cleanup is a concern for all of the parks, arcades and other businesses in Coney Island’s amusement area.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in Coney Island

Coney Island Boardwalk: Scream Zone Fence. October 30, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell


Related posts on ATZ…

November 24, 2012: Coney Island Post-Sandy: A Few Stores Reopen, Most Delayed by Damage

November 21, 2012: Coney Island Post-Sandy: Flooded Spook-A-Rama to Get New Stunts

November 20, 2012: Coney Island Post-Sandy: Mini-Golf or Roller Rink to Replace Denny’s?

November 9, 2012: Update on Coney Island’s Amusement Area After Sandy

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Jim McDonnell

The Longest Saturday of the Year, Documentary Short by Jim McDonnell. Photo © Jim McDonnell.

We’re always excited to see the selection of Coney Island-themed films at the Coney Island Film Festival. This year, 16 of the 74 selections are categorized as Coney Island films. ATZ selected five –four shorts and one feature– and asked the filmmakers to send a screengrab and tell us how it fit into the film as a whole. The majority of the filmmakers have been working on their films for at least a year with the idea of entering the 12th annual festival, which runs from September 21 through 23 at Coney Island USA. A schedule of film screenings and ticket info is available here.

Jim McDonnell, an amusement park aficionado whose photos and videos of Coney Island appear frequently on ATZ, had this to say about his entry “The Longest Saturday of the Year”: “The film is a 15-minute synopsis of the Saturday of the Mermaid Parade which technically is the longest Saturday of the year as it’s the first Saturday after the Summer Solstice – it covers from dawn to midnight. More than anything it was an exercise/practice attempt at creating a longer piece than I have previously in my goal of creating a true full length piece in the future. While the Mermaid Parade is definitely the centerpiece of the film, I really tried to capture the full day as well as the large cast of characters and places that make Coney Island such a special place to me.”

The Wonder Wheel

The Wonder Wheel, Documentary Short by Lou Dembrow. Photo © Lou Dembrow

In previous years at the film festival, Lou Dembrow has shown documentary shorts about John Dorman of Philips Candy of Coney Island, which moved to Staten Island after 54 years in Stillwell Terminal, and Jimmy Prince, who retired from Mermaid Avenue’s Major Market after 60 years. This year, in addition to “Jimmy’s Rant,” also featuring Prince, Lou is showing the 18-minute short “The Wonder Wheel” about Coney Island’s oldest ride and the Vourderis family’s loving and labor-intensive maintenance of it. “Landmarked in 1989, the Wonder Wheel is a beloved Coney Island icon,” says the filmmaker. “The film takes a behind the scenes look at the efforts to preserve the historical aspects while embracing innovation.”

“The film was shot in 2008 and 2009,” says Lou, who has been working on it for the past year while learning Final Cut Pro. “This is just the first Wonder Wheel movie, an exercise really. There is so much to show about the care of the wheel: that’s this coming year’s project. I’m just beginning, I am still learning, I am a passionate amateur. I’ll try my best!”

Gotta Love Coney Island

Gotta Love Coney Island, Experimental Film by Jay Singer. Photo © Jay Singer

Brooklyn native and Coney Island regular Jay Singer is a big fan of Scream Zone’s Slingshot. He’s the screamer on the right in the screengrab. “I actually went on it 50 times! Several of my trips are in the movie,” he says of his experimental short “Gotta Love Coney Island,” which is also the name of his website. “The film is only 10 minutes long, but it took me over a year to make, 8 months of editing alone! It is 275 separate scenes at various speeds composited into a ‘one reel’ experimental film. The goal was to capture the ‘pulse’ of Coney Island on a busy day, with intercuts of vintage footage filmed by my grandfather alongside contemporary footage of my own.”

The concept for the film came from a discussion about “the amusement pulse” with Scott Fitlin, the operator and DJ extraordinaire of the Eldorado Bumper Cars. “Originally Scott was going to make the film with me, he contributed a lot of ideas for the basic storyboard and was going to do a sound mix,” says Jay. After Scott’s death in 2010, Jay shelved the project until the birthday gift of a flip video camera reignited his enthusiasm. After the film screening on Sunday, the award ceremony will be at the Eldorado Bumper Cars. There’s also a Saturday night party at the Eldorado Arcade with sideshow entertainers and go-go dancers.

The Wheels by Jack Kyser

The Wheels, Short by Jack Kyser. Photo © Jack Kyser.

Last September, Jack Kyser created an IndieGoGo campaign which successfully raised funds to produce “The Wheels.” The filmmaker describes his 10 minute narrative short as “a very personal story about an alcoholic father and his young son, and a study of their strained relationship over the course of a long day at an amusement park.” The film won the Best Student Film award at the 2012 Metropolitan Film Festival of New York City for Kyser, a third-year film student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“It was such an honor to get to shoot at the Wonder Wheel!” said Kyser, who filmed at the park one day last October. In one of the key scenes the father and son ride a swinging car. In another they play a water race game in the park. “Harry (Daniel Hasse) asks his father, John (Tom Corbisiero) to play a water gun game,” says Kyser. “John, an alcoholic, struggles to shoot the water gun straight, and Harry, humiliated, eventually sprays his father with his gun.”

“The Wheels,” along with “The Longest Saturday of the Year,” “The Wonder Wheel,” and “Gotta Love Coney Island” and four other Coney-themed shorts screen on Sunday, September 23rd at 6pm.

Lost in Coney Island

Lost in Coney Island, Feature by Eric Rivas. Photo © Eric Rivas

“Lost in Coney Island,” a parody of “The Warriors,” begins with Spade (Eric Rivas) on location in Coney Island ready to shoot a remake of the 1979 cult classic. An argument with his feisty cinematographer and a long-repressed romantic interlude with his production assistant ensue when the actors are late because of a bus accident en route. Life begins to imitate art in the film within a film when the P.A.’s jealous ex incites a real outlaw biker gang to come after the actors. “They were a little more extreme than we were yet we were willing to confront them,” says Rivas. The screengrab above shows the actors playing the Warriors after a training session on the beach.

Rivas, a Brooklynite of Puerto Rican-Argentine heritage tells ATZ that as a teen growing up in Kensington/Boro Park in the late ’80s and early ’90s, he was a member of a crew called the “East 2nd Posse” who identified very deeply with the Warriors. “You stuck together so if anything happened you had each other,” Rivas said. “We considered ourselves The Warriors. We went up against really tough guys. We survived. That’s what life was like growing up in Brooklyn until I was 22 and went on with life.”

For the past decade, making movies has been Rivas’s passion, starting with a video camera on vacation and trading up to a Canon 7-D. During the film shoot, Rivas and his crew struck up a friendship with some of the actors who were the original Warriors. “We’ve got Cleon (Dorsey Wright) and Snow coming to the opening with us and Apache and Cochese (David Harris) hanging with us on Saturday,” says Rivas. “Lost in Coney Island” screens on Saturday, September 22nd at 4pm on a program with five Coney-themed shorts. The Coney Island Film Festival’s annual screening of “The Warriors” is also on Saturday at 10:30pm.

Lost in Coney Island Eric Rivas

Lost in Coney Island, Feature by Eric Rivas. Photo © Eric Rivas


Related posts on ATZ…

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

May 12, 2011: “Last Summer at Coney Island” Airs on PBS, DVD Offers Epilogue

January 27, 2011: Video: Coney Island: Secrets of the Universe by Charles Denson

September 27, 2010: Video: The Museum of Wax by Charles Ludlam

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For the past two seasons, photographer and film editor Jim McDonnell has released a video titled “Coney Island Dancing” after the boardwalk dancers pack it in for the season. We’re happy to report that the 2012 edition has arrived just in time for, well more dancing on the Boardwalk! The Coney Island Dancers have announced that they are extending their season of free outdoor dance parties with an October Fest from September 29 through Halloween.

Posted on Labor Day, “Coney Island Dancing 2012” opens with the legendary Tony Disco before segueing to the legendary dancing doll known as “Miss Coney Island.” Both are charismatic old-timers who are famous in Coney Island and deserve wider acclaim. Nice to see them start this show, which distills a season’s worth of dance moves on the Boardwalk and the Polar Express and at Luna Park, Wonder Wheel Park and the Mermaid Parade and Ball into a joyous four minute forty-five second video. Here are links to Jim’s dance vids from 2010 and 2011 in case you missed ’em. Party on!

Related posts on ATZ...

August 19, 2012: Dance Video: Coney Island Dancers Street Festival

January 26, 2012: Dance Video: Ringmasters Crew 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 Coney Island Dancers, whose Boardwalk dance parties are legendary, had their annual street festival on Saturday. If you missed it, take a look at this video from Jim McDonnell of a solo dancer on West 10th Street. Every year, Jim makes a video titled Coney Island Dancing, so we have a feeling there’s more to come.

The second video by jrmojicannyc1 features a stellar troupe of guest performers’ tribute to Michael Jackson. The Coney Island Dancers outdoor house music dance parties continue through September.


Related posts on ATZ...

August 8, 2012: Music Video: Somebody by Jukebox the Ghost

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

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

August 7, 2010: Video: Coney Island Dancing by Jim McDonnell

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It’s a treat to see the classic and rarely seen Sky Wheel, one of the flashiest carnival rides of the late 1950’s and ’60s, in action on the midway at the 2012 Wisconsin State Fair. Coney Island photographer/videographer Jim McDonnell made a trip to the fair this past weekend and brought back this POV video.

The ride is owned by McDonagh Amusements and is a 1965 Allan Herschell model refurbished by them in 2003. After the Wisconsin fair closes on August 12, the Sky Wheel will travel to two American fairs famed for their independent midways: the Minnesota State Fair (August 23- September 3) and the State Fair of Texas (September 28-October 21).

Seeing the video brings back memories of the Velare brothers, Curtis and Elmer, who pioneered the eye-catching idea of two Ferris wheels, and then four, set up in a row. Their first Sky Wheel — a double wheel– debuted with Royal American Shows at Tampa and Orlando in 1940. In 1958, they introduced the Space Wheel– a double double wheel. A Billboard ad from our collection trumpets the 92-foot-tall Space Wheel as “The Greatest of all Portable Rides,” “Brilliantly Illuminated,” “Unequaled Public Appeal” and “Front Page Publicity.”

In 1960, Allan Herschell, the merry-go-round and kiddie ride manufacturer in North Tonawanda, NY, bought the patent rights to manufacture the double wheels from the Velares. Herschell president Lyndon Wilson paid tribute to the Velares’ tenacity and ingenuity. He told the Billboard that it took 20 years of hard work by the Velares to develop the double wheel and the double double wheel from wheels which were all steel and had cable drives to wheels with part aluminum, part steel construction and dual friction drives that operate like clockwork.

1958 Ad for Velare Bros Space Wheel. © Tricia Vita Collection/AmusingtheZillion


Related posts on ATZ...

July 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island Lights by Jim McDonnell

July 19, 2011: Video of the Day: Let Us Now Praise Coney Island’s Zipper

October 8, 2010: Traveler: Most Beautiful Video of the State Fair of Texas

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

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“Coney Island Lights,” a new video by photographer and self-described “footage guru” Jim McDonnell, is lyrical and bewitching. Lights from Coney’s various amusement parks and attractions come together fluidly thanks to masterful editing by Jim, who knows Coney Island and has a talent for distilling its essence into a short film.

Luna Park’s Air Race ride looks like its performing a ballet with the whirling pinwheels on the park’s lighted gate. You’ll also catch sight of the dancing lights of the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel, Deno’s Carousel and the blinking red eye of the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops, 12th Street’s Saturn 6, Surf Avenue’s Eldorado, the new Boardwalk signs and Scream Zone rides, and the old school carnival rides in Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park.

In 2010 and 2011, ATZ posted Jim McDonnell’s “Coney Island Dancing” videos. We’re looking forward to “Coney Island Dancing 2012,” which is being shot over the course of this summer.


Related posts on ATZ...

March 27, 2012: Video of the Day: Eldorado Auto Skooter at Coney Island (2011)

January 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island at Night by Edwin S. Porter

July 19, 2011: Video of the Day: Let Us Now Praise Coney Island’s Zipper

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

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ATZ’s “Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2011” was based on page views, but our fave posts didn’t make the cut. “Sometimes really great posts fall through the cracks, are too esoteric to be popular, or at least deserve another visit,” writes blogger Visualingual, whose exquisite “Looking Back: Best VL Posts of 2010,” (and 2011) inspired us to put together this round-up of ATZ faves. In Part 1 and 2 (tomorrow), you’ll find videos, photos, and an antique image or two to while away the last hours of 2011…


Target the Cat, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In February we dropped by the Bowery to visit Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat & His Friend Pretty. When the games are open for business, the gregarious Target is likely to be found sitting on the counter of the Balloon Dart. Even in the winter, he can be seen making his rounds.

Also in February, ATZ paid tribute to a legendary Coney Island ride inventor in “Bring Back the Whip! A Birthday Gift for William F Mangels.” But if you want to ride the Whip, you’ll have to take a trip to Rye Playland, Knoebels, Kennywood, Trimper’s or any one of the other parks or carnivals listed on ATZ’s Whip Census in the post. Coney Island, where this classic was invented in 1914, doesn’t have an operating Whip! In this video by sodadaze, you can see the ride in action at Knoebels set to the tune of Devo’s “Whip It.”

In March, ATZ posted historian and Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson’s latest video “Cyclone Roller Coaster: Four Seasons.” This behind-the-scenes look at Coney Island’s landmark roller coaster lets you walk the tracks – summer and winter – and get up close to the machinery in the motor room.

In March, ATZ learned via twitter that Coney Island’s Inexhaustible Cow, a 19th century attraction which dispensed milk for 5 cents a cup, had apparently survived. A Pennsylvania dealer of Americana was selling the wooden cow (milk not included) for $78,000. In Inexhaustible Cows & Bottomless Cups of Chocolate Milk, we looked into the history of the Coney Island cows –there was more than one–and reminisced about bottomless cups of chocolate milk for a quarter at the Michigan State Fair.

Cow, Coney Island from Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views. New York Public Library, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs

If you’re adept at reading letters backwards you’ll like this Flickr Slide Show: DNALSI YENOC –> CONEY ISLAND. The letters frame the view from Stillwell Terminal as visitors exit onto Surf Avenue. DNALSI YENOC is also the name of a flickr group started by Coney Island photographer Barry Yanowitz. The collection of photos document the view, which changed irrevocably in 2010 when the Henderson Building and Shore Hotel across the avenue were demolished by Thor Equities. A new building –touted as “The Retail Ride of a Lifetime” by Thor– is now rising on the empty lot.

One of our favorite photos of the summer of 2011 is this Photo of the Day: Umbrellas on Coney Island Beach. On the Fourth of July, photographer Jim McDonnell took this amazing shot of Coney Island’s beach brimming with colorful umbrellas. “The 4th itself started out hazy but turned hot, humid and incredibly crowded!” he said.

Beach Umbrellas in Coney Island

Beach Umbrellas in Coney Island. July 4, 2011. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug


Related posts on ATZ…

December 31, 2011: Amusing the Zillion’s Fave 11 Posts of 2011 – Part 2

December 27, 2011: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2011

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

January 1, 2011: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2010

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