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This Friday at 4 pm, Coney Island artist and rogue taxidermist Takeshi Yamada is giving his annual art talk at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Coney Island branch. Titled “Dragons and Mermaids: Coney Island Sideshow Special,” the free show-and-tell will feature rogue taxidermy specimens of dragons and mermaids created by the artist for his Museum of World Wonders. You’ll get to meet the six-foot-long mermaid pictured below at Secret Science’s Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest.

The Japanese-born artist and Neptune Avenue resident is one of Coney Island’s most recognizable eccentrics. In the summer, you’re apt to find Yamada clad in a black tuxedo and Mardi Gras beads strolling the Beach and Boardwalk with his taxidermied sea bunny Seara.

Takeshi Yamada with his Six Foot Fiji Mermaid.  November 2, 2007. Photo © istolethetv via flickr

Takeshi Yamada with his Six Foot Fiji Mermaid. November 2, 2007. Photo © istolethetv via flickr

If you haven’t seen Yamada’s long-running “Museum of World Wonders: Cabinet of Curiosities” yet, the exhibition is on view through Dec. 31 at the Coney Island Library.

–“Dragons and Mermaids: Coney Island Sideshow Special,” Art Lecture by Takeshi Yamada, October 29, Friday, 4 – 5pm, FREE. The library is a five-minute walk from the Stillwell Avenue subway terminal.
–“Museum of World Wonders: Cabinet of Curiosities,” Coney Island Library, 1901 Mermaid Ave (at W 19th St), Coney Island, Brooklyn, 718-265-3220. Through December 31, 2010, FREE. Check library hours here.

Skull of the Sea Dragon by Takeshi Yamada. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Skull of the Sea Dragon by Takeshi Yamada. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

November 29, 2012: Coney Island Taxidermist Takeshi Yamada in AMC Reality Show

December 8, 2011: Takeshi Yamada’s Jersey Devil Set for Bell House Taxidermy Contest

September 18, 2010: Photo of the Day: Takeshi Yamada’s Freak Baby Museum at San Gennaro

November 7, 2009: Thru Dec 31 at Coney Island Library: Artist Takeshi Yamada’s Cabinet of Curiosities

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On Wednesday at the Brooklyn Central Library, theater historian Cezar Del Valle will give an illustrated talk on the history of the Legitimate Stage, Vaudeville, Burlesque and Minstrel Show in Brooklyn’s three entertainment districts: Fulton Street, Eastern District, and Coney Island.

Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

Del Valle’s area of expertise is New York City popular entertainment between 1850 and the 1950s, including special emphasis on actual theater buildings. He has led walking tours of the lost theaters of Coney Island’s Bowery. “In its fabulous heyday, the resort was more than just rides and arcades; it was home to numerous cabarets, variety halls and movie shows – a training ground for a generation of legendary performers,” says Del Valle.

The subject is timely since Coney Island’s two historic theater buildings–the Shore Theater and the Henderson Music Hall— have been nominated for New York City landmark designation by Coney Island USA. A March 23 public hearing date has been set for the Shore Theater, a 2,500 seat movie and vaudeville house built in 1925. The building has been shuttered by owner Horace Bullard since the 1970s. Sources tell ATZ the City is trying to acquire the Shore Theater with the idea of reviving it as a year-round entertainment destination.

Also up for landmarking on March 23 is Coney Island USA’s Building (former Childs Restaurant), which is currently in use as a theater for the Coney Island Sideshow and Burlesque at the Beach. The second floor houses the Coney Island Museum. In 2008 the non-profit arts organization bought the 1917 building with $3.6 million funding from the City.

The Henderson Music Hall has yet to be calendared. Its chances of gaining landmark designation are thought to be slim since the building has been altered extensively. It was even cut in half! There’s also the unfortunate fact that the Henderson is owned by real estate speculator Joe Sitt of Thor Equities and occupies a prime site at the corner of Surf and Stillwell that has been rezoned for a high rise hotel. City rezoning documents detail the history of the Henderson Music Hall:

Fred Henderson opened the 3-story brick music hall on Stillwell Avenue at the Bowery around 1900. Henderson’s establishment began as a restaurant at Bowery and Henderson Walk in 1881. When that building burned in 1899, Henderson constructed the new structure to the designs of John B. McElfatrick. The original Italianate southern façade (which fronts on the Bowery) has brick piers, corbelling, stone window lintels, and a bracketed cornice. In 1923, Stillwell Avenue south of Surf Avenue was created by the widening of Stratton’s Walk, and Henderson’s Music Hall was cut in half. At that time, a new brick façade with decorative panels and a stepped parapet was added to the Stillwell Avenue frontage. Additional alterations include modern storefronts and replaced windows. The music hall operated until 1926 and featured such music and vaudeville acts as Al Jolson, the Marx Brothers, and Sophie Tucker. During its run, Henderson’s Music Hall was an important Coney Island entertainment venue. From 1926 to 1984, the building housed the World of Wax Musee. The former Henderson’s Music Hall has been extensively altered. This property was identified in the inventory of potential resources prepared by Coney Island USA.

February 24, 7:00 pm, “Brooklyn Stages,” Brooklyn Collection Reserve Room at Brooklyn Central Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, 718- 230-2762. “Seating is limited so come early and join us for wine and cheese from 6:30 to 7.”

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Related posts on ATZ…

February 6, 2010: Feb 9: First Step in Landmark Designation of Coney Island’s Shore Theater

October 14, 2009: Q & A with Zero Boy: “A Trip to Coney Island with Uncle Zero Boy

October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island

July 7, 2009: Tall, Skinny & Destined to Kill Coney Island: High Rises on South Side of Surf

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