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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jackson’

It’s summer Down Under but British-Australian artist and illustrator Sarah Beetson is already dreaming of next summer in Coney Island, which she calls “her favourite place of inspiration.” At home in her studio in Gold Coast, Queensland, Beetson has painted dozens of Polaroids that she snapped during a three-month residency in Coney last summer. Now she has assembled them into a lively and inventive new video.

“Sara Beetson’s Coney Island Painted Polaroids” gathers shots of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s painted clown faces (originally in Astroland) and signage and the B&B Carousell’s horses set to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Carousel.” The frame by frame addition of hand-lettered lyrics is delightful and will make you want to sing along: “Lost my heart on the carousel to a circus girl who left my heart in pieces…”

Sarah Beetson

Sarah Beetson with Stanley Fox, and her painting of him, at the Coney Island History Project. June 21, 2014. Photo © Coney Island History Project

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$95K Will Buy You the Dragon Wagon from Michael Jacksons Neverland Ranch. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

$95K Will Buy You the Dragon Wagon from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Got an extra $95,000 lying around? You could celebrate Michael Jackson’s August 29th birthday in style by acquiring one of his carnival rides from Neverland Ranch. After spending the summer at Thor Equities Dreamland Park in Coney Island, the Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster from Jackson’s private amusement park is being advertised for sale on usedrides.com. Since Dreamland closed and is unlikely to reopen (see “Coney Island is Open, Only Dreamland is Closed”), the ride’s owner decided to sell the Wisdom Dragon Wagon rather than truck it all the way back to California. ATZ spoke with Candy Strong, who placed the ad for the coaster and three other rides owned by Butch Butler of California-based Butler Amusements.

“It cost him $55,000 to bring them here. It would be beneficial and less stressful for him not to take anything back,” said Candy, who with her husband John Strong operated “The Strangest Show on Earth” in Coney Island’s Dreamland this season. Since Butler is busy with four state fairs running concurrently–the California State Fair, Western Idaho State Fair, Eastern Idaho State Fair, and Washington State’s Evergreen State Fair–Candy Strong took on the job of advertising the rides. The Strongs have been friends with Butler for over 30 years and were the ones who got him to bring the rides here from California.

For Sale on Usedrides.com: the Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch

For Sale on Usedrides.com: the Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch

When ATZ spoke with Butler earlier this season, he told us about some of the rides he’d purchased from Michael Jackson’s ranch last year. One of the Jackson rides happened to be among the four sent to “test market” Coney Island. The Dreamland Dragon Wagon’s history was not initially publicized, but Jackson’s death in June thrust the former Neverland rides at carnivals and parks across the country into the media spotlight. Butler had hoped to put his kiddie rides in Thor Equities “Flea by the Sea” tents on Stillwell Avenue for the Christmas season.

For Sale in Dreamland: Dragon Wagon from Michael Jacksons Neverland Ranch. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

For Sale in Dreamland: Dragon Wagon from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

“Like everybody, Butch thought there was an opportunity for another year. Or two or three. But now it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,” Candy said as she and her husband were getting ready to leave New York for a Tennessee fair. Coney Island’s Dreamland Park was abruptly locked down last weekend due to a dispute between property owner Thor Equities and the park manager, but Butler’s rides are still set up and may be viewed by prospective buyers, Candy said. The other three rides for sale are not from Neverland Ranch. The additional rides are the Star Dancer, a 101-foot tower ride by Larsen International ($250,000) a Barrango carousel with horses and menagerie animals ($125,000), and an interactive play zone called Jungle of Fun ($85,000). I made a flickr set of Butler’s rides in Coney Island in case anyone wants to check them out.

Butler Amusements Carousel in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Butler Amusements Carousel in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

At the California State Fair through Sept 7: Balloon Samba Ride from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements

At the California State Fair through Sept 7: Balloon Samba Ride from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements

Meanwhile at the California State Fair, which runs through September 7, the King of Pop’s amusement rides are in the spotlight thanks to a “Fairgoers Can’t Beat It!” promotion. On Fridays, Butler Amusements gives the first 5,000 visitors to the state fair a “golden ticket” good for a free ride on one of four rides from Neverland. The rides are the Balloon Samba, Jeeps, Wave Swinger and Dinosaurs. According to the fair’s press release, the Dinosaur ride features a total of eight revolving dinosaurs and elephants that riders can control to make the animal go up or down.

Here in Brooklyn, filmmaker Spike Lee’s party in honor of Michael Jackson’s 51st birthday is set for Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. in Prospect Park. Here’s the invite to the free event, which will feature DJ Spinna spinning Jackson music and Brooklyn Borough Prez Marty Markowitz declaring August 29th “Michael Jackson Day.”

At the California State Fair through Sept 7: Wave Swinger from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements

At the California State Fair through Sept 7: Wave Swinger from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements

Update, December 26, 2011…

The Neverland Bumper cars were permanently installed at Cal Expo in Sacramento for which Butler Amusements provides the carnival for the California State fair. The other rides from Neverland Ranch–Lolli Swings, Jeeps, Dinos, Balloon Samba and Dragon Wagon– travel with the carnival’s different units, which play events in seven states in the West.

Neverland Bumper Cars

The Neverland Bumper Cars, owned by Butler Amusements, were first installed at Cal Expo for the California State Fair in July 2011. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements.

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November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

August 5, 2009: Coney Island Has 56 Rides and 33 More Days of Summer!

July 8, 2009: Coney Island Wish List: Michael Jackson’s Bumper Car Ride for Sale on eBay

June 30, 2009: Calif. Carnival Sends Rides to Coney Island….Including One from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch

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eBay Find: The control panel of a one-of-a-kind ride from Neverland Ranch: Current Bid $46,100. Reserve Not Met

eBay Find: The control panel of a one-of-a-kind ride from Neverland Ranch: Current Bid $46,100. Reserve Not Met

Michael Jackson’s Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster was brought to Coney Island for the summer by Butler Amusements, but now there’s an opportunity to acquire a Neverland ride on a permanent basis. Last week carnival owner Earl “Butch” Butler told ATZ of his plans to put the bumper cars designed for and by Michael Jackson up for sale on eBay. The one-of-a-kind ride has been on our watch and wish list for the past few days. Butler says the auction has hundreds of watchers and generated inquiries from all over the world, including a bidder who wants to recreate Jackson’s amusement park.

The ride  includes a 20 foot long Neverland sign and fencing with Michael Jackson's logo

The ride includes a 20 foot long Neverland sign and fencing with Michael Jackson's logo

The popular interest in the Neverland rides since Jackson’s death is what got us dreaming about putting together a consortium of people to buy Jackson’s bumper cars for the People’s Playground. Where’d we put it? How about Steeplechase Plaza, where the City has plans to build a skateboard park? We think an amusement ride, especially one designed for and by the King of Pop, is a much better idea. It could be a gold mine for Coney Island. The celebrity ride would draw tourists to the amusement park. Its neighbors would be the iconic Parachute Jump and the restored B & B Carousell. Or maybe the ride could be situated on Joe Sitt’s property. After Sitt sells to the City, of course. His Stillwell lot, which is zoned for amusements, is currently being misused as a flea market. And we couldn’t afford Thor Equities skyhigh rent in the so-called Dreamland Park.

In fact, the bidding on the Neverland bumper cars –$46,100, Reserve Not Met– has climbed beyond our consortium’s budget. What is the reserve? Butler’s not saying. When I asked him today if it’s $1 million dollars, he said no. Perhaps it’s a dollar less or quite a bit more! We’re secretly dreaming Mayor Bloomberg will set a snipe and win the auction for the people of New York. Don’t worry, Mayor Mike: The user ID is kept private. Nobody will know you are the buyer except the seller. You can donate the ride to the City of New York, just as you did with the B & B Carousell. The auction ends on July 10 at 12:34:29 PDT.

Bumper car tent at Neverland Ranch. Butler Amusements bought 5 rides from Neverland, but only this one is for sale

Bumper car tent at Neverland Ranch. Butler Amusements bought 5 rides from Neverland, but only this one is for sale

From the auction description:

This is a large ride and comes with fence that goes around the ride which also has the picture of Michael Jackson’s logo. Another main part of this ride is the dominant opening sign that says Neverland which is approximately 20 feet long. This ride was designed especially for and by Michael Jackson by Majestic Manufacturing in 1992. Michael Jackson put in an amazing sound system along with black lights and disco balls. The ride comes with the 16 custom made bumper cars with Michael Jackson logo on them. The model is a MJ 2700 with a length of 96 feet 6 inches by a width of 44 feet 6 inches. The floor size is 32 feet by 84 feet, 2688 square feet. The pit size is 32 feet 3 inches by 84 feet 3 inches, 2717 square feet. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that no one should pass up. This piece would make any Michael Jackson collection the Greatest Michael Jackson collection.

Perhaps the bumper cars will be reunited with the original Zierer Wave Swinger ride from Neverland, which is also up for auction on eBay. That ride is owned by Helm & Sons Amusements of Colton, California. Starting bid is $850,000.

Michael Jackson's logo of little boy sitting on the moon is emblazoned on the bumper cars

Michael Jackson's logo of little boy sitting on the moon is emblazoned on the bumper cars

Update, December 26, 2011…

The Neverland Bumper cars were permanently installed at Cal Expo in Sacramento for which Butler Amusements provides the carnival for the California State fair. The other rides from Neverland Ranch–Lolli Swings, Jeeps, Dinos, Balloon Samba and Dragon Wagon– travel with the carnival’s different units, which play events in seven states in the West.

Neverland Bumper Cars

The Neverland Bumper Cars, owned by Butler Amusements, were first installed at Cal Expo for the California State Fair in July 2011. Photo courtesy of Butler Amusements.

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Michael Jackson tribute posters on front of Neverlands Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Michael Jackson tribute posters on front of Neverland's Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Tuesday ATZ had the scoop that the Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster from Michael Jackson’s private amusement park at Neverland Ranch was in Coney Island for the summer. After news of the ride’s history spread, the park’s operators set up a tribute to Jackson. On the eve of Fourth of July, a DJ was playing the King of Pop’s greatest hits and memorial posters were attached to the front of the ride.

Meanwhile, over at Stillwell and Surf, “Thriller” was blaring from the giant speakers that were set up on Friday night in preparation for Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.

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This Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster in Coney Island was purchased by Butler Amusements last year from Michael Jacksons Neverland Ranch. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

This Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster in Coney Island was purchased by Butler Amusements last year from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On the Boardwalk side of Joe Sitt’s “Dreamland Park” on the former Astroland site, you’ll find the Dragon Wagon Kiddie Coaster. The Wisdom Industries ride is a familiar sight on the carnival circuit. But the Coney Island ride’s claim to fame is that it came out of Michael Jackson’s private amusement park at Neverland Ranch.

Although the Dreamland Dragon Wagon’s history has not been publicized, Jackson’s death has thrust the former Neverland rides at carnivals and parks across the country into the media spotlight. At Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green, Ky, which has the pirate ship ride said to be Jackson’s favorite, complimentary rides were offered as a tribute to the King of Pop and a temporary memorial will soon be replaced with a permanent plaque. Will Coney’s Dragon Wagon follow suit with its own tribute to Michael Jackson?

ATZ learned of the Coney Island ride’s Neverland provenance earlier this month in a conversation with the ride’s owner, Earl “Butch” Butler, CEO of California-based Butler Amusements. The carnival owner purchased four rides from the Jackson ranch last year including the Balloon Samba ride, which is currently at California’s Alameda County Fair. Butler is the new carnival provider for the California State Fair and has a strong fair and festival route in California, Oregon and Washington State.

Butler Amusements Cotton Candy Wagon in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Butler Amusements Cotton Candy Wagon in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

As a reporter for the trade publication Amusement Business, I’d interviewed Butler and found him to be a class act. His show was awarded the prestigious Circle of Excellence Designation by the Outdoor Amusement Business Association (OABA) in 2005. When ATZ saw “Butler Amusements” name on the cotton candy trailer in Thor Equities’ temporary park in Coney Island, we were absolutely astonished. What made Butler come all the way from California to Coney’s sandy shore when East Coast ride operators galore turned down offers to play Joe Sitt’s Dreamland? We figured either Butler knew something we didn’t (Sitt decides to sit on land and offers multi-year contracts?) or we knew something Butler didn’t (Joe Sitt said amusements don’t make money. Shopping is the new amusement, full speed ahead with rezoning for big box retail!). We phoned Butler to get the scoop.

It turns out that Butler’s Coney connection is his friend and fellow Californian John Strong whose sideshow has been operating in Sitt’s would-be Dreamland since April. “John grew up on our show,” said Butler, “but has since gone off on his own. He said, ‘you’ve got to come out and see this.’ ” At first Butler thought Coney Island was too far, but Strong kept calling him and said they were having trouble getting rides. Butler agreed to fly out and see the situation. His impression: “Coney Island needs upgrading.”

New Ride on the Skyline: Butler Amusements Star Dancer. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

New Ride on the Skyline: Butler Amusements Star Dancer. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Butler agreed to send four rides from his arsenal of 135 rides. The rides include the Star Dancer, a 101-foot tower ride by Larsen International that combines the carousel and Gondola wheel. It offers a spectacular view of the midway. “The Star Dancer would fit here because people could look out over the beach and the Boardwalk,” said Butler, who noted that he could spare the ride because it’s not popular at fairs where it loses riders to more thrilling rides. He also sent a jewel box of a carousel equipped with menagerie animals as well as horses. The ride had been in storage since it came out of a mall in Chula Vista. The kiddie rides are the Dragon Wagon purchased from Neverland in 2008 and a walk-though play attraction called Kid Zone.

Cat figure on Butler Amusements Carousel. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Cat figure on Butler Amusements Carousel. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Asked if he would be sending more rides, Butler said he sent the four rides to “test market” Coney Island. He also sent his right hand man Bobby Merten, former owner of B & B Amusements, to set up the rides and oversee operations for the first couple of weeks. Butler’s strong fair route precludes sending more rides at this time, but he has hopes of putting kiddie rides in Thor Equities “Flea by the Sea” tents on Stillwell for the Christmas season.

ATZ has spoken with East Coast amusement operators who declined offers to bring their rides to Sitt’s temporary park due to inflated rents or because they already have a strong route and cannot spare the rides. One operator told ATZ the rent was twice as much as he would expect to pay. Asked about his contractual arrangements with Sitt, Butler said that he has a one-year contract with an option for another year, and that the rent was 35 per cent higher than what he would usually pay.

Butler Amusements Star Dancer in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Butler Amusements Star Dancer in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Although Butler has over 135 rides, he also has major commitments including contracts with four state fairs with concurrent dates: the California State Fair, (Aug 21-Sept 7), the Evergreen Washington State Fair (40 rides; Aug 27-Sept-7) and both the Western and Eastern Idaho State Fairs (late August-early September). In the case of Cal Expo, Butler’s new contract is for a ten-year term and requires him to provide a minimum of 55 rides, 40 games and 13 food stands.

This illustrates the absurdity of Thor Equities so-called efforts to recruit amusement operators to bring spectacular or major rides to Coney Island. If amusement ride operators are operating on a year to year basis, they simply can’t afford to invest in new equipment. As for whether the temporary fair that Joe Sitt calls “Dreamland Park” will be operating next year, much depends on whether the City rezoning plan for Coney Island passes in the City Council this month. And whether or not the City comes to some kind of 11th hour deal to acquire the property from Thor Equities.

Medallion on Butler Amusements Carousel in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Medallion on Butler Amusements Carousel in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

August 26, 2009: Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ride for Sale in Coney Island!

August 5, 2009: Coney Island Has 56 Rides and 33 More Days of Summer!

July 8, 2009: Coney Island Wish List: Michael Jackson’s Bumper Car Ride for Sale on eBay

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