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Posts Tagged ‘obit’

Miss Colombia with Carino the Poodle and Rosita the Parrot

Miss Colombia with Carino the Poodle and Rosita the Parrot, Coney Island Boardwalk. August 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Memorial Day in Coney Island, the colorfully costumed Oswaldo Gomez aka Miss Colombia paraded by and we scurried to take a photo. Rosita the parrot was as usual perched on his head. Where was Carino the poodle? “Carino died,” Oswaldo said. “He was 17.” That’s the equivalent of 84 in human years. The poodle passed away earlier this month.

Carino and Rosita Ride the Steeplechase Horse

Carino and Rosita Ride the Steeplechase Horse at the Coney Island History Project, May 27, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

It was on Memorial Day Weekend in 2008 that we first became aware of Miss Colombia and his pets as a New York City phenom. The Mermaids, a male folk rock duo, were singing in front of the Cyclone when he came by, took the dog out of the carriage, pirouetted around and stole the show. The flamboyant trio have been in every parade in New York City and are the subject of their very own flickr group. You’ve seen them in the Mermaid Parade, the Easter Parade, the Chinese New Year’s Day Parade, the West Indian Day Parade, Gay Pride, and St Pat’s.

Victory dance

Victory Dance after winning 1st Prize at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s Pet Day, June 11, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

As regular visitors to the People’s Playground, the dog and the parrot got to “ride” the Steeplechase horse and the antique Whip car at the Coney Island History Project. They won first prize in the first annual Pet Day at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Afterwards, Miss Colombia did a victory dance while the parrot perched on Carino’s back, clasping the prize–a season’s pass to the Wonder Wheel– in her beak. Rest in peace, sweet little Carino.

Miss Colombia and Carino in Mermaid Parade

Miss Colombia and Carino in Mermaid Parade, June 20, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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Jimmy McCullough

Jimmy McCullough. Photo © Charles Denson via Coney Island History Project flickr

Jimmy McCullough, whose family has operated amusements in Coney Island for four generations, passed away at his home on August 19.

Born in 1929, Jimmy McCullough grew up in Long Island and began working in Coney during World War II in one of the 22 shooting galleries then owned by his grandfather, he told historian Charles Denson in an interview for the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive. He recalled working long hours–until 3, 4, or 5 o’clock in the morning at the family’s amusement attractions.

“Coney Island was the center of our world,” said McCullough, whose great-grandfather was George C Tilyou of Steeplechase Park and whose mother was a Stubbman, a family who operated a beer garden, hotel and carousel where the Aquarium is now.

Jimmy McCullough was also a traveling showman. Along with his daughters Carol and Nancy, he owned and operated such rides as one of the first Zippers ever manufactured, the Round-Up and the Skywheel, which they brought to Toronto’s CNE and booked into fairs as independent ride operators.

Last September, ATZ wrote about the McCullough family’s history in Coney Island when their 50-year-old kiddie park at the Bowery and 12th Street closed after a lease renewal with Thor Equities fell through. The lot has stood vacant ever since Coney Island’s oldest ride operator tore down his Herschell carousel and kiddie rides and left.

Carousel

1912 Charles Carmel Carousel operated by the McCullough family in Coney Island until 1952, when it was moved to Prospect Park. Photo via Coney Island History Project flickr

In the 1950s, the McCullough family had Kiddielands at Surf Avenue and 15th Street and Surf Avenue and 8th Street next to the Cyclone. They also owned and operated three historic carousels in Coney Island which are now in City parks and are their lasting legacy to the people of New York.

The 1912 carousel carved by Charles Carmel, which was at 8th Street, became the Prospect Park Carousel in 1952. The Stubbman Carousel, known as the Steeplechase Carousel when the McCulloughs operated it at 16th Street and the Boardwalk, was sent to the New York World’s Fair in 1964 along with some horses from Feltman’s and still operates in Flushing Meadows Park.

The third is the B&B, the last hand-carved wooden carousel in Coney Island, which Jimmy McCullough sold to the City in 2005 after the death of his business partner Mike Salzstein. The restored B&B Carousell opened with much fanfare in Coney Island’s new Steeplechase Plaza this year.

Services for Jimmy McCullough will be held at William E. Law Funeral Home, 1 Jerusalem Ave, Massapequa, NY on Thursday, August 22, 7-9PM and Friday, August 23, 2-4:30PM and 7-9PM. The funeral will be on Saturday, August 24, at 10AM at Maria Regina R.C. Church, 3945 Jerusalem Ave, Seaford, NY. Those wishing to make an expression of sympathy in his memory are asked to consider a donation to St. Jude’s Hospital or The Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Bumble Bee Ride

Bumble Bees and Herschell Carousel at McCullough’s Kiddie Park, Coney Island, September 3, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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January 7, 2013: Photo Album: Pieces of Coney Island Skyline in December

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

June 14, 2011: Coney Island Kiddie Park Getting Squeezed by Thor Equities

June 3, 2009: Coney Island Rides: Tug Boat and Carousel in McCullough’s Kiddie Park

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Steve Bitetzakis

Steve Bitetzakis in front of his restaurant on the Coney Island Boardwalk. November 6, 2010. Photo © Jim Kiernan via jamienyc/flickr

Coney Island lost one of its own last night. Steve Bitetzakis, 54, the owner of Steve’s Grill House located on the Coney Island Boardwalk from 1993 until 2011, passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Decorative flags, flowerpots, hand-painted signage and ample seating gave Steve’s Grill House a homey ambiance. Friends remembered him as a nice guy who knew all of his customers and would help out people who were hungry. “He’d say, you can pay me when you have the money, but I’m sure they never did,” said retired arcade operator Stanley Fox. “But he was that kind of guy.”

Door of the Grill House. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Handpainted Sign on Door of the Grill House. August 1, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

The restaurateur was the last hold out of the “Coney Island 8” evicted from the Boardwalk by Zamperla. In February 2012, he called off plans to have his modular building moved down Stillwell and instead took a buyout. Steve invested in a state-of-the-art concession trailer which opened for Easter of last year on Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lot leased to the BK Festival.

Unfortunately, he lost his location to Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis and had to move to another lot leased by the festival where he was not able to open for business. The BK Festival’s plan for satellite locations on Surf Avenue called for opening the fencing during business hours but it turned out that city regulations did not permit it. Steve’s shuttered trailer remained parked on the Surf Avenue lot until a few weeks ago when all of the vehicles on the lot were towed away to a City pound.

Steve's Grill House

Steve's New Grill House concession trailer at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

It was sad to see Steve’s Grill House leave Coney Island since we knew he was ill and his restaurant was not likely to be coming back. There was no spot for him to lease in the new Coney Island, even though there are still empty lots.

Steve’s family has a long history of operating food concessions in Coney Island. His father Gregory Bitetzakis was the co-owner of Gregory & Paul’s, which opened more than 50 years ago. After Gregory retired in 2009, the restaurant changed its name to Paul’s Daughter. Steve first got sand in his shoes working for his father in the G & P’s on West 10th Street opposite the Cyclone. “He wanted to be in Coney Island more than anything,” said an old friend.

A wake will be held at the Dahill Funeral Home, 2525 65th Street, Brooklyn, on Tuesday, May 21st from 5 until 9 pm.

Grill House coney Island Boardwalk

Steve’s Grill House, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

July 27, 2011: Coney Island Lost A Good Friend: RIP Andy Badalamenti

May 19, 2011: Rest in Peace: Rabbi Abraham Abraham’s Synagogue Was the Beach

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

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Jerry Albert Astroland

Jerry Albert (center) with Astrotower manager and welder, sliding Astrocule time capsule into the tower foundation. Photo from Coney Island and Astroland by Charles Denson. All Rights Reserved

Coney Island lost an historical figure who helped transform one of the amusement area’s oldest properties into a space age theme park in the 1960s. Jerry Albert, the co-founder of Astroland Park with his father Dewey Albert, died on Thursday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. This year is the 50th anniversary of the founding of Astroland, which broke ground in 1962 and closed at the end of the 2008 season.

Astroland was built on the site of Feltman’s, the restaurant and amusement park complex owned by Charles Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog. The new park started with little more than a miniature golf course, a Double Diving Bell, a Sky Ride, and six kiddie rides. When the Alberts decided to develop the park, Jerry Albert began making trips to the West Coast and Europe to seek out state-of-the-art rides.

“The Mercury Capsule Skyride,” “The Ascension Tower,” and “The Rocket Ship Star Flyer” were among the space-age rides mentioned in an early press release about Coney Island’s new park. Neptune’s Water Flume was one of the early flumes made by Arrow Development, a pioneering ride builder for Disney, in the early 1960s right after the New York World’s Fair, and it was built specifically for this park. The $1.7 million Von Roll Astrotower from Switzerland was the first ride of its kind in the United States when it was installed in 1963.

In the historic photo above from Charles Denson’s Coney Island and Astroland, Jerry Albert (center) pictured with Astrotower manager Charlie Bower and welder Joe Peluso, slides the Astrocule time capsule into the tower foundation. “The press nicknamed it the ‘Bagel in the Sky’ or ‘Flying Bagel,'” writes Denson in the book. “Jerry Albert embraced the name, serving bagels and lox at the tower’s opening, as his mother cracked a bottle of champagne on its base. When the tower opened in July 1964, the conversion of Feltman’s into Astroland was complete.”

Jerry Albert took over the operation of Astroland Park after Dewey Albert’s death in 1992, notes Denson. After he retired due to the onset of Parkinson’s, his wife Carol Hill Albert operated the park until it closed. In 2004, the Coney Island History Project, a nonprofit that aims to increase awareness of Coney’s legendary and colorful past, was founded by Carol Hill Albert and Jerry Albert in honor of Dewey Albert.

In 1987, on the 25th anniversary of Astroland, the New York Post hailed the Alberts as “the family that keeps Coney Island rolling,” adding that while so much of Coney Island had burned down or was in decay, the Alberts kept the Cyclone running and kept expanding the park. By way of explanation, Jerry Albert told the reporter, “We have sand in our shoes.” Spoken by those who have an intimate working connection with Coney Island, the phrase conveys an unwavering commitment to this place where the amusement industry was born.

Funeral services will be held at 11 am 10 am Sunday at Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, 630 Amsterdam Ave at 91st Street in Manhattan, to be followed by interment at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to the American Parkinson Association, 135 Parkinson Ave. Staten Island, New York 10305

UPDATE March 17, 2012:

More tributes…

“In Memorium: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Astroland Park” by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project

“Jerome Albert, Who Helped Bring Space Age to Coney Island, Dies at 74” by Dennis Hevesi, New York Times

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May 19, 2013: Rest in Peace: Steve Bitetzakis of Steve’s Grill House

July 27, 2011: Coney Island Lost A Good Friend: RIP Andy Badalamenti

May 19, 2011: Rest in Peace: Rabbi Abraham Abraham’s Synagogue Was the Beach

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

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Andy Badalamenti Tries Out the 120-year old chair at the Coney Island History Project, August 29, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island lost a good friend on Monday. Andy Badalamenti, who operated such legendary rides as the Tornado and the Bobsled, and lived in the house under the Thunderbolt roller coaster when he worked as its caretaker, died on Monday after battling cancer. “Coney Island was Andy’s life and obsession,” wrote Charles Denson, in a moving tribute to his friend, who is featured in his books “Coney Island: Lost and Found” and “Wild Ride: A Coney Island Roller Coaster Family.”

“Andy grew up working in Coney Island. He possessed a pure devotion to whatever ride he worked on and the people he worked for,” Denson writes in “Wild Ride.” When the Tornado roller coaster was set afire by arsonists in 1977, Andy climbed to the top and stood beneath the Christmas cross screaming “We’re gonna fix it! The Tornado will be back!” But the coaster was doomed. “The image of Andy Badalamenti high atop the smoldering ruins of the historic roller coaster, triumphant and defiant, promising rebirth, remains a part of Coney Island folkore,” writes Denson.

This photo of Andy Badalamenti trying out a 120-year-old chair from Feltman’s Maple Garden Restaurant was taken at the Coney Island History Project on August 29, 2008. Astroland was set to close forever on the next weekend. After winning a one-year reprieve, many of us felt despondent about not being able to save the park again. But Andy wasn’t about to give up hope. He had dreams of moving the rides a few blocks away and was busily talking up the idea. His eyes always glittered when he smiled.

The 120-year-old chair had a sign telling people not to sit on it, but if anyone had earned the right to sit on a Coney Island museum piece it was Andy Badalamenti. Rest in peace, Andy. Coney Island will miss you.

The wake will be at 2-5pm and 7-9pm on July 27 and 28 at Cusimano and Russo Funeral Home, 2005 W. 6th St at Avenue T, in Brooklyn. The funeral will be at 9:45am on Friday, July 29, at the Church of Saints Simon and Jude, 185 Van Sicklen St at Avenue T.

Andy Badalamenti

Andy Badalamenti with Louise Bonsignore, whose family owned and operated the Bobsled, at the Coney Island History Project. September 8, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita

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March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

July 29, 2011: Photo Album: Coney Island Tribute to Andy Badalamenti

May 19, 2011: Rest in Peace: Rabbi Abraham Abraham’s Synagogue Was the Beach

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

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The Rabbi

Rabbi Abraham Abraham & Bob Stewart of the Coney Island Ice Breakers, 2009 Mermaid Parade. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Rabbi Abraham Abraham, the leader of the Ice Breakers Winter Ocean Swimmers of Brighton Beach, died on May 18, according to club spokesman Bob Stewart. “The Rabbi,” as he was called by his fellow swimmers, was a longtime member of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club until the 1990s when he broke away after a dispute and formed a club called the Ice Bears and then the Ice Breakers. The funeral will be held on May 19 at 2 pm at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, Queens.

The elaborately mustachioed and white-bearded Rabbi was a colorful Coney Island character famous for his daily swims and annual New Year’s Day Swim at Brighton 6th Street. The Ice Breakers boast of having the largest number of active swimmers over 70 years of age (10 swimmers) and four members over 80 years of age. Stewart estimates that the Rabbi was 83 or 84, though he would never admit exactly how much over 80.

Rabbi Abraham Abraham’s zaniest personal accomplishment was probably living in an ice house for 110 hours (Guinness record ID 12729 claimant 12524) on the beach. We’ll never forget his royal antics as King of the Mermaid Parade in 1999. He was so full of fun that he kept jumping out of his rolling chair to dance a jig, which is something we haven’t seen a king do before or since. Photographers loved him, of course. With his white hair and flowing beard, the Rabbi was probably the king who most resembled Neptune. In this 2009 video he extols the health benefits of eating organic kosher food and winter swimming in the frigid waters of the Atlantic.

In the above photo taken by ATZ at the 2009 Mermaid Parade, the Rabbi rode in a pedicab due to a leg injury from what he said at the time was a parachute skydiving accident. “But it was bone cancer,” Stewart reveals. “They removed his thighbone and replaced it with a titanium rod.” The next year, he was once again walking the length of the parade route.

“He’s such a positive guy,” says Stewart. “He called me two weeks ago and said, ‘Bob, I’m dying. I need to see you.’ So I went over to his house. And then he said ‘listen, do you think we can do one more gig before I die?’ Here’s a guy on his deathbed and he wants to do one more something–swim, Mermaid Parade…” They agreed to ride the pedicab again in the Mermaid Parade, which takes place this year on June 18th. “But we knew it was getting close, it was day by day,” Stewart adds. The Ice Breakers are planning to march in the Parade with a photo of their departed leader.

But was he a real Rabbi? “He was able to show me his credentials–his clergy documents,” says Stewart, a Brighton Beach native who took up winter swimming as a teen without being part of an organized group. After getting to know the Rabbi as one of “the beach people,” Stewart joined the Ice Breakers. The Rabbi will be missed. “He was a very happy-go-lucky guy who didn’t preach in any synagogue. His place to preach was the beach.”

Rabbi Abraham Abraham

Rabbi Abraham Abraham Rings the Dreamland Bell at the Coney Island History Project. September 13, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Related posts on ATZ…

May 19, 2013: Rest in Peace: Steve Bitetzakis of Steve’s Grill House

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

July 27, 2011: Coney Island Lost A Good Friend: RIP Andy Badalamenti

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

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