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With atmospheric footage shot in 2009, this new video by Steven Day vividly captures the late night scene at Coney Island’s legendary Polar Express. The independently owned ride on West 12th Street is famed for its mega sound system, live DJs, and long ride cycle with cars moving both forwards and backwards.

There’s also the allure of the crowd that gathers in front of the ride to see and be seen dancing in the street. Now required to shut down by midnight, the Polar Express as well as the rides at the now closed McCullough’s Kiddie Park across the street used to spin till 2 or 3 AM. Back in the day, Coney Island’s Himalayas would stay open till 4 or 5 AM!

The late Scott Fitlin, who made his family’s Eldorado Bumper Cars into a Studio 54-inspired disco palace with its own legendary sound system, once shared his boyhood memories of 12th Street’s Himalaya on the Coney Island Message board:

And back in 1969, I would be in my families place, and they would let me go out in the evening BY MYSELF, to go on some rides, everybody knew who I was so I was ok to walk around, and my dad would always tell me stay off of W12th st. The Himalaya was where the Black Spider is now, and they had the best sound and music at that time, a HUGE crowd dancing in front of the ride, and thats where my dad would always come find me. Hanging out dancing to Stax, and Motown in front of The Twins Himalaya! Then they would call out my name over the speakers from the DJ booth, and I would go up on the ride to the booth, Big Willie was the DJ, and he would show me how the ride ran, and the how the music was played. Then he would put me on the mic to scream out, HIMALAYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. Oh, I thought I was so cool, the stuff kids only dream about, I was doing!

And to a young boy, looking out at the street with what seemed to be thousands of people boogieing, THAT was THE ENTIRE WORLD for me right there! I honestly think that was the moment I got the sand in my shoes!

The Guerrero family, who own the Polar Express, have actually operated four or five different Himalayas in Coney Island, beginning around 1975 next to the Thunderbolt roller coaster. They moved the ride to Stillwell Avenue behind Nathan’s before buying the Himi on 12th Street from “The Twins.” The ride was later replaced with the Polar Express. In Day’s video, you’ll also catch glimpses of West 12th Street’s now demolished Bank of Coney Island and Coney Island Arcade.

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Eldorado Bumper Cars

Louis Beard, Ticketseller at Eldorado Bumper Cars, Surf Avenue, Coney Island. July 22, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Actually we can’t remember precisely what Louis was saying when we snapped this humorous photo, but the Eldorado Auto Skooters and most of Coney Island’s other rides are still open weekends through the end of October. This week marks the second anniversary of the death of Scotty Fitlin, the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of bumper cars, which is now run by arcade operator Gordon Lee.

Eldorado

Eldorado Auto Skooters.September 3, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Saturday, in addition to selling tickets to the famed “Bump Your Ass Off” ride, Louis will be reading Coney Island poetry into the mic at 4pm. The site-specific poetry event is part of Parachute: The Coney Island Performance Festival happening this weekend in front of the jellyfish tank at the New York Aquarium and amid the amusement park artifacts at the Coney Island History Project. The Eldorado’s last rides of 2012 — and possibly forever, though we hope not!–will be on October 26 and 27.

Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade, 1216 Surf Avenue, Coney Island. Phone 718- 946-6642

Eldorado Last Ride 2012

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 20, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

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

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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If you’re feeling nostalgic for the Eldorado Auto Skooter and yearn to go for the first ride of the year, this HD video will intensify those feelings. Please be patient and send positive vibes to 1218 Surf Avenue in Coney Island.

On Tuesday we talked again with Gordon Lee, who operated the bumper cars and arcade for the Fitlin family last year. He affirmed that he is preparing to open up within the next couple of weeks. We have faith that Lee can make everything come together so that the famed marquee will light up again for one glorious last season of “Bump, Bump, Bump Your Ass Off” rides before it closes forever.

As ATZ reported last week, Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin and Sandy Fitlin, whose families have operated businesses in Coney Island for more than six decades, sold the building that houses the Eldorado to Thor Equities. Their son Scott Fitlin was the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of bumper cars and his untimely death at the age of 48 left the attraction’s future in question.

“It is with deep regret that I sold Eldorado,” Sheila Fitlin told ATZ. “Due to my advancing age, the fact that I live in Texas, and, of course, Scott’s death, I could no longer continue.” It was a gift to Coney Island and a tribute to his memory that the Eldorado reopened in 2011. We’re hoping for a second gift to Coney Island in 2012.

UPDATE April 12, 2012:

Good news! Gordon Lee of Coney’s Eldorado Bumper Cars phoned to say he’s operating the ride today & open for business! The arcade will also open this weekend for the season. Hours at the Eldorado are “12 noon till closing.”

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

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

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

Read Full Post »

Last week, Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin and Sandy Fitlin, whose families have operated businesses in Coney Island for more than six decades, sold the building that houses the Eldorado Auto Skooters and Arcade at 1216-1218 Surf Avenue to Thor Equities. For months Coney Island insiders knew of the pending sale as well as the possibility that the bumper cars and arcade will open for one more season, in the same way that Astroland remained open the year after it was sold.

“We’re actively working on negotiations,” arcade operator Gordon Lee told ATZ on Monday. Lee’s company Sun Star is a longtime provider of arcade machines to Coney Island, including the Eldorado as well as the now-closed Astroland Arcade and Faber’s Fascination. Last season Lee managed both the bumper cars and the arcade for the Fitlins after the death of their son Scott in October 2010. The bumper cars have undergone pre-season maintenance and passed inspection and are ready to open on Coney Island’s opening day if an agreement can be reached with Thor Equities.

Fitlin

Sandy and Sheila Fitlin. April 17, 2011. Photo © Coney Island History Project. All Rights Reserved

Scott Fitlin was the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of “Bump, Bump, Bump Your Ass Off” bumper cars and his untimely death at the age of 48 left the attraction’s future in question. His parents had retired to Texas and left the bumper cars in his care. It was a gift to Coney Island and a tribute to his memory that the Eldorado reopened last season. ATZ asked the Fitlins for a statement about the sale of the Eldorado and their years in Coney. Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin sent us the following note via email:

It is with deep regret that I sold Eldorado. Due to my advancing age, the fact that I live in Texas, and, of course, Scott’s death, I could no longer continue.

As one of the last of the “old timers,” I view a legacy in Coney Island that spanned three generations and lasted almost 60 years. I pay homage to those of us who shaped Coney Island–

The Buxbaum & Fitlin Family, Jerome & Carol Albert, Denos Vourderis, Freddy Garms, Norman Kaufman, Ronnie Guerrero, Jeff Persily and any I may have forgotten.

Eldorado established an entity that became a standard of the industry. The Bumping Disco was known worldwide, reproduced somewhat once in Japan, but never really successfully duplicated anywhere. Eldorado was one of the very first of the FECs. Today the concept is everywhere and much embellished upon. Many years ago we had plans to extend to other areas, but it never came to fruition. Unfortunately, we were never really recognized or acknowledged by “the new Coney Island.” Oh, what things the “old timers” could have taught the “johnny come latelys.”

I only wish that Scott had not died and the next generation could have persevered.

GOODBYE CONEY ISLAND, and most of all, goodbye to those I love.

Our friend Scott Fitlin told us about the history of the Eldorado in a March 2010 interview. It begins: “Eldorado was hand built by my grandfather Joseph Buxbaum, my Dad Sandy Fitlin, and my Uncle Peter Buxbaum, and a carpenter named Rafael. Opening date was March 21st 1973, admission was 50 cents and 25 cent re-rides. The FIRST record played was Cisco Kid-War!”

In a 2007 interview in the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive, Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin recounts how her parents met in 1930s Coney Island when her mother was working in a frozen custard stand at Bowery and Stillwell and her father was selling hot corn next door to Nathan’s.

In the 1940s, the family opened the Shamrock Irish House, a restaurant, cabaret and open air bar with singing waiters on Henderson Walk and the Bowery. Customers would throw money onto the stage. “I can recall as a child–10, 11, 9–going there, getting a stage-side table and my father would give me a roll of dimes and set me up with my Coca Cola,” says Sheila in the interview with Charles Denson.

In the oral history interview, Sheila says the family switched over to games in the mid-1950s and had one of the first-ever water racing games. The Eldorado building was at one time the Pleasureland Arcade and was won by the Buxbaum and Fitlin families in a closed bid auction in 1971. The building is located mid-block on Surf Avenue between Denny’s Ice Cream and the Popper Building, a few doors down from Thor Equities property at the corner of Surf and Stillwell.

UPDATE March 20, 2012, 9:00 AM:

UPDATE April 12, 2012:

Good news! Gordon Lee of Coney’s Eldorado Bumper Cars phoned to say he’s operating the ride today & open for business! The arcade will also open this weekend for the season. Hours at the Eldorado are “12 noon till closing.”
Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade, 1216 Surf Avenue, Coney Island

Eldorado Bumper Car Crew. Photo © Tricia Vita/me/myself/i via flickr

Eldorado Bumper Car Crew. April 26, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 18, 2010: Good News from Coney Island! Eldorado “Bump Your Ass Off” Bumper Cars To Reopen

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

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

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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We’re happy to be able to report a piece of good news from good ol’ Coney Island, which is reeling from a series of deaths, demolitions, and evictions. The good news is Eldorado Auto Skooters, Coney’s famed disco palace of bumper cars, will reopen in 2011. It’ll be “Bump, Bump, Bump your Ass Off” at 1216 Surf Avenue in memory of the Eldorado’s heart and soul, Scott Fitlin, who died in October.

ATZ received a personal note from Sheila and Sandy Fitlin, the owners of the Eldorado Bumper Cars, to thank us for ATZ’s eulogy to their son. We can’t tell you how happy we were to read the words: “Stop by to see us at the Eldorado this summer.” The Coney Island Rumor Mill had been speculating whether or not the Eldorado would reopen. Some were worried that the building, which is owned by the Fitlin family, would be sold.

We were amazed and moved by the response to “Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney’s Eldorado Man” (ATZ, October 13, 2010). Our eulogy was read by thousands of people from all over the world! As Sandy Fitlin writes, “Tricia, Scott had friends he probably didn’t know cared for him so much.” We think Scott would have been surprised by the many remembrances and condolences posted on ATZ and the audio discussion forums Audio Heritage and Wave Music, among others. Scott’s friends will want to stop by the Eldorado this summer to hear the legendary sound system and “Turn that Wheel!”

Eldorado Marquee at Night. September 5, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Eldorado Marquee at Night, Surf Avenue in Coney Island. September 5, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

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

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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Eldorado Ticket Booth. October 15, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Eldorado Ticket Booth. October 15, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The funeral services for Scott Fitlin, the operator and DJ extraordinaire of Coney Island’s Eldorado Bumper Cars were on Friday in Long Island. At 9 am in front of the Eldorado, guests began boarding a chartered bus. We’re told that while the passengers waited for everyone to arrive, a friend rolled up the steel doors of the Eldorado, put on some music, and turned up the volume in tribute to Scotty.

Eldorado Auto Skooter, Coney Island. October 15, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

Eldorado Auto Skooter, Coney Island. October 15, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita

By 10 am, the bus had left Surf Avenue. Before the friend locked up and left to go to the funeral, he paid one more tribute to Scotty: He turned on the lights of the Eldorado’s dazzling marquee and the neon lights in the ticket booth. That’s why we found the Eldorado all lit up, though it was closed, when we got to Coney Island at 4:30 and took these photos. The lights were still blazing at midnight when we passed by on our way home. The friend returned the next morning and turned off the Eldorado’s lights for the 2010 season. RIP Scott, your passion for Coney Island and knowledge of its history were greatly admired. You will be missed more than you could ever know.

Eldorado Canopy, Surf Ave in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Eldorado Canopy, Surf Ave in Coney Island. October 15, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

November 18, 2010: Good News from Coney Island! Eldorado “Bump Your Ass Off” Bumper Cars To Reopen

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

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

Read Full Post »

Scott Fitlin at Coney Island's Eldorado.  Photo © Charles Denson

Scott Fitlin at Coney Island's Eldorado. Photo © Charles Denson

Sorrowful news from Coney Island this morning: Our friend Scott Fitlin, who operated the Eldorado Bumper cars for his family, died on Monday in his apartment. Scott was the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of bumper cars and a steadfast defender of the amusement zone. Coney Island will miss him more than we can say.

These never-before-published portraits of Scott Fitlin were taken by Coney Island historian Charles Denson, who photographed Scott at work in the Eldorado this summer.

Coney Island raconteur Stan Fox, whose family operated the Playland arcade, recalled saying that when Mike Saltzstein of the B & B Carousell died in 2001, the music died. “Today’s another day when the music died,” Fox said.

Scott Fitlin was proud of the Eldorado’s sound system. Last March, ATZ did a post celebrating the Eldorado, in which Scott related the history of the ride and the sound system. Here is an excerpt:

Eldorado was hand built by my grandfather Joseph Buxbaum, my Dad Sandy Fitlin, and my Uncle Peter Buxbaum, and a carpenter named Rafael. Opening date was March 21st 1973, admission was 50 cents and 25 cent re-rides.

The lighting is disco style from the Studio 54 era, and we are upgrading this year to newer LED technology effects.

Our sound is custom built, by us, and we have had professionals in from time to time, back in the old days it was Richard Long, famous for the sound at Studio 54 and The Paradise Garage. Our sound is extremely powerful yet very easy to listen to, it doesn’t hurt the ear. CRYSTAL CLEAR, lightning fast, and stunning transient response, the crack of the snare drum is scary. Our bass is tremendous, and I play dance music, the sound that has energy and life, and POSITIVITY!

Our Bumper cars are Italian made Soli cars. They look good, run fast, and bump good.

The Eldorado Arcade opened for the spring of `71, the bumper cars were constructed during the winter of `72, and grand opened March 21, 1973. The FIRST record played was Cisco Kid-War!

Over the summer, Scott sent us a note about the upgrade to the Eldorado’s sound system:

I was always devoutly into audio, and music. Once I have performed and completed this years sound system repairs and upgrades, once again, NOTHING sounds like The Eldorado.

If you really begin searching the web using my name, you will find that I am one of the foremost authorities on the RLA [Richard Long] sound, and dance club style sound.

I have been working the 1216 Surf Ave Eldorado like it is a nightclub, for years. The only difference between my place and a club, is that in a club you dance on the floor, in my place you drive electric cars around the floor. Essentially, I run a disco on wheels.

Services will be on Friday, October 15th, at 12 noon at the Boulevard Chapel in Hewlett, Long Island. Phone 516-295-3100. The Fitlin family has chartered a bus to take anyone who wishes to attend but does not have transportation. The bus is expected to leave from the Eldorado between 9 am and 10 am.

UPDATE October 22, 2010:

The Coney Island History Project has posted a very moving excerpt from an audio interview that Scott did with CIHP director Charles Denson
http://www.coneyislandhistory.org/news/?p=484

Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

November 18, 2010: Good News from Coney Island! Eldorado “Bump Your Ass Off” Bumper Cars To Reopen

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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