Posts Tagged ‘Strange Girls’

Strange Girls

John Strong's Strange Girls Sideshow at Cha Cha's of Coney Island. May 21, 2011 Photo © Diana Taft Shumate

Cha Cha’s Club on the Coney Island Boardwalk is already a sideshow and we mean that as a compliment. On Saturday, the longtime home of wild women and wise guys welcomed John Strong’s sideshow aka the “Strangest Show on Earth.” Starting this weekend, Cha Cha’s will feature a troupe of Strange Girls, including a totally tattooed leopard woman.

Around 5:30 on Saturday, John Strong and his crew were seen raising a couple of gorgeous banners on the rooftop of the club, which is adjacent to Scream Zone’s Boardwalk entrance. The banners tout a beautiful girl with the body of a snake, a double-bodied girl and other female freaks. As old-pro sideshow banner painter G.M.Caldwell famously proclaimed: “It’s the front of the show that gets the dough.”

Once the banners were flying, a girl with a Burmese albino python draped round her neck stood on John Strong’s ticketbox while the showman brought out another snake. The bally began. Cha Cha’s has hosted the Squidling Brothers and other sideshows as late night entertainment, but as far we know this is the first time they’ve had a bally out front, which is a time-honored way for sideshows to gather potential customers. Patrons paid $2.00, the price of a child’s ticket, to see the show.

John Strong

John Strong's Strange Girls Sideshow at Cha Cha's of Coney Island. May 21, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

The Strange Girls and Giantess banners were last flown in Coney Island in “Dreamland,” a temporary assemblage of amusements brought by Thor Equities to the former Astroland site in 2009. But Joe Sitt shut down the amusements and John Strong, whose Texas- based sideshow tours the carnival and fair circuit, has been trying to make a Coney Island comeback ever since.

Strong’s “World’s Finest Shows” with its 150-foot “world’s largest bannerline,” is currently playing Kings County Fair with Reithoffer’s carnival. The fair is at Aviator Sports in Marine Park through May 30. Strong is also eyeing two additional locations in Coney Island for his museum and freak animal show: 1109 Surf Ave near Jones Walk and another spot on 12th St. and the Bowery. The 12th Street location is the former site of the Coney Island Arcade, which was destroyed by a fire and is currently being demolished. We’ve heard of at least two other parties hoping to rent the site for rides and/or games, so Strong may have to make do with two locations in Coney island.

Last May, Strong’s on-again, off-again deal to lease the Grashorn Building, Coney’s oldest, from Joe Sitt fell through and he made a deal to set up on the north side of Surf Avenue across from the Cyclone. ATZ contemplated the possibility of Coney Island hosting a trio of rival sideshows in 2010, but it was not to be. Will Coney Island host a multiplicity of sideshows this season? The more the merrier school of thought is that a concentration of sideshow talent is good publicity for Coney Island.

Update, May 31…

Cha Cha’s stint as a sideshow with a Boardwalk bally was officially over on Saturday night. John Strong’s sideshow can now be found at the 1109 Surf Avenue location near Jones Walk. From the F train on Sunday afternoon, I could see he’d already gathered a crowd. Having the sideshow bally and ticketbox out front at Cha Cha’s drew onlookers, but Cha Cha’s bar lost business. People didn’t realize you could walk past the talker and just have a drink at the bar. Or they’d buy a ticket for the show, but not a drink. Now if you go to Cha Cha’s, there’s live music with a $5 cover which includes one drink.

Update, June 5th…

John Strong’s freak animal show, including live as well as mummified and pickled specimens, is set up at the corner of West 12th and Bowery, on the site of the now-demolished Coney Island Arcade. Both shows left Coney Island on June 12th and are on the state and county fair circuit.

John Strong

John Strong's Strange Girls Sideshow at Cha Cha's of Coney Island. May 21, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy/Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr


Related posts on ATZ…

May 17, 2010: Will Coney Island Host a Trio of Rival Sideshows in 2010?

May 4, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Major Debert the Tiniest Man’s Sideshow Banner

March 10, 2010: Coney Island Sideshow to Add Girlie Freak Show, Run 7 Days a Week

December 1, 2009: TLC’s Cake Boss Sweet on Marie Roberts’ Coney Island Sideshow Banners

Read Full Post »

Texas-based sideshow operator John Strong has launched a new website replete with photos to announce he’s booking his 2010 season. Coney Island is clearly at the top of his wish list. A one-page proposal on the site outlines Strong’s pitch to return to Coney Island in 2010 with shows similar to his “Strangest Girls in the World” ten-in-one circus sideshow and his Oddity Museum.

July 2, 2009: John Strong Sideshow in Coney Island. ©2009 Norman Blake. All rights reserved by NB Photo Flash via flickr

July 2, 2009: John Strong Sideshow in Coney Island. ©2009 Norman Blake, All rights reserved by NB Photo Flash via flickr

The flamboyant showman’s traveling museum boasts dozens of live and preserved freaks of nature, including Double Trouble the Two Headed Rattlesnake, a Four Tailed Iguana and a Five-Legged Puppy. Nope, it’s not the adorable-looking, headline-grabbing 5-legged Chihuahua mix that was “saved” from being sold to Strong’s freak show last year. It’s a Yorkie and she’s looking forward to being in Coney Island and written up in the New York Times.

Strong’s two shows were booked into Thor Equities-owned Dreamland Park on the former Astroland site in 2009. Now he hopes to be able to book the same locations with the City’s soon-to-be designated amusement operator. At the end of 2009, the City paid $95.6 million to purchase 6.9 acres of Thor’s property in Coney Island and issued an RFP for an amusement operator for the parcels. “Contingent on the award of the NYC Contracts and negotiation with the Amusement Operator, the current John Strong Shows Proposal for Coney Island 2010 has three primary components,” according to the proposal on Strong’s website.

Night Shot of Banner Painted by Jorge Rivero and Takeshi Yamada for John Strongs Strange Girls Show. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Night Shot of Banner Painted by Jorge Rivero and Takeshi Yamada for John Strong's Strange Girls Show. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The third part of Strong’s pitch is “A Cirque-style/Las Vegas class, choreographed, Circus Sideshow production…. with fire eaters, family friendly dance revues and similar live amusements with a definite plot and thematic development.” Strong and his friend Butch Butler of Butler Amusements jointly own the equipment (seats, lights, etc.) for the 2000 seat, 1-ring circus. Last summer Butler brought four rides all the way from California to Coney Island’s Dreamland, including Michael Jackson’s Dragon Wagon from Neverland Ranch.

The proposed site for the Cirque is Thor Equities tented property on Stillwell Avenue where “For Lease” signs went up last week. “Joe Sitt, Digna Rodriguez and Sam Sabin of Thor Equities have been very supportive of this use of Thor’s tents and properties on Surf,” Strong says in his proposal.

ATZ has already committed to hoping for rides and more rides and even more rides on Stillwell to replace the demolished Bumper Boats and bulldozed Go Karts and the long vanished Tornado roller coaster and Bobsled ride. But we do look forward to seeing John Strong’s drop-dead gorgeous Strange Girls and Mermaid and Giantess sideshow banners once again.

UPDATE April 29, 2010:

John Strong’s deal to rent the Grashorn is off! We’re sorry that rumors of Joe Sitt’s plans to demolish historic buildings which we reported in last week’s post “Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings” (ATZ, April 21, 2010) have turned out to be true. This is one time we would have preferred for the rumors to have remained just rumors.

Today, in response to a flurry of queries from reporters about Sitt’s still unleased empty lots and vacant properties, Thor Equities pr flack Knickerbocker SKD issued a press release announcing Sitt’s intention to begin demolishing the buildings and to replace them with other structures by May 2011. According to the release, “These structures will be replaced with more attractive, retail-friendly and up-to-code shops for the type of retailers Coney is famous for.” See “Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!” (ATZ. April 29, 2010)

Translation: More Bull-Sitt from Thor Equities. More deliberately created empty lots.


Related posts on ATZ…

April 29, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt Is Baaack Playing Games!

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

January 31, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Freak Museum to Lease Coney’s Oldest Building

August 24, 2009: Coney Island-O-Rama: John Strong Packs Up, Geren’s Rides “Sitt” It Out

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: