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Coney Island Coney Island USA Exhibit History Interview Performing Arts Photography Sideshow Video Women

Gibsonton, Florida & Other Sideshow & Carnival Videos

Some wonderful videos here for those that enjoy ‘sideshows’ & ‘carnivals’.

An excerpt from History Channel’s Weird US series focusing on the American’s sideshow. Featuring a wonderful interview with Ward Hall. From 2007.

A walkthrough of the Gibsonton, Florida sideshow town museum. Originally broadcast on Travel Channel.

A Carnival Museum! | The International Independent Showman’s Museum | Riverview, FL – Shot by ‘ViewfromTheCheapSeats‘.


From the wilds of Coney Island, some history here in a few videos to whet your appetite for sideshow!

Coney Island Sideshow and Amusement Park – New York City History 1940

Shot in 2009 but this amazing Sideshow Venue – Coney Island USA – is still very wonderful – (once the Covid-19 issue is over the ‘Sideshow by the Seashore‘ will resume!

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Categories
Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret Comedy Coney Island Film History Interview Performing Arts Sideshow Tent Show Video Women

Traveling Sideshow: Shocked and Amazed – The Film

Wonder through the carnival grounds to the sideshow and feast your eyes on the amazing curious people that perform for your entertainment.

 

~ Jeff Krulik on Traveling Sideshow-Shocked and Amazed ~

I trace it all back to buying a paperback of Very Special People on a 7th-grade
field trip. On the bus back to school, my classmates and I sat mesmerized by the
human oddities within. Or maybe it was an animal freak show under a tent at the
neighborhood carnival one year, with the five-legged cows and pickled pig
fetuses on display. My Dad even collected stamps that were known as freaks, or
oddities, that were just mechanical mistakes, and I of course followed suit at my
junior stamp club. So maybe there’s something in my DNA that drew me to the
Shocked and Amazed book series as a customer at Atomic Books in Baltimore,
where I soon after made the acquaintance of one James Taylor since I felt
confident we’d speak the same lingo.
At this time in the mid-90s I was also winging it as a freelance producer after a
multi-year stint on staff at Discovery Channel; I had wanted to get my hands dirty
making TV documentaries instead of watching other people have all the fun (or
misery), so I dove headfirst into the world of independent production, successful
or otherwise. Cut to 1999 when James’ American Dime Museum opened up right
next door to Atomic Books, and I showed up with my new camera to record what
was unfolding. About this time, a benevolent friend (and the man who came up
with Shark Week for Discovery Channel) became head of programming for
Travel Channel, and I pitched the idea of taking “Shocked and Amazed” from the
printed word to the TV screen. It worked. And a TV gig was born, modeled after
my lifelong interest and partnering with James’ brand. It should have just been
called “Shocked and Amazed!” but because Travel Channel was commissioning
it the full name became “Traveling Sideshow: Shocked and Amazed!”
Fine. We could live with that title compromise because here was a chance to go
as far and as wide as we could on the subject of freaks and circus sideshows,
hoping it could turn into a multi-part series. We shot glorious amounts of footage
from road trips to the Sideshow Gathering in Wilkes Barre, to Manhattan and
Brooklyn and Gibsonton, Florida. I kept thinking what we don’t use here will be
for parts 2, 3, etc.
Any production features many peaks and valleys and this one was no exception.
Many of the high points are right on the screen, and additionally, I had enough
foresight to save copies of all the footage. Most TV works-for-hire require all
source material turned over, and I obliged. But not before making copies of
everything, hence my ability to preserve Ward Hall’s roast at Inkin the
Valley/Sideshow Gathering in 2002, as well as his tangential connection to the
Rolling Stones, both of which I have posted on YouTube.
But there were some disappointments too, including our very first ambitious
crew shoot, a four-hour drive to Bloomsburg PA Fair to see the California Hell

Drivers, ruined by torrential rain. Or even more heartbreaking, my production
assistant unable to rendezvous with Presto the Magician to reunite him with his
Hubert’s Freak Museum colleague Hovey Burgess. Oh what could have been.
And of course, the whole thing was shelved right after production because Travel
Channel went in another direction (word had it that some hi-level suit took
offense at the “Jim Rose Twisted Tour” series already being aired). Nothing
personal but that’s showbiz. Our program eventually aired a few years later on a
digital channel so obscure I can’t even recall by name, but I since took to sharing
it online via YouTube, Vimeo, etc. which is how it continues to find new audiences
today.
There are a few people that need special mention, and I couldn’t have done this
without them. My “with it and for it” coproducer Adam Eisenberg who turned over
the bedroom in his house for an edit suite. And to the dear departed Kathleen
Kotcher
, James’ publishing partner who was such an asset to the production, as
well as the preservation of sideshow history.
My thanks and good wishes and I hope you enjoy Shocked and Amazed!

 

 


Traveling Sideshow – Shocked and Amazed!

by James Taylor – May 2020

I can’t tell you when nor where I met Jeff Krulik, filmmaker to the real world, you know, the folks who seek the “other” showbiz, the other forms of education that come from discovering the strange, the bizarre, the weird, the odd and the unusual. All us oddballs. I’d known of Jeff for years c/o his cult classic, “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” but no, I can’t say when nor where he and I first connected, but I can tell you what we talked about: We talked about sideshow. And “weirdness as entertainment,” to re-coin filmmaker Fred Olen Ray’s line.

And the topic of discussion between Krulik & me centered on the idea of a show that would air not as a single doc (which you’re about to watch) but as regular programming, airing weekly, a show that presented novelty & variety acts in all their glory, connecting all the talent across the broad spectrum of the “new” sideshow that was being ushered in at the beginning of this century. That was the idea, anyway, Jeff having crossed paths with my “Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway,” still the world’s only journal devoted to the history of novelty & variety exhibition; ok: sideshow. And Krulik was ready to rock & roll.

Sadly, we – Krulik, Kathleen Kotcher (my late partner and this documentary’s co-producer), and I – watched the project go from a proposed series to, well, this hour-long doc. Which wasn’t aired for nearly two years after production wrapped. But that doesn’t diminish the product one iota. Not one jot. You see, still, “Traveling Sideshow – Shocked and Amazed!” is one of a damn tiny number of essential documentaries on this end of the showbiz, picking up on the business at that seminal moment when the business, about to explode into the mainstream, was starting to boil up, attracting more & more talent into this strangest – but oldest, historically – form of distraction. Of amusement. Of entertainment. And while we were (and remain) disappointed that our dream of a series didn’t pan out, there’s this visual record of not only what was but what is, since the business we all love – in its current iteration – was birthed, as much as, in front of Krulik’s cameras. And we should all thank him for that.


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Categories
Aerial Acts Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Show Comedy Coney Island Dance Juggling Women

Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Show – Quarantine Edition – May 25th, 2020

Host Keith Nelson introduces the show and the evenings acts.

Jan Damm and his family performed a fun vaudeville act for the viewers.

Chris Delgado performed on the ‘wheel’ in the street before the camera.

Rich Potter performed with his hand puppet as he escaped from his closet quarantine.

Kira DiPietrantonio did contortion and juggled in the most amazing ways.

Lou Johnson manipulated the hoops in a very unique way.

Hovey Burgess answered a question about his love of the circus.

The Dutch juggler Niels Duinker showed the viewers his new home (barn) and juggled some rings, cups, balls, and cows.

Keith Nelson attempts to conquer another old vaudeville trick. He succeeds in doing half of it right!

Leonid the Magnificent paraded around the grounds hula-hooping and dancing up a storm.

Reggie Bugmuncher performed a classic sideshow “eye hooks” act by lifting up a fishbowl with hooks attached to her eyelids.

Candice Storley performed a lovely aerial act in the flying hoop.


The cast takes the Zoom curtain call online!

Keith wishes the Coney Island amusement ride WONDER WHEEL a 100th Birthday!

Tune in next week for another great show!

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Categories
Coney Island Coney Island USA Culture Project Exhibit Film History Interview Photography

Interview with Dick Zigun – Sideshow Hall of Fame

When you visit Coney Island USA you have an odd feeling you have stepped into another time. This ‘not-for-profit’ corporation is dedicated to ‘popular entertainment’ and like the rest of Coney Island, it means fun and excitement.

Dick Zigun is the founder of this wonderful oasis and has created a “Sideshow Hall of Fame” for all of us that are a ‘little different’.

Here he explains it all for you in this Vaudevisuals interview.

Become a member of Coney Island USA!

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Categories
Coney Island History Magic Performing Arts

Al Flosso – An Antic Force in Magic!

By Montague Chadbourne

Al Flosso – (Oct. 10, 1895 – May 13, 1976)

AL FLOSSO’S NAME is known to readers of the two-volume graphic novel by Jason Lutes who created a character solely upon the basis of a photograph and this magician’s colorful name. Readers of an earlier era of fiction writing recognized aspects of Al Flosso’s true nature in the character, Professor Flotto in the pages of The Great Balsamo, the novel by show-biz author Maurice Zolotow. The true-life Al Flosso (1895- 1976) was as memorable a character as any created in fiction or prose.

A city native, he later spoke of crossing the Roeblings’ Bridge to get to downtown Manhattan and buy a ten cent pulp-paper booklet of magic to learn at home. Next, he ventured into New York City’s midtown tenderloin district where he purchased a ‘barber-pole’ production effect at Martinka’s Magic Emporium of which he would later – like Carter the Great and Harry Houdini before him become the proprietor.

In his early “kid” days he associated himself with the legendary Max Malini (1873 – 1942) who, like Flosso, was a diminutive man with a striking oversize stage persona and an inspired knack to captivate audiences through the sheer force of his personality.

Next came his yeoman stint at Coney Island where he performed his rendition of ‘The Miser’s Dream’ in an uncanny act of sideshow flare; this performance was an unforgettable admixture of high magic technique and sidesplitting comedic bravado.

Of this work on his part showbiz legend Milton Berle dubbed Flosso, “The Coney Island Fakir,” and this salutation became the sobriquet that stuck.

Professionally he also explored the worlds of traveling sideshow circuses and vaudeville circuits. including split weeks in New England towns. Back home in New York, he purchased and presided over Martinka’s Magic Emporium, welcoming visitors with his warm, self-effacing greeting, “So you’ve come to see the Little Man!”

Later on, he performed on television and Catskill resorts with cyclonic vigor. His friends in the worlds of theater and magic were legend, from Houdini to Dunninger to the youngest aspirants of his beloved art of magic. Like his father-in-law, Professor Louis Krieger, Flosso had busked for the sidewalk gamins of the Bowery and for the members of New York Society’s “Four Hundred”.

He was engaged to improve Ambassador Joseph Kennedy’s manual dexterity as part of physical rehabilitation when Mr. Kennedy was at the Rusk Institute in Manhattan.

Unlike the broken character in Mr. Luter’s fictional ‘Jar of Fools‘, the true Al Flosso was a sober, and ever-alert, participant in the human condition until his last days, captivating all comers with his signature styles of magic, mirth, and mystery. Until his death in 1976, Al Flosso regaled audiences with his antic force, a quality very akin to the ‘Rough Theater,” as described in Peter Brook in his seminal text, The Empty Space. This theatrical genre acts as a cultural antidote to those denatured commercial amusements flooding the mass society which Brook designated “The Deadly Theater.” Flosso, the antic force to behold, was, indeed, the quintessence of that liveliest authentic theater which is always integral to the lively arts.

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Categories
Coney Island Coney Island USA Magic Music Performing Arts Photography Variety Arts

Magic at Coney! Every Sunday at Noon…

Visited ‘The Coney Island Museum‘ last Sunday for the weekly ‘Magic at Coney‘ show.

Great magicians every Sunday and every week there are different ones! I loved the show.

Here are some photographs I took of the wonderful and mystifying performers that day.

Master of Ceremonies and the magic man himself Gary Dreifus.

Jim Vines was a treat. His close up magic was amazing. He worked with coins &  bills.

David Schwartz did a wonderful set of magic that included cards and mind reading.

Yup! He picked his card after it being buried deep in the frozen block of ice. (notice hammer!)

A few volunteers from the audience were asked to select a movie in their head. He picked it!

Lee Alan Barrett had a great sense of humor and timing with wonderful magic skills.

Lee and audience volunteer are amazed at the rope knot.

 Lee solicits an opinion from the audience volunteer about the trick.

Harry Mandel had a nice selection of wonderful mind benders for the audience.

The burning urn produced the card this audience volunteer had selected. 

With the assistance of 3 audience volunteers to secure the handcuff and locks he then escaped from locks after putting his hands in the burlap bag.

Curtain call for the wonderful magicians that performed. Outstanding lineup.

For more information on ‘Magic at Coney”.

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Categories
American Circus Circus Amok Clown Comedy Coney Island Juggling Music Performing Arts Pranks Women

Circus Amok – Coming to a Park Near YOU!

Are you ready for some Circus Amok??

For those of you not familiar with this wonderful group here is an excerpt from a book written about Radical Street Performance by Mark Sussman.

(Circus Amok…reinventing the circus form, borrowing drag fabulousness from Charles Ludlam’s Theater of the Ridiculous, large scale transformation using whole-body masks from Bread and Puppet Theater, and the outdoor bally and verbal rhythm and repertoire from the sideshow, as well as movement vocabulary from post-modern dance. The troupe balances danger with laughter, slipping its critique between the pies in the face and the surreal, scary, and sometimes gender-bent characters of the charivari.)

Saturday, Sept 2
Socrates Sculpture Park, Astoria
Broadway & Vernon Blvd.
3:00pm

Sunday, Sept 3
Coney Island, Brooklyn
On the Boardwalk near 10th Street.
2:00pm & 4:00pm

Friday, Sept 8
Tompkins Square Park, Manhattan.
9th Street and Avenue A
4:00pm & 6:00pm

Saturday, Sept 9
Sunset Park, Brooklyn
6th Ave and 44th Street
3:00pm


Sunday, Sept 10

Marcus Garvey Park, Manhattan
Madison Ave and East 122nd Street
3:00pm

Saturday, Sept 16
St. Mary’s Park, Bronx
St. Ann’s Ave and East 149th Street
3:00pm

Sunday, Sept 17
Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Enter at 9th Street, cross the road and down the hill.
2:00pm & 4:00pm

ALL THE SHOWS ARE FREE!

To make a donation to Circus Amok (since these shows are FREE they need some $$$ to produce them)

Circus Amok is a 501(c)3 organization and all of your donations are tax-deductible!!

Go HERE. And Thank You!

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Categories
Coney Island Magic Performing Arts Photography Sideshow Variety Arts Women

Historical Coney Island – in pictures!

Coney Island has been a mecca for the popular culture for whatever era you were from!

Coney Island, 1945  (AP Images)

1937 Coney Island Aerial Shot.

In 1960 I won a trip to Steeplechase Park by selling numerous subscriptions to a newspaper. The trip was very special since the park was to be closed down in 1964.

From Wikipedia

“Steeplechase Park was an amusement park in the Coney Island area of Brooklyn, New York created by George C. Tilyou (1862–1914) which operated from 1897 to 1964. It was the first of the three original iconic large parks built on Coney Island, the other two being Luna Park (1903) and Dreamland (1904).[1] Steeplechase was Coney Island’s longest lasting park. Unlike Dreamland, which burned in a fire in 1911, and Luna Park which, despite early success, saw its profitability disappear during the Great Depression, Steeplechase had kept itself financially profitable. The Tilyou family had been able to adapt the park to the changing times, bringing in new rides and new amusements to Steeplechase such as the Parachute Jump.”

The amusement areas at Coney Island — Dreamland, Luna Park, and Steeplechase Park — made it the largest amusement area in the nation from the end of the 19th century through World War II.

This photograph taken in May of 1943 show a couple riding the ‘steeplechase’ ride that was the ‘signature’ ride for the Steeplechase Park.  None of the three original amusement parks are there anymore, thanks to several fires and closures. A new version of Luna Park opened in 2010.

August 1948 photograph and today the crowds are still there every summer.

The beach at Coney Island is particularly loved by all folks from all parts of New York.

The Wonder Wheel is the oldest ride in the area. It has been operating since 1918 and is now known as a National Historic Landmark.

One of the unique institutions still existing on Coney Island is “Coney Island USA“.

Still emitting that ‘old Coney Island’ feeling, this bunch of wonderful folks bring you many forms of entertainment.

The Mermaid Parade, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, the Coney Island Museum, and Coney Island Film Festival

Coney Island has always been the populace mecca. For so many years throngs of people head to Coney Island for everything their heart desires!

COME AND VISIT!

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