Archive for June, 2012

The New Season at Coney

Posted in Amusement Parks, BROOKLYN, Coney Island, FOOD & DRINK CULTURE with tags , , , , on June 30, 2012 by travsd

Well, it was 95 degrees last night and I just finished a new book, so the Countess (who knows how to take care of me) dragged my dazed carcass down to Coney Island for a little diversion. I’d always wanted to eat at one of the Russian joints on the Brighton Beach boardwalk so we began there (Tatiana’s, where my flounder was so fresh its eyes were staring up at me from the plate). Sadly, the air wasn’t any less stifling at the beach, but we did get relief by walking ankle deep in the water for miles and miles. From there we stopped off at the Coney Island Freak Bar for a restorative and learned about a very exciting series of spook shows, about which you will hear much more here in future, as we intend to attend!

As for the amusement zone, much good news to report! Some of the independent operators are back on one of the empty lots (restoring yet another dozen or so rides back to the landscape), and Luna Park’s Scream Zone has added two great new attractions, the Boardwalk Flight (a heart stopping ride in which the customer is dropped from the top of a tall tower, goes into free fall, and then swings over the boardwalk like Superman in flight), and even better (because I have no intention of ever going on the Boardwalk Flight), GO-CARTS have returned to Coney. These were a major attraction out there up until a few years ago; it’s wonderful to have them back. Furthermore, work is under way on a new area dubbed “Steeplechase Park” (in honor of the original), which will contain the B & B Carousell. (Old timers like me remember when the famously mis-spelled carousel used to operate on the other side of Surf Avenue.) Construction on the housing for the ride looks quite far along. The sign out front promises also lots of shops (as does a sign on a new building on Surf Avenue across from the subway station). Frankly, I hope all of these shops — unless they sell inflatable sea horse floats and so forth — TANK. Who goes to the amusement park or the beach to SHOP??? Are the planners that unimaginative? These spaces need to contain rides, arcade games, shooting galleries, roller rinks, wax museums and so forth. Get real! But on the plus side they do mention the new Steeplechase will also include “performance spaces” — I have high hopes for that.

At any rate, the cool aspect is the amusement area is beginning to fill in — it extends all the way from the Aquarium to the Cyclone’s stadium. It’s very exciting. And there are improvements on the boardwalk. Ruby’s, Lola’s and an expanded Nathan’s remain, and there is a new shop selling beach sundries.

And to cap it all off we stayed til dark and watched the spectacular fireworks display. They do it every Friday night at 9:30 throughout the season.

In sum: though it will be mobbed, you should go there today! At 12pm noon, there will be a huge celebration for the Cyclone’s 85th birthday! (Anyone who wants to stand in line on a 95 degree day to ride on an 85 year old roller coaster, be my guest! But as we’ve already intimated there’s much else to do) More info here.

Harry Blackstone, Jr.: The Floating Light Bulb

Posted in Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, Television, TV variety, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , on June 30, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of the late Harry Blackstone Jr. (for more on this great second generation magician, go here). His most famous illusion is the “Floating Light Bulb”, so well known that Woody Allen even named a play after it. Here it is, along with an excellent appreciation:

To find out about  the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. Also please keep a look out for Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies From Nickelodeon to Youtube, coming out in September 2012

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Joan Davis, “Olga from the Volga”

Posted in Comediennes, Comedy, Radio (Old Time Radio), Television, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , on June 29, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of funny lady Joan Davis of “I Married Joan” and much more (for a full bio go here). Now here she is performing “Olga from the Volga” from the 1937 Sonja Henie film Thin Ice.

To find out about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. Also please keep a look out for Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies From Nickelodeon to Youtube, coming out in September 2012

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Happy Birthday, Unknown Comic

Posted in Comedy, Stand Up, Television, TV variety, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , on June 27, 2012 by travsd

In the mid 1970s if you asked me who my favorite comedians were I would have said Steve Martin and the Unknown Comic. The latter’s identity at the time was a well kept secret. I didn’t realize that I had already seen him countless times in his other guise, comedian Murray Langston, on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, The Sonny and Cher Show, The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show and The Bobby Vinton ShowLangston developed the Unknown Comic because he was desperate for cash and he had to disguise his professional standing in order to compete on The Gong Show (also one of my favorite shows).

Essentially, the Unknown Comic is a hack comic with a paper bag over his head. Doesn’t sound like much…but Langston happens to be brilliant. He realized (or discovered) that this character was a VEHICLE for jokes second to none. Certain comic characters have this, some simple hook that allows you to riff endlessly around it. I have a short list of great joke-vehicle-character-comedians: Chico Marx, Steven Wright, Rodney Dangerfield — any good gag writer knows instantly how to write a joke for those guys. The Unknown Comic was this way. (For example, the time he did a ventriloquist routine — using a  lunch bag). It wasn’t all bag humor. Sometimes it was just a parody of a hack comic. But Langston put so much ENERGY into it, he completely sold it. And this was the 70s…the airwaves were still chock full of horrible hack Las Vegas comedians in polyester tuxedos for him to make fun of. And the beauty part was, no one could take it too personally. The guy had a bag over his head!

Anyway, I salute you today, Murray. You were a big influence on me. (Also, thanks for making it so easy to get together a Halloween costume in the late 70s!)

To find out more about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Arthur Tracy, “Pennies from Heaven”

Posted in Music, Radio (Old Time Radio), Singers, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , on June 25, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of “The Street Singer” Arthur Tracy (for a full bio go here). Now here he is singing one of the better known tunes from his repertoire:

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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A New Percy Dovetonsils Record!

Posted in Comedy, PLUGS, Television, TV variety with tags , , on June 22, 2012 by travsd

Good news for Ernie Kovacs fans! Kovacs’ archivist Ben Model recently came across an unreleased set of Percy Dovetonsil recordings made by television’s original genius and left just sittin’ in a vault for 50 years. It’s now available to purchase in CD, MP3 and (for you really troubled nostalgia people) vinyl formats! Buy it now before the Christmas rush! It’s available here.

I’m Guest Blogger on the New York Times Today!

Posted in Indie Theatre, ME, PLUGS with tags , , , , on June 21, 2012 by travsd

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Go figure: Iron Mike gets a Broadway show and I get to guest-blog at the New York Times! Well, stranger things have happened – – and to me! At any rate, my piece is here, at http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/theater-talkback-boxers-on-broadway/

Also my Villager (etc) column is out today. Go here to get yer full skinny on the undergroundzero festival, HERE’s Summer Sublet Series, Dixon Place’s 21st annual HOT! festival (including Theatre Askew’s workshop production of my play The Fickle Mistress), Parallel Exit’s new show and more. It’s all at:  http://www.thevillager.com/?p=5586

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