Archive for the PLUGS Category

World War One New York (the book)

Posted in BOOKS & AUTHORS, BROOKLYN, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, PLUGS, Travel/ Tourism with tags , , , , , , on May 12, 2017 by travsd

I was unprepared for how much I would love Kevin Fitzpatrick’s latest guidebook World War I: A Guide to the City’s Enduing Ties to the Great War. I shouldn’t have been; I love all his books. He finds surprising holes in the publishing universe and fills them. The surprise is always, “There isn’t already a book about that?” Well, now there is! Just as his recent Governor’s Island book is now indispensable for anyone who wants to visit that beautiful new public space and know what the hell they’re looking at, this WWI book will help even the lifelong New Yorker look at the city through new eyes. The past is all around for you to see if you’re looking through the right glasses!

The book takes you all over the greater NYC area (including parts of New Jersey and Long Island) to sites related to what used to be called The Great War (America joined the conflict just over a century ago). Quite naturally he leads off with Governor’s Island, which was, after all the local military base at the time, and is one of the author’s main areas of expertise. Some other places he touches upon in his survey that will be of particular interest to readers of this blog include: Federal Hall National Monument, where Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford made their historic speeches to sell Liberty Bonds; Tin Pan Alley, where patriotic songs were written; Broadway theatres, where patriotic songs were sung (Irving Berlin’s “Over There” being the most famous and long lasting; the home of bandleader James Reese Europe, who brought his Harlem musicians to the war zone in uniform to rally the troops; and the Woodlawn Cemetery memorial of Vernon Castle, killed in the war.

Washington Square Park had an entire scale replica of a ship as a recruitment station. Central Park displayed a captured U boat!

My favorite part of the book may be the second half, which details all the WWI monuments and memorials in the city, which I’ll now make a note to look out for during my travels hither and yon. Two of them are within spitting distance of my house, which makes for a perfect occasion for me to now do something I meant do a month ago on the actual centennial, but forgot, and that’s share photos of them.

One, is the Fourteenth Regiment Memorial, in front of the Armory on Eighth Street, right around the corner from my house. I took this photo this morning on the way home from the laundromat:

And the other is the Brooklyn War Memorial, dedicated to all the Brooklynites who died in the war. (It’s unofficial nickname is the “Angel of Death”). It’s located right opposite the skating rink in the middle of Prospect Park.

Those and scores of others are featured in the book: their names, their histories, the people who designed them, the people who funded them, photos, and much more! Get yourn here. 

1/3 Off the Price of My Book “Chain of Fools” Now Through Friday

Posted in BOOKS & AUTHORS, Hollywood (History), ME, My Shows, PLUGS, Silent Film with tags , on May 9, 2017 by travsd

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500Great news! Now through Friday you can get a copy of my critically-acclaimed book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube for one third off the usual cover price. Just go to Bear Manor Media (or follow the direct link from my book title above) and type in the promo code below at checkout. It’s just that easy! And they have an incredible selection of other great show biz books too, all 1/3 off through Friday. But Chain of Fools, Chain of Fools, Chain of Fools!


Through a Dandy, Darkly

Posted in BOOKS & AUTHORS, Clown, Contemporary Variety, Drag and/or LGBT, Indie Theatre, ME, PLUGS with tags , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2017 by travsd

Our old friend (fiend?) Dandy Darkly is about to launch two exciting new projects: his book of monologue-stories Dandy Darkly’s Six Hundred and Sixty-Six Tales of Sex and Death, Volume One, and a tour of his new show Dandy Darkly’s Myth Mouth. Read all about Dandy and his new projects in my new article in the current edition of Chelsea Now. 

And for a little snippet of Dandy in action, watch our 2013 Vaudephone here. 

Tonight! My Vaudeville Salute to World War One

Posted in AMERICANA, Contemporary Variety, Indie Theatre, ME, My Shows, PLUGS with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2017 by travsd

April 2017 is the 100th anniversary of America’s involvement in the First World War. Tonight, April 25 at the Metropolitan Playhouse’s 25th Anniversary Gala  I’m organizing and hosting a vaudeville tribute to the event as the entertainment. We have Peter Daniel Straus and Chris Rozzi as Weber and Fields! Gay Marshall singing Parisian songs of the era! The one and only Lorinne Lampert doing George M. Cohan material! The Two and Only Jonathan M. Smith doing English music hall! A presentation of Nazimova’s famous starring vehicle War Brides directed by Ivana Cullinan and starring Alyssa Simon, Victoria Miller, Morgan Zipf-Meister, and Amy Overman Plowman! and Charlie Chaplin’s The Bond, accompanied by Ben Model! And more! Hosted and interpreted by yours truly Trav SD! It’s going to be a memorable evening — In fact, I remember it already! Tickets, reservations and information all here. 

Magic at Coney: An Interview with Magician Gary Driefus

Posted in BROOKLYN, Coney Island, Contemporary Variety, Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, PLUGS with tags , , , , , , on April 20, 2017 by travsd

Sundays at Noon, Gary Dreifus presents his long-running family-oriented magic show at Coney Island USA, featuring a different line-up  of expert illusionists every week. Today, Gary gives us the low-down on this popular show: 

When/ how/ why did you start performing magic?

My interest in magic began in the fourth grade.  I was assigned a “How To” book report and wound up at the 793.8 section of the library.  I took our Dunninger’s Encyclopedia of Magic and performed three effects from the book. I sucked, but it peaked my interest in magic.  Later that year, I witnessed my first live magic performance. I helped the magician take his livestock to the car and he showed me how to do a simple magic trick.  I was hooked! His name was Maurice Keshinova (sp?) and performed as Maurice the Great. He had been a vaudevillian magician and taught me several tricks.

During adolescence, I was a klutz.  My father suggested I renew my interest in magic to gain some dexterity and hand/eye coordination.  He owned a popular bakery in Midwood and a magic shop opened a block away. I had a few hours to kill between sweeping up and closing time at the bakery, so I would go and hang out at the magic store.  We were all young… the manager was Larry Scott (Youngstein), who now owns Havin’ a Party in Canarsie and is the local balloon distributor. Other kids who hung out there were Eric DeCamps, Levent (Cimkentli), Robert Baxt, Brian McGovern.

I graduated Brooklyn College with a degree in Education of the Speech and Hearing Handicapped.  My first job was as a Teacher of the Deaf in JHS 47; the city’s school for the deaf.  Since I was new teacher, they gave me the worst class in the school.  I made a deal with the students. Every day they behaved, I performed a magic trick.  The class became the best in the school and I was running out of material so I started teaching them magic. The “worst” class scored higher in math and reading scores than any other group in the school!

Throughout my professional career, I used magic to motivate, educate and entertain. I was also asked to teach a beginners (and subsequently an intermediate and advanced) magic class at Kingsborough Community College. It was in the late 1990’s that I came across a magic shop on Queens’s Boulevard in Elmhurst. The proprietor was Roger “Rogue” Quan, who asked if I could perform at one of his weekly magic shows.  I agreed, and was then asked if I could host the shows.  Thus began my career as magical host.  Met all the local performers and became friends with many of them.

In 2008, my program was eliminated by the city and I was laid-off.  A friend had a great idea to perform for restaurants and bars. We had contracts on Long Island and the Jersey shore. Unfortunately, we weren’t getting paid and had to run after EVERY penny! I parted ways with my partner and started teaching magic in local community centers.

How/ when did you come to be doing your regular Sunday shows at Coney Island USA?

In the summer of 2010 I was meeting with another magician at the Freak Bar in Coney Island. He introduced me to Patrick Wall, then the stage manager at Coney Island USA. I asked why there weren’t any regular magic shows at Sideshows by the Seashore.  I was told they had tried, but they never took off. I did some research and found that magic and magicians were an integral part of Coney Island. Coney Island was a beacon for magicians throughout the world. The local sideshows at Dreamland, Luna Park and Steeplechase Park, as well as the local dance halls and theaters were a proving ground for those performing artists looking to hone their skills. Luminaries such as Houdini, his brother Hardeen, Cary Grant, William “Bud” Abbott, Dai Vernon, Jean Hugard and Al Flosso were featured artists who went on to stardom around the world.

I drew up a proposal for a magic variety show and pitched it to Dick Zigun, the artistic director of CIUSA. I began on a Wednesday in September. We had eight acts for that first show… It was some time after midnight that we finished! The important lesson I learned was that performing artists have NO concept of time! Fifteen minutes maximum turned into a 40 minute set! The show was a HUGE success. Audience response was fantastic. Magic at Coney!!! continued as a monthly show, then twice per month the following season.

During the 2013 season, I was asked if we could perform during the off-season. Thus began the Sunday matinees.

What do you like about performing there?

Magic at Coney!!! belongs at the same venue where the last of the sideshows is performed. The Coney Island Museum makes a perfect backdrop, allowing for a mix of both old and new Coney Island.

Who are your heroes, mentors, models in the magic world?

I love watching Marc Salem perform.  I think he’s the top working mentalist today. I love watching Rocco perform. He brings magic to a whole new level. Bobby Torkova is fantastic as is Thomas Solomon. I enjoy working with ALL of the artists involved with Magic at Coney!!!  Each brings his or her own take to the art.

My biggest influences were probably the late Bob Cassidy, Kenton Knepper and Eugene Berger. Ken Weber gave me specific suggestions that changed and improved certain specific effects. Simon Lovell was an incredible performer who also helped me improve.

The entire Magic at Coney!!! project could not have succeeded without the support and dedication of a group of talented magicians.  The friendships I’ve made have been tight and everlasting, and I cannot thank them all enough.

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night

Posted in BOOKS & AUTHORS, Comedians, Comedy, PLUGS, Television, TV variety with tags , , , , on April 12, 2017 by travsd

David Letterman’s birthday is today. We wrote a couple of earlier posts with some thoughts about this influential show biz figure (here and here), so today, I thought I’d plug Jason Zinoman’s must-read new book Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night. We much enjoyed his earlier book Shock Value (reviewed it here) as do we particularly relish his comedy coverage for the New York Times. The marriage of author and subject promises to be nothing but fortunate in this case, and we can’t wait to sink our teeth into it. It was released yesterday.

What’s Up at Coney

Posted in AMERICANA, Coney Island, Contemporary Variety, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, PLUGS, SOCIAL EVENTS with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2017 by travsd

We all associate Coney Island with summer (it’s a beach and amusement park after all), but it may be a lesser known fact that there’s stuff happening at Coney Island USA all through the winter season as well. For example, most every Sunday Gary Dreifus presents his kid friendly Magic at Coney show. I was mightily entertained by Mr. Dreifus’s feats in yesterday’s show, as well as those of his special guests Magical Vince and Phil Crosson.  Here’s next week’s line-up:

The magic show takes place in the Coney Island Museum,  open on weekend throughout the winter. The museum has recently been spruced up with some new displays and wall text


Koo Koo the Bird Girl and her jolly friend (okay, he’s dressed like a jester, but I don’t know how jolly he is).



“Slapstick Used By Angelo the Midget at the Steeplechase Blowhole”

And now there is a whole new Hot Dog section of the museum featuring items like:


These stained glass windows are from the original Feltman’s Restaurant, birthplace of the hot dog

Thence (the real pull for the day) a special preview event for the new exhibition Five Cents to Dreamland: A Trip to Coney Island, created and curated by the New York Transit Museum. 

A 1998 sideshow banner by the one and only Marie Roberts!

A genuine vintage Strength-Tester mallet.


CIUSA Founder Dick Zigun (center): with Concetta Bencivenga, director of the NYTM; and John di Domenico, who serves on the boards of both organizations


Coney’s own Patrick Wall, Your Mix-Master


CIUSA board members James Fitzsimmons and Dr. Jeff Birnbaum, with Birnbaum’s son


Coney Island USA’s annual gala is happening in just two weeks, March 25! An all-star cast celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Mermaid Parade with a Corral Jubilee! Follow this magical portal for tickets and details! 


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