The Arty Semite

Coney Island Before and After Sandy

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Ever since I first read John Kasson’s “Amusing the Million,” a vividly drawn historical account of Coney Island’s singular appeal as an urban “dreamland,” I’ve had a soft spot for that Brooklyn neighborhood, whose streets are called “Surf,” and “Mermaid,” and “Neptune.” In this, I’m not alone. So, too, did Woody Allen, I.B. Singer, Molly Picon and Ric Burns.

Sarah Ackerman

Woody Allen, for his part, set a hilarious scene in “Annie Hall” in the shadow of a Coney Island rollercoaster, while some of I.B. Singer’s literary imaginings took shape against the area’s penchant for spectacle, both natural and man-made. Molly Picon, in turn, sang buoyantly in Yiddish of one of Coney Island’s most celebrated amenities: the hot dog. Ric Burns trained his sights on the off-kilter, dreamy quality of one of America’s most famous playgrounds, especially in its electrifying late 19th and early 20th century incarnation, giving rise to his very first documentary, Coney Island.

More recently, the Coney Island History Project was established in 2004 to collect and preserve the stories of people who not only visited Coney Island on occasion but also called it home. Appropriately enough, it set up a portable recording booth on the boardwalk to capture these memories.

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Burlesque With a Side of Bacon

By Maia Efrem

The Schlep Sisters showcase their bagel and cream cheese headdresses. Photo by Norman Blake.

Bacon tassels were a-twirling on June 24, just in time for Shabbat. In a jaw-dropping production at the non-profit Sideshows by the Seashore theater, mere steps from the Coney Island boardwalk, the fabulous Schlep Sisters celebrated bad Jewish girls and their love of shellfish, Spam and nude dancing.

Pulling back the curtain leading to “Treyf: The Non-Kosher Burlesque Show,” was like going back to a time when the boardwalk teemed with snake charmers, freak shows and burlesque. The Schlep Sisters, otherwise known as “Minnie Tonka” and “Darlinda Just Darlinda,” started off the show in ‘70s disco costumes, shimmying and stripping each other down to precariously pasted tassels, all to the techno beats of “Party in My Pants,” by Israeli musician Apollo Braun, a remixed version of Heveinu Shalom Aleichem. Definitely not your mother’s Jewish burlesque.

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