Categories
Amusements and Thrills

From ‘Hot Circuits’ to ‘Arcade Classics’: A Museum’s Quest to Preserve Video Games

ARCADE CLASSICS, the latest show at the Museum of the Moving Image, pulling from the museum’s regular collection of video arcade games, is indeed an all-star line-up of classics. But without the fussiness of an actual arcade. (For one, the experience is at pleasant decibels.) The machines will mostly be familiar to anybody who identifies as Generation […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

The Mystique of Josephine Baker, born 110 years ago today

Josephine Baker is a spellbinding icon. Her persona is magnetic, mysterious, intangible, taking inspiration from Sophie Tucker and Bessie Smith, the divas of the silent screen and the flappers of Harlem and Greenwich Village. And yet this most alluring figure of the Jazz Age was born 110 years ago today in St. Louis, Missouri. Barely 15 years […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

PODCAST REWIND: Return to Freedomland U.S.A.!

What is Freedomland U.S.A.? An unusual theme park in the Bronx, only in existence for less than five years, Freedomland has become the object of fascination for New York nostalgia lovers everywhere. Created by an outcast of Walt Disney’s inner circle, Freedomland practically defines 60s kitsch, with dozens of rides and amusements related to saccharine […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

History in the Making (9/9): So Many Vices Edition

In this blog roundup, a Bowery Boys appearance in Vice, a threat to preservation, a classic restaurant closes, the story of two hotels with very different histories and more! In the photo above and below — From the Museum of the City of New York collection, some images of the so-called Prize Fighters Saloon (at […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

Hey gang, let’s go down to the Recreation Pier!

The end of the 19th century saw many new ways to get people out of New York City’s over-crowded tenement districts, with trains to beach havens like Coney Island and Rockaway Beach and steamers making day-trips up the Hudson River and to spots in Long Island. For those who didn’t have the luxury of a free afternoon,  some […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

The 1965 New York World’s Fair: Opening Day

The New York World’s Fair opened for its second and last season on April 21, 1965.  The grand opening the previous year had been rocky indeed — protests, rain, even a parking lot riot.  Thankfully the second season was met with beautiful weather and abundant crowds.  In order to jazz it up a bit — not […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

The Monster Tree: A California Sequoia Visits New York City 1855

The mighty Sequoia tree,  principally existing today in northern California, embodied the breathtaking diversity of the North American continent when it was first discovered by European explorers in the 1830s.  The Native American tribes of the west coast revered them.  Early European explorers too marveled at this display of nature’s great flourish, spinning fantastic tales of ‘monster […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

The Crystal Palace, America’s first World’s Fair and bizarre treasury of the 19th century

PODCAST  New York’s Crystal Palace seems like something out of a dream, a shimmering and spectacular glass-and-steel structure — a gigantic greenhouse — which sat in the area of today’s Bryant Park. In 1853 this was the home to the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, a dizzying presentation of items, great and small, […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The literary Coney Island

Everybody sees Coney Island a little differently. Most people know it for the amusements but not everybody has the same feeling about them. One person craves the beaches, the food. Another prefers a stroll along the boardwalk, fireworks, an evening Cyclones game. Others live nearby, too familiar with the swelling weekend crowds. And some people […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

Bogie and Bacall meet Basie and Billie

This actually happened. For the debut of the new film Key Largo — starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall — the exhibitors at the Warner Strand Theater (at Broadway and 47th Street) has a special treat in store. The Strand Theatre, which opened in 1914, has already made history a few times in New York. […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

Stanley Kubrick’s photos of people in a haunted house 1946

Before he became an iconic filmmaker, the Bronx-born Stanley Kubrick was an ace photographer, wandering the city with his camera and beautifully capturing aspects of New York street life. In 1946 he became the youngest photographer ever employed by Look Magazine (located at Madison Avenue and 52nd Street), a Life Magazine look-alike that still managed millions […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills Mysterious Stories

Harry Houdini sitting upon his own grave 1916

Anybody watching the Houdini mini-series on the History Channel? It’s, um, interesting, I guess.  It breezes over any actual character development — eschews all forms of subtlety — and lingers upon vast areas of speculation in his biography.  This would be totally unacceptable if it were anybody else but Harry Houdini, who routinely blended fact […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills It's Showtime

New York’s amusement palace Niblo’s Garden returns (sort of)

It’s the return of Niblo’s Garden, the 19th century pleasure garden and entertainment palace once on Broadway and Prince Street!  Except this time around, it’s in a cemetery. Niblo’s is perhaps most famous as being the site of the first Broadway musical (at least, some form of it).  The venue’s impresario William Niblo is buried […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills Bridges

The ten greatest fireworks displays in New York City history

Above: One of my favorite pictures of the Williamsburg Bridge, at its opening in 1903 Nothing befits a fireworks display quite like a skyline to frame it, and no city has a skyline quite like New York City.  And so, despite the obvious dangers of setting off thousands of pounds of explosives in a crowded, […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

The decline and fall of Coney Island’s original Thunderbolt

Coney Island gets a brand new star attraction this week — the 2,000-feet Thunderbolt roller-coaster in Luna Park.  It’s “narrower than most apartments” (according to Gizmodo), a bright orange ribbon ride that squiggles, rises and plummets within a disturbingly wonky silhouette. It also takes its name from one of Coney Island’s most famous roller-coasters, designed by […]