Coney Island reign ‘mayor’ ends with seaside performance
Over time, the appeal of Coney Island waned. Luna Park closed in 1946, although the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel are still standing. In the 1950s, as television grew in popularity, the crowds shrank even further. In the mid-1960s, Fred Trump, the father of the former president, took control of Steeplechase Park with plans to build luxury apartments. He organized a “funeral” where women in bikinis handed out stones and invited “mourners” to throw them at the park pavilion.
The decline continued in the years that followed.
“It was tough, he was burnt out, a shell of what he was 20 to 30 years ago,” said Adam Rinn, who grew up in the area and is Mr. Zigun’s designated successor. (He declined to comment on the conflict between Mr. Zigun and the Coney Island USA board of directors.)
Still, some of the old allure has remained, calling out people like Mr. Rinn. He said he saw his first show on Coney Island when he was 15. It featured Otis Jordan, “The World’s Only Human Cigarette Factory,” who rolled, lit and smoked a cigarette using only his lips.
“It was such a surreal experience,” said Mr Rinn, 50, who went to learn to swallow swords, to eat and breathe fire, to walk on glass, to lie on a bed of nails and drive nails in his face. (“I guess I would be considered a quick learner,” he said.)
Mr. Zigun ties his infatuation with Coney Island in part to his roots in Barnum’s hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Arriving in New York City after graduating from Yale Drama School in Fine Arts, he decided to look for something on the sidelines.
“When I finished my fancy studies, instead of aspiring to Broadway or somewhere like La MaMa in the East Village, I had this wacky idea of starting my own theater in Coney Island,” he said. -he declares.