I madder then a scuba diver with a fogged up face mask over the fact that in my more-than 70 years on this planet, I never made it to Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade.
Well, folks, the wait is over and — you guessed it — I finally got to that parade made famous by scantily clad women (and men!) and — you guessed it again — I did it in Carmine style.
I hopped on Tornado and the two of us rambled down Cropsey Avenue to the office of Community Board 13 on Surf Avenue between West 12th Street and Stillwell Avenue where that board’s president, Eddie Mark, treated me presidentially.
What? You want me to define “presidentially?” I can do that in one word: Free food!
That’s right, Mark, who has attended every meeting of my esteemed Bensonhurst West End Community Council since he assumed the chairmanship of CB13 from Marion Cleaver, knows the Big Screecher has a big appetite, and, more to the point, happens to be a great cook!
So I was not surprised when I got there to find deep-fried turkey, hot dogs in bacon (oh yes he did! Hot dogs and bacon! Two great tastes that taste great together. Hey, that sounds kinda catchy!) and other concoctions that kept this fattie glued to the table for a while.
Heck, I even tried the Coney Island Lager. Now I know what your thinking: Carmine, whenever you mention food, you only talk about how good it is. Well, I’ll admit that that’s the case 90 percent of the time, but I can tell you this: the other half of the time, I’ll tell you when something is bad. And that beer was much too bitter for my taste. And after scrutinizing the pretty label with Steeplechase Park’s famous Funny Face on it, I decided not to finish it — not because it was bitter, but because it was bottled in upstate New York, and not Brooklyn. The nerve!
But I digress. Back to the food: no one can go to Coney Island without having a hot dog, so naturally I partook of that tradition and ate one, er, two, er, three — let me stop here before Sharon gives me a beating for being such a hog.
Look, this was the first time ever for me watching the spectacular Mermaid Parade and, thanks to trusty Tornardo (who got his own charge up in the office of CB13), I saw it up close and personal.
I was able to scoot up and down one way streets via the sidewalk, pass lights, maneuver around the immovable traffic along the Boardwalk, and get the closest I’ve ever wanted to be to a g-stringed man. This kaleidoscope of merriment, color and abandonment, that happens right here in Brooklyn’s backyard, fabulous Coney Island, is truly a sight to be seen.
Now don’t get me wrong — I don’t personally wear a g-string, or have ever been as close to one. But take my word for it; I missed seeing this parade for most of my life and darn if I’m going to miss it again.
Now’s the point in the column where I give you a little bit of the history on the Screecher, just because it’s my column and I can do whatever I darn well please with it.
Stop me if you heard this before (or just stop reading!), but as a boy from Little Italy, I rarely visited the amusement areas of Coney Island because I had a season pass to the Ravenhall Baths, where, in my teens, I worked as a lifeguard. My day was full by the time I got to Nathan’s and then it was the West End home.
So I don’t know much about the rides they had there then, or what it was like outside that pool where I used my dashing good looks (That’s right! Look at the picture!) to, well, let me leave it at that.
But from CB13’s office on the third floor, at the desk of District Manager Chuck Reichenthal, there’s a panoramic view of the new rides and the ocean, the Boardwalk, and it is a sight to behold. Chuck clued me on some spectacular rides that have just been put in — you know, the ones that they won’t let me on because I’m not tall enough,
One catapults you at 90 miles an hour into the air, and another one spins you around so fast, I defy anyone who thinks it won’t make him puke!
Look, Chuck and I go back a long way, and any time I have a question on a Broadway show or show tune, Chuck is my residential expert. So you can believe him when he told me that the two tall rides are part of the Scream Zone at the new Luna Park and, best of all, they’re from Italy!
So if the thought has crossed your mind, let me lay it out for you: Coney Island has a completely new look and must be visited again. However, I hope it doesn’t lose some of the old honky-tonk favorites that have been there forever, like the Mermaid Parade. My thanks to Eddie Mark and Chuck for inviting me. WARNING GUYS! Better put me on the top of the list for next year’s Mermaid Parade or be prepared to feel the wrath of Zorro’s blade!
Screech at you next week!