Going full tilt: Coney Island Pinball Party celebrates the silver ball

Going full tilt: Coney Island Pinball Party celebrates the silver ball
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

They’re having a ball!

A vintage pinball arcade in the People’s Playground will host a full night of flipper-themed entertainment next weekend! The Coney Island Pinball Party on May 19 will fill the Sideshows by the Seashore Theater and its Freak Bar with films, performances, and enough pinball free play to fulfill an arcade aficionado’s wildest dreams, said the Mill Basinite producing the night.

“We’re really looking forward to it as a way to promote the [Coney Island Pinball] Museum, what we are doing with pinball out there — people are really into pinball, it’s really on the rise,” said Dennis Catalfumo. “We just want people to come and play and have fun on all vintage machines.”

The party will start with three short but fascinating documentaries about the game — including one from Vice that explains pinball’s criminal past, when it was considered a form of illegal gambling, said Catalfumo. The flipper flick features an interview with Robert Sharpe, who in 1976 played a game of pinball in a New York City courtroom in order to demonstrate that it was a game of skill, and not of chance.

“He helped save pinball,” said Catalfumo. “Not too many people know that.”

Guests will also be entertained by three live performers with acts based on the silver ball, including burlesque dancer Gigi Bonbon, who is the reigning Miss Coney Island; Justin Weber, yo-yo master and master juggler; and Serpentina, a snake charmer and self-described “Grinder Girl.”

Serpentina — Coney Islander Stephanie Torres’s stage name — is a welder by trade. During her act, she will literally grind on her guitar until sparks shoot into the audience, performing to a song about counting to 12 that played during an animated pinball sequence on Sesame Street, she said.

“I have metal plates on my body and have a guitar, I use a metal grinder and shoot sparks into the audience on the stage to the music,” said Serpentina. “It’s like the way they did on the cartoon on Sesame Street, when you pull back to shoot the ball — that’s how the cartoon starts.”

And all of the machines will be set to “free play” for the night, offering a full spectrum of fun, said Catalfumo, whether you are pinball wizard or just an apprentice.

“It’s a real cross section of Coney Island talent, theater performance, and play, letting everybody have a great night,” he said.

Coney Island Pinball Party at Sideshows by the Seashore Theater (1208 Surf Ave. at W. 12th Street in Coney Island, www.coneyisland.com). May 19 at 10 pm. $15.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Having a ball!: Pinball aficionado Dennis Catylfumo will throw a party for the Coney Island Pinball Museum on May 19, featuring fiery performer Serpentina.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf