The king of Coney Island carnies says a pharmacy giant stole a piece of his beloved Mermaid Parade — and plans to go to court to fight what he sees as an obscene attack against Brooklyn’s bawdiest march.
Dick Zigun, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island and founder of the 30-year-old Mermaid Parade is preparing a lawsuit against Duane Reade for using the celebration’s trademarked logo in an online sunscreen advertisement without his permission.
“Duane Reade stole from us,” said Zigun, who runs Coney Island’s Sideshow by the Seashore. “They broke the law. It’s unacceptable.”
The People’s Playground impresario said he met with an attorney on Wednesday to prep for the upcoming court battle.
Zigun claims artist Cynthia Freedman painstakingly designed the logo for the first parade — an ocean-themed, Mardi Gras-style celebration where scantily-clad mermaids and mermen march down Surf Avenue and pasties are part of the standard costume — back in 1983. This year’s parade will be held on June 23.
“It costs us $100,000 to put on the parade,” said Zigun, who admitted that corporate sponsorships help keep the parade afloat. “We don’t even break even.”
Zigun said he was outraged when he learned that Duane Reade sent out an email blast with a colorful ad urging subscribers to visit his parade and hawked the sunscreen brands it sells at its stores. The advertisement featured the parade’s retro green-and-yellow logo.
Outraged, Zigun ran to the nearest soapbox — his Twitter page — to voice his displeasure.
“As Mayor of Coney Island I hereby call on all Mermaid Parade fans to BOYCOTT DUANE READE Stores!” he wrote, adding that he was going to do everything in his power to ban Duane Reade’s products from being sold in the People’s Playground.
The nearest Duane Reade to the amusement district is in Brighton Beach. There is a Walgreens — which gobbled up Duane Reade for a staggering $1.1 billion in 2010 — on Neptune Avenue, about two blocks from the Boardwalk.
Duane Reade spokesman Carl Peters did not return calls seeking comment but told the Daily News, a Manhattan newspaper, that his company often produces online ads to promote local events. The pharmacy chain never intended to rub Zigun the wrong way, Peters said.
“We apologize if he’s upset, but we usually do this as a positive thing,” Peters said. “It’s giving his event positive exposure.”
But Zigun thumbed his nose at the apology, saying it failed to acknowledge the alleged trademark infringement.
“We don’t need their help,” Zigun said. “We’re definitely pursuing legal action.”
Coney Island historian Charlie Denson said national businesses are continually looking for ways to profit from the legendary amusement district now that the city is transforming the once-gritty fun zone into an upscale tourist destination.
“If Coney Island businesses want to use Coney images, that’s one thing,” said Denson, who runs the Coney Island History Project. “But for a large chain to take artwork from a non-profit, that’s pretty despicable.”