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Coney Island USA Arts Annex Opens

Todd Robbins and Zamora the Torture King appall audience at opening

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Coney Island just got a little freakier!

Coney Island USA — home of the famed Sideshows by the Seashore — opened a weird new wing of its Surf Avenue headquarters on Aug. 23 with a show of dark and disturbing carnival arts.

Renowned bizarro maestros Todd Robbins and Zamora the Torture King put their terrifying talents on display in the new performance space — the former back room of frozen treat shop Denny’s Ice Cream. Robbins extinguished matches on his tongue, swallowed swords, and showed off his shocking “human blockhead” act — driving a long nail deep into his nasal cavity.

Zamora went even further, with a punishing performance that involved fire-eating, lying on a bed of broken glass — with an attendee standing on his chest — and impaling his face and limbs with skewers.

“It’s much more of an extreme, adult show than our usual performanc­es,” said freakshow founder Dick Zigun.

But the weak of stomach need not fear — Zigun said the space will be used for more than demonstrations of mutilation. The guru of the grotesque envisions his new “Arts Annex” also serving as a painting gallery, or a music venue or even a unicycling showcase. The idea, Zigun said, is to broaden Coney Island USA’s repertoire.

“It lets us diversify and do a mix of things,” Zigun said.

Zigun bought the building next to his corner spot at W. 12th Street in 2011, with the plan to expand his circus sideshow. But he decided instead to continue operating the Denny’s Ice Cream stand — which had opened in 1978 — when he realized its revenue would help him pay the mortgage.

But superstorm Sandy licked the cone shop, destroying $50,000 of soft-serving machinery — equipment Zigun couldn’t afford to replace. Zigun opened a restored antique shooting gallery in the storefront space earlier this month, after some remodeling.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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