What better way to recognize the opening of summer than to spend some time with the most well-known man of the world’s most well-known summer destination?
I’m guessing that’s what the New York Times was thinking when they sent a reporter down to spend the day with Coney Island’s unofficial mayor, Dick Zigun, for a piece in their Sunday edition.
Love him or hate him, and there’s plenty of people in both camps, Zigun remains one of the most recognizable faces in the new Coney Island. He’s the founder of Coney Island USA, which runs the Coney Island Museum, the sideshow and the freak bar, and is also responsible for the resurrection of the Mermaid Parade. He’s loved for being the neighborhood’s biggest booster, but also earned disdain for some of the projects he’s boosted – including Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s revitalization plan, or proposals to bring casinos to the neighborhood.
Regardless, the Times piece will make you wonder why the hell you’re still schlepping to an office in Midtown working a soulless job. Why not just ditch it all and become a Coney carny, hang out on the boardwalk ’til you need to show up at work at 1 p.m.? Where, you know, you just bend a bunch or hammer nails into your face or something. Heck, my job’s better than yours, but you can sign me up for some face hammering.
Anyway, the article walks you through the phases of Zigun’s day, from morning until he hits the hay. Here’s what he does once things at the sideshow are underway:
When the show is on and everything is going well, I start walking around the neighborhood, which I like to do on weekends. Everyone is happy. The local businesses are happy to see the activity. Even though I’m the phony mayor of Coney Island, I go and visit my constituents. At the end of West 12th Street, there is a machine with a dancing doll, called Miss Coney Island, inside a booth. I have a superstition that I can’t walk by her without putting a quarter in so she dances.
In addition to touting a few eating options, including a recommendation for the best chicken torta (Doña Zita), he’s got some warm words for the Russian karaoke joint across the street:
[A] Russian karaoke place called Club Shalyapin. My wife has been known to go up and sing, but I would never. I enjoy the off-key Russian singers singing their popular songs that I’ve never heard of. It’s a surreal place.
Check out the full piece here.