I used to tell all my potential first-time nightlife industry employees a little ditty before they actually agreed to come aboard. If you are a regular reader (well, you must be quite irregular for that) you have heard this before… and now you’ll here it again: I told the people working for me to have an exit strategy. The money is good. The people, the celebrities, the action can be an addiction – but the life, except for a few, has an expiration date. When it’s over, you have to have a way to support yourself. It ends when you need a change but no one will hire you because they want younger, or you just can’t put in the hours anymore, or the "distractions" of the night become a real problem. I would tell them nightlife is like a rollercoaster…you pay a little money to get on and the first thing you do is go up a great hill and from there at the top it seems like you can see forever, when in reality you are seeing just a bit more. Then its a fast ride down and around, thrills spill treacherous curves, some screams, some fear, some exhilaration, and when it’s over you end up basically where you started, spent a little time, had some fun. Many creatures of the night are putting themselves through school or are actors or artists or dancers. They are pursuing dreams in a place built on them. They often service stars, people who were just like them a decade ago. Failure and shattered hopes often are a heavy burden as time goes on. Breaking out is hard to do. The odds are stacked against them. Emily Lazar left NY behind to chase her dreams on the left coast. She used to work with me. She’s a rock star trying to let the world realize that.
When New Yorkers want a family getaway, they leave town without leaving the city by day tripping out to legendary Coney Island. Only a MetroCard swipe away, this seaside playground nestles right up against the Atlantic Ocean, with a wide beach populated by New Yorkers of every stripe. Slather the kids in sunscreen and let them go wild in the sand and surf, like city kids have done for generations. When it’s time for a change of scenery, head to the far side of the boardwalk, where bumper cars and go karts will satisfy your kids’ need for speed.
Not fast enough? Catch a ride on the Cyclone, an original wooden roller coaster that’s been doling out serious thrills since 1927. Hold hands during the butterfly-inducing incline, then feel the wind and catch a glimpse of the sea as you plummet down the hills and around the bends. Go ahead and squeal with delight, you won’t be alone. Across the street, a reborn Luna Park has even more amusement park adventures waiting. When it’s time to reflect on all the action, take the kids to one final New York icon, Nathan’s Famous, where a classic hot dog awaits hungry families still beaming from a day of fun.
Bored of ye old fireworks? I get it. Keeping up with the ooh-and-aah parade for 26 minutes is exhausting. So skip the routine, and do something that’ll make this 4th of July a standout. Take a look at NYC’s most unusual events.
Devour free BBQ & dance from 3pm-4am:At Williamsburg’s LP ‘n Harmony Beats & BBQ “Star Spangled Boogie Marathon,” you can dance to DJ-selected soulful music and eat free platefuls of BBQ.
Shop, eat, & dance at Rockabily Night Market: Burlesque, vintage cars, pin-up photo booth, craft and food market, and DJ Sei’s rhythm and blues at Dekalb Market.
Watch people eat nauseating amounts of hotdogs: Witness history get made at noon at Coney Island’s 98th annual Nathan’s Hotdog Contest, where 30 world-famous competitive eaters comp(eat) for the $20,000 prize while forever changing the way you see The Hotdog.
Spend the afternoon with the Philharmonic: A lush, orchestral version of the Star Spangled Banner and patriotic standards at 3pm – with the U.S. Coast Guard in standing by – is just about the classiest way to spend the 4th.
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Time to don your red, white, and blue and settle into this country’s most exciting holiday. The weather is perfect, and when else does your boss condone drinking cold beer, eating a lot of barbecue, and chilling out in the middle of the week? Since all your friends have the day off, too, it’s like Saturday on a Wednesday_ plus fireworks.
For the party animal, check out the waterfront at Pier 92, where not only is there a killer view of the pyrotechnics, but you get to munch on southern goodies by Virgil’s Real Barbecue while DJs like Hook N Sling and Ken Loi provide fodder for dancing. Hosted by ARRIVAL NYC, the 12-hour rooftop-beach party starts at noon and features performances by Lil Jon, a tanning deck, and, aside from the tasty barbecue, they will have grub from food trucks too, including Cupcake Crew, Milk Truck, Souvlaki GR, and Valducci’s Pizza. Tickets are available here.
Another great view of the fireworks can be taken in at Hotel Chantelle, where this rooftop bar has a full on barbecue party going on starting at 1pm and running late. In Times Square at the Sky Room, $100 gets you a spot in the highest rooftop lounge in the city, plus five an open bar and picnic-themed nibbles like pigs-in-a-blanket, burgers, chicken fingers, and potato chips.
At Beaumarchais, they will be celebrating the Fourth of July with a cookout and brunch party that goes into the evening. For your eating pleasure, chef David E. Diaz will be grilling up specials like honey-glazed shrimp skewers, and, for your listening enjoyment, DJ Marco Peruzzi will be spinning all night. If you want a more sit down celebration, 508 GastroBrewery debuts their tantalizing sloppy Joe menu just in time for the fourth. Plus, the Hudson River is right around the corner, making firework viewing easy, that is, if you can get up after the meaty feast.
Across the East River in Brooklyn, the artsy group Secret Project Robot hosts their IndepenDance, a party and potluck from 3 to 9pm, which includes reggae and dub music spun by DJ Sweet V, Grace of Spades, and Queen Majesty. In case you are too lazy to make food, nearby you can pick up tacos at Taqueria El Fogon or go super lowbrow and order a bucket of fried chicken from Kennedy Fried Chicken and Pizza.
Of course, it Macy’s annual firework display doesn’t move you, forget trying to get above ground and head to Coney Island. During the day, you can root for your favorite professional eater at Nathan’s Famous July Fouth International Hot Dog-Eating Contest. Grab a sausage and fries yourself from their outlet and, as the sky turns dark, head to the Wonder Wheel and see all the glittering lights of the amusement park, plus a few stray fireworks to boot. Happy Birthday, America.
In honor of summer and Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes’s new book, Street Boners, we decided to patrol the beach for a Boner-inspired fashion story for our June/July issue. Whilst frolicking around the pristine Coney Island boardwalk, we discovered that McInnes was the perfect on-air personality and decided to capture his professionalism on TV. What follows is proof that McInnes is even more prolific in real life than even his new book, Street Boners: 1746 Hipster Fashion Jokes, or his online “Dos and Don’ts” bible, suggest. The video and some McInnesisms after the jump.
“It bums me out when people talk about the girl’s bone structure or something. Your beef is with god, not her. But the internet is all horny fourteen-year-olds. So you’re fourteen and you can’t get anyone to fuck you, and now you’re mad at chicks.”
“The beautiful thing with Twitter, is you have your notebook anywhere. You can’t lose it. And you can tell if it’s funny from retweets. Like the other day, I said, ‘Park Slope? That’s like the most Korean name ever.’ No one retweeted it. I guess that’s not a zinger.”
“Superman is like brute force,” he says unraveling a long superhero beach towel. “He’s like WalMart. Spiderman is more tenacious, though. He’s like Goldman Sachs. He’ll bundle mortgages behind your back.”
“You’ve got to be careful if you see a hot ass. The trick with wives is to point out hot dudes too. For every three hot dudes you point out it earns you one ogle.”
After the shoot wraps and we’re cruising back to Manhattan in a motorhome, McInnes has the driver pull over at a bodega because he’s diabetic and is going to die if he doesn’t get some sugar quick. It isn’t until he rolls back in with a couple of six packs for the crew that everyone realizes he was bullshitting.
View the full gallery, or take an in-depth look at the method behind this particular brand of madness. Interview by Luke O’Neil. Photography by Ruvan Wijesooriya. Styling by Christopher Campbell. Genius by Gavin McInnes
Coney Island’s phony “Mayor” and freak king Dick D. Zigun on going head-to-head with fellow politicos, the dignity of the American stripper, keeping Vegas glitz away from Coney Island grit, and why only Obama can save us.
I’m sorry, Dick Zigun, I forgot to turn on my tape recorder — what were you saying? As I was saying, the organization is 30 years old. We do a number of different programs, like the sideshow, the Mermaid Parade, and the Coney Island Museum — which we are best known for. There is other stuff as well, such as the film festival or the creep show that you just saw.
How did you start working at the sideshow in Coney Island? I deliberately came here 30 years ago when I got out of graduate school at Yale and moved to New York. I just thought that Coney Island could be an interesting staging ground for the things I wanted to do. I first came here as an individual looking for a cheap loft, and started the organization, then did my first show in 1981. I did the first Mermaid Parade in 1983. I first rented a building and went full time 23 years ago, in 1985. How do you wake up each morning and muster the passion to keep Las Vegas away from Coney Island? If you pick something you like doing for your profession, it’s work, but it’s also fun. I made a good choice for myself personally, so I don’t want to do anything other than this. So whether it pays well or didn’t pay at all, whether it’s been a struggle, I’ve stuck with it for 30 years now, and it’s because I still like doing it.
I’m here to run an arts organization and be the best artist I possibly can. That is my job, and that is what I like doing. I like being a phony politician on TV: “The Mayor of Coney Island” whose job is to tell you to come down to the fireworks or for a parade. I don’t really enjoy going head-to-head with real politicians in the media and criticizing them. I’m not enjoying it, but over the years I’ve been the spokesperson for the [Coney Island] Amusement Park. So I created this character of the Mayor of Coney Island as a public relations person, and over the years the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce and the Astroland Amusement Park have hired me to be an official spokesman. When I haven’t been paid, I’ve done it anyway, and over 30 years the press has come to rely upon me to speak for Coney Island. When I saw what was going on and felt that the amusement park was getting betrayed and getting the shaft, I started speaking out. It is not fun, but I think it is my patriotic duty to defend my neighborhood.
Has it gotten weird enough for you yet? Yes it’s gotten weird enough. I have trouble with reality and normalcy, and instead of getting strung out or weird or committing suicide, I found this very cartoonish neighborhood I love. Here professional people that run businesses entertain themselves with weird amusements. Literally in the summertime, you walk around the neighborhood, and people are dancing in the street. There’s a soundtrack everywhere you go. Reality in Coney Island — and even the business people — is sort of cartoonish. That works for me.
Can you save America? I have already had the privilege of changing America, but I cannot heal America — that’s Obama’s job and God bless him for being there to do it. When I was young, you couldn’t get a doctorate in sideshow studies. There weren’t all these books written about burlesque and freaks, there was no school that took it seriously. My professor thought I was nuts. We created this organization to defend the honor of American popular culture and take things that were totally intellectually disreputable, like tattoos, freaks, and strippers, and defend them as legitimate indigenous American popular art forms. It has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. We were all about taking underground culture and putting it into art centers that published a schedule and invited audiences. Making these things accessible because they existed but were underground. So if you were simple-minded like Bill O’ Reilly, and you wanted to blame one person in America for every suburban teenager having a tattoo and a pierced tongue, it’s as much my fault as anybody’s. I’ve actually seen in 30 years this go from something very fringe to incredibly influential. Actually I’ve had a part in changing the culture, but healing America and bringing everyone together: that’s Obama’s job.
What are you doing tonight? To save a couple of dollars — because the economic crisis affects everybody and we’re pinching pennies — although I’m the founder and artistic director, I’m running the cash register and selling tickets.
My mother’s partially to blame for Heather joining the sideshow. Heather Ramon, my childhood friend and fellow Girl Scout, is now known as Heather Holliday, the sword-swallowing starlet of Coney Island’s freak show, “Sideshows by the Seashore“. Miss Holiday has mastered the art of effortlessly devouring 28 inches of cold steel to the very bottom of her throat. As she explains to her audience, “All you need is saliva, no lubrication required.” Of course, you’ll want to see the video.
I met the devout nine-year-old Mormon Girl Scout in third grade, back in 1994. (Heather still keeps most of the Girl Scout Codes of Honor, especially “citizenship.”) Today, this so-called freak is far from the girl with pins of honor on a green uniform;, in fact, she’s got safety pins and nails through her earlobes. It took her father over a year to discover that his Heather, then nineteen, had been sneaking swords (not pajamas) in and out the front door in a duffel bag that nominally meant for transporting sleepover supplies. One late night, Heather was performing live on a public access show wearing a leopard bikini (designed by her mother). Her father happened to be flipping through the channels when he caught a glimpse of a cute girl swallowing blades. Those dimples were unmistakable. It was indeed his darling daughter.
Six months prior to this channel-surfing revelation, my mother had taken us girls to see the Todd Robbins freakshow at an off-Broadway theater in Tribeca. Robbins, a renowned sideshow artist, had a one-man gig. The first act consisted of sword swallowing, smoking a whole pack of cigarettes all at once, grinding light bulbs to a coarse glass dust with his teeth, and washing it all down with lighter fluid and a little flame. Heather loved it all, and after doing some research, she discovered the Coney Island Sideshow School, of which Mr. Robbins was the dean. This was senior year of high school, and Heather had yet to apply to college. But alas for the formal academy, she was accepted as a Sideshow student. She got straight A’s in contortionism, fire eating, and of course, sword swallowing.
Later, Ramon officially took on the title of Miss Heather Holliday, the fresh young face of Coney Island’s Freakshow. “Down the hatch, and without a scratch,” is her reassuring motto as she prepares to take down yet another dose of heavy metal, inch by inch. She’s made quite a name for herself, with hundreds of adoring fans, many bearing gifts. It’s not unusual for an audience member to grace her with a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, and cash. “Sideshows by the Seashore” opened its doors for the summer season less than a month ago, and Heather’s already received her all-time favorite donation — the Book of Mormon, from a man visiting New York City from Utah.
Though our friendship dates back to Girl Scout uniforms in grade school and nipple/tongue piercings in high school, today we are different people. As Heather puts it so eloquently, “I’m way too nice, and you’re just a bitch. But if you and I were joined into one woman, we would totally be the alpha female.” This might well be true, except I don’t like to swallow.
Heather always was, and to this day remains, the Sandra Dee amongst our circle of friends. She’s even considering changing her stage name to that in order to drive the point home. At fifteen, Heather’s version of an after-school special was sex-ed self study at the local Barnes & Noble. One book in particular, The Penis, led us to Toys in Babeland, where we procured our very own phallic instructional device, i.e. a dildo. We practiced what we’d read. I failed miserably, but Heather is a quick study, and she quickly became the oral expert.
I’ve fallen into the young and single serial dater category. Heather goes through swords at the same rate I go through men. We get bored with what each one has to offer, always ready for something bigger, better, something more “challenging”. When the going gets dull, she takes her jagged 23-incher for a trip south to the esophagus.
Her collection has swelled to include swords of all different shapes and sizes. She’d started out with what she now considers a “modest” 15 inches. After three years of professional swallowing, she can down over two feet of steel. Recently she performed at the Box, the exclusive Lower East Side burlesque nightclub. Asked by one of the owners if she could replace her sword with a dildo before hitting the stage, she politely declined. Heather knew better. Twenty-eight inches of steel beats any dildo, at least in this context.
In addition to performing at the sideshow every day of the week for seven hours, Heather freelances for Perrier and various private functions (call for rates!). She’s appeared on tattoo-reality show Miami Ink, and she graces the new label for Coney Island Lager. In other words, she’s yet to find a gig that’s too hard to swallow.