Thursday, August 26, 2010

June 19 Coney Island's Mermaid Parade

It's a big day in Coney Island. Today is the Mermaid Parade. This is Coney Island's version of a Mardi Gras Parade. I got to CI before 8am and headed to the handball courts. The Seaside Courts were packed. Mostly friendly games. But the non playing crowd was buzzing about a possible "A" game that might happen. So I took pictures while I waited for the big game.
Suddenly, everyone knew the "A" game was on because New York City handball legend Joe Durso had arrived. One of the regulars in the crowd told me the names of the players. Joe Durso was teamed with PeeWee (I believe this to be Yuber "PeeWee" Castro another handball great) and Joe Kaplan, another famed handball player, was teamed with "Cisco". The bets were made throughout the huge crowd for this money game rumoured to be between $100 and $500 per player. The game was intense, with Joe Durso talking smack more than the younger players. There was a moment when Joe Durso let the guys two courts away know that "you do not interrupt a game like this!" when their ball bounced across his court. It didn't happened again because they stopped playing and watched the classic match at the other end of the wall. The game was very close at times but in my uninformed opinion, PeeWee was the difference as his team won in the end.

Cisco & PeeWee battling early in the match.
New York City handball legend Joe Durso
PeeWee was all over the court
Cisco during a timeout
Tense moment near the end of the match
PeeWee with a victory smile. I got chastised while taking PeeWee's picture by someone in the crowd. He said the legend is over there why are you taking PeeWee's picture? I didn't say it out loud, but I was thinking because PeeWee is the reason they won.

Joe Durso cooling off after a hard fought win.
I was running late for the parade. I had to run from W 5th St. to W 21st St. to get my press pass for the Mermaid Parade staging area. I grabbed a Nathan's hot dog on the way. My God I love Coney Island.

I had to stop and get a t-shirt for the parade. The streets were already packed with parade participants and onlookers. I'll try my best to describe the day with pictures, lots of pictures and words.
Only in Coney Island would someone dressed like this not stand out in the crowd. It's barely past 11am and the party has started. One thing I learned today. Everybody here is a star, at least for a day. I really enjoyed that aspect of the parade. There are almost as many photographers walking around as there are people in the parade. I took over 50 pictures just walking to the staging area on 21st Street.
There are no dressing a mirror leaning on a tree along Surf Ave gets the job done.
I bought my $5 press pass and entered the staging area. I have been to the Mermaid Parade in the past...once. I loved it as a spectator so I knew what to expect. But I entered the staging area a bit nervous. Writing this now with hindsight, the people pictured here were wonderful to spend time with talking and photographing. Some were here for artistic reasons, some to protest the world's ills, some to be a part of something special, some for the attention and some to be a part of this community event. All were here for a good time. The coolest part of it for me was how no one participating was there to judge anyone else. That is what a great party should be, so to the narrow minded idiots near me in the crowd that yelled degrading comments during the year stay home and continue to believe the bullshit Fox News and Rush Limbaugh feed your weak minds. To the people in the crowd that forced them to are my heroes. Now here's pictures from something you should try to attend at least once in your life, if you do you might find yourself in Coney Island again the following June.

A couple of pretty faces greeted me in the staging area.
Everybody is welcome and free to do as they is the American credo.

There were a lot of  anti BP and oil spill protests...I was happy to see them.
What's a Mermaid Parade without a pirate?
Something for everyone...a huge breasted starfish nippled mermaid and a dominatrix house maid...I love NYC a little bit more with every visit
She had "Luck Be a Lady" written on her somewhere
These two mermaids came up from Louisiana or Florida to give their opinions about the oil spill in the Gulf

Some of the beautiful people in the Mermaid Parade. This last one is one of my favorite pictures.

This shot happened because I had Andy's words in my head about shooting pictures..."don't be so literal."
Oops...back to literal.
The parade is definitely a family event. There were lots of kids marching in it. This gives me hope that the spirit that drives events like this will continue with the next generation.
Speaking of family. This is the son of Freddie the Tramp wearing his dad's clown outfit. His father worked at the famous Steeplechase Park in Coney Island.
Mermaids with a message...
...and mermaids just having fun.
I decided to watch the parade on the boardwalk. So I didn't get to see the cars or the motorized floats that traveled down Surf Avenue. Here's Dick Zigun, the man responsible for this parade leading the march down the boardwalk.
One of Marie's banners leading the way

I only included this guy because I remember seeing him at NYC's Gay Pride parade a few years ago.
more of Marie's banners announcing King Neptune and Queen Mermaid...
...the barely alive Lou Reed and his wife Laurie Anderson.

Just to set the scene for the rest of the parade. The marchers would interact with the crowd. There were lots of cheers, some boos and lots of funny but polite comments from the crowd...for the most part. The sound of the Cyclone clanking up the main hill then people screaming could be heard in the background. The bands marching could be heard before and after they passed by. Most marchers either posed for pictures or tried to fire up the crowd . It was very hot and very crowded on the boardwalk and the parade went right down the middle. I had fun with the people standing by me and with the parade participants... and it went something like this...
There were lots of people on stilts which had to be tricky on the boardwalk.
I took this one for Chrissy. If you don't know she works with the polar bears at Brookfield Zoo.
There were quite a few elaborate push/pull floats.
 Some little mermaids found time to sleep thru all the excitement.
If you look closely you see a fat guy with a camera in front of the crowd...that would be me.
These groups were a blast, they had music playing and danced their way down the boardwalk. Definitely a crowd favorite.
Lots of smiling faces all day long

A float with a stripper could anyone not love this parade?
OK, here's a more traditional one. You know the butcher, the baker & the candlestick maker. I think it starts out rub a dub dub, three men in a tub...damn this might be the beginning of a gay porn movie not a nursery rhyme. The stripper float seems more wholesome.
I had to take this picture...a tattoo of my home town. I'm serious by this point of the day I had seen enough tits. I mean really how many is enough... shit, I can't keep a straight face as I type this...lets be honest if there is such a thing as seeing too many tits...I've never reached that point.

My favorite sign of the day. I'm still laughing at it and I saw it over two months ago.
After the parade it was chaos on the boardwalk. Rubys & Cha Chas were packed. The partying was kicking into another gear. It took me over an hour to get off the boardwalk. The streets were packed as everyone was enjoying the beautiful summer evening.
This is Stillwell Ave from the boardwalk. I loved seeing Coney Island this crowded.
New York City has the most talented & entertaining street performers. I saw these kids setting up and grabbed a front row seat. They were very good...break dancing...I guess they still call it that...and getting the crowd involved with clapping and of course donating. I was in a great mood. I gave them $ was a good day.


  1. Awesome pics Gregg, you captured the day!

  2. "I tried to capture the spirit of the thing." - Dickie Dunn

  3. Hey Gregg...
    It's been about 3 1/2 years since the parade and I just now came upon the photo you took of me, wearing my father's clown make-up in the Coney Mermaid Parade of 2010. Nice shot...nice tag line of the photo.
    Any more shots of me that day around?
    Thanks for takiing the time...
    Fred Yockers

  4. Fred, I am pretty sure I have a few more pictures of you. I will check and get back to you.

    1. How incredible! Where you the fellow who stopped by to watch me put on the make-up by the Ringling Box Office.
      What an amazing day - so much heat - couldn't determine if it was perspiration or sheer emotional tears being my dad, as I marched in the parade.
      Thank you for noticing me!
      email is