The Mermaid Parade is happening Saturday June 23rd at 2pm. It's the 25th Anniversary of the parade and it's coinciding with the last year of Coney Island before it turns into Joe Sitt's version of Xanadu.
I was recently thinking about the time I decided to be a participant rather than an observer of the parade. The first Mermaid Parade I went to to was in 1990,the reason I know this is because it was the summer of "Dart Man". Some guy was shooting darts during lunch hour in midtown into the "posteriors" (that was the word the papers used) of woman on their lunch hour.It was a great headline story for the NY Post. I was living in Astoria and a friend and I took the loooonnnnngggg subway ride out to Coney. Anyway, the year I decided to be IN the parade was the year 2000.
I was married at the time and my husband who had a fantastic imagination, would always comment on the name "Harry Van Arsdale Jr." every time we went past the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. exit on the Grand Central. In his mind, Harry Van Arsdale Jr. was an ascot wearing, martini drinking bon vivant who welcomed all the new Queens arrivals with a fresh martini. He was pro immigration. He knew that anyone who moved to Queens worked hard and deserved to relax and live the American Dream, as our families both did. "Welcome to Queens and join us for Happy Hour!"(I am not lying about this!) Hubby would be in Harry Van Arsdale character from that exit until at least we hit the Koskuisko Bridge. Somehow we came up with a plan that Harry would spread his good cheer to Brooklyn with a bunch of mermaids, me being one of them. Our theme developed as a good friend that got the whole Harry Van Arsdale concept decided to join us as -drum roll- Major. Deegan (Harry's arch nemesis). Never mind that the two had absolutely nothing to do with each other in their actual lives. Harry Van Arsdale was actually a tough guy labor leader and Deegan was a tough guy Commisioner of Housing. One was from Queens the other from the Bronx (just like my parents!). It sounded good to us.
Harry Van Arsdale's outfit was basically this; a preppy looking pinstriped button down shirt, an ascot, bermuda shorts, a captain's hat, black socks w/wingtips and of course, a shaker full of martini's (being that it was Mermaid Day this was not a prop). My downstairs neighbor wanted to join us. He showed up at our door painted green. "And you are?" he lit up a cigar and told us he was a frog, like the gangster frog that sounded like Edward G. Robinson from that old cartoon, "Couragious Cat & Minute Mouse". Sure why not. So Frog had a car and we drove to Coney Island, he dropped us off and looked for parking, he ended up having to park all the way around Avenue Y and had to walk through the neighborhood alone with green face paint on (another story and the beginning of my "Warrior's 3" screenplay.) So anyway, nobody got our concept, everyone kept saying "Look! It's Thurston Howell!" Here's a tip, if you are ever in the parade or any parade, you MUST have a shtick that people can understand! I think music is the best shtick around, thank god I had the forethought to bring a water pistol as the mere spritz of water on the watching crowd generated a huge reaction, it was ridiculous, i mean people screamed like I had actually done something. I felt like a rock star, but then I ran out of water and I lost my shtick!
So shtick or no shtick, everyone should go this year, I admit there were a couple years I didn't go, like the year they first got corporate sponsorship (you would think at my age I would get over hating "the man" but I can't seem to shake it!) or when it rained but no matter what go this year. It's the last year before the reconstruction and who knows what state Coney will be in next summer. I know the "Save Coney Island" group has an elaborate dance routine in store choreographed by Miss. Cyclone 2007/ Burlesque performer Angie Potani and there will be lots of glamourous nautical themed creatures hamming it up...so go have fun and check out the Mermaid Ball at the historic "Child's Restaurant" on the boardwalk later on.(and tell them Harry sent ya)
P.S- I dedicate this photo to my friend Michael Oppedisano who passed away in 2001 and was my Coney Island beach buddy. I took this picture a month after he passed on after the parade and always felt he made me take this shot. The guy with the wings looks just like him.