Coney Island: All colors and every language under the sun!

Snake charmer Michelle Marcel, aka Demonica, of the Coney Island USA sideshow, shows off her albino python, Phantom, for passersby on the Coney Island boardwalk, while fellow sideshow performer Fred Kahl, aka The Great Fredini, sits nearby, New York, 1995.

“When people come to this country and they see the Statue of Liberty, I think there should be a sign there that says ‘Come with me to Coney Island first!’  Because whatever New York is to the United States, Coney Island is to New York. It’s a multitude of all colors and every language under the sun.”

Harold’s words here, taken from ABC Nightline’s special program on Coney Island in 1995, celebrate a welcoming place — what he used to call “a working class paradise!” And during these days of xenophobia and fear mongering, it seems important to remember that there are places where people not only co-mingle, but find enjoyment together.

In reviewing his archive over the past months, I’ve pulled out a few quotes from his writings through the years that speak to his love of a place that brings the diversity of the world together for enjoyment and pleasure.

From Harold’s teaching notebook, circa 1960
Leap Frog Beach, Coney Island, 1949. “I like lots of people. I like crowds. I like to be so close…There’s such a sense of involvement..such a sense of intimacy.”

While he did live outside of New York on a number of occasions for teaching purposes, he always got the itch to return to the place that was his lifelong muse. Speaking to his students in Vermont he shares here:

From an interview in 1977.

“Just people, people people…like a wild field..You know one stalk of wheat is beautiful, but when you see a whole field of it and the wind blows it and it makes like a wave..that to me is like Coney Island. It’s thick. And things are happening so fast all around you. Now it’s time for me to go back.”

Cyclone going down, 1956.