Charles Denson with Cyclops from Wonder Wheel Park
Spook-A-Rama’s Cyclops, a Coney Island legend that hasn’t been seen in decades, came out of retirement on September 3rd to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Coney Island History Project. Lula Vourderis accepted the plaque on behalf of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Vourderis Family.
The two previously announced honorees were Lady Deborah Moody (1586-1659?), the first woman to found a colony in North America, and the recently landmarked Shore Theater. Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project, presented the 2011 Coney Island Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at CIHP’s exhibit center on West 12th Street.
Carol Hill Albert
“Deborah Moody recognized the importance of Coney Island back in the 1600s when she founded the colony of Gravesend in 1645,” said Denson. “Moody proved to be a visionary when she declared Coney Island to be the Common Lands of Gravesend, public land available for the use of all villagers.”
Accepting the plaque for Lady Deborah Moody was Carol Hill Albert, owner and operator of the former Astroland Park and co-founder of the Coney Island History Project with husband Jerry Albert.
John Badalamenti accepted the award for the Shore Theater, formerly the Loews, on behalf of his late brother Andy Badalamenti, the longtime caretaker of the theater. “He had a new roof installed and stopped the leaks. He sealed up the building to stop looting and scavenging,” Denson said of his friend, who always dreamed of restoring the Shore to its former glory.
Said Denson, “This 2,500 seat theater is key to Coney Island’s future as a year round destination. It’s been sealed up like a time capsule for several decades and recently received landmark status.”
Lula Vourderis with sons Steve and Dennis Vourderis
In his speech honoring the Cyclops, Denson said: “Last year I was hired as a consultant for an upcoming university art exhibition about Coney Island. While researching artwork for the exhibit we realized that the Cyclops head was an iconic and recurring image in dozens of modern artworks. The curator and I wondered if it still existed and if it could be included in the exhibition. I asked Steve Vourderis if the Cyclops had survived. He had a surprise for me. It was in storage right behind the History Project.
Spook-A-Rama’s Cyclops at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park
“After being excavated and stabilized it became the centerpiece of our induction ceremony. The Cyclops represents the creativity of Coney Island’s artisans and visionaries. In the past, anyone with a vision could create a fantasy, and you didn’t need formal artistic training to create a work of art. And you didn’t need an engineering degree to build a ride. Spook-A-Rama opened in the 1950s at a time when monster movies and Cinerama were popular. It’s a one of kind work of art, a cultural artifact handmade from ordinary bandages and plaster of Paris. When Denos Vourderis bought Wonder Wheel Park in the 1980s, the Cyclops had deteriorated and was removed for a future restoration. Next year it will once again be on exhibit at the ride for an admiring public.”