CIHP director, Charles Denson with Joe Rollino, 2008.
On Monday, we were saddened to read in the Daily News that 104-year-young Coney Island strongman and boxer Joe Rollino (aka 'Kid Dundee') had been hit by a van and killed while out for his morning walk. He was the oldest person interviewed for the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive and what a talker he was! You can listen to the audio interview with CIHP Director Charles Denson here.
Born on March 19, 1905 in Brooklyn, Mr. Rollino knew Houdini and Jimmy Durante, who also got their start in Coney Island. He recorded this rare interview after Charles Denson attended his 103rd birthday party and gave him a copy of his book “Coney Island Lost and Found.” The former Coney Island strongman, Olympic athlete and professional boxer tells stories about Charles Atlas (aka Angelo Siciliano), Charles Bronson, Marlon Brando, and his mentor, strongman Warren Lincoln Travis, among others. He says the doctors told him his heart had the rhythms of a 30 year old. As a member of the Icebergs winter swimming club, he prided himself on being able to remain in the cold water for 45 minutes.
Today’s New York Times paid tribute to Mr. Rollino’s remarkable health and longevity with a story titled “At a Mighty 104, Gone While Still Going Strong.”“He was one of the last links to the old strongman days of Coney Island,” Mr. Denson says in the Times. “Coney Island was the training ground for strongmen. He was one of the best.”