Photo (c) Robert Schaffer
Dick Zigun is the artistic director of Coney Island USA. His Sideshows by the Seashore not only features the last "10 in One" sideshow, but showcases burlesque, houses a museum, and plays hosts to many events, including the Coney Island Film Festival, and is the headquarters of the Mermaid Parade, which Zigun helped create. He's been a Coney resident for over 30 years, a tireless Coney enthusiast -- "the place where the hot dog, the roller coaster, and soft ice cream was invented," he proclaims -- and advocate for its interests, and has long been considered its unofficial mayor.
I recently met wet with Zigun to discuss the future of Coney Island. First I asked him how a kid from Bridgeport, Connecticut wound up in Coney.
"I got out of grad school in 1979," he told me, "and I was hanging out in L.A., and I got influenced by this play, 'Kid Twist' which took place in Coney, so I came to New York. Where else could I go with two degrees in theater but New York? I started checking out neighborhoods, Tribeca, South Street Seaport, even Times Square, and I had this wacky idea to check out loft spaces in Coney Island, found something I liked, signed a lease in 1979, spent months renovating it. And then it burned down."