THE LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND

TITLE: THE LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND

BY: CLAIRE PRENTICE

PUBLISHED BY: HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT, by arrangement with Amazon Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-544-26228-7

Review copy purchased by reviewer

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

One of the advantages to living in Brooklyn, only a short subway ride away from Coney Island, is that you get to be a frequent visitor to the Coney Island Museum, located right above the Freak Bar on Mermaid Avenue, where they show movies on Saturday nights in the summertime (classics and B-movies, plus cinema suitable for MST3K fans). They also have private shows and book signings. One of these was held in December 2014, where a charming lady named Claire Prentice debuted her new book, “The Lost Tribe of Coney Island”. Being familiar with the Freak Show around the corner from the Freak Bar, I thought this book was about another of the curious peoples exhibited there. So I coaxed my husband to buy me a copy as an early Christmas present.

It turned out to be, in Ms. Prentice’s own words, “…a story about a group of human beings who were betrayed by the man who should have been their protector”. These particular human beings were members of a primitive tribe from the Philippines, called Igorrotes. In the spring of 1905, they were persuaded by a man named Dr. Truman K. Hunt to come to America with him, where he promised they would make a fortune exhibiting themselves at fairs and amusement parks. They made a fortune, all right, but when he finished squandering his share of it, he turned on these innocent, trusting people and stole the hard-earned money they had made putting on exhibitions of their native songs and dances, as well as selling handmade souvenirs.

This Truman Hunt was a real piece of work. If they ever make a movie out of this book, the part of Hunt should be played by Nathan Lane. A more charming, silver-tongued scoundrel I’ve yet to meet in real life. He first came to the Philippines in 1898 with the First Regiment, Washington Infantry, after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. He was a trained physician, assigned to the hospital corp. After being honorably discharged (probably the last honorable thing he ever did), he married his first wife, a German woman named Else (actually his second wife; his first wife died in America shortly after giving birth), and was elected lieutenant governor of Bontoc Province. During the course of his duties, he befriended the Igorrotes, a local tribe of headhunters.

Despite their fearsome reputation, the Igorrotes were really just simple, happy people who liked to party when they weren’t working in the rice fields or hunting for meat. The only heads they hunted were from rival tribes; anybody with tobacco or other trade goods could befriend them. Hunt won them over with his medical skills—much more sophisticated than the local shaman’s—as well as with tobacco and booze.

Some of the Igorrotes had already been to America briefly, long enough to develop a fondness for nice clothes and work that didn’t involve sweating in the sun all day. One of these, a local boy named Julio Balinag, only twenty-one and married to a local girl named Maria, aged eighteen, was determined to go back to America and get rich. So he allowed himself to be persuaded by the silver-tongued American, who convinced him to persuade his fellow tribesmen and women to come with them to America, to show people how they lived.

So a group of fifty Igorrotes, including Julio and his wife, some respected tribal elders, and even a couple of boys under twelve (both of whom were already smoking their long pipes daily, as per tribal custom), went with Hunt to the nearest city, Manila, a two-week journey on foot, to catch a boat to America. After entering our fair country by way of Vancouver, Canada, they took a train across the coast to New York City, where Hunt got them settled in Luna Park, Coney Island, in a miniature replica of their village.

Now, the Igorrotes were Filipinos, with dark brown skin, who wore simple clothing that clashed with the standards of modesty that prevailed back in 1905. They were not your stereotypical African savages who wore animal skins and bones through their noses. They spoke Spanish as well as their own native dialect; some of them could even speak English. But Truman Hunt made a fortune from them by making them act more savage than they really were. For example, roasted dog was a delicacy they enjoyed only on special occasions at home, like weddings and funerals and successful head-hunting forays. But Hunt made them eat it daily here, so that the tourists who paid to see them could watch them kill and butcher a hapless stray dog Hunt had brought in for them daily. Nothing, not even the protests of local animal lovers, the American Humane Association (predecessor of the ASPCA) or even the Igorrotes themselves (who would have preferred to eat chicken or pork with rice and beans like other Latinos), would make Hunter see sense.

Hunter also made up stories about them which he either told to local reporters who came for interviews, or leaked to the press to create publicity. One of the most outrageous was the theft of a little dog named Howard, who kept Judy the elephant company. Hunter had his hired thugs steal the little dog, then mess up the Igorrotes’ village as if a hurricane had hit it. He then told the press that Judy had broken her chains and gone lumbering over to the Igorrotes’ village to rescue her little friend, raising such a ruckus that for a while it looked as if some of the Igorrotes were in danger of being trampled underfoot by the enraged elephant. Happily, the little dog was restored to Judy, who took him and left with her trainer. This and other lies about the Igorrotes only added to the sensation of seeing these “savages” up close.

By the end of the summer, Hunter was dividing the tribe between himself and a fellow entrepreneur so that they could be shown at other fairs up and down the coast. He ignored the Igorrote’s complaints at being separated from family and friends; all he cared about was making as much money as possible off of them. The gentle, trusting Filipinos found it hard to have faith in their friend and guardian when he worked them harder than the dogs they ate, forcing them to perform past midnight after rising early and toiling at their looms and forges to make homespun cloth, long pipes for smoking tobacco, and other cheap souvenirs.

By the time they got to New Orleans, Hunt had blown so much money on liquor, fine food and fancy clothes for himself and his young bride Sallie (whom he had married in New York, without bothering to divorce his previous wife), he was desperate for money. So desperate that he and his assistant Callahan even strip-searched the poor Igorrotes and stole the little money they had hidden in their clothes, after he stopped paying them every week. This was the last straw, as far as Julio and his tribesmen were concerned. So when the law finally caught up to them, in the form of Frederick Barker, a government agent sent to investigate the treatment of the Filipinos, they were all willing to talk.

How this slippery son-of-a-bitch managed to escape justice and send the crestfallen Igorrotes back to their native land poorer but wiser is a tale best told by the book. Rest assured that racism, corruption and political connections played a big part in Truman Hunt’s successful acquittal on charges of unlawful detainment, embezzlement and fraud. “The Lost Tribe of Coney Island” is a book well worth reading, a blast from the past that shines a light on our attitude toward people from other countries, as well as our belief that American ways are best when dealing with simpler cultures and beliefs.

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Katsucon 2015 – a con in review

Going back one month ago, Katsucon hit the Gaylord National Resort for another weekend of cosplay and Japanime fun. I put cosplay on the forefront, because for an East coast con, the venue draws cosplayers from across the nation and even other parts of the world. With the backdrop of the enclosed Gaylord resort, cosplayers come in their best to showcase their talents. This year’s cosplay idols were Yaya Han, Svetlana “Kammui” Quindt from Germany and Giada Robin from Italy who is also one of the judges for the Masquerade. Besides cosplay, there is a plethora of guests from the industry including voice talents Christopher and Greg Ayres, Vincent Corazza, Robbie Daymond, Cherami Leigh and Christina Vee amongst others, webcomic and artists, Gina Biggs, Starpower Michael T. and Garth G., Chalk Twins Devon and Levi and many, many more. Cultural speakers Charles Dunbar, Katriel Paige, Nilo Holbrook and others lead us into intense discussions while the punk rock band Uzuhi hits us with their music. Along with a formal ball, charity auction, nightly raves and an awesome masquerade, we have a weekend full of memories. And during Valentine’s weekend…it has it’s share of sweet surprises.
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Katsucon 2015 – Working in the Anime Industry

The MCs were Brand Manager Victoria Holden aka. SailorBee who works with the producers to create content as well as keep the Voice of the site consistent, software engineer Evan Minto who builds the interface for users as well as manages the Korean drama sister site, writer for Anigamers and OtakuUSA as well as Brandon Lee aka Superscience who is also a software engineers focusing on the background functionality of the site, highlighting is work on the Crunchyroll store as well as the Korean site.
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Katsucon 2015 – Masquerade

The MCs were Frank and Sadie Doyle from the graphic novel, ‘Thrilling Adventure Hour’. Despite not understanding the fandom of the MCs, they were still entertaining, funny and the delay in the clinking of the glasses became a running joke that were still funny at the end. The jokes were not overdone despite it’s simplicity and we got to enjoy the show. You can catch the entire thing on TheFansPOV on youtube.
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Katsucon 2015 – Aniplex of America Panel

EJ Rivera, Aniplex Marketing started the panel with the usual Aniplex audience pic later featured on the Facebook page. He then started the panel by blasting a reel of action packed scenes from various Aniplex titles. He ran down the usual agenda of panel events starting with streaming titles, releases, new announcements with Q&A and raffles to close things up.
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Katsucon 2015 – Funimation Panel

It looked like more of the same as the day before with several repeats in videos. There were some different promo vids though and there were of course the new announcements which were always interesting. ^_^
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Katsucon 2015 – Sailor Moon Panel

Senior Manager of animation marketing, Charlene Ingram was hosting the panel with sparkles and glitter. She introduced the voice actors onto the stage starting with the voice of Sailor Venus, Cherami Leigh with Amanda Miller as Sailor Jupiter and Christina Vee for Sailor Mars. Complete with a rose throw clip, Robbie Daymond for Tuxedo Mask stepped the stage.


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Katsucon 2015 – Funimation Previews

Due to technical difficulties, the panel started 15 minutes late. The Convention Manager of Funimation, Tara McKinney and the Fan Engagement Coordinator (awesome job title) Timothy Johnson jumped straight into previews that are available currently.
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Otakon 2014 – a con in review

Otakon returns to the Baltimore Convention Center and Inner Harbor for another crazy fun weekend from August 8-10. Last year was their 20th year celebration and the schedule reflected that with special guests, events and the like. This year was not to be outdone. With the weekend surrounding the premiere of Kill la Kill and Sailor Moon, Aniplex and Viz took over the anime weekend with their voice actors and industry guests. For Kill la Kill, there is Christine Cabanos, Carrie Keranen, Erica Mendez and David Vincent. For Sailor Moon, we have Robbie Daymond and Stephanie Sheh for the new cast and the legendary voice actors of the original series: Linda Ballantyne, Katie Griffin and John Stocker. There is also the famed Dante Basco, Wendee Lee and Tony Oliver amongst others. From Japan we have producer Kashiwada Shinichiro, director Katabuchi Sunao, mangaka Kozaki Yusuke, seiyuu Hayami Saori, game designer Ishii Jiro and animator Matsubara Hidenori…but that doesn’t end there. Otakon staff honoree Masao Maruyama returns to speak about his new projects with MAPPA, as well as producer and musician Yura Hiroaki in attendence. Musical guests are Altima and Yoshiki of X Japan. Otakon is the last stop on Yoshiki’s classical tour and his piano concert will close the weekend. Throw in two sumo wrestlers, Kelly Gneiting and Yama and we have a weekend that we won’t soon forget! It’s chaos central here on in!
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Otakon 2014 – Yoshiki in Concert

Baltimore was the final leg of Yoshiki’s classical tour, a rare performance apart from X Japan. The concert opened with the Miracle video showcasing moments from X Japan concerts and clips from his classical tour. Truly, the video is a wonderful intro into the depth, the heart and the man that is Yoshiki. Scenes of high energy drumming with the band juxtaposed against melodies on the piano. At first glance, they may seem different, but truly, the music is connected as the same soul composed both. As Yoshiki mentioned in the press conference, the melodies came first and whether or not the lyrics are there, the meaning behind the piece will flow through. That is what everyone is waiting to experience. Yoshiki’s music in it’s purest form.
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Otakon 2014 – Hallcosplay and Masquerade

After a delay, the masquerade event began. We had the usual host and his jokes were alot better than previous years…at least that’s how I feel. The event opened with the Hallcosplay entries which had quite a bit of variety and wonderful detailing.

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Otakon 2014 – Linda Ballantyne, Katie Griffin and John Stocker Q&A

No moderator was needed as John Stocker, Linda Ballantyne and Katie Griffin took over the panel with hilarious anecdotes, experiences of recording and changes in the industry.

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Otakon 2014 – Yoshiki Press Conference

The Press Conference was held in the Hilton on August 9 at 2pm. Yoshiki spoke in English while Pata (guitarist) and Heath (bassist) spoke in a mix of English and mostly Japanese.

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Otakon 2014 – Hayami Saori Q&A panel

The staff got us pumped up by throwing out anime titles that Hayami-san were featured in starting with Oreimo, Sword Art Online and Ano Hana. As if we needed any more encouragement as the cheers were loud as Hayami-san stepped onstage in what I remember to be a light colored kimono.

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Otakon 2014 – Katabuchi Sunao Q&A

The host introduced Katabuchi-san of the fame Mai Mai Miracle which garnered a full English BD/DVD release via support on Kickstarter. (Note, beside the pledges with gifts from wallpapers to collectors editions, there was even a $10,000 prize pledge which included airfare to Japan, 3 days hotel, a day tour of the sites featured in the film with Katabuchi-san and staff. Unfortunately, no one took them up on that special once in a lifetime tour.)

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Book review: The Church of Mercy

Church of MercyThe Church of Mercy
By Pope Francis
Published by Loyola Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8294-4170-3
Review copy provided by publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This slender philosophical book is a collection of speeches by Pope Francis, dating from April to November 2013. My impression of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is that he is a good, kind man with a genuine faith in God, and a genuine interest in the welfare of the poor, not just in saving their souls, but their bodies as well. He proves this in Part Eight, Chapter 30 of his book, “The Cult of the God of Money”, in which he deplores the wastefulness of this throwaway culture of ours and the rampant consumerism that leads to so much waste: “This culture of waste has also made us insensitive to wasting and throwing out excess foodstuffs, which is especially condemnable when, in every part of the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families suffer hunger and malnutrition…Let us remember well, however, that whenever food is thrown out, it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor, from the hungry!” Continue reading

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Anime Expo 2014 Day 3 (because I didn’t make it to day 2)

Yeah, didn’t make it to AX yesterday, but here’s the cosplay crop for today:

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Anime Expo 2014 Day 1

I’m not covering the convention, but I am taking lots of pictures there. Here’s the famous voice actress, Karen Kahler I met on the metro on the way to AX.

KarenKahler

And then cosplay:

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