Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Q & A with Marksman Entertainment producers Hand & Pooler on Fun Pier documentary

Poster art by Kristen Steindl
We are now less than a week away from the premiere screening of Roaring Back to Life, the long awaited documentary on Fun Pier from Marksman Entertainment, Inc. (creators of the Hunt's Legacy film series).

The showing will take place next Monday night, April 18th, 7:30 p.m. at Crest Pier (Ocean & Heather Aves.) in Wildwood Crest.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Marksman producers Scott Hand and Diane Pooler about the film, their experiences in putting it together, and their memories of Fun Pier..

Wildwood 365: First off, it's a pleasure to once again have the opportunity to discuss the latest Marksman Entertainment production with you both.

Diane Pooler: Thank you Al. We really appreciate Wildwood 365 giving us the opportunity to talk about our documentary films.

Scott Hand: It is a pleasure to be here to talk about our Fun Pier documentary.

Scott Hand and Diane Pooler pose with Fun Pier interviewees, 10/1/10

365: Fun Pier is a fascinating subject. For me, usually staying in or closer to North Wildwood as a kid, it was always that "other pier" down near the end of the Boardwalk. It still seems to hold an aura of mystery for a lot of people. Would you consider that an accurate observation?

SH: I would agree with you, Al. One of the things that made it a mystery is that it kept changing hands. There were so many players involved with Fun Pier that it became very complicated to follow. It also had a very different atmosphere than the other piers did at the time. Many of them have termed it the "Carnival Pier" and that may very well be an accurate description of what it was.

DP: If you did stay in the center of Wildwood as I did as a kid - my family stayed at least once a year at the Shore Plaza Motel - it's true you may not have ventured all the way down to that end of the Boardwalk. It seemed a world away to us, and I remember spending most of our time on Hunt's Pier, Marine Pier, and Casino Arcade. But the Sky Tower on Fun Pier afforded a great, one-of-a-kind view of all of Wildwood. Don't forget, Morey's Giant Ferris Wheel was not in existence back then, and although Marine Pier had a taller-than-average Ferris Wheel at the time, it was still not as high as the Sky Tower.

365: When the most famous rides of the Boardwalk's past are brought up, the discussions tend to focus on Hunt's Pier, or maybe Morey's Piers attractions like Kong and the Haunted House. Sportland's Hell Hole and Dr. Blood's House of Horror might figure into the conversation. But, Fun Pier was home to several classics in their own rights, like Lost World and Frankenstein's Castle. Diane mentioned the Sky Tower, which was only recently removed and was another longtime landmark...

DP: I think the custom rides that set Fun Pier apart were the Sky Tower, of course; the Ski Ride, which was like a ski lift that initially took you out over the water. Of course, the beach kept getting bigger, and the waterline receded quite a bit during the 60's & 70's; and the monorail. I mean, Hunt's Pier and Marine Pier both had trains, but Fun Pier was the only pier in Wildwood to have a monorail. Those were the iconic rides from the early years of the pier.

SH: The monorail and ski ride were iconic but by the late 70's they were both gone. Lost World was very unique because it was half ride through and half walk through. Seriously, how many rides have you been on that were like that? The walk through eventually took you under the pier. Frankenstein's Castle was iconic because they had a 22 foot tall statue of the monster standing on top of the castle, you could see that from Hunt's Pier. Don't forget, Fun Pier also had their own Jungleland ride. The piers all their own personality back then and each one was different from the others.  

Peter Savard and Marksman co-producer Scott Hand
365: What are your personal memories of Fun Pier, and how did they influence your work on this film?

DP: For me, even though I didn't get down to Fun Pier a lot while I was a kid, it was still part of the overall atmosphere of the era. For me, the classic Wildwood Boardwalk was Fun Pier, Marine Pier, Playland at Cedar Ave. with the Jack Rabbit, Casino Arcade, Hunt's Pier, and Sportland Pier. It was the totality of all those amusement centers together that made the Wildwood Boardwalk great, and left an indelible mark on not only me, but on so many people. Even the early days of Morey's Surfside Pier is very memorable to me. King Kong seemed almost close enough to touch from our balcony at the Shore Plaza! But that's the great thing about memories. It's generational. It's so tied in to when each person is living in their childhood. For the generation right after mine, the late 70's and early 80's is their era, so they have a fondness for certain rides that came along during their formative years. There is some overlap of the generations - all of us loved the Golden Nugget for instance! But some of the later generation's favorite rides came along after I was growing out of my childhood, so I naturally have less memory and emotional connection to some of those amusements. And really, when you think about it, most of us do not become nostalgic until the things from our childhood are no longer there.

SH: Even as a local, I very rarely went down to Fun Pier. I was always on either Hunt's Pier, Marine Pier or Casino Arcade. I remember the monorail, ski ride and Lost World and the castle the most. I never got into Frankenstein's Castle so that peaked my interest. I remember Lost World very well. That one left an impression on me. The actors working inside took it very seriously and it was not typical at all. They weren't using vampires or werewolves or anything like that. Instead, Jim DeMusz, who created the ride, had gone with an Aztec/Inca theme. You were going to encounter Aztec cannibals and maybe Inca warriors. They could go back and forth with it and Jim painted murals of human sacrifice to enhance the suspense factor. I thought that it would be very interesting to document what was going on with Fun Pier the most since it wasn't as popular as, say, Hunt's or Morey's.

365: Scott, I know this is a project you have been looking forward to tackling for years. At what point did you decide that this could be done? Take us through that process, if you can...

SH: It has been the one that I really wanted to do!  It started for me back in Jan 2002 when I found Anthony's Mr Boardwalk website. I had forgotten about it for awhile then after I started looking through the pictures I get really interested and focused. I started back then, but there just wasn't much information at all. After a while, when I got some real good information, I wrote a couple of articles about Fun's Jungleland and Frankenstein Castle. Diane and I teamed up to make  these films in November 2008, and I was trying to get Fun Pier made. Originally, I wanted to do this one first, but the information and people were not available to us at the time. We started this one, but Hunt's Pier was what was happening, so we shuffled this one to later. Hunt's Pier took center stage for us, but I still kept at it for Fun Pier. There really was a time where I felt like this one was never going to get made, but I was determined. Then, last March, it started to happen and I got really excited about it! After we had the screening for The Hunt's Legacy: Part 2, it was back to work on this one.

365: How many former Fun Pier employees were you able to track down? I'm sure many of them had some interesting stories to tell...

SH: I was able to track down about twenty of them, but not everyone was available for a filmed interview. Some of them live in other countries, but they were helpful enough to return my calls and provide valuable information. We have about thirteen of them on film and all of them worked in different capacities at Fun Pier. The thing I like the most about doing this is hearing all the wonderful stories that the people have to tell. The information that they provide along with the exclusive pictures and film footage that we were fortunate enough to be able to use really ensures that we have a great film to show. I am really proud that we have gotten this project made!

365: Is there anything you learned while researching the pier's history or during the interviews that caused you to raise an eyebrow? Perhaps something you were completely unaware of previously?

Marksman co-producer Diane Pooler
DP: There are some great behind-the-scenes stories, many very humorous and entertaining. We learned how things evolved on Fun Pier, and how certain rides came into being and why other rides faded into history. Even if someone only has a passing interest in Fun Pier, if they are interested in Wildwood's classic past, I encourage them to come see this film. I think the viewer will be pleasantly surprised at what they learn and will walk away feeling a human connection with the people who worked for Fun Pier.

SH: We really learned quite a lot. The variety of stories is always very interesting. For anyone that has an interest in Wildwood or amusement history, I strongly encourage them to come out and see what we have done. It was a very interesting amusement pier along with the many personalties of the people that worked there. I think that people will enjoy it and be entertained.

365: To close on the subject, how would you describe Fun Pier's place - and its importance - in Wildwood history?

SH: .You aren't seeing things like what they had anymore.  One of the guys that worked the pier said this
: "Back then, when you wanted to make a ride, you thought it up, you sketched it out, and you made it!  Today, things are so much more complex that you can't do it that way anymore." Some of Fun Pier's rides had a very homemade look to them and that made Fun Pier unique.

DP: Like I said earlier, it is part of what Wildwood looked like overall during that era.

365: You have been producing these terrific films at a very impressive pace over the past year and a half. Can you give any hints on other projects you have on the horizon?

DP: Thank you. We have several other very interesting projects in the works, but again, we don't like to give anything away. We will have a website up and running very soon; so keep looking for that. In the meantime, people who are interested in following what we are doing, can visit our Facebook page, where we will post all news including when the website is ready. Or, just keep reading updates on Wildwoood 365!

SH:  Thank you, Al.  It is really difficult to think about future projects when we are still working on next month's project, which is the next episode of The Hunt's Legacy. It's very complicated working the way we have, but when you are really passionate about something then it's second nature. I really had a blast making these films and meeting all the wonderful people that were part of it. When we have the next project/video documentary finished then we will have to start getting serious about the next one. We will be in touch with you, Al, and Wildwood 365, to get the audience ready for what we will have later on.

We're looking forward to it. Once again, thanks to both of you for taking the time to talk and share info about these great Marksman Entertainment productions!

DP: Thank you very much, Al. It's always a pleasure! Hope to see you at the film. Once again, it will be shown Monday, April 18th, 7:30 p.m. at Crest Pier.

SH: Thank you, Al. We also look forward to catching up with you next month to discuss our next documentary about Hunt's Theatres.

No comments:

Post a Comment