Sad news comes out of Coney Island today, where neighbors are mourning the loss of Andy Badalamenti, a lifelong resident of the area and operator of classic rides like the Tornado rollercoaster, the Bobsled and the Himalaya.
"Coney Island was Andy’s life and obsession," writes Wild Ride: A Coney Island Roller Coaster Family author and longtime friend Charles Denson. “Andy grew up working in Coney Island. He possessed a pure devotion to whatever ride he worked on and the people he worked for,” Denson wrote in the book. When the Tornado burned down in 1977, Badalamenti was devastated. “The image of Andy Badalamenti high atop the smoldering ruins of the historic roller coaster, triumphant and defiant, promising rebirth, remains a part of Coney Island folkore,” writes Denson.
Before succumbing to cancer, Badalementi, who lived in the house beneath the Thunderbolt, worked as a ride mechanic, at the police stables in Brighton Beach, and as a guardian of the Horace Bullard-owned relics the Thunderbolt, the Shore Theater, and Playland Arcade. His wake will be from 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. today and tomorrow at Cusimano and Russo Funeral Home in Gravesend.
Here's a look at the Tornado in its heyday: