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Leonidoff's Wonder World

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Our photo exposé of the day is Leonidoff's Wonder World, a grand show put on in the Aquacade Stadium at great expense. Unfortunately the big investment didn't draw enough paying attendees to keep it open more than two months, so photos are scarce. Most of these are from a single recent acquisition of Kodak slides, but I also sprinkled in a few previous seen photos to fill in the whole show. Sit back and enjoy- it's June 1964, and this is one of your last chances to see.....[drumroll].....Leonidoff's Wonder World!!!

We start off with an exterior view of the venerable Aquacade stadium as it looked when the World's Fair opened. A roof was built over the whole stadium- but that didn't last long. After just a few weeks they'd pulled the tarp off the audience seating area (as you'll see in these pictures).

5524_-_Amphitheatre.jpg

©Photo Lab #5524

The front of the building was decorated with huge letters advertising the show. A ticket kiosk was located near the front entrance (on the left in this photo).

08_Leonidoffs_Wonder_World.jpg

Costumed cast members appeared on a barker's stage out front, to try to entice people to buy a ticket....

012_-_Leonidoffs_Wonder_World.jpg

©Bill Cotter, Set 21, Picture #012

You buy your ticket and receive a program for the show....

Wonder_World_program-page1.jpg

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Wonder_World_program-page4.jpg

Don't forget your refreshments in official Wonder World cups, before heading to your seat!

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You can even buy a box of souvenir cups to take home with you....

refreshment_cups_box.jpg

Better race inside to get the best seat, because, well.......

.........take yer pick........

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Time for the show to begin!!

Act 1 - Wonder World

....somebody got wet....

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closeup- there's an orchestra seated in an elevated "orchestra pit" on the right side of the stage:

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A little diving, for the '39-40 fans to reminisce...

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Act II - Mysterious Waters

This has to be one of the more bizarre stage sets....

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closeup:

the Polynesian jungle backdrop is mounted on a turntable. See the spiky-shaped point up on top? Keep that in mind when it's time for Act III.

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closeup: you've got finely attired ladies and gents- the ladies with white gloves up past their elbows- sitting ankle deep in water. I've heard of paying extra to get front row seats, but this is ridiculous!

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closeup: now that the diving is finished, the entire orchestra decides to move to the elevated "orchestra pit" on the left side of the stage. You just can't keep a good orchestra in one place!

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Those front rowers stick it out in the ankle deep water as the horn-heads enter....

64-06-33-16_Wonder_World.jpg

In order to restore photo links within new board restrictions, moved Act III to bottom of this topic.

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Great stuff Randy, I never knew Chita Rivera was in the show. I can't believe how few people are in the audience in that shot.

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I should have read the program! The white convertibles were supplied by Alfa Romeo, not Studebaker.

So change that trivia question to Alfa Romeo.

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Wow - great stuff! Thanks for putting it all together, Randy.

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64-06-33-17_Wonder_World.jpg

see the blue tarp-covered box-shaped thing up on top of the roof?

I suspect that the entire rocket rose up into this boxed area when it blasted off, to get it out of the way so that the turntable could turn to reveal the Unisphere.

In this photo, the rocket has already risen about ten feet or so.

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Thanks for the memories…memories of memories and history.

I shall always remember the title song “It’s a Wonder World”; even though the seats were empty; I chose to sit half way up from the stage. I was glad I did, I sat next to a man who was a pre-teenager at the 1939 Fair. During the show, he told me all about his Fair.

Side note, Debi Mazar who played Denise Ianello on LA Law, is the granddaughter to one of the cast members of the Aquacade show in 1939.

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Cool connection, Hoodlock. Debi Mazar currently has a recurring role on the HBO series "Entourage."

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Wow! Great time machine stuff Randy. Thanks for posting.

As a small businessman, I look at these photos of this stage show and I see a bunch of guys that just lost a bundle of money and feel bad for all those involved.

There are more people on stage than in the audience.

I know if I were visiting the fair, it would be hard for me to sit and watch a show for two hours while there is so much going on outside.

Weren’t these type of review shows fading out by the sixties?

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Somewhere in my "stuff", I have a ticket stub for Wonder World which I remember seeing the first show at dusk, Memorial Day, 1964. I recall that the BELL ROCKET MAN was in the final scene, rising from the right side of the stage, upward above the set and landing on the left side of the stage. The sound was deafening and holding your hands over your ears was common. Does Hoodlock remember this as part of the show? I wonder why there are no pics of the BELL ROCKETMAN scene here!

Ray Dashner

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I wonder why there are no pics of the BELL ROCKETMAN scene here!

Maybe you missed him Ray- it's the first full-sized picture after the rocket blastoff. Rocket Man is in the air, flying from left to right.

It's the one with the closeup of the orchestra members plugging their ears with their fingers.

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I guess that my concentration ability timed out before that pic materialized!

The BELL ROCKETMAN, in fact, was worth the price of admission. Too bad it was seen by too few people at NYWF.

Ray

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Maybe it's an illusion but the windows (glass blocks?) on the Aquacade appear to be broken. Odd that they wouldn't repair these before the Fair.

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Ray, good to hear from you, the side benefit from your recent medical event, is that we here at PTU profit by your stepped up input.

Ray, I do remember the Rocket Man, I remember him moving from left to right, (I did go back to the photo) and indeed on these two occasions he did fly L to R.

I had never seen photos of the Bell rocket system in operation, I though the Rocket man would fly like Superman. But the Rocket man flew upright with his feet dangling like a marionette carried off the stage.

My cousin seated in the front row, told of the enormous pressure pushing him down into his seat as the Rocket Man flew past him.

As for the broken windows, they are not; it is just the back of the sign reflecting in the glass panes.

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Thanks, Bruce. Recovery takes longer than expected, but I've 30 more years left to fully recoup.

Is it possible that we are the only two on PTU (and elsewhere) that actually saw the BELL ROCKETMAN in action? I once saw him fly over the Unisphere as part of the publicity for the WONDERWORLD show.

The blast from his rocket belt was indeed overwhelming. I've always wondered why it began and ended at the NYWF. It's probably in the Smithsonian at this point.

Ray

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I don’t know if we are the only PTU members to see the Rocket Man in person, but I can bet we are the only PTU members to see Wonderworld, maybe with the exception of Bill Cotter.

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Wow. To be in a club with you guys is, well, humbling.

Wonderworld is one of those things where if you snooze, you lose. It didn't last long at all. I barely remember it, having seen it once and frankly wanting more to check out the Ford Pavilion and the cars.

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Scratching my head - I think I saw the Bell rocketman somewhere else - I remember the deafening noise. He appeared in a Disneyland TV program, I believe, (probably have it on purchased tape or DVD someplace)and I recall thinking how they didn't give any indication of how noisy it was. So, I saw it before seeing the recorded program (maybe not before the original airing). Did I see it at the Fair, or elsewhere? [More head-scratching....]

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The rights to the technology were obtained by a private company after Bell failed to secure orders to put it into mass production.

That company still does shows at major events, like the '84 Olympics where I saw their stunt demo guy fly. He took off in Exposition Park and landed inside the stadium after whizzing around the outer edge of the upper seats (no longer in a white jumpsuit- it's all spangly sequins now). But it's the same basic rocket belt design.

The coolest I saw was not in person, but a video (converted from film) that somebody shot in the early 60's when TWO Bell test dummies (er, pilots, er Rocket Men) flew in formation, with a third one following them carrying a handheld movie camera. It's on the web, and it's VERY cool- shows what it's like to fly through the air with a rocket strapped on your back. The url link is here on PTU somewhere....it's a must see....

Update: the link to the Rocket Man video has changed, but I WAS able to track it down-

here's the new url:

http://www.ws.binghamton.edu/jmp/Video/RocketPack.ram

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Très 'cool' , et la musique est magnifique.

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I'm now thinking that I saw it either at some lakefront show in Chicago or at an EAA fly-in. In the 60's, IIRC, Chicago had a series of "trade fairs" based on the increased business expected from the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. These were held at Navy Pier, which was subsequently demolished to a large extent, and rebuilt again in recent years.

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And rebuilt they did...

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The Bell Rocket Belt was used in the "10th Anniversary Show" for the Disneyland series. It has been out on DVD before and will be on another set to come out this year. The guy would fly around the Matterhorn. Looks like fun!

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Don't forget that just a year or two ago the David Letterman show "went live" out to FMCP in Queens to show Rocket Man "jump the Unisphere"- duplicating the feat that Ray saw four decades earlier.

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Just to add a little something the the Wonder World thread, here is the page from the Official Guidebook 1964 season~~

aquacade.jpg

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What was the Amphitheatre used for in 1964 following the closure of "Wonder World"? I believe it was some sort of rock and roll show?

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