Coney Island

New book focuses on Luna Park, headhunters and colliding cultures

Brooklyn BookBeat

February 17, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
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Two cultures collide as a huckster imports a tribe of Filipinos to Coney Island’s Luna Park in author and journalist Claire Prentice’s newest work “The Lost Tribe of Coney Island.”

Prentice unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, an assemblage of “headhunting, dog-eating savages” from the Philippines. The Igorrotes — a group the author spent years researching — were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as “human exhibits” alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Island’s Luna Park. Millions of fair-goers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near-nudity, tattoos and stories of headhunting.

Prentice brings the story to life with her fluid prose and vivid descriptions. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the disgraced lieutenant-turned-huckster Truman K. Hunt; his Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; the theme park impresarios behind Luna Park, Fred Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy; and Dogmena, a beautiful girl who became a favorite with New York’s social elite.

“Lost Tribe of Coney Island,” which was released this past fall, is a social history and tale of adventure, culture clash and the American dream.

Prentice is an award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The Washington Post, The Times of London, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, BBC Online, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire.

She currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland; however, she lived in New York for many years.


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