The Master of Half of Coney Island

The thought never crossed my mind to question the title of the man known as the Master. I met him on a snowy winter day in March. Sitting on a crate, in the snow. The Master was touching up the paint job on the colorful food signs at Ruby’s. With a paper plate pallet, he was touching up the ketchup on the hot dogs, filling in the corn kernels which the sea air had worn away, painstakingly making sure the salt specks on the french fries sparkled as the new season was approaching. The Master introduced himself to me as I waited for the landlord to arrive to look at the small space next to Ruby’s which was for rent. The Master gave me a rickety folding chair to sit in. I watched him paint in the snow as I waited for the landlord, and awaited the moment that the beautiful nine years of owning the shop next to Ruby’s was to unfold. My friendship with the Master was to be one of my most cherished aspects of that experience.

There was only one person I’d ever seen question the title of the master, and that was my sassy 90 year old Grandmother,Virginia Pasquale. Nothing gets past VP (as my brother calls her). So upon being introduced she asked with a discerning look on her face “so what are you the Master of?” This may have been the only time I’d ever witnessed speechlessness from the Master. After and awkward pause Virginia asked “of Coney Island?” To which the Master replied “No, no, no, only half.:” He was the Master of half of Coney Island. Apparently it was our half

For years before we met, I had seen Master (whose real name was Genaoro Venegas Rivera) on the boardwalk, enthusiastically inviting anyone and everyone to join the party at Ruby’s Bar and Grill. There was always a party at Ruby’s, as far as the Master was concerned and he was always the life of that Party. The Master would burst into my store (at least once a day) and shout at the top of his lungs “WWWAAYYYppaaaaa! It’s Party-time!!!” He spent most of his life on the Coney Island boardwalk, always wore a sailor hat and had a zest for life and a sparkle in his eyes.

After years of fading away in illness, the Master passed away yesterday. Although the life seemed to be draining from his frail physical frame, his eyes still shown with the most beautiful brightness and laughter. He was one of my best Coney Island friends. Most of my fondest Coney Island memories include the wonderful enthusiasm of this fabulous man.

The Master embodied the Coney Island of today. It will never be the same without the Master…. but the never ending Coney Island party goes on and the laughter and energy that the Master shared with us will always radiate from the Coney Island Boardwalk.

“WWAAYYYpppaaa! It’s Part-time!” will always resound in my heart! I love you Master.

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7 Responses to “The Master of Half of Coney Island”

  1. Jim C Says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting the Master on a visit to Coney Island. He truly was a charasmatic person and added to the unique charm of Coney Island. Lola, I am sure that many others share your thoughts on the Master. Maybe Ruby’s could put up a picture of him so he can still be a part of the party at Ruby’s.

  2. Scott Says:

    When you first introduced me to him, I was struck not only by how he embodied the love that is Coney Island, but also how he had obviously become like a part of your family there. The twinkle in his eye was a great beam of happiness, shining out and lighting up the boardwalk, and thank you for introducing me to him.

  3. Cara Lee aka Carmelita Wonderfunk Says:

    I first met The Master at Ruby’s one day 7 or 8 years ago when I was looking for new napkins for my bloody hand after I split it open at a boxing test-your-strength-machine (you should’ve seen seen what i did to the machine!)
    He led me to the sink over there behind the juke box and meticulously cleaned my hand while in a trance-like state muttering little prayers, it seemed, in a language I didn’t understand. I had no idea who he was but knew I could trust him. He took all the time he needed and wrapped and bandaged it beautifully with fresh napkins, gauze and scotch tape and that sucker healed within days!
    Genniero became my friend and found me and hugged the breath out of me on hundreds of Coney Visits for years to come. I will miss him.

  4. chrissy Says:

    this is a beautiful post lola<3

  5. maria (Genaoro's niece) Says:

    Lola,

    Thanks again for loving my uncle so much we had no idea everyone loved him SO MUCH, we knew he was loved. but i guess we had no idea how much.
    Thanks, and We understand what everyone loved about him beacuse when my mother ( his Sister) divorced my dad he left everything he was doing and said to my mom let’s go to Puerto Rico so you can start a new life and he was there for my mom, my brother and myself. he loved my family.

    He will always be remembered.

  6. ann lorenzo Says:

    Just read of his passing and the thought came to my mind that little by littlle the real Coney Island is slipping away.
    I saw him so many times; never spoke to him, but he always made smile.
    Things are really changing and not in a good way.
    Sorry he’s gone he will be missed. Gotta stop taking things and people for granted. Ann.

  7. Katherine Says:

    Thank You so much for this beautiful post. I knew somewhat on how my tio jon was popular on the boardwalk but I never knew how much he was genuinely loved. I am so happy to hear how he has touched people in such a humble way. You captured his spirit perfectly, I will also remember him as the MASTER OF CONEY ISLAND.
    I LOVE YOU TIO

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