Say it ain’t so. After becoming a Coney Island fixture through various performances, which included Brooklyn Cyclones games, Dennis DiMartino and his various clown characters are saying goodbye to New York as he moves to the Sunshine State.
DiMartino, 55, fell in love with performing at a young age. “It’s been a slow development. The first time I dressed as clown was in high school,” said the Rochester native. “While rehearsing for a school show, the dramatic director asked me to take the script and write a few things.”
His day job was at New York Civil Court, but even then his talents for performing were on display. “The two jobs intersected,” he explained.
In 1977, DiMartino decided to move to Manhattan where he shared an apartment with three friends. After eight years, he moved to Brooklyn, met his wife and fell in love with the borough.
Although he’s portrayed many characters (some include the Kanarsie Kid and Billy Boardwalk Walker) the one that resonated most with audiences is ‘Cappy Da Clown’.
The name was inspired by his love for a comic book superhero. “In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I had a Captain America pin I wore all the time and they called me Cappy. Then they called me the capper while wrestling.” The name carried over to the clown character that is described as ‘child-like and eternally nine-years-old.’
Performing as the character became cathartic for DiMartino. “There’s so much of me in him. There’s so much that he can do that I can’t. I’m really a shy person,” he admitted. “I just don’t have that many social skills but Cappy can make friends, say anything he wants to say and I can just open up.”
Modestly, DiMartino described himself as a jack of all trades, a master of none. However, audiences connected with his characters, which allowed him to quickly find work. “Most of my work until recently had been birthday parties,” recalled DiMartino.
Eventually, ‘Cappy’ got involved with various Coney Island events. “When Luna Park opened, I was one of the first people to go down there. That is where Houdini started. All these great people came out of here. I said ‘Here I am at this world famous venue.’”
DiMartino was asked to join Magic at Coney, as well as the famous Halloween and Mermaid parades. “We are all like family, taking care of each other when Sandy hit. We had a party for the kids after Sandy at MCU Park,” he recalled.
One of his more memorable moments occurred while performing during a Brooklyn Cyclones game. “At a game last summer, I saw a little girl who had Downs Syndrome and was non-responsive,” recalled DiMartino. After he painted hearts on her face and talked to her, she extended her arms to him. “It was the most sincere hug I’ve ever had,” he recalled.
DiMartino worked for the Cyclones for 10 years. On his final day, the team gave him a proper farewell. “The organization gave me a going-away party. I threw out the first pitch. I got to sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’” He also received a plaque and a jersey with his name on it. The crowd chanted his name.
Although DiMartino’s love for Brooklyn is evident, there are certain aspects of his hometown he is happy to leave behind. “I’m through with cold weather. My wife needs to be on the beach. I have to keep her happy,” he joked.
He plans on bringing his act to his new home in Florida.” I’m going to try,” he said. “I sent my magic and costumes ahead of me. Hopefully within a month, I’ll open up in my house. I already have a few contacts.”
Cappy won’t leave Coney behind entirely. He plans on returning for summer events. Wherever the future takes DiMartino and his characters, he’ll always remember where it all began. “I will miss the smiles on the faces of Brooklyn and Bay Ridge.”