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Online Extra
August 2004

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Letters From the Shore

The Jersey Shore Online Extra
Photograph by Amy Toensing

In her Letters From the Shore, Cathy Newman explains the Great Asbury Park Debate. Will Asbury Park (above), which went down the tubes beginning in the 1970s, come roaring back? A developer with deep pockets (so they say) has materialized and promises to rebuild the decaying waterfront. There are skeptics—like Cathy's Aunt Alice—who say it'll never happen. And optimists who say it's a sure bet. For the final word, Cathy decided to ask a fortune teller to gaze into her crystal ball.

Dear Lynn:

Could Aunt Alice be right? I decided to consult a fortune teller. For years, Madame Marie ran a fortune-telling stand on the boardwalk. Now she runs the business out of a house on Route 35 in Ocean Township.

"Madame Marie, I'd like to talk about Asbury Park's future," I said when I called.

"New people are coming," the throaty voice on the phone said.

"Yes, I know. I'd like to meet you," I pressed.

"I'm sorry, dear, but I'm going on vacation."

"Madame Marie," I implored, "I need to talk to you about the Jersey Shore."

"All I can tell you is that Asbury Park is coming back and will be the way it used to be."

"But I must…"

Click.  She'd hung up on me.

I see a story manuscript in your future,


* * * * * *

One of the most cherished characters on the Jersey shore is Lucy, a six-story high elephant made of wood. Here's Cathy's take on Lucy, the local landmark.

Dear Lynn:

Everybody loves Lucy (the elephant, that is). Lucy, a six-story-high, 90-ton (80-metric-ton) elephant made of wood and covered in metal, lives on Atlantic Avenue in Margate City, and she just happens to be a national historic landmark. She was built in 1881 by a developer who thought she'd be a great sales gimmick for his real estate business, and has been luring tourists ever since. Last year about 50,000 visitors got an inside look at Lucy. They climbed a spiral set of stairs in her leg, stood in the cathedral-like space in her belly, and peered through her right eye at the ocean view. There have been weddings inside Lucy, anniversary parties, and every July 20th a celebration of her birthday.

Richard Helfant (that's really his name) probably loves Lucy more than anyone. He is the executive director of the Save Lucy Committee, and when he speaks about Lucy, you could swear she is alive. When I asked Helfant to describe Lucy's appeal, he replied that she is fun, one of a kind, and wholesome—something he implied you couldn't always say about Atlantic City, Margate's neighbor to the north. Last year a local resident left Lucy $139,103.69 in her will. Though the sum was not exactly peanuts, Helfant points out that Lucy is a high-maintenance elephant. A fresh coat of paint alone costs $28,000, so Helfant's greatest wish for Lucy is a permanent endowment to keep her in tip-top shape.

So what does Lucy love? I asked Helfant.

"Kids, first," he said. "Then peanuts."

A trunk full of hugs and a postcard from,



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