As The Brooklyn Museum was kind enough to remind us earlier this year, no place in Brooklyn remains as mystical as Coney Island. Home of the Cyclone, 800 of the best summer jobs, our beloved Freak Bar and, more recently, Times Square mascots, Coney Island imbues true meaning into that saying about “letting your freak flag fly.” Heck, they’re the authority on the subject.
Recently, genderqueer BK rapper Uncle Meg (aka Meg Skaff of Hand Job Academy) took up with some of Coney Island’s most iconic freaks to film a music video for her new song, “Big Daddy Margaret Rose.” The video used the set of Eric Rivas’ Vamp Bikers Tres in Bushwick, but its heart was obviously in the People’s Playground: Skaff’s video features everyone from the Coney sideshow barker to the strait jacket escape artist to that woman who impossibly survives having a bed of nails pressed into her chest multiple times a day. See for yourself below; it’s pretty excellent.
We caught up with Uncle Meg to ask her just what made her want to shoot the freaks for this video, and what “Big Daddy Margaret Rose” says about a city that feels less and less “freaky” every day. Update 11/1: Uncle Meg’s album Bug is out on Nov. 4; catch her next show Nov. 7 at Sunnyvale.
“The song is mostly about myself, feeling different, making light humor out of dark thoughts,” Skaff told Brokelyn. “Even though the song is written from an outsider perspective, I think it has lyrics and feelings that everyone can relate to.”
Skaff discovered both her set and her song this past January when she was cast, along with the other members of Hand Job Academy, as an extra in Vamp Bikers Tres, the third installment in a smalltime movie series about post-apocalyptic land wars between vampires and futurist bikers. As its set, Rivas’ film used the Bushwick clubhouse belonging to the The Forbidden Ones, Brooklyn’s most notorious motorcycle gang. Skaff and her bandmates played zombie version of themselves invading a house party alongside Coney Island characters cast as — you guessed it — vampire bikers. It was after being on set with the cast that Skaff was inspired to write her new song, “Big Daddy Margaret Rose.”
If the video above is any indication, Skaff isn’t your average Brooklynite. At least, not the kind that her aesthetic might otherwise indicate. The video begins with Skaff being catcalled as a “hipster,” then getting kidnapped and being forced to rap at a kind of underground talent show, which quickly devolves into the orgiastic dive bar madness that makes up the better part of the video. And while you can ear-squint to make out those relatable lyrics she mentioned, Big Daddy Margaret Rose seems best enjoyed as a kind of rippling, anthemic backdrop to the video’s kaleidoscopic visuals of dancing vampires, bikers and freaks. With Skaff’s help, Rivas pared down his film set to give it a more “documentary style” feel for her video.
“We wanted to feature the bikers and the cast of Vamp Bikers Tres in their own world,” Skaff said. “Just the clubhouse the way the clubhouse is, with the dog Reece and all the badges and art on the walls.”
For Uncle Meg, Coney Island freaks aren’t just entertainment—they’re entertainers, deserving of artistic recognition for their tireless hustle in the borough.
“I wanted my Coney Island friends to showcase what they do every day, with the bed of nails and straight jacket. I wanted to film with the cast of characters Eric had brought together because it was inspiring to me to see so many different people from so many different background getting together to make art and having fun doing it.”
Skaff admitted that she was initially surprised by how welcoming the Coney Island troupe was to her, considering her aesthetic is what most would associate with the most reviled kind of Brooklynite: the hipster. “But they heard the song, loved it, told me I was talented and original, creative and genuine,” she said. “And that’s why they fucked with me.”
They more than fucked with her. In fact, each cast member was instrumental to the video’s production, some transporting props from Coney Island to Bushwick and others creating the laser sequences for scenes. The bike Skaff is riding at the end of her video belongs to Tito, a bonafide Brooklyn biker (and the main one featured in the video) who trusted her with his rig.
“Tito’s bike even has a sticker that reads ‘Hipster Killer’ on it, which is hilarious,” Skaff shared. “I love that.”
Even though Big Daddy Margaret Rose denounces hipsters like so many have before it, Skaff’s attempt is sincere, and thus far more satisfying to watch than anything made by Jimmy Kimmel, or brought to you by the letter Basic. This is one of those rare punches thrown at nouveau Brooklyn that actually land a hit.
For Skaff, it seems, Bushwick deserves this beating because it failed to retain the ongoing mysticism of its unchanged neighborhood to the South.
“I’ve been going to Coney Island, Bay Ridge and Brighton Beach probably once a month since I’ve lived in Brooklyn, and I’ve been here for about 10 years,” Skaff said. “Coney Island is a super special place to me. It’s still the Old New York to me. …. I hope it never changes.”
Hear, hear. For as long as there’s life in ol’ Brokelyn dot com, we’re sworn to protect Coney Island (we hope you are, too) against becoming Condo Island.
Skaff added that she “wasn’t intending to make any sort of strong statement about the gentrification in North Brooklyn,” only that she’s been affected by it as an artist enough to want to take it to task.
“I’m not inspired by trendy shops, green juice, or cold brew,” she said. “I’m inspired by culture and the different ways people live and survive.”
Here’s Uncle Meg’s new video, released Nov. 2:
Pledge your allegiance to her freak flag: @MegSkaff