Saturday, July 05, 2008

Boardwalk fortune teller Madam Marie dies

from the Asbury Park Press:
ASBURY PARK — It was one line from a Bruce Springsteen song that made the boardwalk fortune teller world famous. And now, "Madam Marie'' has passed away.
Marie Castello, who had told fortunes since the 1930s and became famous for her presence and predictions on the Asbury Park boardwalk, died Friday, her great-granddaughter, Sally Castello said today.
Family members were attending morning services today, Castello said.
The psychic reader and advisor was 93. She became known worldwide from Bruce Springsteen's homage to her in his music.
"Did you hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie,'' Springsteen sang in his 1973 song, "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)'' "for tellin' fortunes better than they do."
"That was just the Boss,'' said Asbury Park Deputy Mayor Jim Bruno. "She was never arrested. But Springsteen turned her into an icon.''
Bruno remembers his own run-in with the psychic.
"I was a 12-year-old kid,'' he said. "And I don't remember what I was doing, but I remember her chasing me away from her shack. Her death is a real loss.''
It was also somewhat unexpected.
''She really wasn't sick. She just wasn't feeling well,'' Castello said. ""She was very, very strong until the day she died.''
Madam Marie bragged that she had told the fortunes of everyone from Judy Garland to Springsteen himself. Legend has it that she told Springsteen he was going to be a success. Springsteen later joked that she told all the musicians that.
And Springsteen never forgot Madam Marie.
"He always comes by to say hello," she told Press columnist Bill Handleman in May. "He knows where he came from."
Word of Castello's death spread along the Asbury Park boardwalk over the weekend. The American flag flying over the Convention Hall-Paramount Theatre complex was lowered to half staff in her honor, and it remained that way today.
"Of course, Madam Marie is our longest running tenant here on the boardwalk. ... She's an Asbury Park tradition,'' said Gary Mottola, president of investments for developer Madison Marquette, the lead partner in a joint venture with Asbury Partners to restore or rebuild the boardwalk's entertainment buildings. "We felt that honoring her by lowering the Convention Hall flag to half staff is the right thing to do.''
Marie Castello closed down her regular operations on the boardwalk in the mid-1990s after a dropoff in business. She continued telling fortunes in Ocean Township.
But Sally Castello is one of the family members who still does readings at the Madam Marie booth not far from Convention Hall on the boardwalk.
"The booth will always be there," Marie Castello said in May. "The Temple of Knowledge, that's a landmark, that's nostalgia, they'll never tear it down."
Did you ever visit Madame Marie? "

I met Madam Marie several times, the first time in 1979 when I just got my drivers license and cut school and drove from Northern NJ to Asbury Park with my friend John. It was February, and it was cold but I didn't care. I was a HUGE Bruce Springsteen fan and seeing all the places he sang about up close and in person was...fantastic! Never did I think that on this cold day in February, that Madam Marie would have been on the boardwalk. I knew that day that I wanted to live down the shore. It took what seemed like an eternity to get there-college, then a few newspaper jobs out of state but in 1986, I got a newspaper job at the shore and called Monmouth County my home for 13 years. Asbury Park will always hold fond memories.
Years later I had to photograph her for a story. She was very quiet and polite.
In the late 1990's,before moving away from Monmouth County to NYC, I used Madam Marie's booth for one last photo-the cover of ""One Step up, Two Steps Back: The Music of Bruce Springsteen"
RIP Madam Marie


Blogger skerner said...

Debra - thanks for remembering Madam Marie - great photos and story.

6:58 AM  

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