The carnival industry lost two well-known individuals over the past several days.
Ray Pilszak, 82, a longtime sales executive for the old Amusement Business magazine, died Saturday, Jan. 18.
Clarence "Coachie" Kasin Jr., 62, a veteran games concessionaire, died Wednesday, Jan. 22.
Both were Chicago natives.
Pilszak worked for AB for more than 40 years, from the time he was hired, July 11, 1960 until his retirement, Dec. 31, 2000. Even after he officially retired, Pilszak continued to work for the magazine. His primary responsibility was selling ads for Cavalcade, AB's directory of carnivals and touring acts.
Over his five decades marketing to the entertainment industry, Pilszak knew virtually everybody involved in the business, from the late George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees who served on the board of the Florida State Fair, to Felix Cavaliere, lead singer of the Rascals, a 1960s pop band.
"He worked for AB forever," said Tom Powell, former editor of Amusement Business. Powell would often tease his longtime friend by referring to Pilszak as the magazine's "aging director of sales" in his weekly column, TP on AB.
"Ray was one of the best friends I ever had," Powell said. "We bowled together, played softball together and bet with the same bookie. He was tenacious at selling ads."
Frank Zaitshik, owner of W.G. Wade Shows, was one of those people who bought ads from Pilszak. His company's carnival ran an ad every week in AB.
"He was as much a part of the institution of AB as anybody else," he said. "When you think of Amusement Business, it was Tom Powell and Ray Pilszak. They were both there so long. Ray was always the salesman."
As a native Chicagoan, Pilszak was a long-suffering Cubs and Bears fan. He had a habit of constantly whistling off-key, which came off as endearing to some and perhaps a bit annoying to others. At the same time, he was considered to be a good dancer and often showed off his flashy moves during trade show receptions.
He also loved good food and was fond of the Polish cuisine of his heritage. Gene's Sausage Shop, an old-school butcher and grocery in the heart of Little Warsaw on Chicago's northwest side, was one of his favorite stops when traveling back and forth from his home in Nashville.
At Pilszak's request, no funeral services were planned. Survivors include his wife, Georgia, and a daughter, Krisa Pilszak, a dance instructor.
Kasin, meanwhile, was a member of a longtime carnival family that includes his twin brothers, Peter and Paul Kasin, their wives and children.
Together, they have booked games for many years with Skinners' Amusements, among other shows. Clarence Kasin, named for his father, could always be seen operating the duck pond on the lot with a smile on his face.
In the mid-1990s, Clarence fell ill, suffering from a failing kidney. Paul Kasin donated one of his own kidneys to his older brother, helping to prolong his life for several years. For those who know the Kasin family well, it was a selfless move by Paul for which Clarence was forever grateful.
Visitation for Clarence "Coachie" Kasin is Friday, Jan. 24 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Strang Funeral Chapel & Crematorium in Grayslake, Ill. The funeral service will be held Saturday, Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. at the chapel. Memorials may be made to the Showmen's League of America Scholarship in care of Peter Kasin.