By Jerry Del Priore
It’s good to be the king.
Just ask Guy Zoda, 47, who has been performing his character “King Henry” at Brooklyn Cyclones games since the 2003 season, entertaining fans with an undeniable, affable style all of his own.
Zoda, who grew up in Bensonhurst and graduated from FDR High School, has been in the entertainment business since 1989, specializing in family entertainment, business promotion and marketing. He also manages promotions and outreach for the Cyclones, talking about the history of baseball at school assemblies, and helping schools fundraise through the Cyclones tickets sales program.
In addition, Zoda’s “King Henry” character is one of the most requested children’s performers in the New York area, plying his trade at comedy magic shows at Luna Park on Coney Island, Victorian Gardens in Manhattan, and at Radio Disney promotional events. Plus, Zoda often plays Santa Claus during the holiday season, visiting sick children at hospitals all over the New York area.
Despite Zoda’s busy schedule, he agreed to sit down with me to chat about King Henry, Cyclones, and his love for entertainment.
I was going to college, and I needed a job. One of my buddies was working for a company that hired entertainers. I also worked for Zach’s Funhouse on 86th Street in Bensonhurst. When they shut down, I opened up my company, King Henry Entertainment.
What other characters have you played?
I was a pro clown for many years. I wanted to do a character, so I picked Facci the Clown. Facci is face in Italian, as face of the clown. It just came to me. I was Facci for many years—eight or nine years. I (even) did four different spots on Conan O’Brien as Facci.
How did your King Henry character come about?
I asked my friends and family (for suggestions), and most people came back to me with King Henry. Three to one, everyone picked King Henry.
How did you get started with the Brooklyn Cyclones?
I showed up as King Henry a couple of times during the Cyclones’ seasons in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, the Cyclones wanted to hire some face painters, and I asked them to include me in around them.
Frank Morano, the cameraman would point the camera at me while I ate a hotdog, and hotdog sales when up after that. Whatever I ate, people were buying. I eventually asked them to hire me fulltime, and they did.
The big thing is I wasn’t a huge baseball fan when I first started. Now, I love it. I understand the science behind it.
Who are some of your favorite former Cyclone players/managers?
Darrell Ceciliani, Brad Holt, Ike Davis (former Met), Lucas Duda (current Met) and Michael Conforto (2014 first round draft round pick and another current Met). Wally Backman (former Mets player and current coach for AAA Las Vegas 51s) was one of my favorite managers, and so I was Edgar Alfonzo and Mookie Wilson (both former popular player for the 1986 World Series Championship team).
What do you do to rouse the crowd?
It’s not so much what I do, it’s when I do it. I can get them more revved up when the Cyclones are trailing, more when they’re ahead. The game dictates the circumstances. What I find works is the slow “Let’s Go Cyclones” chant, building up to a crescendo.
I get revved up so much I can’t sleep at night if they win. If they lose, I can sleep better.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the people I work with, I love the fans. Put it this way: if you’re an entertainer, and people give you a stage, you take advantage of it. I can’t complain. I love my job, and I’m treated with respect.
There are parts of my job that are good to me such as a special gift that money can’t buy, especially seeing the smiles on kids’ faces. The stuff I do, it has given me gifts.
Last question, what was your favorite thing about growing up in Brooklyn?
The feeling of community. It was a time when everyone knew their neighbors and the kids played outside all day until 6pm, when it was dinner time.