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June 7 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Author David Ciminello presents his novel The Queen of Steeplechase Park. He will be joined in conversation by Blair Fell, author of The Sign for Home (Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2022).

To reserve a copy of The Queen of Steeplechase Park (Forest Avenue Press, May 7, 2024, paperback, $20), please write to us at contact@bgsqd.com with “please reserve copy of Queen of Steeplechase Park for June 7” in the subject line.

Thank you for supporting the Bureau by purchasing books from us!

This event will take place in person at the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division, on the second floor (room 210) of The LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., NYC, 10011.

Registration is not required. Seating is first come, first served.

Also live-streaming on the Bureau’s YouTube channel:


Suggested donation to benefit the Bureau: $10.

All are welcome to attend, with or without a donation.

We will pass a bag for donations at the start of the event, but we can also take credit card donations at the register or on Venmo @BGSQD



THE QUEEN OF STEEPLECHASE PARK is the absolutely, positively, practically, almost-true story of infamous burlesque queen and magic meatball maker Belladonna Marie Donato. 

Pregnant at fifteen after gleefully losing her virginity to pansexual neighborhood strongman Francis Anthony Mozzarelli, Bella is robbed of her baby by a pack of nefarious nuns and her embittered papa has her sterilized without her consent (legal in 1935). With the help of a besotted Francis, her newfound family of queercentric outcasts, and a top-secret meatball recipe, a devastated Bella embarks on a riotous quest through Depression-era Coney Island sideshows, the tawdry world of peekaboo striptease routines, a doomed mob marriage, and a tasty collection of wisdom-filled recipes to find her lost child, herself, and maybe even true love. It all leads Bella back home, to the scene of her original sin, where she boldly faces matters of life and death, questions of forgiveness, and a holy mess only the healing properties of great Italian cooking can fix.


“David Ciminello has written a great big rollercoaster of a novel. . . . Read this book! Hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.”

Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe


“Ciminello is a master of delicious wordplay. His lusciously cinematic story is a veritable carnival ride culled from his family’s kitchen history. The Queen of Steeplechase Park is a tasty tale of love, sex, and the holy magic of homemade Italian cooking.”

Blair Fell, author of The Sign for Home


“Open your mouth and ready your heart because Belladonna Marie from The Queen of Steeplechase Park is about to serve you some unforgettable tales of love and loss, with a side of meatballs. David Ciminello has re-animated Depression era Coney Island with such vivid and dazzling detail that I wanted to laugh, cry, eat a hot dog, and go for a swim all at once. A phenomenal story of a Burlesque queen searching for her lost baby in the glitz, ooze, and hum of sideshows from Brighton to Gravesend. I couldn’t put it down.”

Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Thrust 


“Meet Belladonna Marie, the force of nature plucked from the historical and culinary passions of David Ciminello. Set in depression-era Coney Island, the novel whips up a bevy of queer, memorable eccentrics, served with a heaping side of sumptuous language. From Melanzana to Puttana, The Queen of Steeplechase Park is a whimsical, gastronomical delight.”

Suzy Vitello, author of Bitterroot


“The Queen of Steeplechase Park crackles with the hyper-real comic book energy of a graphic novel, and the recipes are a primer on how to live your best life. Buon appetito! Mangiare bene! Delizioso!”

Stevan Allred, author of The Alehouse at the End of the World


David Ciminello is a Lambda Literary Fellow and the proud recipient of a Table 4 Writers Foundation Grant. His fiction has appeared in the Lambda Award-winning anthology Portland Queer: Tales of the Rose CityNailed Magazine, and in The Untold Gaze. His original screenplay Bruno, an Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting finalist, was directed by Shirley MacLaine. As an actor David has guest starred on Murder She WroteMatlockKojak, and Seinfeld.


Blair Fell is an actor, playwright, screenwriter, and novelist. His debut novel The Sign for Home (Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2022) was long-listed for the Center for Fiction’s first book prize and was selected both as an Indie Next and Indie’s Introduce book by the American Bookseller’s Association. His second novel Disco Witches of Fire Island (Alcove Press) will be released May, 2025.


Registration Required:
Youth Only:
Arts and Culture
June 7
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm


Custom Sources
Bureau of General Services Queer Division (BGSQD)
Event Language
Event Topic
Arts and Culture
Registration Required
Youth Only