Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Madam Marie Castello

Boardwalk fortune teller Madam Marie dies

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."

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."

I never used her counseling services. But one my old girlfriends was rumored to have consulted her not long before we broke up. Everyone spending time on the Asbury boardwalk would see Madam Marie sitting in front of her little building on warm summer nights. During her long career she heard it all, thoughts & situations people wouldn't tell their closest friends, or their priests. It isn't the accuracy of predictions that gain a fortuneteller or "advisor" her most loyal clientele so much as her ears & her confidentiality. She was a local businesswoman, established, a professional keeper of secrets. She didn't roll up the rugs & disappear after Labor Day. Asbury Park was, & remains, her family turf just as Mrs. Fatima has Point Pleasant Beach, & I forget the name of the lady in Keansburg. Until the 1990's, Madam Marie was available year round weather permitting. Every boardwalk needs a fortuneteller.

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