Madame Marie Is Back

Madame Marie Castello poses for a picture while waiting for a client in her Temple of Knowledge in Asbury Park, N.J. Saturday, July 17, 2004. For 65 years, fortune teller Castello was a fixture along the boardwalk before she shuttered the shack she called the Temple of Knowledge in 1997. AP

Madame Marie, a figure of rock 'n' roll mythology thanks to Bruce Springsteen, is living the boardwalk life again.

Marie Castello, who told fortunes out of a shack she called the Temple of Knowledge for 65 years, has returned to the tiny Asbury Park landmark after a seven-year hiatus.

Marie became fixed in the imagination of Springsteen fans around the world in 1973 with a line in his song "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)": "Did you hear, the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do."

Marie re-emerged, appropriately enough, on July 4, and on Saturday she began offering regular weekend readings, ranging in price from $5 to $35. She plans to do so for a couple of hours in the early afternoon each Saturday and Sunday through the summer, said her son, Stephen Castello, who declined to reveal his mother's age. Other family members are working at other times.

Asbury Park, a resort town whose faded beauty inspired much of Springsteen's early work, is mounting a comeback with a new wooden boardwalk and plans for a hotel and entertainment complex.

"Now that the city is making its return, she's back," Stephen Castello said.

Marie's son said she does not give interviews. But the madame herself did answer the telephone recently - inexplicably unable to foresee that it was a reporter calling - and spoke briefly to The Associated Press.

"I did close it down for a while, because it was getting pretty slow up there," she said. "But I always had people coming around asking for me. I really never left."

Madame Marie returned soon after another Springsteen icon made a temporary exit.

Tillie, a cartoon face on the former Palace Amusements building, was immortalized in Springsteen's recording of "Born to Run" and his "Tunnel of Love" music video. A nonprofit group saved the nearly 50-year-old face when the building was demolished last month for the sake of revitalization efforts, but it will remain out of sight for the time being.

Stephen Castello said the Springsteen reference, while helpful to his mother's career and much appreciated, is fictional. She was never arrested, he said, out of envy or for any other reason.

"It gave her a lot of publicity, but my mother stands on her own merits," he said. "When Asbury Park is mentioned, they think about the Stone Pony, they think about Convention Hall, they think about Madame Marie."

  • William Vitka

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