Tattoos For Tots

The art of tattooing has existed for thousands of years, having been forged by primitive tools and is evidenced by preserved skin on mummies.  Recorded documents show that this practice was widespread with history in Italy, Austria, Russia, China, Egypt, Japan, Polynesia, New Zealand, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Africa, Ancient Greece and Rome, Western Europe, Central and South America, North America, England, France and the Middle East.  There is also proof that tattoos and even piercings were worn strictly by those in the aristocratic class since the Victorian era, not to mention the fact that they have also been important parts of various tribal cultures and carry great significance as marks of identification, status and beauty.  Prince Giolo is chronicled as the first man put on display for his tattoos in 1691, but it was not until 1804 when Jean Baptiste Cabri was discovered by a Russian explorer that the tattooed man became popularized in sideshow.  James F. O’Connel was the first tattooed person to appear in the United States, and was exhibited at Barnum’s American Dime Museum in 1842.  He was succeeded by Prince Constantine in 1873, who is reported to have been the most successful tattooed exposition of the era with a base salary of $1000 a week in addition to earnings from his own book sales.  Prince Constantine is also noted to have been the first person to completely tattoo his body for the sole purpose of being put on display.   Tattooed women were often the highest paid performers in a sideshow, because men could gawk at exposed  skin in an era where it was not usually seen.  For over 70 years, ever major show employed several heavily tattooed people, some of which performed traditional circus acts such as juggling.  Even today, models with body modifications make up a significant portion of what is represented in magazines and on clothing or accessory websites.

In 2009, Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Barbie was introduced to a demographic of 5-10 year-olds, being described as “trendy” and comes with 40 temporary tattoos that can be applied to the doll, her fashions or the skin via “tattoo stamper”.  Outrage from concerned parents was almost immediate, with claims that the doll is “skanky”, “trashy” and somehow lacks educational value because of these novelty tattoos.  The criticism even extended so far as to claim that the doll would motivate young children to desire permanent designs, and attitude dictated that was not something parents wanted to encourage.  However, I find it interesting that these same parents seem to forget that many Barbies  have  earrings [there was even a collection of Earring Magic Barbies], complete with little holes in her ears where the plastic studs can be inserted.  Some even have no problem bringing babies and young children to the mall to have ‘cute’ little studs shoved through their earlobes.  That is an entirely different topic, but I just wanted to make note how plastic earrings seem to be okay while tattoo stickers are not.

This brings up the question of why parents feel that such a thing is inappropriate, stirring up stereotypes and misconceptions that tattooed people are degenerates, convicts, bikers, drug or alcohol addicts, gang members, uneducated and will be subjected to perpetual unemployment.Unfortunately there are people who fall into every one of these categories, but it is absolutely unfair to judge an entire community of diverse individuals based upon the actions of a few.  The idea that tattoos [or other body modifications] somehow make a woman “trashy” etc., is something that I feel can be attributed to ‘alt porn’ websites in which they are depicted as fetish objects and display affection for casual sex.  Personally, I would rather be associated with Betty Broadabent and Nora Hildebrandt, who were revered for their suits of ink and are considered legends in  both tattooing and circus history.

 Surely face painting does not lend children to want facial tattoos, and I can say with absolute certainty that temporary tattoos have been sold as novelties in coin-operated machines at supermarkets since I can remember.  Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that stickers have often found their way to children’s faces and arms, but I don’t see parents complaining about their availability to impressionable minds.  Which leads me to wonder what the point is in making a fuss over a toy that you don’t even have to purchase for your child.  Showcasing ignorance and perpetuating negativity does nothing to help eradicate the behavior, and while tattoos have become more commonplace within society, there apparently remains those who fail to see the significance beyond just another stupid teenage decision or passing trend.

Tokidoki has recently released their own version of Barbie [with tattoos painted on her upper body] in addition to shirts, hoodies and accessories that also bear her image.  The American Academy of Dermatology reports that one in four Americans [ages 18-50] now has at least one tattoo.  Despite the fact that there are many people who do not like or understand the point of tattooing, there are undeniable statistics which declare that the practice has a long, sordid history and it is not going away as a mainstream art any time soon.  No matter what one may hold as a personal opinion, as human beings we have the freedom to choose what we want to do with our appearance.  Modifications were once encouraged in tribal cultures, to the point where one would not even be considered beautiful or appropriate for marriage if lacking a certain physical attribute.  Again, I fail to see how any of these connotations can be considered negative to the point where people must hurl insults at complete strangers all because of the choice to be tattooed.  Certainly there are worse things that an individual can do, and I feel that no one has the right to dictate what can or cannot be done to the body so long as it places no harm on the person.  Also, I would like to point out that Barbie has always carried the ability to be undressed, and a good portion of her clothing is made out of cheap materials, often iridescent and metallic, which are easily removed as they are held together with velcro.  This is apparently not a concern for parents and somehow teaches children about morals, but if Barbie comes with a couple of pretty pictures painted on her skin that is suddenly inappropriate.

There are plenty of dolls that encourage other types of things, such as the ability to cut or dye their hair.  Why is this not something that outrages parents?  With certainty I can say that I have read some rather humorous stories about a pigtail or lock of hair getting snipped off, but to blame a mere toy for such things seems a bit ridiculous.  When does the parent assume responsibility for educating a child?

There are figurines that come to mind which portray characteristics of physical distinctiveness such as piercings, alternative fashion and colored hair – Bleeding Edge Goths, Living Dead Dolls and the more recent Monster High franchise which consists of a cartoon show, collectible dolls and clothing with a fun interactive website that features  games, activities and videos.  Custom creations have also been spotted, where the plastic bodies are repainted and tiny clothes are made by hand.  None of this comes across as harmful to me, and if anything, they encourage diversity and the acceptance of people or things that are different than you or what you like.  Not exactly something I would have wanted to be deprived as a child, and I am glad that I was exposed to certain things in order to have a more open-minded perspective.

Instead of coming to the conclusion that you know why people get tattooed and presume that they must lead an undesirable lifestyle, it would be beneficial to all parties if children are allowed to pursue their curiosity without being chastised.  Being interested in tattoos, whether one chooses to admire or adorn, can be likened to admiring any drawing, painting or sculpture – they are just another creative expression, a monument to the skill of the artist and the endurance of the wearer.  They immortalize loved ones that have passed on, significant achievements, important moments in time, favorite items and any number of things that are as varied as the people who wear these images emblazoned on their skin.

It is safe to say that parents should be able to explain the difference between make believe and reality, as I doubt many girls grow up thinking they are actually mermaids, fairies or a princess, as depicted by many toys.  There are also a number of products that tend to be more offensive, such as cultural appropriations and racial stereotypes, which can be found on readily available merchandise that is purchased without as second thought.  The point is that some things are not as bad as they seem and a little knowledge can go a long way.  Any toy that relates to tattooing is certainly not as harmful as some would like to believe.  There is nothing wrong with stimulating imagination, and it can be argued that young girls are motivated to strive for a ‘perfect’ figure just like Barbie which could develop into eating disorders or body dysmorphia.  If these things sound extreme, imagine how silly it seems to those of us that are tattooed to hear that painted on images will give children the “wrong impression” or somehow devaluates ones morals.

Resources: Brief History of  Tattoos, Human Marvels

Photos: 1 – A Drop of Ink, 2 – http://www.amazon.com, 3 – funtatsforkids.com, 4 – Tokidoki

5 – kaboodle.com, 6 – monsterhighdoll.org

Mondo Bizarro

[Origianlly written 12.4.03]

Usually I don’t remember the dreams I have, for one reason or another.  Of course I know that I have them, but most of the time when I wake up and they’re gone.

This one is still fresh in my mind because I just woke up from it about an hour ago.

The dream featured Shane, a guy I met while in cosmetology school.  Some mean bitch was trying to get me to sing but I was unable to.  On the nite of my concert, Shane arrived with his band, and they were all dressed in their rockabilly best – huge ass pompadours, blue jeans with the cuffs rolled up, leather jackets, etc.

Somehow, he winds up on a motorcycle with a girl who I know as his girlfriend [tho I have never met her in real life] and I was riding some weird ass contraption that I can’t even explain because it was so strange.

We’re just riding along in Brooklyn, until I get lost trying to get back over the bridge.  For some reason, my mind kept registering that we were near the amusement area on the Island, but there was no evidence of that.  Shane suggests a way to go, and so I followed him.

We came to these worn-out docks that were half falling into the water.  There was an entire abandoned civilization there.  The buildings were decrepit, and then suddenly painted with vivid colored murals of devils and whatnot.  Sort of like Dante’s Inferno on Coney Island.  Was looking around and suddenly it hit me that we were at Indian Larry’s motorcycle shop.  We thought it would be cool to go pay the legend a visit and show some respect.  We decided to take a short cut across the wooden walkways, which wasn’t very smart, because they sank under our weight.  Out of nowhere, these kids come and pull the walkways out from under us, and we’re left in the middle of the water, trying to swim back.

The dream then skipped to the inside of Indian Larry’s garage, where Shane is fixing up his motorcycle. My means of transportation was trashed, so Larry took it upon himself to build me something new.

There’s a sheet over the hot rod; I don’t even have to lift it up to know what’s under there, and thanked Larry immensely for the gift.  A polished chrome grill in front that could break a man’s leg should he step in front of it was peeking out from the sheet.  There’s a bottle of whiskey resting on the fender, for decorative purposes.  Bright yellow and orange flames on the front are also slightly in my view, and curiosity drives me to pull the sheet away.  Shane shielded his eyes and backed away as he uttered: “What the fuck?

The car was painted the brightest fucking neon pink; florescent enough to make you go blind.  The interior was a deep royal purple right down to the dashboard and steering whell, and the driver’s seat was covered in furry purple leopard print.  There was only room for one person in the car.  The front was longer than the back, kind of narrow and slightly pointed.

The dream skipped again to a race where dozens of these cars drove at top speed around a dirt covered figure-8 track, whizzing by each other mere inches apart, and even crashing into one another every now and then.  Suddenly there’s a death rumble in the distance, louder than any motorcycle, dragster or diesel powered engine.  There I was, in my psycho neon pink car, speeding towards the tack with Shane behind me.

Of course that’s when I woke up.  That’s the way it usually happens.  Just when things are starting to get good, I always wake up.

The dream itself was pretty bizzare, but it was the appearance of Shane that got the gears turning.  The last time I spoke to him was when I graduated back in April.  No…I saw him [or at least I thought I did] when I was out on 22 once.  Was driving in the opposite direction, and he was making a U-turn; I never forget a face, so I know it was him.

Still can’t help but wonder what happened to him; I really miss that fucker.  He was a good guy, and I would have liked to gotten to know him better.  While I have his digits in my cell, I’m not sure if the stupid thing even works any more.

Nothing irks me more than losing touch with awesome people.  A small part of me hopes that I’ll run into him some day.

Where are you, Shane…where are you?

Keeping Busy

[Originally written 11.29.03]

Have been down in South Jersey for the past two days, completely stoned and stress free.  Jon apologized for his absence since we last hung out, and even went so far as to say that he was sorry I have been feeling depressed.  Then he adds that he wanted me to be more direct with him—to let him know what I am thinking.  It is hard for me to open up, especially when I have been cut down for doing so in the past.  However, Jon is my best friend and treating him like the Asshole would be a dick move.  This is the man that I love and trust more than anyone, and I am just going to have to stop being so ridiculous when it comes to sharing my thoughts.  Deep down, I know that it would be better to say what is on my mind as opposed to keeping quite, because it’s not doing me any good.  There’s nothing I could really say or do that would make Jon treat me any differently anyway.

In any event, while my ‘holiday’ was less than joyful, leaving behind the bustle of E-town and escpaing to the Shore certainly lifted my spirit.  Jon heated up some leftovers and we took several bong hits to the head.  Later on he breaks out the White Lightning—which also happened to include some ‘shrooms—and we went out to relax on the beach for a bit.  Sitting on the sand while sharing a blunt, we stared out at the darkened ocean for a while.  Eventually Jon says that he knows I have strong feelings for him and I shouldn’t be so inclined to keep them to myself.  His hand makes its way to mine and next thing I know we’re climbing into the Chevy.

Moments later we’re running thru the Pine Barrens playing hide-and-seek in the dark.  We take a rest to eat a handful of ‘shrooms and spend the next several hours haunting the woods.  Jon made for a good Jersey Devil, to the point where he decided it would be better to ride out the trip inside the Chevy.  Sprawled out on the back seat, he takes me in his arms, the tattoos implanted there coming to life.  The events that followed were certainly not things that two people who are ‘just friends’ would engage in.  However, I didn’t feel bad about anything that happened, but I would never tell anyone either.

When we climbed in his bed together later on, that overwhelming sense of safety and security filled me with great happiness.

The rest of my time spent with Jon was dedicated to writing and enjoy my boy’s company.  It was hard for me to leave, and really, I didn’t even know why I was.  Except for the fact that I know my Mom would be worried if I didn’t come back to her house, and unfortunately all of my things are here.  However, if those factors were not in play, I know I would be in his arms right now.

Apparently the Asshole called while I was away, but he’s definitely the furthest thing from my mind at the moment.

Weekend Adventures in New York

[Originally written 11.25.03]

PART I

Firstly, I must say that while he acted as tho he didn’t care, the Asshole behaved in a rather childish manner when I told him I was going out on Friday.  I see him almost every day [which he does tend to complain about], so he has the chance to make a move and perhaps take me somewhere.  But he doesn’t, then gets odd when I tell him that I’m going out.  Well excuse me for being 21 and wanting to go out on a Friday nite instead of staying with him and doing nothing.

Anyway, when he saw me getting ready, he had to ask where I was going, to which I replied the default “Out“.  He assumed it was to the club, and nothing I could say would convince him otherwise, so I just let him think that.  What do I care anyway?

Assembled face; rocked the faux ‘hawk;  dressed self and tucked a blunt safely in my pocket for later.  As I was heading out the door he said: “Keep your pants on“.

What kind of girl does he take me for?  That was really rude and totally uncalled for.  So I turned and said: “Never mind me. Keep your fucking pants on.”  Which I don’t feel bad about saying, as I knew the minute I walked out that door, he would be doing his imporntant things.  Which is just fine by me, because he could only imagine what I was off to do.

In any event, I met up with Jon a short while later and we made it to the City with no problem, and I was glad that the weather was so nice.  We had no idea where we were going, aside from some directions I scribbled down from looking at a street map.  Well, they weren’t very helpful, because we kept walking around but didn’t see the street that the club was suupsed to be on.  Eventually Jon just stopped somebody to ask for directions, and we then had no problem finding said club.

Cue consumption of vodka and cranberry juice, along with sneaking out to smoke the blunt I had brought.  The show was full of various ‘billy kids and a few assorted punks.  The bands were totally awesome, as were all the rocking kats and kittens that came out.  We drank and danced, which is something I don’t usually do.  However, when I am with Jon, all of my inhibitions seem to be nonexistant.  For whatever reason, I feel totally relaxed around him and just completely let loose.  We were one of the few couples to actually dance, and while I don’t consider myself to be any sort of level of professional, it sure was fun.  Some people even looked kind of jealous, but they should have stopped sitting on their asses at the bar and got their feet moving.  Needless to say I very much enjoyed myself.

Afterwards we hit up some little shop for coffee and deserts, then smoked another blunt on the way back to the Chevy.  Before we climbed inside, Jon took me in his arms and gave me a little kiss.  To say it was the alcohol that fueled this decision would totally shit upon the fact that I know he has feelings for me.  I mean, I certainly harbor them too but don’t really act on them because I’m a coward and don’t want our awesome friendship to be any more complicated than it already is.  However, I cherised the brief moment our lips touched and kind of wished it was something that happened more often.

Unfortunately, since the Asshole insisted upon seeing me for at least part of the weekend, I had to return to E-town, but I definitely had and excellent time with Jon.

The next morning the Asshole was bitching about how he didn’t like the fact that I was “sneaking” into his house at nite and blahzy blah. Whatever.  Told him that I was coming back, and it ain’t my fault if he didn’t want to listen.  Then he goes off and says that he will just change the lock.  Yea, okay.  Would he rather I didn’t come back at all?  Not like any of these matters, considering I am a grown adult who can go where I want and do anything I please.  He really needs to get off this power trip like he owns me or something, because otherwise he will be introduced to Jon’s fist and never see me again.

PART II

This time the Asshole made sure he asked if I was coming back, and I admit that I am rather offended.  We have been spending a lot of time together and he was acting like that would suddenly change because I happened to go out.  Maybe if he would stop bitching about being so old and just  get dressed up once in a while, I would want to go out with him more often.  Instead, I get to hear about all the crazy shit he did when he was my age, and then he acts all stupid when I tell himt that I’m going out.

He mentioned that he was going to see a friend’s band.  Yea, sure.  Am sure the only thing he did was pop a tape into the VCR.

Jon picked me up at White Castle, and even tho we hit some traffic after crossing the Goethels, we made it into Brooklyn around 7:30.  This time we had no problem finding the club.  It was in the middle of this really quiet neighborhood that had a  slightly industrial feel, and I sort of wished that we lived there.

Stood outside for a while waiting for the venue to open and shared a blunt with Jon.  He entertained the small group of people that were gathered on the sidewalk with card tricks.  Finally went inside about an hour after we arrived, and I overheard a guy on the phone say: “Did you know this Lucky Devil thing was just one guy?”  Apparently he wasn’t happy that Tyler would be doing a one man show, as Angelica was sick.  Hey, that’s just the business and shit happens all the time.  You have a choice to make, and he chose to let the show go on, which was better than not doing it at all.

After the last shitty ‘band’ finished, it was time for the real show, which kicked ass as usual.  Felt it was a bit short tho.  When you are watching everyone else, it seems like they are on forever, and when the act you’re really there to see goes on, the time goes by so fast.  Wanted to smack the drunken bitch that kept shouting rude comments when he was doing the sword swallowing routine.  Do they not understand it takes concentration?  Am sure she wet herself when he pulled her up on stage and tricked her at the end with that kiss.  Girls are so fucking stupid sometimes.

We had no intention of sticking around for even more crappy ‘music’.  Got me a Lucky Devil shirt [which I plan to mutilate into a baby-doll shirt] and stole a kiss on Tyler’s cheek, just to see if I could get away with it.  To my surprize, he was kind enough to return the favor.  Will just leave it at that witout reading anything into it.

Stopped at Coney Island for something to drink since a few joints on the boardwalk were open and neither of us wanted to be overcharged at the venue.  The amusement area is always so strange in the off-season.  The Cyclone is dark, and the Wonder Wheel is missing its gondolas.  All the rides sit in silence, waiting to wake up again in Spring.

How badly I wanted to go to sleep on that beach and never leave.  Went back to Jersey instead, and laid in bed with the Island on my mind, among other things.  While taking a stroll on the boardwalk, there was one of those strange moments where Jon took me in his arms and gave me a kiss.  He said nothing before or after, but I could see in his eyes that there was something on his mind.  He just smiled and held my hand as we continued walking.

That longing to share my feelings is stronger now than it has ever been before.  No matter where we go or what we do, there is always one constant: at the end of the nite, I have to go to bed alone.  Jon is not there to tuck me in or kiss me good nite; he is not there when I wake up and just want to be held in his arms.  The Asshole is obviously just a friend [sometimes not a very good one] and he can’t give me what I need.  However, I still find myself asking why I hold back my feelings from Jon when I know that I would love nothing more than to shout them from the rooftop once and for all.

One episode of Carnivale remains.  The opening dream sequence was odd, and perhaps I was right in my assumption that somewhere down the line, Brother Justin and the Carnivale crew will meet up.  Sophie and Libby got pretty close, tho the sex was just a vision that her mother gave her, and Sophie was not amused.  Jonsey and Rita Sue kept giving each other the eye, but he finally told her it had to be over.  After much talking, Sophie realized she wanted to give him another chance and it seems like Jonesy is willing to take it.  Being the selfish pig that she is, Rita Sue decided to show up the new cootch dancer and dumped a bucket of water on herself to get all the attention.  Stumpy then goes for a reading and is told there’s a man who keeps coming back to his wife who ain’t a trick.  When asked who it is, Sophie doesn’t want to tell him, and asks him to leave.  She calls her mother a liar, as I’m sure Apollina informed her that it was Jonesy.  There was much drama surrounding Brother Justin and what happened during his baptism.  Dolan knows something happened, but the other priest would not tell him.  Then he threatens to go public with the knowledge that Justin was in an asylum, and that his car was at the scene of the misson fire.  The priest then went to Justin and Iris with the information, and they just passed it off as gossip.  Justin later confronted his sister, and she confessed that it was she who set the fire.  That was a total surprise.  Justin grabbed her as tho he would strike her, but they shared an insestuous kiss instead, and when he threw her on the couch, she looked up at him as tho she expected more.  Meanwhile, Lodz went off and purchased a poisonous snake, which Lila planted in a bag and left for Ruthie.  She was bitten, and asks Gabriel to fetch Ben, who then tried to save her, but to no avail.  Points of note was the boy he ran into with the paint on him that mimicked those of the tattooed man he’s seen is his dreams that was then chased by men with machetes, the confessional scene where the priest turns out to be Scudder, but then disappears, and the fact that Ben decided to trust Samson.  The last episode’s preview definately looked explosive.  Have a feeling that it’s goning to be a big cliff hanger, and of course I will have to wait for next season to find out what happens.  However, I aboslutely love this show and will be greatly anticipating the new episodes.

Thirteen

 There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die. – Hunter S. Thompson

Aaron Lovelace was born the bastard son of Shane McLoughlin and “Ivy Lovelace” somewhere in the depths of South Jersey on October 13. 1977.  The exact location is unknown, as the pair were traveling with a carnival and welcomed their new bundle of joy during a jump to Baltimore.  Shane was an Irish immigrant who found work as a roustabout with various small circuses when he was around twelve, while Ivy is noted as being a burlesque performer, but little is recorded about her due to her sudden death following Aaron’s birth.  He stayed close to his father and learned everything that he could while the two continued to work for whatever outfit they found.  [His name changed to Jon due to the difficult of pronouncing Aaron in Carny Speak, while the surname was dropped in favor of his mother’s stage name, which he also took as part of his middle name.]   When he was thirteen years old, Aaron witnessed the murder of his father, a crime that was never punished and an event that shaped a young mind into something dark and mysterious.  The best assumption that can be made, considering he spoke rarely of the misfortune, is that someone felt they had been cheated at a game of chance and chose to vent their anger on Shane.

Aaron slipped into alcohol use and took up a life of dealing drugs in New York City.  His ability for fast-talking helped him earn well, and in return he was kept from being homeless or dumped into the foster care system.  When he wasn’t dealing he found himself picking pockets or hustling cards because it helped him use up  spare time.  On the anniversary of his father’s death, Aaron took to traveling with no destination in mind, using his street skills and what he learned from interactions with sideshow performers and magicians to entertain local crowds.  After one particular show, two teenage boys approached him and expressed their appreciation for what he was doing.  They offered him a place to crash for the evening, and by the next day, the primitive plans for Outlaw Cirkus had been outlined.  Aaron was fourteen and still coping with the loss of his father, but the invention of a troupe that would offer live variety acts on an intimate level demanded his full attention.   By the end of 1991, Outlaw Cirkus landed in South Jersey, consisting of Jon as the ringmaster, The Flying O’Reilly’s – trapeze and aerial arts – and Squeaky the Clown, oldest of the trio and a seasoned hobo with train hopping experience.

Throughout the Winter of ’91-’92, they built props, stitched costumes and rehearsed endlessly, hoping their efforts would gain them more than just spare change.  They also wanted to hand out pamphlets to people during the performances, encouraging them to consider a life free of corporations and a defective government.  Believing in the DIY spirit of American Circus, everything they had was gained by their own hard work, and slowly they gathered attention.  Outlaw Cirkus had a brief tour in 1992 beginning May first and ending in August after the three added Psychopyromaniacs, Bolshevik Burlesque and the Fish Bottom Orchestra to their line up.  Now they could offer fire arts, dancing girls along with comedic skits that often pitched commentary on current events and a rag-tag bunch of misfits with instruments such as a washboard, spoons, washtub bass, cigar box guitar and saw violin.  Eventually the vaudeville acts branched off on their own as Hanky Panky and Black Jack, thus forming the final version of Outlaw Cirkus, which began touring the southern states in November 1992.

There were certainly a number of things that were happening in Aaron’s life, and perhaps the pressure of performing along with reaching out to the community to teach them about American Circus history finally got to him.  Whatever the reason, he developed a coke habit and had a serious addiction by the time he was fifteen.  The drug never effected his stage life but it put a strain on his heart, which was afflicted with coarctation of the Aorta and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – conditions that had been with him since birth.  Neither one really flared up until Jon was eighteen, but the experience was shocking enough to convince him to slow down with drugs and alcohol for a while.

Outlaw Cirkus continued on with their mission of preserving variety entertainment as a certifiable culture and means of self-sufficient living, where one is employed by and works for oneself as well as within a unit to achieve a common goal.  They were more than friends within a small nomadic community; they were a Family who trusted one another and would fight for each other no matter what.  My introduction to these fabulous individuals came in March of 2000, but I was distracted with other things at the time and did not see the opportunity that I had.  After spending some one-on-one time with Jon and developing a friendship, I began to pursue the idea of being a sideshow performer.  The so-called initiation into Outlaw Cirkus occurred on May 1. 2001 and required a rite of passage that included a leap of faith into a pile of broken glass that was on fire.  There were a few roles I filled, such as helping with set up, mending costumes and promotions.  Our performances were mainly in the Pine Barrens or basements and backyards of South Jersey, with some members splintering off to do other events under the Nickel Empire banner such as Hillbilly Hoedown and the Miss Anti-Beauty Pageant.

By now I honestly have shared much more information about Aaron than I ever did when he was alive, and I feel accomplished in doing so because in a way it immortalizes someone who did not think he was worth remembering.  To say that he was a humble man would dispute the fact that he relished being in the spotlight and took pride in the ability to fool people with his skills.  However, at the end of the day, Aaron never acted like he was better than anyone and took compliments to heart.  He constantly gave back to the community by donating money to various charities, particularly those that funded the arts in schools, but did so anonymously.

As much as Aaron enjoyed being a public figure, it was something literally that put his life at risk.  He believed that things he did when he was a teenager running the streets in NYC were going to come back and bite him in the ass, or that someone who had been wronged by Shane would seek revenge in him, and so he was always looking over his shoulder expecting a beating or perhaps even worse.  This coupled with his drug and alcohol abuse is what fueled his paranoia and the distance that he created between us.  No matter how close we got on a physical or emotional level, Aaron was afraid that his haunting past would affect me and our future together.  However, we still remained friends and it seemed the bond that we shared grew stronger each year we celebrated having known each other.

When tragedy struck Outlaw Cirkus in 2003, Aaron and I suffered the loss together and in our own ways.  With the majority of the troupe deceased, we reformed into a smaller show and continued to perform, but it always felt as though something was lacking.  Bad luck came our way again October 2004 when Jon was severely injured following a crash on the Wall of Death.  It seemed that after everything the Death Defying Daredevil had been through, this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  Aaron retired from all aspects of show business, officially putting an end to Outalw Cirkus and Nickel Empire.  His motivation was lost and so he  sought escape in drugs, which had caused him to visit the hospital on more than one occasion, not to mention being clinically dead more than should be humanly possible.

What I have left of a beloved friend are assorted memories and a few tattoos that are  a permanent reminder in some respect Aaron will always be with me.  Just about every emotion one can possibly conceive has passed through me during the five years I have honored the life and death of the greatest Carny I ever knew.  Of course his story is not some grandiose Hollywood portrayal of what life in the circus or carnival is really like.  There are some really ugly facts that I have brought to surface because at this point I have no desire to hide anything.  This has been proven by sharing details maybe no one really needs to know, but rather serve their purpose in paying tribute to someone who meant the world to me and helped shaped me into who I am.

Today would have been Aaron’s 34th birthday, and earlier this year I was hit with the realization that I was going to out live him like a daydreaming quarterback by an alert defensive lineman.  The idea has yet to completely settle in, but the thoughts are stirring again now that I am aware of my own impending birthday.  At times I wonder how I got to the position I am in, and then I come to this space to read my own archives in amazement that I have had so many wonderful adventures.  Nothing will ever compare to what I had with Aaron and Outlaw Cirkus, but I am always working hard on continuing the legacy as best as possible.  It is certainly not easy, especially when one feels as though people are not interested in my long history as a sideshow performer, or when you put forth the effort to bring live shows back to their DIY roots and no one comes.  What is left to motivate when all past inspiration has been exhausted?

There are moments where I feel as though I am standing in Aaron’s shoes, viewing the world as a cynical Carny who doesn’t trust anyone and generally dislikes people.  The individuals one does identify with are held dear and yet at a distance to keep them from seeing the real face, because others abused the privilege in the past and it’s not something you are willing to just hand out.  Isolation is preferred to keep focused on the Self, writing, painting and creating whenever possible.  Socializing is an event, for which one dresses accordingly to present status and representation of culture since everything else is a stupid hipster trend that needs to die in a fire.  Music rules my world, nostalgic tunes of past eras bringing a soothing happiness and transporting the mind to somewhere else.  It’s easy to forget about what’s happening outside when not paying attention to news and social mediums.  Hours pass like minutes and whole days are lost to being caught up in imagination and productivity.  This is what one must do in order to prevent succumbing to negative thoughts, especially when comparing yourself to your dead friend.  However, getting lost in that downward spiral is not a place I even consider finding myself.

The great thing about inheriting Outlaw Cirkus was that its founding members had solid plans of what they envisioned for its future.  Being at the helm of such an organization is no easy  task, but I take the position seriously because it is on a path of becoming something real.  Jon used to say: “We are a home to the homeless and a friend to the friendless.  We embrace the misfits and miscreants, derelicts and deviants .  We are a Family and fight together for a common purpose because we are enabling our rights to have our voices heard.  We do this with hope of igniting a revolution against the media zombification of society and to encourage the evolution of creativity.”  This is a heavy load to carry alone, but as I have stated since I first began performing, I do what I do because I love it and it’s my life.  Nothing makes me beam with more pride or ache from happiness and I can honestly say that I don’t know a lot of people who can match this claim, so I consider myself to be quite fortunate.

Halloween Harlots

It comes as no surprise that every year for Halloween the adult female costumes leave less to the imagination and seem more like the apparel one would find at a semi-naked drunken party.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be sexy and sultry, but that does not mean being mistaken for a hooker unless that’s actually the purpose of the costume.  To me, it seems as though purchasing an outfit at an adult novelty store saves the trouble of having to deal with children and teenagers who will be swarming the regular Halloween shops in hopes of claiming the best, and that is why so many readily choose that option.  No imagination required, unless of course your body isn’t exactly like the woman on the package, who  is likely a porn actress and artificially enhanced.  In that case, it might be time to put down the skank wear and exert effort into being a little more creative, especially if you are a burlesque or sideshow performer.

As an adult woman, I find no empowerment in my costume selection being watered down to ‘sexy’ everything.  A black body suit and stockings can be a cat, rabbit or devil with the right bag of accessories and enough alcohol.  Why am I pigeonholed into specific roles of characters that somehow all have apparel which requires plunging necklines, short jagged hemlines and materials that are so incredibly cheap they wouldn’t even be up-cycled into anything more than a rag?

There are a variety of matriarchal representatives of historical note that can certainly be portrayed with pride and without the need of showing off skin because it will get you some lame prize in a contest.  This guide will allow one to be fun and flirty without looking dumb and dirty with suggestions on how to take generic costumes and add a few creatives touches for a new twist on classic ideas.  Also,  utilize items in your existing wardrobe with the right accessories in order to save money on having to buy something prepackaged.

CLOWNING AROUND

While there is a good portion of the population who are afflicted with coulrophobia [fear of clowns], and if you have suffered from bad horror movies that portray clowns as evil villains, than a rubber mask and jumpsuit with floppy shoes will most likely be the best route to take.  For those who are aficionados of the various types of clowns, perhaps selecting a famous face from history such as Emit Kelley’s hobo clown would be more suitable.  Coming up with a female version of such outfits are a bit harder, especially when there are many who done the familiar Harley Quinn black-and-red ensemble that even I have to admit looks killer on the right frame, especially if the bodysuit is made of latex.  Artifice has a lovely rendition in PVC, and both materials are acceptable in a fetish scene.  However, there are not that many clown costumes for women that are nothing more than a cute, short dress and perhaps stockings, a wig or a hat, as seen in the photo on the right.  No face paint is needed because that would mean hiding one’s natural beauty, as enhanced by two hours of careful makeup application.  One of those glitter-coated party masks on a stick would work wonders though.

There is certainly a way one can portray a clown, known for bringing smiles and being a character that works through facial expressions, with flirty flair that won’t get you mistaken for being a Juggalette.  This requires a figure flattering corset, red and black polka dot or striped – or even a well-balanced combination of both – and super full two layer organza petticoat skirt from Sterling and Pearls.  Continuing with the same color scheme, I am partial to the Rocket Mistress tie on show bustle and Rocket Mistress bustle corset jacket from Lovechild Boudoir, as it carries a sort of Dark Carnival aesthetic I prefer over the usual neon colors associated with clowns.  Forget about the floppy footwear and slip your toes into a pair of Bordello Teeze pumps in red glitter, which would go nicely with some red and black layered fishnets, as stripes would be a little too much even for a costume.  Accessories come in an assortment of ridiculous with skewed proportions and funny sounds, though keep them limited to things you can carry as opposed to awkward props.  Good quality wigs are recommended, but please stay far away from afros, particularly the rainbow variety.  While one can find something like this half-and-half Punky Gothic Wig, there are far better options, such as using a cosplay wig as a base and styling it yourself. [Or, have one custom made for you.]  To achieve makeup that won’t send children and adults run screaming in the other direction, keep the face mostly white with curved eyebrows and dainty accents such as dots and diamonds.

MISTRESS OF CEREMONIES

Without a doubt the most popular circus costume that has way too many inceptions is the ringmaster, or in this case the ringmistress.  For some reason companies seem to think that short skirts or dresses with equally short jackets, high-heeled black patent leather boots and fishnets with a small top hat and limp riding crop  is what best represents a ring master.  This is the individual who commands attention from an entire audience, a huge presence that sparkles in the spotlights and is the larger-than-life conductor of everything that happens within a circus.  Certainly history portrays the ringmaster as a refined gentleman in coat tails and a top hat with shiny black leather riding boots, the style of which is reminiscent of circus’ early roots in equestrian exhibition.  How then did it get downgraded into what could be mistaken for the poor-woman’s psudeo-dominatrix outfit?  Cast aside those cheap barely there spandex travesties and treat yourself to the finest textiles that let everyone feel your confidence.

Lip Service’s Division LS II Ambush Military Dress takes styling cues from the traditional ringmaster’s jacket and adds a whole lot of feminine curve with stark contrast in blocked black and white vertical stripes.  Speaking of the jacket, it should be nothing short of spectacular, and seeing as how military-inspired frocks can usually be found at department or surplus stores, one can easily accessorize it with swarvoski crystals and metallic thread.  Bordello’s Lace Up Knee Boot in black and white carries sophistication and is a more feminine alternative to spats over black leather boots.  As with all costumes, the right props are very important, and so to avoid being mistaken for a dungeon mistress, be sure to get a decent bullwhip instead of a riding crop.  Do not be afraid to display opulence in the form of an over-the-top hat with ostrich plumes, geometrically patterned ribbon and other details, not to mention jewelry whose shine rivals that of the sun.  The final touches of course are hair and makeup, which I suggest should follow along with this season’s 40s inspirations, with loose waves and curls perhaps sprayed with a very light dusting of glitter hairspray.  Metallic smokey eyes, glowing cheeks with hints of gold and soft coral lips ensure that the face will be the focus more so than other assets.

SEDUCTIVE SOVEREIGN

The final category I would like to cover is how to radiate royalty as a modern burlesque or sideshow performer while finding inspiration in circus’ Victorian heritage and combining it with personal touches that speak of one’s character.  This extends far beyond the stereotypical corset, heels, fishnets and pasties that everyone thinks they need in order to portray a burlesque performer.  History notes that many wore elaborate stage costumes to compensate for not showing off their figures while singing or dancing.  Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, Tempest Storm, Lili St. Cyr and  Blaze Star are just a few of the amazing women who managed to turn the striptease into an art.  There is certainly a separation between extravagant ensembles that are meant strictly for sauntering around stage versus what one would wear while mingling with monsters at a Halloween party.

Purple is the unequivocal color of Divinity, though in parts of Japan it is also known as the color of death.  Black is beyond tired as a traditional Halloween color, and jewel tones are in this season for makeup, so it won’t be hard to coordinate a look without being over saturated.  Begin with a purple taffeta corset that has a sweetheart cut and no extra frills or black panels.  The clean lines of the solid material will do wonders for your waistline and photograph well.  A simple black Victorian style fishtail skirt also accentuates curves and would work as a nice addition to basic garments one might want to collect.  Lady Lovecraft’s De Luxe Silk Shrug from Lovechild Boudoir is made of 100% dupion silk, edged with lace and has a layer of soft tulle underneath for extra volume that will help maintain a bit of modesty and mystery.  As with all of the other outfits, so much can be said with the smallest details and accessories.  Satin opera length gloves are a must have, and matching them to the color of the corset will make all of your hand gestures pop, where as Iron Fist Muerte Punk heels are a festive alternative to basic black pumps.  Wearing a pair of skeleton print tights underneath for extra warmth could provide an opportunity to show off those gams!  Staying on trend for fall’s hair accessories, adorn long curled locks with the Vicky Purple Hair Clip, featuring striped purple feathers, a peacock eye and a charming opal and rhinestone brooch.  This brilliant pleated black waist belt with beading detail will add even more emphasis to the cinching of your waist while bringing some sparkle into the outfit.  Luxury becomes personified with a Tahitian Black Pearl Necklace, though it is perfectly acceptable to opt for a pair of Charlotte Russe faux pearl and rhinestone stretch bracelets, as they might wind up being slipped off with those gloves later in the evening.

In the end, one should always wear things that they feel comfortable in, even when it’s acceptable to be anyone or anything you want.  Personally, I am slightly over gore,  zombies and all its ilk that appear on Halloween to scare those who don’t want to spend hours on special effects makeup application.  Not that the genre isn’t without its charm, but I for one would like to see focus shift to glamour and the effortless beauty that seems like it stepped off the glossy pages of a magazine.  It would be a refreshing change from the parade of mid-thigh-length tacky train wrecks that usually swarm the bars.

Photo credit: Sally Rand – vintagemuse.tumblr.com

Aurochephalous Ulotrichous

A fancy way of repetitively stating the subject of this week’s bonus article: HAIR.  This is a territory I am vastly familiar with, to the point that I consider myself a professional by way of knowledge and skill that has been earned and evolved over the past eleven years, though I certainly do not claim to know everything.  What I can offer are my own experiences with certain products and styling techniques in order to assist those who may have trouble or are seeking new things to try.  The important thing to remember when doing anything to your hair that will require maintainence, is to take care of your cut, color or style with the proper products and to know your hair’s limit.  In other words, just because you bleached and dyed it several times in the span of one month and it hasn’t fallen out yet does not mean it is in good health or looks particularly attractive.

The focus of this article is on the 2011 Fall hair trends, from rich and bold colors to drastic cuts and vintage-inspired styles.  Not every color and style will suit everyone, so it might be good to find one of those on-line makeover generators to test oust ideas before taking the plunge.  What might seem like a great idea at the time could eventually become overdone and leave you seeking something new before any more photographic evidence can be used to blackmail you later.  The over-processed, multi-colored, obviously extended hair is dead and refined locks are the new haute couture.

SWEET HIGHLIGHTS

In order to determine what type of highlights will work best for you, one must consider initial hair, skin and eye color along with over all personality.  When images of Autumn come to mind, there are certainly saccharine confections and warm mugs of tea that bring feelings of warmth.  It is no surprise then that caramel and honey highlights are all the rage this season, though each work best with certain base colors and are accentuated by particular styles.

Caramel is a richer, softer shade of dark blonde or light brown with a golden tone.  As highlights, they add luster to all brunette colors and can be applied to frame the face or appear throughout the whole hair.  Caramel is also opposite to black so highlights can create a dramatic contrast.  Some suggestions are to do the tips for a striking look, or a few randomly placed chuncks to be more daring.  If your hair is light brown or blonde, you should consider getting lowlights instead, which will add depth to the brighter shades.

Honey highlights merge nicely with any base color to add shine that will give a textured look that will be noticed but not loud.  Those with warm eye and skin tones should select lighter shades of this ‘golden kiss’, while layers are the most flattering cut to sport that will create movement within the hair.  Consider going for a multi-tonal effect, especially with black hair, but I would suggest either having help or going to a professional so as to avoid being mistaken for a cracked out zebra.

RADIANCE REIGNS

As the leaves on the trees transition from being boring green to exciting technicolor, so too should our locks follow suit and brave the wonderful world of color.  The season is ripe with vivid browns, deep reds and warm tones of blonde.  Do not be fooled by the same old dyes that are readily available in boxes as the local drug store.  No matter how delightful the names sound, they are not new and can wind up doing damage all in the name of saving a few bucks.  While you also do not have to spend top dollar at a salon to get a professional looking colors, at least be wise enough to select a color that is purchased a beauty supply store such as  Sally’s.  Personally, I would recommend their Ion Color Brilliance Permanent Cream Hair Colo, as I have had nothing but the best experience and can say that it delivers on the claims it makes.  Here is a list of their colors that I feel would capture the beauty of this fall’s trends:

  • Dark Golden Brown, Dark Red Brown, Medium Golden Brown, Medium Red Brown, Medium Copper Brown, Medium Burgundy Brown
  • Intense  Red, Dark Intense Red, Medium Intense Red, Medium Intense Red
  • Medium Golden Blonde, Medium Copper Blonde, Light Golden Blonde, Light Copper Blonde
DRASTIC LENGTHS

Whether your taste is for long flowing locks that make you feel like a mermaid princess, or you prefer short, sleek ‘n’ spiky and want to carry a more effortless ‘badass chic’ presence, the extremes of hair cuts are in this season.  If you already have hair to your shoulders, keep it growing and increase the amount of styles one can created.  If you have been toying with the idea of a pixie cut, just go for it and take off a couple of extra inches then opt for a brilliant blonde .  A layered bob with plenty of texture is suggested for those whose tresses are neither long nor short.  For added drama, an asymmetrical cut, bold color and aptly placed highlights can really make a statement in hair this season.
SIMPLE STYLES

The easiest way to style your hair for Autumn is with a sophisticated ponytail, loose braid or simply twisting strands up and away from the face, securing them with hair pins.  While they are the most basic styles available, there is certainly room for creativity and the right accessories can bring out your personality.  When creating a ponytail, make sure to smooth down all stray hairs and bumps for a polished result.  Take a piece of hair and wrap it around the base to hide the elastic for a seamless look.  One does not have to have skilled dexterity to form a braid, and this is one of those times where messy is acceptable so long as it’s done in moderation.  Faux flowers, pearls or luminescent beads make a wonderful decoration for the woven locks.  To bring some glamour into the twist-and-pin style, use  embellished hair pins.

HORSEFEATHERS AND APPLESAUCE
“All my life, I’ve been looking for class…but this, is real class!” – Brother Orchid

Hairstyles of the 1940s represent elegance and are ranked among the most stylish for women in hair history.  The dominating trend throughout the decade was extensively volumnious  hair which included: peek-a-boo bang, top reverse roll, pin curls, side rolls, victory rolls, the up do and even the pompadour.  Inspirational elements of these styles are incorporated into modern designs by way of waves that are firm but not curly, and an off-center or side part.  For those with more skill, deep waves, full pin curl sets and elaborate up dos are sure to radiate refinement and saturated sophistication.  Any sideshow or burlesque starlet can easily vamp up her stage persona with a brilliant color listed above, some stratigically placed highlights and a curled waves that shine like the ocean on a sunny afternoon, all of which exude old Hollywood glamour.  Check out Retro Belle’s 1940s Hairstyle and Makeup How-To for great instructions and learn how to create these looks yourself.

CRESTS + CRYSTALS

The proverbial icing on the cake for a successful hairstyle is knowing how to properly accessorize it without going over-the-top and having it seem as though you just threw a bunch of random shit on your head.

Over the Summer, that whole feather extension trend blew up and had pretty much everyone and your mother’s uncle’s cousin’s sister’s father’s aunt’s nephew’s grandmother’s niece’s grandfather’s dog was seen wearing them.  Apparently this item was a brand new thing and obviously has never worn by anyone else in history ever.  Or for some unknown reason, a particular type of feather was seen in some celebrity’s mane and suddenly a tend vomited everywhere.  To avoid being mistaken for a shamelessly cultural appropriating hipster, keep things simple and to the point with a singular color along with modest plumage.  A vintage piece of jewelry at the base will certainly add sparkle without tackiness, as seen in this piece found on Etsy that sells for around thirty dollars.

Speaking of vintage jewelry, it is an excellent way to utilize those fantastic pieces you may have inherited, discovered at an antique shop or rescued from the depths of a local thrift store.  Brooches can easily be transformed into a hair ornament by simply slipping a hair pin through the gap that a garment would usually fill.  Add an extra hair pin or two for a sturdier anchor.  These can also be the centerpiece of a hair flower  or added to a cloth headband for a quick and easy day-to-evening look.  [The brooch pictured on the left was easily found on eBay for thirty-two dollars.]  Again, keep in mind that while it’s perfectly acceptable to add some dazzle to an outfit with sparkling gems and shiny metals, the aesthetics of Carny Style are of refinement, class, elegance, glamour, suaveness and urbanity, which should be present in all aspects of a head-to-toe ensemble.  The dramatics should be played up for stage and tuned to mysterious when in a social setting, allowing others to only see what you want them to and always asking for more.

Next edition – a scathing review of this year’s Halloween costumes and how offensive I find them, plus tips on how to portray a character rather than appropriate culture.

Photo credits: 1 + 2 – pantryspa.com, 3 – daisyhairdesigns.com, 4 – thebeautyinsiders.com

5 – begorgeous.hubpages.com,  6 – newcelebritycorner.onsugar.com,  7 – your-hairstyles.com

8 – hji.co.uk, 9 – fhiky.com,  10 – shortlonghairstyles.com

11 – thirdstoryapartment.wordpress.com, 12 – 1940s.org, 13 – retroways.blogspot.com