Drop Dead Variety Show

[Originally written on this date in 2005]

For the past few days all I have been thinking about is doing this show at Otto’s Shrunken Head, an amazing tiki bar I have been to with Jon in the past that I am really honored to be performing at.  Before getting the carnival job, I had been contacting various promoters and venues to see if anyone was interested in working with us, and I just so happened to get a reply from NY Decay who is helping run the Drop Dead Variety show.

It had been decided that my car would be the ideal vehicle, and that was fine since it was going to be easier to navigate through the streets.  Being the designated driver made the journey into the City fairly pleasant; all was going well until we passed though the tunnel and hit an immense amount of traffic which led to a unhappy car that decided to over heat.

There we were, so close yet so far away, the hood of my car up to let the engine cool down, sitting on the curb and having a smoke.  It’s pretty funny now that I think about it, but I was worried about being late.  Thankfully we did not have any trouble finding Otto’s, unloading the gear [which I did the majority of] before parking in a spot a few blocks away.  We had no idea when the bands were going to start, but I was happy to just be there and found myself wandering around talking to various members and those who had shown up to support the gig.

Here is where I get to fill in with commentary on the club itself, though this certainly was not my first visit.  Otto’s at first glance seems like one of those small hole in the wall type places, but that just gives an intimate atmosphere for those who wish to dine there.  The decor is overflowing with kitschy tiki stuff, the theme extending to the drinks they offer on the menu that come in festive and collectible tiki mugs.  If I did not have to save money for traveling I would have bought one, but paying for the gas and tolls was enough spending for me that day.

The DJ was playing a good mix of punk, psychobilly and other strange tunes, everyone getting edgy and wanting the show to begin.  Unfortunately the first group – I refuse to call them a band as that would be offensive to those who are talented musicians – was absolutely horrible, loud and just plain uninteresting.  In fact, I was distracted by talking to a guy who had bottle caps all over his vest and explaining to his girlfriend how I managed to get my makeup to look the way it did.  While I prefer being able to actually understand the lyrics shouted into a microphone, the Ghouls were pretty entertaining and definitely my favorite of the evening.   They really helped get the energy up and even hyped the sideshow so that people didn’t miss out on what was about to happen.

A decent-sized crowd surrounded the stage, and this would be something I was going to see on a daily basis.  That thought alone made me smile and boosted my confidence even though I was still kind of nervous due to the fact we would be doing all of the talking.  Somehow, when I practiced my routines talking was always left out, but I could never be at Jon’s level and can only do the best to my ability.  Once the first line came out of my mouth, the rest flowed easily as I introduced myself and explained a bit about who we were.  Every routine was presented one right after the other, where I flawlessly performed the Human Blockhead, Mental Floss and Human Drinking Straw without a single teary eye.  We were able to make use of the double Bed of Nails and garnered the ideal reaction from the Human Cutting Table.  It felt good to say that the Glass Walking was an act I had been banned from performing – there were squeamish groans and gasps before the audience erupted into applause.

Could not be more pleased with the way everything went, and the response we received only confirmed the fact that this was truly what I wanted to be doing for the rest of the year.  Was surprised at the offer to play the Drop Dead Festival in October, and if we weren’t already going to be on the road then I certainly would have accepted, but that is the way things go.   The consideration in and of itself was quite flattering and may have stroked my ego a bit.

As much as I enjoyed bringing our best to NYC, it was a relief to make a clean escape into the comfort of New Jersey.  Ran into the very storm we had left behind earlier, being treated to a fantastic show of lightning as I pulled over to wait it out at a diner.

When we first started doing shows I was hesitant as to whether they would progress or not, since I was mainly happy to continue preserving the knowledge and traditions I gleaned from Outlaw Cirkus.  There had been an enormous amount of apprehension in obtaining a new partner, but I also could not see myself doing everything alone.  Jon has always supported me and continues to do so, even if he is still buried deep in West Virginia and has yet to answer my letter.  Right now I just want to hear his voice as he tells me how proud he is that I am on my way to learning the very things he used to do for a living.

The more I repeat those words to myself, the less believable this situation becomes, to the point where I need to re-read the e-mail that confirms I am heading to rural Pennsylvania in a few weeks to begin my new job.  The job I will wake up to and look forward to doing, even if that means carrying heavy objects and spending long hours in the sun setting them up; the job that is going to make me tired, dirty and happy; the job that many fantasize about having but I am going to experience: the job that can bring me closer to what Jon has been through and makes me a very small part of sideshow and carnival history.

After the rain stopped and we finally got back to the house, unloaded props and set ourselves to bed, I had a letter but it wasn’t from Jon.  This invitation was from someone I had not heard from in years despite his prominence during my Outlaw Cirkus days.  He was the only other Carny I knew, a mysterious man with a story about his past that was surely embellished and yet still entirely trustworthy.  Apparently Jon had delivered the good news about my job and I was going to be rewarded with a weekend at the Shore…alone…with him.  Our sordid story is one the three of us share, but one-on-one time is not something we ever had, so I was as nervous as I was excited and set to packing before finally going to sleep.

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