A seasoned veteran of show business and a Guinness Book World Record Holder, I have proudly presented variety art skills for audiences along the East Coast for over a decade, combining the traditional aesthetics of circus and sideshow with modern themes that result in a unique experience. Being a native of New Jersey allows me to embraced the weird roots often associated with the Garden State, allegedly home to a slew of urban legends such as the infamous Jersey Devil. Exposure to the the circus and carnival atmosphere came at a young age where the images painted on canvas banners had their desired effect and I dared to enter single-o’s despite the warning of wasting my time and money. It would not be until a visit to Coney Island in 2000 that I saw a live 10-in-1 for the first time, returning whenever I could to check out the various shows that were held in a building which once housed the Dreamland Circus Sideshow. During one of those performances I was brought on stage to participate in the Bed of Nails act, and the experience cemented the idea in my head that this was something I could do for the rest of my life.
Meeting the notorious Reverend Saint Jon in New York City six months before I ever set foot on the Island had led to an apprenticeship with an underground variety arts group who called themselves Outlaw Cirkus. This gave me an entirely different perspective on Circus culture as a whole, as well as introducing me to concepts such as traveling by freight train, squatting in abandoned buildings and generally embracing a self-sufficient community. Being an outsider meant gaining their trust, though having one of their founding members as my personal mentor certainly eased any reservations they had about accepting me into the troupe. At the time my duties were taking on the burden of grunt work: creating, printing and distributing flyers or other propaganda; mending costumes and banners; creating character wigs and being the resident hair/makeup stylist. There were long hours of setup and teardown that were as mandatory as reading and research, while I became an assistance to both Jon and the Great Augustine Z, patriarch to Outlaw Cirkus and boss of all its operation. On the first of May in 2001, I was officially initiated as one of their own, teaming up with Jon on a number of acts and introduced as the Reverend’s Angel.
Returning to Coney Island in November 2002 to attend the Coney Island Sideshow School due to the attachment to the sideshow history associated with the area, and the fact that the class offered information on sword swallowing. Though I was already performing the Human Blockhead, various broken glass routines and the Insectivore, I wanted to learn how to effortlessly slide steel down my throat. Upon graduation I became one of two performers in the entire state of New Jersey who could do so at the time, but being a modified woman accomplishing the feat was a claim only I could make. Despite the tragedy which took much of the Outlaw Cirkus crew in 2003, I continued to perform with Jon as Curiosities From the Wilds of Weird New Jersey, often hosting guest performers alongside displays of animal oddities, medical anomalies, an illustrated gallery of human curiosities and the Atlantic City Mermaid. Despite our best efforts, we both agreed that there was something missing and the frequency of performances slowly dwindled as our lives drifted in different directions.
Through word of mouth I obtained a position as a volunteer for the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, celebrating New Year’s Eve at their Palace of Variety located in Times Square and spending the first few months of 2004 reconnecting with all of the things that made me want to pursue being a sideshow entertainer in the first place. During a performance on the Wall of Death later that year, Jon suffered a devastating crash and retired from show business entirely a few months later, suffering greatly from both his injuries and the loss of our shared family. Urged to continue performing despite all of the tragedies that deeply wounded us both, I went on to establish Electric Sideshow, which had started out as a one-woman variety act at the Cove four years earlier. Obtaining a partner lead to making weekly appearances at the Rail as part of Danson’s Karaoke Sideshow and being added to the roster of musicians that played the Drop Dead Festival at Otto’s Shrunken Head. The latter part of 2005 was spent touring the carnival circuit as part of the Great American Circus Sideshow, serving as crew to a menagerie of animal oddities and a 10-in-1 sideshow.
While Jon and I reconnected briefly, the daredevil inevitably succumbed to death in 2006, a few months after I had moved to Philadelphia and we were beginning to make solid plans of resurrecting Outlaw Cirkus. The event left me incredibly devastated and questioning whether I had the strength to keep going, and it was around then I met Barry Silver. A master magician and Fakir, he introduced me to the phenomenon of Carnivolution, a live demonstration of theater that included puppets, clowns, music and variety acts. Becoming an active part of it for about a year and a half gave me the opportunity to perform at the Palace of Wonders in Washington D.C. long before it was renamed, the Troccedero Theater with Total Fucking Destruction in support of the release of the Unholy Sideshow Movie, the Slipper Room in NYC with Sasquatch and the Sick-a-billies, Asbury Lanes in New Jersey, on the street in Phoenixville, and warehouse spaces in Brooklyn where thousands of people were in attendance. During this time I was also still doing Electric Sideshow with a new partner, but after relocating to Knoxville, Tennessee briefly in early 2008, I returned to the birthplace of American Circus determined to establish myself as a solo act.
On a cold afternoon in January of 2009, I stood on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum and swallowed a sword that had been hand forged by Thomas Blackthorne, securing my position as the 35th person to do so and an archived signature on the blade which stands as a testament to the feat individuals all around the world duplicated as part of a group record. Adopting the surname of my one time partner in crime, I started featuring my sword swallowing skills at Tritone’s Open Mic Night that spring and became a weekly fixture there. Returning to my Outlaw Cirkus roots, I was showcasing this talent guerrilla style on the street, in bars and at people’s private parties, constantly inciting the same surprised reaction and creating an open platform for conversation with the audience. The focus on quality became essential, delivering the best performance possible while allowing an intimate interaction I felt was lacking in shows one could see at more accessible venues. Over the years I have shared the stage with several notable performers, participated in a benefit for the Goddamn Gallows and the Hot Topic Foundation, appeared at the 2011 Philadelphia Tattoo Convention as a guest of Rigor Mortis Revue, and was invited to be a part of of Philadelphia’s Magic Garden annual gala in 2012.
Today I am still on a personal mission to pursue the preservation and education of variety arts that had been established by Outlaw Cirkus, carrying with me the teachings of both the men who played important influential roles in my continued evolution as a person and performer.