Aesthetic Autopsy: Madame Electra

There is a personal connection I have with the act known as the Electric Chair, a fantastic display in which a seemingly ordinary woman has the ability to harness the power of electricity and conduct it through various body parts to shock the audience.  Legend has it that Madame Electra was struck by a bolt of lightning and managed to survive, though was left with this mysterious ability that made her misunderstood among her peers.  Much like revealing the secret behind a magic trick, the truth on how this act works is far less fascinating than the presentation and for once I am not going to ruin that.  What I will say is that one can search the tags and find a report on how I was selected to sit in this contraption during a visit to Coney Island one Halloween, and I also had a first-hand look at it when I attended the sideshow school there a few weeks later.  While traveling with the Great American Circus Sideshow I was subjected to what I consider a substandard prop that literally shocked me, leading to refusal of ever sitting in it again.  Nonetheless, knowing the secrets and having been the act myself, I have a great appreciation for those who put on a great performance and really make me believe what is happening.

A memorable scene from Nightmare Alley features the Sheriff coming round with a beef about Madame Electra’s costume because it is too revealing, and he is convinced that is all the poor girl can manage to wear, otherwise there is a risk the clothing might spontaneously combust.  Like all good rubes the Sheriff is persuaded to calm the townsfolk and is indicative how the right words delivered with careful finesse can convince people that the extraordinary is true.  Of course that is a huge premise behind sideshow and translating this attitude into fashion does not have to result in skimpy outfits that leave little to the imagination.  As always the purpose is to take inspiration and find a way that it suits your personal tastes while still maintaining a piece of the original influence.  This can be easily achieved by making a list and then discovering items in your own wardrobe or purchasing something that is on trend yet still versatile enough that it will be used frequently, even when the next hottest thing is making the rounds.

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STRIKING CHARM

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The embellishments of this Pearl & Lace Corset Top accentuate white diamond shaped patterns, the built-in cup offering extra support while the black straps and band offer plenty of comfort.  Flaunt your curves with the Lip Service Fashion Victim Lightning Print Skirt, which has plenty of stretch thanks to a spandex base and elastic waistband that makes it easy to slip on.  Screen printed on the front are stunning lightning strikes that evoke images of the sparks that Madame Electra can emit from her fingertips.  Break up all that black with a Silver Corset Belt, a stylish accessory which has a snug fit and adds a bit of fun with a stay put bow.  The are plenty of elements on this Steampunk Jacket that makes it stand out from ordinary black cotton ones; straps, grommets, buckles, ruffles, velvet trim and antiqued buttons trim the garment in all the right places.  Something about Black Milk’s Muscle Leggings made me want to include them with the outfit, the bright and bold anatomical illustrations playing well with the skirt.  Remember that these are footless and to put on a pair of Skeleton Bone Ankle Socks to keep toes toasty inside this pair of Jeffrey Cambell Dramo Spikes.  The black patent and suede platform has a chunk of silver spikes in the front, a criss-cross pattern up the back of the heel and a firm sole that makes them easier to maneuver in than they appear.  Have the rubes running scared with Iron Fist’s American Nightmare Purse, a black skull print emblazoned across a blood red background, lace up detailing in the front, interior cell phone pocket, zippered closure and removable shoulder strap.  Capture the essence of a classic movie icon with the Bride of Frankenstein Rosary Necklace, a sixteen inch black beaded chain that holds a portrait of the Bride herself surrounded by a silver frame.  Show off your provocative personality with Silver Lightning Bolt Earrings, a Lightning Bolt Double Finger Ring by ASOS, and a couple of Diva Spike Bracelets.

Fierce eyes do not have to be drowning in several layers of black, whereas daring shades of red would convey a far more powerful statement.  After prepping face with your usual routine and applying primer to the eyes, sweep Predator, a pillar box red by Illamasqua that has a slightly cool tone so it is not too intense, across lids and blend slightly into the crease; add a touch under the eye and blend that out as well.  Follow with a few coats of Berber, a Pure Pigment that is a rich auburn with plenty of metallic shimmer, then add Moonflower to the corner of your inner eye and along the brow bone then blending the soft creamy white shadow into Berber.  Keep your hand steady while using Precision Ink in Havoc to line the eye and draw an aubergine cat eye and plump up lashes with Volume Mascara in Nocturnal.  Chisel out cheekbones by contouring with Cream Blushers in Betray a deep plum rose, Laid – bright rose pink, and Lies – pearlescent cool pink, the dewy finish giving your whole face a radiant glow.  Give your lips just as much shine with Facacade, a grey pink Intense Lipgloss that will make your pout appear full.  Complete the look by polishing nails in Vice, a deep cerise that has a rubber finish, topped with Harsh, a glossy finished silver glitter that is going to add plenty of shine to your manicure.

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HIGH VOLTAGE VOGUE

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Often the image of Miss Electra on a huge painted banner is accompanied by plenty of electrified bolts and occasionally a view of her internal anatomy, which is why I chose this fabulous Bones Sequin Dress by Iron Fist.  The silhouette of a black tank dress is a basic shape, but the turquoise skeleton design and sea of sequins makes it wearable at a posh party or chic cafe.  Wear a Knit Stripe Cardigan as a top layer, the ribbed knit, scooped knit and coordinating color paired with accents of grey adding texture; leave the buttons undone and push up the sleeves to leave room for plenty of chunky bangle bracelets.  Sheer stockings can be paired with opaque ones in bright colors for an interesting effect, particularly when they happen to be Lightening Bolt Tights.  Flaunt your Street Cred by way of Jeffrey Campbell’s glitter encrusted heeless platform that is described as “a Mary Jane on acid”, and keep your valuables secure in a Monster Movie Print Clutch.  The retro clutch features cotton printed with the familiar faces of Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula and the Mummy, and is accented by white metal-flake sparkle vinyl.  Having kitschy accessories does not mean one is limited to a collection of cheap plastic things that get boring to wear, as these Turquoise Carved Skull Earrings demonstrate.  High quality stone infused with multiple healing powers can dangle from your lobes and grin at those who stop to swoon over their details.  Though it might seem a bit repetitous to wear a Ribcage Necklace having the same print on the top of the dress, but when the bones are made of sterling silver covered with white and black diamonds, the feeling of opulence is undeniable.  At first glance the Lightning Bolt Bracelet might be deceptive as a novelty because it was made for Marvel,  but they are indeed made of silver and accented with real sparkling crystals.  Bring a romantic touch to the ensemble with a Black Cameo Ring, which features the profile of a young lady framed by white faux pearls and is mounted on an adjustable band.  Last but certainly not least, pin long locks away from the face with black Kreepsville Gem Bone Clips,  because no one wants to see Madame Electra set her hair on fire.

As mentioned above, complete your usual pre-makeup routine and get ready to create an avante garde eye, sweeping layers of Illamasqua’s Sex on the lids to build a sturdy base of pure white shadow, and then using the blue green tones of Burst on the outer corner to create the ‘outer V’.  Add a touch of Savage [deep berry pink] to the crease, blending it outwards into Burst, and follow that with a light touch of Pure Pigment in Static, an iridescent silver and pink combination.  Use Chasm [golden turquoise shimmer] under the eye and inner corner as well, and then using an angled brush line the top lid with Superior, a metallic sapphire Liquid Metal that goes on smooth and leaves behind plenty of shimmering pigment; finish with a few coats of Masquara.  Even though the emphasis is mostly on the eyes, one can still balance that with Atomic, a fuchsia violet Lipstick that can be sheer enough your face will not be overpowered by color.  Use the same techniques described above for glowing cheeks provided by Powder Blush in Thrust – deep magenta pink, Tremble – soft lilac pink, and Ambition – shimmering neutral.

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MACHO ELECTRO

 

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Though the instance is rare that instead of a lovely young woman being seated in the Electric Chair one will see a burly man, the act takes on a different tone and the presentation itself changes.  The man convinces his audience that he is mad and ready to subject the physical body to mild torture, which met with fascination as the switch is thrown and he starts twitching in the chair.  Therefor, the final look in this guide is inspired by those unique individuals who played into the dangerous aspect of the act and put on a fantastic show.  A basic black T-shirt is the ultimate in comfort and a wardrobe staple; having the image of Frankenstein flanked by lightning bolts on it gives the eye something interesting to look at while paying homage to the movie monster that was created with electricity.  Described as being “the new and improved Greaser jeans”, the Lip Service Indigo Jeans are 100% cotton and made from rigid bull denim, making them durable enough to wear while dancing or working in the garage.  If one is going to opt for a studded leather jacket, might as well make it one by Versace that also has crystal embellishments, which I happen to think go well with the Laredo Classic Mignon Boot; these amazing cowboy boots have plenty of hand stitched detail up top while the toes are treated with an overlay of burnished flames.  Don’t forget to put on some Broken Bones Socks on first to keep feet warm.  Thread a Hugo Boss Studded Belt through the loops of the jeans, a great causal accessory made from grained leather and covered with cone shaped studs, and secure using a 3D replica of Frankenstein’s Bride with this stunning Belt Buckle.  Being a walking, talking anomaly doesn’t mean one is without a sense of humor, as is demonstrated by the Get Pickled Wallet by Sourpuss that is embossed with a brain in a jar flanked by pinstripe style wings.  With all of these striking illustrations there is not much need to add anything heavy in terms of other accessories, so keep it simple with a Stainless Steel Twisted Bolt Ring and a set of Wide Leather Cuff Bracelets.

Photo credit: `1 – Coney Island Circus Sideshow, 2 – Pop Culture Ninja

Coney Island Sideshow School

In 2002, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Coney Island Sideshow School.  At the time, I had been taking frequent trips to the Island, which often included paying admission to see the sideshow and on occasion the burlesque show.  Discovering that there was an opportunity to learn the things I had witnessed filled me with joy, to the point where I had a hard time even properly expressing how thrilled I was.  Noted here, I had been friends with Jon for about two years at the time.  We often discussed performing together, which came into reality in May of 2001 when I was introduced to the members of  Outlaw Cirkus and subsequently became part of the troupe.  Unfortunately, due to constant drug use, Jon was not in the right frame of mind to beome the mentor he wanted  to be, but we had numerous shows together with Outlaw Cirkus nonetheless.  When he learned that I had enrolled in the sideshow school and saw that I dedicated myself to absorbing everything I could, he made a promise that upon graduation, we would have a serious discussion about becoming long-term partners.  However, those stories are meant for a different time, and instead I am sharing my experience as a stundent in Coney Island

11.18.02 What I learned in Sideshow School

My weekend technically started on Friday.  Woke up to go to school, but upon checking my e-mail prior to departing, something better came up and I didn’t go.

Instead I hung out with Jon at the diner, and while he didn’t say much about the absence of metal in my face, he did mention that he thought I looked fine the way I was.  The encounter had to be brief, but he promised we would have an outing after my sideshow class.

To keep it short and sweet, over the course of three days, I was introduced to where the sideshow came from, what it was all about and learned some history of Coney Island itself.  [Most of which I already knew].  Invaded our nostril cavaties with Q-tips to prepare ourselves for the Human Blockhead, stuck matches in our mouths to get used to having fire in our faces for fire eating, and put wire hangers in our mouths as a preliminary step to sword swallowing.

There are only five other people in the class, one of which happens to be from Jersey.  So I have his contact info and said that maybe in the future we could work together.

Was surprised at how many members of the press were hanging around, as I didn’t think that many people even knew about the classes.  A film crew from the Discovery Channel was there for fuck’s sake.  They took our names and asked us where we are from and why we were there, so on and so forth.

Watched a few performances by Todd, the Great Fredini and whatever that other guy’s name was.  He was really good at the fire-eating.  Learned how to stick our hands in an animal trap, walk on glass and how the electric chair works.  Moved on to small torches and putting nails in our noses.  We learned Carny speak—which I want to start using—and other great things.

There really isn’t any big secret to be revealed.  The great thing about a sideshow act is that—for the most part—what you see is absolutely real.  Sure there are a few gaffes here and there, but when you see someone swallowing a sword…well, what do you think they’re doing?

There are three basic types of sideshow performers: the working act, the freak, and the self-made freak.  [Kind of aiming to be a part of the latter category, which I have to say I am rather proud of.]  To be clear, I’m not going to jump ahead and say I’m great at anything right now [except for the Human Blockhead], but I definately have the hang of it, and the more I practice, the better I will get.  Next weekend is more practice of what we have already learned, as well as bed of nails and other fun things.

This entry could have been a lot more interesting, but as I said, there’s no big secret to reveal.  Most importantly, I am doing this because I want to.  It’s a great tradition that deserves rightful recognition.  Just being in that [cold] building and learning what I am is a great honor.  The sideshow didn’t die out because the humanitarians were bitching; people took an interest in staying home and watching television or going out to a movie.

There is a new generation of people who are curious about things that they don’t see on a day-to-day basis.  There is always going to be an audience for this kind of thing, because it is just human nature to be curious.  And I am definitely one of those people who can dedicate theirself to doing this.

The other parts of my weekend were spent in South Jersey [what a trip that was from one beach to another] and celebrating with Jon.  He said he was happy that I had found some great people to teach me the history of sideshow and all that.  Don’t get me wrong though; I have learned a great deal from this man over the past couple of years that we have been friends.  He knows quite a few of the acts himself and speaks Carny.  However, he admitted that he had strayed from that lifestyle for various reasons, but seeing the passion I had renewed it in himself.

That basement birthday party was just pure debauchery.  Tons of metal heads, punks, squatters, hobos and other assorted misfits all crammed into a cemented cube.  The music was loud and gritty; people were moshing and spilling alcohol everywhere.  Our set was short but tight, and the people loved it.  Much consumption of illegal substances occurred, to the point where I don’t recall what I had or how much of it.  Not like that really matters; it was all good fun and I am so happy to be putting my skills to use.  It only makes me want to do this more.

11.24.02 Proud Graduate of the Coney Island Sideshow School

Did not think I would ever see those words gracing this journal, and perhaps don’t even have the right amount of words to properly express all of these feelings currently coursing through me.

The remainder of sideshow school was spent practicing the acts we had already learned, and introduction to a few more, such as the bed of nails and electric chair.  Met Harley Newman, who holds the record for laying on four nails I believe it was.   Also got the chance to handle one of the huge albino pythons that is used for the Coney Island sideshow during the season.  Maybe it was the black leather trench coat, but that snake really seemed to like me.  Oh how I would love to have a baby of my own some day.  Also got an up-close-and-personal look at Tyler Fyre’s swords.

Our graduation consisted of having to get up on the stage and perform one of the acts we had learned before we got a ‘diploma’.  Sure, it’s a bit cheesy, and only a piece of paper, but there is so much more that I am taking away from this whole experience.  It’s changing me in ways I did not think were possible.

Definitely worth spending the money, not only the tuition itself but the gas and tolls in order to get there.  [Of course between hustling and having Jon pitch in, that wasn’t really a big deal].  What I’m trying to say, is that this is one of those priceless moments where I am still kind of in awe that it’s all real.

After departing the Island, I made that long journey down to the Shore.  When I walked into Jon’s house, he was standing there with a huge smile plastered on his face.  There were colorful balloons and streamers everywhere, and a table set for dinner, complete with fancy foods and wine.  Following that most wonderful feast, we drank mushroom tea and went out on the beach to smoke a proper blunt and whittled away the hours talking about performing together in the future.  It was definitely a nice way to celebrate my accomplishment, especially since it was with the only person in the world who understands why I want to do this.

There was one last surprise waiting at the house when we returned.  A group of people were gathered at the back door, and I smiled when I realized it was the Outlaw Cirkus crew.  Rounds of congratulations came my way as they shook my hand and said I made the Family proud.  The hours that followed are a blur of partying on the beach with mushroom tea and weed-filled brownies until the sun came up and we all passed out.

Part of me is still waiting to wake up and realize that this has just been some really awesome dream.  However, grasping the fact that it’s not, I am overwhelmed and finally feel as though I have found what I was searching for, and I love it.

Coney Island Halloween

[Originally written 11.1.02 ]

I have been brainwashed!

Last nite was so much fun.  Definitely the very thing I needed to get my head straightened out.

Met up with Jon in Newark where I stashed my car and climbed into his Chevy.  Was very impressed with his voodoo zombie costume [which went well with my Dead Dolly ensemble] and he presented me with a small plastic cauldron with plenty of treats.  Did shots of rum, smoked a joint and then he surprises me even further with a bit of nose candy.  What a great friend.

There wasn’t really a lot of traffic on the drive out.  There’s usually always traffic on the Goethels, or at the very least, a big jam right after you pay the toll because people don’t understand the concept of merging.  However, there was none of that this time around, which made for an excellent drive to Coney Island.  Windows rolled down, psychobilly tunes blasting at high volume and each of us with a joint in hand.  Had the feeling it was going to be an excellent evening.

My favorite sea-side playground was pretty much deserted, and I wasn’t used to seeing it that way.  It was eerie and beautiful at the same time. It wasn’t sad tho; it’s not like everything is closed forever.  It’s just hibernating.  And in March, after a long sleep, it will be awake once again.

We parked in a free lot so we could do a few more shots, smoke and snort.  Feeling good, we headed over to the sideshow building.

There were four other people inside [not counting the band], so the group we were in wasn’t that big.  Didn’t have to wait long for the tour to start.  It was slightly cheesy, plastic and yet still funny as hell.  I’m sure there were people who thought they wasted their money.  Not us.  It was done in the true spirit of Coney Island, and hey, they got our money anyway, didn’t they?

The tour started with the pointing out of generic Halloween decorations in a cage that I’m guessing was supposed to be spooky, the ‘Fiji mermaid’ and an armadillo leaking sawdust [my personal favorite].

Then it was down into the basement, which was really awesome, even tho I was expecting something to jump out as us.  Witnessed the washing of a plastic brain.  *mmm*  Braaaaaaain.

Then we were escorted to where a blood spattered mannequin lay.  Not very impressive, but whoever said that the point was realism?  With the cocktail of substances in our bodies, everything was slightly different from what other people were seeing, so Jon and I were fully enjoying ourselves.

Went back upstairs and past the already brainwashed janitor to the outside.  Then we were handed over to Tyler [tho the name of his character escapes me] who was so great at his part.  Had the patter down pat and the sexual innuendo’s were funny as hell.  The best was when he offered the one guy to handle fire-eating because he looked like a flamer.

Then we went up to the second floor, one by one, and had a rather vicious doggie barking at us.  We were escorted into the reception area, which was not fun, as it was fucking dark.  Jon held my hand, which was sweet.  [Smart little me used some glow-in-the-dark make up, which was the only thing I could see aside from this tiny little sliver of light that emanated from the door in front of us.]  We were warned that one of the big snakes had gotten loose, and that if we felt it, it was just saying hello.  Of course I was expecting something to grab my leg, and I’m still wondering about the horrid creaking noises that went unexplained.

The door opened and we were led into the final room, complete with spinning hypno-wheel. [Which I found ironic, since I had worn my hypno-contacts].  Were were asked to sit by the nurse [played by the lovely Angelica] and watch the spinning wheel.

Somehow I was volunteered to be Madame Electra for the nite.  Gee, how much did I resist?  ::grin::  Now I have seen the act before, but actually being the act was such a high honor.  Smiled as I sat in the electric chair and the patter was flawlessly delivered by Tyler, answering an enthusiastic “Oh yes!” to any question I was asked.

The switch was thrown and I could hear the tesla coil buzz above my head.  I was handed a rather lengthy light bulb which immediately lit up in my hand.  And just to prove that it did not run on batteries, for those skeptics in the audience, I was asked to run my hand up and down the length so they [the audience] could watch the light move with it.

That’s good“, I was told, “Now do it a little faster.”  I’m sure you can imagine what that looked like.

Then a torch was held over the end of the bulb, and I watched a blue spark jump out of the end of it and light the torch.  Sweet!  The fun did not end there.  Oh no.

Madame Electra would also be lighting the torch with a spark from the end of her finger.  And do I even need to mention where that was held?  [Think: crotch area].  “Now just stroke the end of it with your finger, just like you would at home.”  [At this point I was grateful for the vast amount of white face powder I had put on, otherwise my face would have been rather red.]  I did so and was shocked [excuse the pun] to see a blue spark emanate from the tip of my finger as I touched the end of the torch.  It didn’t really hurt; about as much as it would when you get a shock from touching a doorknob after scuffing across a carpet.  Two more strokes and *FOOM* there was fire.  That was so cool!  [Noted here that my best friend was all smiles and loud applause the entire time.]

Of course I knew that was not the end of the act.  Oh no.  For the finale, Madam Electra would be lighting the torch off of the most sensitive part of her body.

You know,” Tyler said to me, leaning close, “the pink wet one.”

Of course he meant my tongue!

Was asked to brush the hair out of my face [having my weave being set on fire would not have been cool], lean my head way back and stick out my tongue.  Hey, you don’t have to ask me twice.  I did so [and maybe surprised everyone with the size of the metal bar that resides in my talented muscle] and as the torch was touched to the tip of it, I could feel the shock and *FOOM* there was fire.

Took a very gracious bow to much applause, but the real acclaim of the nite came from Tyler who patted me on the back and said “Good job.”  Praise from Cesaer.

Was rewarded with a rub-on eyeball tattoo from Angelica, who said she normally put it on people’s foreheads but would put it on my hand because she didn’t want to ruin my make-up.

Sadly we were then shown the exit.

Sat and watched the band for a while when we returned to the main part of the sideshow building.  They were pretty good for a trio with a singer, and not really having all the luxuries of a club.  The vocalist [female] had an awesome voice.  Her range went from operatic and melodic to death-metal out of hell.  The bassist was right on.  The guitarist [who was a very androgynous female, as I didn’t realize she was a she until I heard her speak] was so-so.  The drummer was on time, and didn’t have to hide behind a big kit; kept it fairly simple actually.

Left the sideshow building around 10:30 and ventured out on the beach where we consumed the remainder of the ‘treats’ Jon had brought.  Have no idea how long we were out there, but lots of interesting things happened.  Which included hallucinating from coke and laying in the sand for hours on end, just existing with one another.  Damn this horrible memory, as I have no recollection of getting back in his Chevy or returning to Jersey.  Or even how I managed to get back to the house.

Fell asleep with my contacts in and didn’t remember that I had them in until I woke up.  Luckily they didn’t decide to meld with my eyes.  That might have been disastrous.

After last nite’s experience, I want to do sideshow even more than before.

Tales From the Road

After pulling up stakes in Clearfield, the crew packs up and moves on to upstate New York, where the fair grounds and crowds are much larger.

August 14, 2005 – the Big Time

Two tents in two days.  It was physically exhausting, and at times I was unsure if we would be able to do it.  Pounding stakes into asphalt is just down right awful, and took up so much time it was ridiculous.  Was hoping to have everything set up inside so it would not have to be done the following day, giving us all a chance to relax.  That went sour, as there was a lack of pullies and rope for the banners.  Since leaving Pennsylvania, a new tent has been added for the sideshow, which comes with its own banner line and thus the shortage of materials.  There was a general lack of leadership as well.  We only know so much about everything, and with this being the first time the sideshow has its own tent, some guidelines would have been nice.  However, we all pitched in and managed to have a good opening day.

There are two new additions who hail from Texas.  Timmy does fire-eating and a slew of magic tricks; Elk will be doing sword swallowing, Human Blockhead and Human Pincushion in the Blow-Off.  They are quite professional, having performed with troupes down in Texas, and Timmy offers very helpful advice on how to improve our acts.

Miss Cara is still utterly useless.  No matter how many times someone tells that girl to do a job, she finds any reason not to.  She constantly comes off the bally stage for water or gum, to get something out of her purse and so on.  Her ‘breaks’ take much longer than they should have, and as I understood it, the Bally Bitch is supposed to be up there all the time to get the tip in.  The other day she brought drama to work.  Some low-life poser waste of flesh comes poking around the back of the tent, looking for Miss Electra.  He was politely told to fuck off.  Later on, some other grimy dude is standing next to our sleeping quarters, holding her purse.  Apparently she had also hooked up with some random guy during her 45 minute break.  Which I feel is a direct insult to the Boss, who just gave here a speech the night before about how she should have more respect for herself.  We all know she does not listen, which is why she spent most of that day leaning over or squatting down while on the bally stage and chatting with any guy who gave her just a shred of attention.

Today she was supposed to raise the banners with me, and I already knew that would not happen from the moment we had been paired up.  Enlisted the help of Elk to shake the truck where she was sleeping but no dice, and we decided to just do the job ourselves.  When she finally arrives [being very late], she just laughs when we tell her about trying to wake her up.  Then Elk took her aside and had a nice chat with her.  Poor little Cara had to go for a walk, probably to cry or something.  When she returned I decided to have some fun with her.  Found out she had been sleeping and reminded her that she was supposed to be in the tent like everyone else.

“Fun time is over for you,” I said.  “Your job is to be up on the bally stage, and right after the Electric Chair Routine is done, you go back on the stage, not fuck around or come into the tent every five minutes.”

She totally flips out and says she wanted to leave anyway, her face all read when she stormed off.  Then she comes back with the Boss; outright lies and drama follows.  He sends her down to the menagerie tent and it’s about fucking time.  Of course that means the rest of us have to make up for her absence, but if we all do our part everything will be fine.  Get the feeling Cara is not going to be around much longer.

The Manager is on his way back to California, apparently not doing the things he was supposed to and said everything was too much for him.  It is a shame because we had fun for the first two weeks, but he was just not in control as he should have been.

Other than that the show has been going well.  The people are fairly cheap, not wanting to pay the admission or trying to get in with tickets, but I guess between the parking and gate fee I can understand their hesitation of parting with more money.  Had the chance to be the Insectivore for the Blow-Off yesterday and it was fun.  Crickets are pretty tasty, but those legs can get to you.  In a weird way, I have this sense of pride performing the act because is the closest thing to being a real Geek these days.

We were all invited to this OABA Jamboree that was held at the Zoppe Family Circus tent.  What a real traditional Circus they are, complete with single ring and classic acts.  [There had been an opportunity to see the show for free one afternoon.]  The Jamboree consisted of a dinner for all of the Carnies, which would be followed by a raffle, the proceeds benefiting the organization.  It was the first time we really associated with those who were in charge of the rides, games and concessions.  There were rows of tables set up for everyone to sit at, the food laid out buffet style.  Set aside was a group of tables especially for the Zoppe Family, which made me smile a bit when I thought about the significance.

During our meal, this guy asks us what we do and Elk explains that we work the sideshow.  He replies with “Oh, you mean with that Miss Electra who gives blow jobs for twenty bucks.”  Despite the embarrassment [because the sideshow really needs to have a negative reputation], we informed him that she was no longer with us.  Suffice to say I am very glad she left.

There will be a new member joining the crew on Wednesday, though I am uncertain if he is staying.  It would be nice to have another person, though Timmy will be bringing a female friend and fellow performer up from Texas at the end of the month.  People come and people go, but the show must always continue, hopefully with no further problems.  There is always something though, and maybe that is just a part of the business.

By the way, I finally got that shower after five days.  The stall in the bathroom was not as gross as the one in the bunkhouse, but nothing spectacular either so I kept my flip-flops on.  Will try to stop by there again later tonight, as there is just no time for it during the day.

Happens to be raining at the moment and feels like it is going to be one of those days that just drags out.  It might get better later on, as it usually does.  The Boss said he will be giving us a few dings to see how they move, because we should all be generating extra cash for ourselves.  Made decent tips in the Blow-Off yesterday and have three more days working it [including today] so I am looking forward to that.

There are times during the morning and afternoon on weekdays where there is not much of a crowd.  A maximum of five people will be enough for us to do a five minute show, even if we wind up doing it two minutes later and so on and so forth.  We also do not pitch the Blow-Off unless there are at least ten people in the tent because people are less likely to part with an extra dollar.  These moments are usually spent keeping each other entertained in creative ways.

One example is what I have come to call the Hand of God.  Some weeks back, the Boss had extended use of this long metal rod to practice sword swallowing.  However, common sense dictates that such an object cannot be compared to a sword, not to mention the fact that the smaller diameter can cause said rod to go in the wrong part of the body — like puncturing the lungs for instance.  Since no one was going to be jamming it in their throat any time soon, it was used to create tiny lightening bolts when waved over the Electric Chair.  This spawned the idea to place a cricket on the chair and then zap it with the Hand of God.  It was amazing to watch the electricity shoot from the metal rod into the cricket, which obviously toasted the insect, guts oozing out and a smell that reminded me of fresh roasted peanuts.

What can I say, we are very juvenile in our humor

We are in Hamburg until Saturday, then jump to Syracuse and after that we head to Maryland.  We will have a week to relax before doing the show there and know that we are all thankful to have that down time.

Tales From the Road

After landing in Bedford, PA and being introduced to the rest of the crew, the time has come to finally open the show to the public and learn first hand how a grind show operates.

July 24, 2005 – Debut Show: Bedford, PA

Following the usual morning relaxation period, it was right to work moving the stage we had assembled the other day, relocating it outside for the bally.  There is a bigger and subsequently taller stage, which had to be taken inside for us to perform on.  Then the props were moved inside and the banners were unloaded.  Had the privilege of hanging them up with the Manager, while Ma [the boss’s wife] taught me the proper way to hoist them and tie down the ropes so the banners would not fall should a strong wind come by.  It was a bit awkward at first, but I got the hang of it by the third banner and making slipknots is already becoming second nature.  A small complication arose in the form of not having ties for some of the banners, missing pullies and ropes.  Once that was sorted, I thought the rest of the job would go smoothly, but then the Manager accidentally cut himself with some scissors.  Brett and Elvis were sent to assist me with the remaining banners, and the line appeared fairly even for my first time doing something like this.  The teaser, which is a banner that is stretched across the front of the tent so people who walk by can’t see in, had to be hung from the tent itself, and all free hands were on that.

It was rather annoying that the curious people walking by kept asking when we would be open.  The Boss explained that the girls were having their showers and suggested they should come back later.  Definitely admired how he handled the situation with true showmanship and feel I will be learning a lot from him.

Had been applying makeup whenever I had a spare moment, and was then told to do whatever I needed in order to be ready for the first show that evening.

Here I will state that I noticed the Deadhead girl did absolutely no work whatsoever.  She walked around in the outfit the Manager bought because she did not like the costumes that were available, doing nothing more than walking her dog or carrying a beverage.  Now I see this as being a little unfair because the rest of us are sweating in order to get everything done.  We all get compensated for our services, and while I know that she receives a smaller salary than the rest of us, it would not hurt for her to pitch in.  This sort of behavior will certainly be noticed, both by those of us pulling our weight as well as the eyes that constantly make sure we are doing so.

Show time was very unorganized, as none were certain who was supposed to go on first and how we would rotate.  The schedule was hectic as I was going up and down on the main stage, then out to the bally stage.  The crowds were not that enthused, though we tried our best to get them involved.  Most of the response was pretty weak, but some grossed-out reactions were all I needed to hear to know that at least they were paying attention.  It is somewhat disheartening to see how many people stop on the midway for the bally versus the amount that actually filter in, but is was opening night and all.

Managed to get glass stuck in my foot twice and had to stop jumping into it after that.  Lifting five pounds with my ears seemed to go over well, as did the Bed of Nails, though I need to expand the patter so that the set is not as short.  Would also like to add a couple of acts, and perhaps get in the Blow-Off doing the Insectivore to make some extra scratch until we can figure out some dings.

The night was over before I knew it, and even though we were tired and hungry, the crew stuck around to hear what the Boss thought.  All suggestions were taken seriously, and to my relief there really was not much criticism.  Considering this was the first time any of were doing something like this, it went fairly well.  The more we do it, the more natural it will become, and pretty soon we won’t even think about what we are doing.

My stomach had been empty all day, so I headed out to town and went to a diner just like I would back home.  This one was fairly large and really nice, complete with rolling chairs.  Ate until I was full and returned with a few leftovers, relieved to get some sleep.  A storm rolled in some time during the early morning hours, quite loud and very fierce, but it helped cool things down a bit, even if it is still humid.

July 28, 2005 – Strange Dreams

There were definitely some weird images in my head last night, but once scene in particular that I can recall with clarity.  Not sure where I was, but two people I know were chatting with Jon.  Now that I sit here and recall the dream, I believe they had come to see me perform or something like that.  At first glance, my dream mind had mistaken Jon for Brian Setzer.  It must have been the flashy outfit that consisted of tight red leather pants, black shirt half unbuttoned, blue snakeskin boots and tons silver jewelry.  The last time we saw each other, he had just gotten his hair cut for Summer and shaved his face clean.  However, in the dream, his dirty blonde locks were tamed into a stellar pompadour, accented by perfectly trimmed chops.

Next thing I know, the two of us are climbing into his Mercury.  Being tired, I ask him to “turn the colors off” [whatever that means].  Jon pushes a button on the dashboard, and then we are driving through a landscape that could be right out of Sin City, the sky red and black above.

This is what I get for eating  around midnight before heading to bed.  It is a bit ironic that the dream included the one person I had wanted to see before I left New Jersey.  There is a good reason I did not have the opportunity to, but someone should tell my subconscious that.  Wonder what other odd dreams I can come up with.


July 29, 2005 – Week In Revue

Anyone who is blissfully ignorant to believe that show business [no matter what field] is some sort of glamorous fairy tale would have a rude awakening if they were here right now.  Being up on stage in front of a gaping crowd is certainly a great rush, fantastic beyond description and exactly the reason I wanted to do this.  However, as it has already been documented, there is a lot of physical labor involved that people who are enamored by circus or sideshow do not see or even think about.

When the weather was bad earlier this week, we had to grind out our shows in order to get as many paying customers as possible to come in.  The constant demand for performance is rough, but that does not stop me from having a wide smile and doing what I do best.  Have learned a great deal so far, including how to tie down a tent in preparation for inclement weather, even if it did only rain for about ten minutes or less.

Of course no Family is complete without drama or bullshit, though I tend to stay far away from both as best I can.  Though I do voice my opinion at appropriate moments, particularly when the Boss asks for it.  He is wise to everything, the type of man who can smell bullshit from a mile away and before it even hits the ground.  He is highly intelligent with a killer witty attitude, and to me that is what makes him so great.  While he is willing to give anyone a  fair chance, he also does not hesitate to put them in their place should they try to pull a fast one.  As the saying goes, you cannot bullshit a bullshitter.

An example of that is Elvis being excused from the outfit.  Kind of a shame since he was a decent worker, and the first person I met out here who could actually speak Carny.  He even helped Spirit [this goat that refused to use its front legs] to stand up without falling over.  However, he tried to feed the Boss some story about being offered a job by his grandfather.  The Boss does not appreciate being lied to and had facts that confirmed the story was just made up, so he told Elvis it would be best for him to move along.

Yesterday, Little Miss Priss  – the Deadhead chick that does not want to help with any of the physical work, yet wants attention for being up on the bally stage and in the electric chair  –  put up a big stink about her wardrobe.  She had left the clothes our Manager bought in the bathroom and apparently someone stole it.  The Boss gave her a few other costumes to try on, and she wound up in a blue bathing suit with white sequined stripes.  Not even halfway into the show, she got off stage, changed and left for the night.  Well, the rest of us had to pick up her slack, which meant assuming her duties on the bally stage and in the Blow-Off.

Somehow I am chosen to sit in the electric chair and definitely got shocked on my ass, so I really don’t want to have to do it again.  Her beef was composed of the claim that her [quite small] boobs were popping out, and guys were pointing and laughing because her cooch was showing.  She even tried to use the old “I have my period” excuse.  The Boss was not pleased, having some words for her and the boyfriend.

Today she is in a neon orange bikini [a thong no less], with a black shawl tied around her waist.  So far there are no complaints and I suspect that she was just trying to get more free clothes because she was unhappy with the previous selection of a pink leopard print shirt, pink shorts and black fishnets.  That was too revealing but a thong bikini is totally fine?  Oh, and apparently she has completely forgotten about having her period.

On a more humorous note, when inquiry was posed as to why she did not help set up [or assist with any manual labor at all], she claimed both the Boss and Manager said she did not have to.  Sure, that is why two nights ago the Manager remarked that he should not allow her to leave right after the show is finished, because she can assist us in lowering the banners at night.  The Boss also mentioned earlier that Miss Priss, her boyfriend and the brother would be useful in tearing down, so I am pretty sure he did not tell her she could skip doing such work.  It amuses me when people convince themselves that they can lie and no one will know.

Last night the Boss came over while I was dining on a bowl of Coco Pebbles and bestowed me with a great compliment: “I just wanted to tell you that out of all the people here, you’re the only one[ with your shit together.”  It was something I appreciated very much, as I am here to perform and get a lasting experience out of everything.  People can point, laugh and say whatever stupid shit they want, because I will be making a profit off them in the end.

There has been other things going on as well, but would rather not go into much detail about it.  Though I will say that the crew was concerned when our fearless leader — the Manager that is — was taken to the hospital early this morning.  The stress must have gotten to him, but the good news is that he is doing well and will return in a few days.

The rest of us are pretty much running the show at the moment, minus the Blow-Off.  Sold a few pieces of jewelry here and there to pull in some scratch for myself.  So far the only money I have spent was on food, gas and washing clothes at the laundromat.  We are allowed to ask for a cash advance on our salary if needed, since we will not get paid until Tuesday.  Seems like a long time to wait but there is nothing I really need at the moment so I don’t mind.

Right now the pitch on the bally stage is bombing because the Manager is not doing it.  People are finding it difficult to deliver a good one to gather a large tip, but we are doing our best.  Later on, I might practice sword swallowing because it would be awesome to add in the show.

Have to go to work now.