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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Scenes from the Sideshow Gathering, Day 1

Note: My reports on the Sideshow Gathering began with the end of Day 3, and then covered all of Day 2. Now we move on to Day 1, at least as much of it as I was there for...

I missed the very start of the Sideshow Gathering. I don't even remember why; it just happened. Most of the acts I missed came back onstage later in the weekend, but I missed Professor Fountain's routine entirely. Next year for sure!


When I came in, Gwyd the Unusual and Sylver Fyre of the Knotty Bits Sideshow were onstage, and had just called for a volunteer from the audience to assist in a balloon-popping routine. Here, Sylver (as far as the blindfolded volunteer knows) is about to use a whip to pop the big blue balloon between her hapless victim's legs.


Sylver and Gwyd then prepared to move on to a fire act - but, since fire was forbidden within the building, they had to go to a backup - snake charming. Here Gwyd reads from the mail-order snake charming instruction manual while Sylver presents a cute, cuddly Boa Constrictor that is deemed insufficiently menacing for the routine.


So Sylver moved on to the next option - a huge Albino Burmese Python. Here she strikes a "sexy pose" while attempting to heft the charmed snake.


Next up was Professor Sprocket, who treated the crowd to a glimpse of P.T. Barnum's original Mermaid, and then regaled them with patter that gradually became more and more incoherent. A true man of science, the Professor quickly determined that he had a screw loose, and attempted to correct it via a screwdriver inserted nasally. It took a few tries, but he eventually got the setting just right. More or less.


Master of Ceremonies Tyler Fyre (no relation to Sylver) then took the stage to fill everyone in on the magnificence of the weekend ahead.


Soon he yielded the stage to the Crispy Family Carnival, whose current family members include the lovely Roxanne, the strongman Mace, and of course, the father and leader of the Family, Crispy Knight himself. Crispy recalled past adventures making the cross-country excursion from the wilds of Oklahoma to the mountainous woodlands of Pennsylvania. One disastrous experience with the Crispy Bus several years ago has led them to see the wisdom of travelling by Toyota subcompact. But how do they all fit into such a small vehicle? Simple: Space Saver bags. Here they demonstrate by placing the lovely Roxanne into one and vacuuming out all the air.


Tyler Fyre returned to the stage, but this time as half of the Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow. Here the lovely Thrill Kill Jill demonstrates the miracle of "birth in reverse". Walt Hudson, sitting front and center, is about to get splashed with amniotic fluid.


The Swami Yomahmi was up next and demonstrated a dramatically orchestrated "pins into thumb" routine. Real magicians never reveal their secrets, but as the Swami reminded the crowd, he isn't a real magician. Unfortunately, something went seriously wrong during the explanation. Here the Swami realizes he has missed a critical step.


Next was Dr. Wilson, who demonstrated Chung Ling Soo's "Defying the Boxers" routine, modified for use in venues where gunfire is frowned upon. Here he is about to get shot in the face - with a paintball.*


Then came Coney Island Chris, who amused the audience with his ineptitude, propensity for self-injury, and marked fondness for pretzel rods. Having demonstrated by use of pretzel rods the power of the leg hold trap that is really old and rusty, and totally not a new one painted black and yellow as Todd Robbins recommends, he then proceeded to get his right hand inextricably caught in it. He then demonstrated that it's really, really hard to perform the rest of his routine with one hand caught in a leg hold trap.


John Shaw was the only performer onstage for the entire weekend - or, at least, just off-stage. In addition to being the sound man for the entire Gathering, he is also a professional magician and the operator of the Headless Horseman Hayride in Ulster Park, New York. Here he performs a routine involving a can connected with chains to hooks inserted into his eye sockets - and a volunteer from the audience who is very close to throwing up as he directs her to pour water into the can. (I think John was a little disappointed that he didn't make her throw up onstage!)


In a change of pace, Chris McDaniel performed a one-man Wild West Show, wowing the crowd with gun-spinning, whip-cracking, and rope twirling.


Here he twirls a lasso over the heads of the audience while singing "Give a Man Enough Rope" from The Will Rogers Follies. Chris ended his performance to thundering applause and a standing ovation.

The last act of the night was the living legend Zamora, the Torture King. After a light snack - well, a lightbulb snack - he then thanked the audience for its fine appetite for liquor before smashing up a tub full of empty liquor bottles and walking and laying in them. Two volunteers from the audience assisted him in the next part of the act: one by standing on his chest, the other by stabilizing her. It took some trying, but eventually Zamora got her to understand that when he shouted "Jump!" he didn't want her to jump off of his chest, but rather up and down on it.

Finally came Zamora's signature piece: skewers through the forearm, bicep, and floor of his mouth.

And that was only Day 1!


For Day 2's festivities, go here.


*To see a full video of Dr. Wilson performing the routine at the 2009 Chung Ling Soo Stage Magic Competition on May 17, 2009, at the Alamo Theatre in Bucksport, Maine, go here.

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