Friday, November 11, 2011

The Sideshow Gathering 2011, Day 2

The second day of the Sideshow Gathering got off to a start bright and early Saturday at 3:00, ran until 7:00, took a break until 9:00, and then got going again, ending with the Sideshow Auction, which ran until 2:00 in the morning!

Before the start of the day's festivities I took some time to look over the many items, old and new, that would be available for bid later that evening. There were photos by Diane Falk, artwork by Ashleigh Talbot, original tattoo flash art by Charon Henning, and even stage-worn thongs that had one year ago graced the nether regions of Tyler Fyre and Magic Brian, plus many, many other items...some of which probably shouldn't be mentioned on the record!

The first act of the day was the Doppelgänger Circus Sideshow, a young duo from Detroit that took its inspiration from Tyler Fyre, and formalized its training at Coney Island. Here Doc Tor Arcana assists Rachel Rampage down the Blade Ladder.

Harley Newman protegé Josh Peters, a.k.a. Josh B'Gosh, gets wrapped in a chain while wearing a straitjacket. Safety first!

Harley Newman lets us see what's on his mind.

Keith Nelson of the Bindlestiff Family Circus brings the abbreviated version of his two-and-a-half hour lecture on the history of tops to a close with a demonstration of tricks with a nine-pound top.

Last year it was a record-setting mass Human Blockhead, with dozens of people onstage simultaneously shoving things up their noses. For this year we were treated to the World's Largest Simultaneous 10-in-1, with more than ten acts being performed onstage at the same time by dozens of performers.  Sword swallowers, human blockheads, jugglers, hoopers, a straitjacket escape, strongman acts, the Iron Throat, Harley Newman as the Man Who Can't Be Hanged, Professor Fountain's demonstration of Chapeaugraphy, and many others, all alive and on stage!

Then Fancy Talker Professor Sprocket again told us the remarkable tale of the scientific miracle of Olga Hess, the Headless Woman. See how the amazed public crowds around her headless body, astonished and filled with wonderment!

Up next was the latest incarnation of the Crispy Family Carnival: Acoustic Ross, Tangy Tart, and Mr. Crispy himself, here seen swallowing a sword.

Swallowing an energized neon tube is one of the most insanely dangerous things that you will ever see performed onstage - so insanely dangerous that neon tube manufacturers have gotten wise and routinely refuse any requests to construct anything that can be used in such a way.  Much safer is the LED sword which Mr. Crispy is swallowing, which is cooler, will not shatter, and is not filled with toxic chemicals.

Crispy and Tangy Tart begin to dance - barefoot on glass - to Tom Lehrer's Masochism Tango, as played by Acoustic Ross.

Next up was the Knotty Bits Sideshow from Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Michigan was very well represented this year!) Here Sylver Fyre (no relation to Tyler!) whips a carnation held in the mouth of Gwyd the Unusual while sorting out some relationship issues.

The end of the first half of the day came with the presentation of the Franco Kossa Memorial Blow-Off. Plans had been in place from the start for Franco to be present at the 10th Annual Sideshow Gathering one way or another, but at his funeral ThrillKill Jill had a brainstorm: "D'you think we can ding it?" - that is, could the presence of Franco's cremated remains  be turned into a way of generating much-needed funds for the Gathering? Well, of course, the answer was "yes!" And so, for a small free-will donation, the gathered crowd was invited to pay tribute to the founder, organizer, and guiding force behind the Gathering, ensconced in a small booth graced by a James Mundie poster featuring Franco and a slightly-modified version of the traditional Sideshow lure: "NOT Alive on the Inside!" The line wrapped halfway around the room.

The second half of the night began with the Olde City Sideshow from Philadelphia. Danny Borneo opened by announcing that, unlike last year, he was not completely drunk, and that he needed a shave - something Martin Ling the Suicide King was only too happy to assist with, with a shower of sparks from a grinding wheel.

After Danny was made presentable, it was time for Reggie Bugmuncher to do her thing. Here she prepares to begin her diet of worms, which she would follow up with some very fresh sushi.

The venue did not allow fire-eating acts, but apparently a loophole allowed for propane torches.

Martin Ling the Suicide King began his bit with some sword swallowing.

He then moved on to the curved katana, which he swallowed while angling his body to accept it. Despite being the Suicide King, he was very nearly the victim of a homicide as Danny Borneo gave him a case of the giggles as he began to swallow the deadly sword.

And then...well, don't try this at home. Or in a performance. Ever.

Martin then did a few other brutal acts, including stopping a fan with his tongue, washing his face in broken glass, and then standing and twisting in the glass. And then jumping in it.

Reggie did her Anatomical Wonder bit, squeezing through a tennis racket. Here she does the Yogi Gut Suck, to make the passage of the racket easier. (I have seen video of someone shoplifting record albums using this trick: he sucked in his gut, filled his abdominal cavity with a stack of albums, pulled his sweatshirt back down over them, and then tried to sneak out of the store.)

The last act of the night was the Cheeky Monkey Sideshow. Here Mab Just Mab swallows balloons to the tune of "99 Luftballoons," which was rechristened "99 Red Balloons" in English. Trinket keeps count. This is number 1.

Sally the Cinch is a member of the troupe I have seen twice at Gatherings but have never seen perform until now. Here she is showing how she earned her name, "cinching" her waist  to an incredibly small size.

The Cheeky Monkeys, joined by burlesque dancer and honorary Cheeky Monkey Cherrie Sweetbottom, let their freak flags fly and sign off with a performance their infectious theme song.

The end of the second day's performances saw the beginning of the Sideshow Auction. Items old and new, rare and strange (and in some cases, unknown) were bid on in a fiercely competitive auction. (The quote of the weekend was Alex Doll's "Dammit, Kevin!" as sideshow banner painter Kevin Gerrone bid a coveted item out of her reach.) More fascinating than the items themselves were the stories spun by the old-timers running the auction, especially living legend Al Stencell, shown onstage as Furry Couch (aka Professor Ouch) displays Charon Henning's original artwork of various stylized "10"s created especially for 10th Anniversary Sideshow Gathering commemorative tattoos.

Gradually the pieces were auctioned off, the stories were told, and the Gathering broke up for the night - or, rather, the morning, as it was already 2:00! The final day's festivities would begin before we knew it, and would end before anyone wanted them to.

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