Archive for the ‘sideshow’ Category

Sword Swallower's Day

Ripley’s Times Square, Sword Swallower’s Day 2013. Photo courtesy of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not

Today at 2:22:14pm local time, sword swallowers at Ripley’s Odditoriums in Times Square, Hollywood and several other locations will simultaneously participate in the annual “Big Swallow” for World Sword Swallower’s Day. The free live show begins at 1:30pm.

“Because sword swallowing is so rare, sword swallowers usually perform solo,” says Dan Meyer, the president of the Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI), which co-sponsors the event. “World Sword Swallower’s Day gives us a chance to work together to be part of something bigger.” The annual event promotes this ancient art, honors veteran performers, and raises awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made in the fields of medicine and science.

At the Times Square Ripley’s, performers include Todd Robbins, Kyle Mertz and Jim Stileonis. Last year, Robbins’ 5-year old son, Phineas “Finn” Robbins, a Broadway and television actor who often accompanies his famous Dad to sideshow gigs, cutely performed with a toy sword.

Lucky Daredevil Thrill Show

Sword Swallowing Couple Tyler Fyre and Thrill Kill Jill of Lucky Daredevil Thrill Show. Photo Carlo Pizarro. August 3, 2013

Tyler Fyre and Thrill Kill Jill of West Virginia-based Lucky Daredevil Thrill Show will perform in Baltimore. The ravishingly beautiful Jill, who is currently 7 months pregnant with the couple’s third child, is billed as “The World’s Only Pregnant Sword Swallower.”

In St Augustine, Florida, 15-year old Haley Hall, “The World’s Youngest Sword Swallower,” will join multiple Guinness World Record holder Dan Meyer. For World Sword Swallower’s Day 2013, Meyer swallowed a sword and used it to pull a 3700 lb car out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not Baltimore.

At Ripley’s in Hollywood, performers include George the Giant, known as “The World’s Tallest Sword Swallower,” and Brett Loudermilk, who posted this artful and hilarious how-to-be-a-sword-swallower-video along with the disclaimer “DO NOT TRY THIS! ALL INSTRUCTIONS ARE FAKE.”


Related posts on ATZ…

October 6, 2013: Video of the Day: The Down Home Daredevils

February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

April 18, 2012: Rare & Vintage: A Neon Sword Swallower’s Sideshow Banner

February 25, 2012: Video: Happy International Sword Swallowers Day!

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Jim Zajicek's Big Circus Sideshow

Jim Zajicek’s Big Circus Sideshow. Photo © Jim Zajicek

Jim Zajicek, Curator of the Unusual and Proprietor of the Big Circus Sideshow recently wrote a Help Wanted post on Facebook that grabbed our attention. His idiosyncratic slang called up memories of carnival ads from the dear, old Billboard, the Showman’s Bible…

for 2014 Season..

Can place Couple and or Individual/s…
WANTED: Freaks, Working Acts, Swaller, Blockhead, BON, Fire, Those that double, given preference, let us know what you can do?…
Chinese involved
We Pay REAL Money, and you must deliver the goods…Salary/Cherry Pie..
A good home to save money for right people…
Don’t misrepresent or get by with smut as the Mgr is a Old Showman…
Only Serious Inquiries Only…
NO Boozers, Chasers, Dopers, Funny Book Readers No Tats on Dome or Bones in noses…This show plays Church spots…

IF you walk upright and eat with a Knife and Fork this could be a Good opportunity for you…

Contact: Jim Zajicek..
Big Circus Sideshow.

Or message Jim Zajicek on Facebook

Zajicek is taking applications for the upcoming season, which runs from mid-March through the first week of November. The Big Circus Sideshow plays mostly West of the Mississippi, he says. After starting in the circus business in 1979 with Franzen Bros. Circus, the showman started his own show more than a decade ago.

Here’s a video by Cris Siqueira of the show’s last three spots of the 2011 season at the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo in Waco, Texas; the Washington Parish Fair in Franklinton, Louisiana; and the State Fair of Louisiana in Shreveport.


Related posts on ATZ…

November 23, 2013: More Photos from the Glory Days of the Sideshow Banner

November 7, 2013: Photos from the Glory Days of the Sideshow Banner

June 27, 2013: Photo Album: The Front of the Show at Meadowlands Fair

September 18, 2010: Photo of the Day: Takeshi Yamada’s Freak Baby Museum at San Gennaro

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“You want to go to the circus? Good news, you live in the circus!” says Tyler Fleet aka Tyler Fyre at the beginning of this sweet documentary short “The Down Home Daredevils.” Tyler and his wife Jill, whose stage name is Thrill Kill Jill, are the doting parents of two adorable little boys–Hank Lightning and Duke Dynamite. They’re also sword swallowers and fire eaters, and in Jill’s case a snake charmer, with the Lucky Daredevil Thrill Show.

The film by Corcoran College of Art new media photojournalism students Ben Dorger, Jenny Harnish and Emma Scott follows the family from their home in West Virginia to the Hell City Tattoo Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Hank, who is a toddler, joins dad onstage to do a make-believe straitjacket escape and Duke gets his first taste of applause as a babe in mom’s arms. “What the kids do in the show is up to the kids,” says Jill. “We’ll nurture them right into the show. It’s the family business.”

The film premiered at this year’s Coney Island Film Festival and was among “ATZ’s Top 10 Coney Island Film Festival Picks.”

Related posts on ATZ…

February 2, 2013: A Coney Island Classic: 60th Anniversary of “Little Fugitive”

December 8, 2012: Sunday Matinee: Princess Rajah’s Chair Dance (1904)

March 3, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Bluto & Popeye, Kings of Coney’s Mardi Gras

January 15, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island

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Girl to Gorilla

Girl to Gorilla Banner by Fred Johnson. Circa 1940s. Hideaway Antiques, Toronto

The Girl to Gorilla Illusion was one of the top-grossing grind shows on the carnival midway. Sadly, there are few if any working today. If you know of one, let us know! The last G2G that we saw was Jack Constantine’s and it was quite a few years ago. This vintage Girl to Gorilla banner signed by master banner painter Fred Johnson is being offered for sale by Toronto’s Hideaway Antiques. It gives an impressionistic idea of what to expect on the inside.

As the talker on a vintage clip of Harvey Fillmore’s Princess Uraana show posted by YouTube user ZAMBORA57 says, “You’re going to see a beautiful girl change before your eyes very slowly into an ugly male gorilla…From the top of her head to the tips of her toes you’ll see the hair grow. The Ape Girl. The Ape Girl. The Ape Girl. Anything can happen…” The illusion is done with mirrors but when the “gorilla” breaks out of the steel cage, the screaming audience runs out of the tent, attracting a crowd for the next show.


Related posts on ATZ…

August 6, 2012: Art of the Day: Madame Twisto by Marie Roberts

April 18, 2012: Rare & Vintage: A Neon Sword Swallower’s Sideshow Banner

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

December 19, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Original Coney Island Motordrome Bike

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Fire Eating

Fire Eating at Coney Island Winter Celebration, Gargiulo’s Restaurant. December 13, 2012. Photo © Jim McDonnell

In this photo by Jim McDonnell, fire eaters Adam RealMan and Kryssy Kocktail of the Coney Island Sideshow liven up the cocktail hour at Thursday’s Coney Island Winter Celebration at Gargiulo’s Restaurant. The Alliance for Coney Island-sponsored dinner raised more than $40,000 for Sandy relief and recovery efforts in the neighborhood.


Related posts on ATZ…

December 7, 2012: Photo Album: Signs of the Times in Post-Sandy Coney Island

November 25, 2012: Photos of the Day: Coney Island Street Dunes by Jay Singer

November 23, 2012: Photo of the Day: Sandy Volunteers from the Barman’s Fund

October 31, 2012: Photo Album: Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath in Coney Island

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World’s Smallest Woman Showfront, Coney Island. September 1, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Saturday, the World’s Smallest Woman arrived for her annual run in Coney Island prior to playing the September 13-23rd Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy. The single-O attraction is set up in Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park near the West 12th Street entrance. ATZ learned that this particular “World’s Smallest Woman” is named Elizabeth and hails from Haiti. She is one of sideshow impresario Jack Constantine’s five “World’s Smallest Women” who travel the U.S. carnival and fair circuit. We’ve seen this ever-popular attraction at the New York State Fair, Florida State Fair and State Fair Meadowlands, among others. Four of the ladies are Haitian and one is Jamaican.

In past years the show has charged as little as 50 cents admission. Whatever the price–it’s the front of the show that gets the dough! When the trailer-mounted showfront was unfolded, the fanciful, time-tested advertisement for the World’s Smallest Woman was revealed- “29 Tiny Inches – Hands 2 In. Wide. Size 2 Shoe – 10,000 Reward If Not Real and Alive. As Seen in LIFE – You Talk to Her – She Will Talk to You.”

World’s Smallest Woman

Detail of World’s Smallest Woman Showfront, Coney Island. September 1, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr


Related posts on ATZ…

August 6, 2012: Art of the Day: Madame Twisto by Marie Roberts

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

May 4, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Major Debert the Tiniest Man’s Sideshow Banner

November 16, 2009: Rare & Vintage: Coney Island Sideshow Banner by Dan Casola

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Madame Twisto Sideshow

Madame Twisto Sideshow Banner © Marie Roberts. Photo by AmusingtheZillion.com

Artist Marie Roberts is a third-generation Coney Islander who has been painting the banners that emblazon the facade of Coney Island USA’s headquarters since 1997. Madame Twisto, the name bestowed on the girl who contorts herself inside the bladebox, was Marie Roberts’ very first sideshow banner. Countless Madame Twistos have graced the sideshow stage since the banner was painted. Honestly, we were surprised and delighted to see it again. Having first met Marie in 1999, the banner seems like an old friend.

This early canvas is one of dozens of the artist’s works from the past 15 years on view at the Art Room in Bay Ridge. At the opening reception on Saturday night, banners trumpeting the 2000 Mermaid Parade and Coney Island sideshow stars Insectavora, Scott Baker, Donny Vomit and the Black Scorpion mingled with a miniature banner line and recent paintings on Japanese paper. All of the work is for sale and may be viewed by appointment through August 24. You may also commission a banner portrait for your home, office, or stage persona. The Art Room will be open for Friday night’s Summer Stroll on August 10 and 17 from 6pm- 10pm.

The Art Room, 8710 Third Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11209. Phone 347-560-6572. Email theartroomnyc@gmail.com


Related posts on ATZ…

May 18, 2011: New Coney Island Freak Show Banners Pay Homage to Past

May 11, 2010: 21st Century Bars: Coney Island’s Freak Bar Featured in New Book

January 25, 2010: March 14-17: Coney Island Sideshow Banner Painting School with Marie Roberts

December 2, 2009: Dec 12-13: Open Studio with Coney Island Artist & Banner Painter Marie Roberts

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