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Lady Aye, Sword Swallower. Photo © Rose Callahan

Lady Aye, Sword Swallower. Photo © Rose Callahan

Step right up, the “Sweetheart of the Sideshow” is alive and on the inside at the library! Today at 5pm, sideshow sword swallower and pain-proof girl Ilise “The Lady Aye” Carter is lecturing and performing at The New York Public Library. “Her story exemplifies how overcoming fears can make perceived failures into real opportunities – a skill everyone can benefit from. Live performances of traditional sideshow skills like walking on glass, sword swallowing, and human blockhead make this is a one-of-a-kind experience,” according to the listing.

The free event is at the Tompkins Square Branch of the library at 331 East 10th Street in Manhattan’s East Village.

We’ve attended sideshow performances in art galleries and museums but never in a public library. As far as we know it’s a first.

The Lady Aye, whose writings on sideshow, culture and performance have appeared in many publications, tells ATZ: “I’ve given these talks at places like the Gap and Innovate VA, where I use my experience going from stage-shy financial editor to the ‘Sweetheart of the Sideshow’ and how people can apply these principles of creativity to their own careers. I work with the Alternative Speakers’ Bureau and founder Noah Scalin’s book Unstuck to help people realize these changes.”

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If you’re one of those skeptics who thinks a sword swallower’s sword folds up into the handle or employs some kind of special effect, February 25th’s big swallow should set you straight.

Today, in celebration of the 6th annual World Sword Swallowers Day, more than 30 performers are expected to “drop swords” at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditoriums in New York, London, San Francisco, Hollywood, and Orlando, among other places. Los Angeles sword swallower Brett Loudermilk made these videos three years ago on International Sword Swallowers Day in New York City. One of 10 featured sword swallowers at Ripley’s in Times Square in 2009, this year Loudermilk will be at Ripley’s Hollywood.

In New York, today’s free show at Ripley’s begins at 1:30 pm and ends with the big swallow at 2:25 pm. Keith Nelson of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and the Lady Aye will be among the Kings and Queens of Swords.

“A lot of it is just showmanship. You really have to get the audience with you feeling that it’s real, and then kind of hold them at that edge,” Nelson tells ATZ. In an attempt to convince skeptics in the audience that, as he says, “what I’m shoving down my throat is real,” the Bindlestiff’s charmingly subversive Mr. Pennygaff has also swallowed oversize scissors, sabers, corkscrews, door springs, coat hangers and, in a tribute to good ol’ vaudeville, a rod upon which he has set a spinning plate!

The February 25th celebration was started by the Sword Swallowers Association International to promote this ancient art, honor veteran performers, and raise awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made in the fields of medicine and science, according to SSAI founder and multiple Guinness World Record holder Dan Meyer.

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