Wednesday, November 16, 2005


A couple of months ago I mentioned my first trip to Coney Island.  It was a fun day, but I left out the best story.


If you look into the history of Coney Island, its popularity was not built upon rides.  It was built upon side shows.  Freaks, if you will.  People, including the hoighty-toighty high society types, traveled far and wide to view the bearded lady, giant, world's tiniest man, and fire eaters.  These kinds of shows drew exceptionally large crowds, more people than you could even imagine. 


When I heard about this, I was kind of surprised.  Those kinds of shows historically kind of make me squirm, make me uncomfortable.  The fact that this was accepted family entertainment amazes me.  What is even more interesting is these Freak Shows still exist on Coney Island.  The main attractions are the rides and games, but down one undistinguishable pathway the sideshow still exists.


After our very long day, RFW and I were about to hop the subway home when we spotted the show.  She was hesitant to go in, but I just had to see it.  Only $5 for ten different acts! 


We walked into the amazing tattooed man, who demonstrated lying down on a bed of nails.  Kind of mind boggling, even if you doubt the validity of the nails.  Then they put the amazing electric woman in a chair and did tricks with electricity and fire.  Pretty neat.  Next came the fire eating lady, way way cool.  All of the performers were heavily pierced, tattooed, with fun hair colors.


The last act was the sword swallower.  She was about 19 or 20, came on stage and started her act by swallowing a foot long dagger and making jokes and witty banter. 


Then she asked for a volunteer.  Believe it or not I actually hesitated for a moment.  As outgoing as I am, I am rarely on stage.  But as no one else raised their hand, I offered myself. 


In this part of the act she was to swallow a two foot sword.  That is long, in case you didn't know.  I got to inspect it, and let me tell you I tried everything I could to check for a trick button or twist or something, all to no avail.  After doing what I thought was my duty, I started to head off stage.


"Wait!"  Said the sword swallower - "you're not done yet!"


That caught me by surprise.  Seems that my REAL part of the act was to stand on stage with her as she swallowed the sword, then she would bend over and I was to PULL THE SWORD OUT OF HER.  "Be careful to pull it out slow and straight", she said, "the sword is sharp"


Ha.  No pressure.


So she swallows the sword, and then bends over.  I am actually nervous.  Grasping the sword, I start to pull it out, all the time her eyes holding mine.  I can see if I was a guy how this could be kind of erotic.  As the sword comes out, I can totally feel the weight and the pull of it as it comes out of her.  There is no way the sword is fake, I can feel it.  Weird, creepy, and ultimately way cool.


Everyone applauds, I step off stage, and the show is over.  I am a part of the freak act now, and love it.

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