A Visit to the Tinderbox Circus Sideshow
I desperately miss the old-time circus sideshows. They were still around, but fading from prominence, in the years when my earliest memories were being made, memories like being taken to the County Fair each year. Today the sideshow is all but extinct. Almost, but, thankfully, not quite. You won’t see the “freaks” anymore. (Among the most famous of these unusual celebrities of yesteryear was JoJo the Dogfaced Boy, Tom Thumb, and the Siamese twins Cheng and Eng.)
But there are still traveling performers, just like in the good old days, who make their living by doing freakish–and wonderfully entertaining–things.
I recently attended a performance of the TINDERBOX CIRCUS SIDESHOW and it was–let’s see; I want to use a word befitting the show. Ah, I’ve got it!–It was STUPENDOUS! It was everything I remembered from my hazy, cotton-candy-flavored childhood memories–and more! Sword swallowing, the most dangerous of all stunts, performed by the heavily-tattooed and highly personable Captain Darron von Awesome! (He also performed the obligatory “human blockhead” act of pounding a large nail into his nasal cavity, as well as fire-eating.) Lovely Lady Trashique, the owner of the company, asked for audience participation as she allowed a mousetrap to snap closed on her tongue and a bear trap to snap on her arm. She also attached bowling balls to her earlobes (“It’s never comfortable,” she told me, when I asked her afterwards how she managed it.) and lay down on a bed of nails, placing a board on her stomach and inviting audience members to come up on the stage and stand on top of her, creating a human sandwich between wood and nails. Several people took her up of her offer, and some of them were not small, lightweight people! (I am happy to report that Lady Trashique came through the experience completely un-pierced.) Perhaps the most freakish stunt, to me, was when the appropriately-named Devereaux Dollface leapt off a stool onto a pile of broken beer bottles–barefoot. Yes, it was real glass. No, she didn’t cut herself. And no, I don’t know how she did it. (I asked her if the soles of her feet were just “toughed up” enough, but she explained that the stunt is actually harder to manage when one’s feet are calloused. They need to be sensitive, she told me, so that she can “feel her glass.”)
It was a pleasure to meet these fascinating and ultra-cool folks. I was in the midst of kindred spirits, no doubt.
And the show was simply breathtaking, in the original sense of the word. By all means, if you ever get the chance to catch one of their performances, DO IT. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.