Today is National Circus Day but I’m making it National Circus Sideshow Day because I prefer the sideshow to the circus. The circus is weird but the sideshow is weirdness concentrated. Sideshows celebrate primal instincts, bodily functions, smack downs, oddities and abnormalities. If it’s too bizarre for life, it’s perfect for the sideshow. Writers like Shakespeare and Chaucer loved the sideshow of life and reality TV has picked up their slack with modern day entertainment.
You can keep your perfect running horses, the elephants that do tricks and those scary clowns. Bring me the contortionists, backstage tantrums, hoarders, cheating lovers, the kitchen throw downs and the “Don’t call me bitch, Bitch!” I think people are fascinating, never more so than when they’re stripped to their very essence. If they can do an unusual trick and they’re on stage? All the better!
There aren’t many small towns with a circus guild like Bellingham. A couple times a month the Bellingham Circus has regular shows and kid friendly stuff, but at 10pm on Friday night, the freaks come out to play and it’s Vaudevillingham. This sideshow is a perfect merger of theater, history, gross out antics and freakishly fascinating delights to delight and horrify. Grab some popcorn and a barf bag and meet the freaks.
(Some of this stuff is gross so if you’re not down with bodily fluids and nudity, the exit is right behind you.)
A guy who used to sell cars. He has good patter and a marked ability to improvise on the fly when tricks don’t work as promised. He also pedals a mean unicycle.
Does backbends and turns his arms in a 360 degree circle from the shoulder while singing.
Dubious choices, but a good opening act. He can wiggle his eyebrows covered in clothespins, which is pretty funny. I’ll bet he’s got a whole host of tricks for a kegger.
And his lovely assistant I called Hot Pants.
Who fed him worms, crickets and grubs.
They even chased down the ones that tried to get away
And ate them off the floor.
The geek illustrates a fundamental sideshow freak quality: 100% commitment. He would excel at that middle round in Fear Factor.
The contortionist who squeezes himself into a tennis racket, a chair and a fish tank:
I’m giving him medium marks because he didn’t get his feet into the fish tank. We need standards for our freaks. However, I’m willing to increase it 5% because I love his boots. A lot of the freaks wore boots, with gas masks coming in a close second as a costume accessory:
Terrible picture but s(he) had killer abs and a mysterious mustache. Who is that un-masked (wo)man?
Chipp, the human cannon fodder, is a yoga teacher at Bet’s studio:
I daresay she won’t look at him quite the same way again after he took a massive spitwad to the stomach.
The freaks collected spit from everyone in the audience during the preshow, coming up with at least a cup or two (Yes, I contributed!) and then soaked a roll of toilet paper in it and shot it at Chipp. I can’t imagine how bad it smelled or how hard it was to clean off all that soggy tissue paper.…
The illustrated people:
A modern take on the tattooed people because, as you can see, every freak has tattoos. The artist did a lovely job. I’m especially fond of these eyes.
Every sideshow has a blow-off act, something to keep away from kids and guaranteed to make women faint. This banana trick qualifies on every level: the coup de grace of grossness.
I won’t even go into the details except to say that that tube is down in his stomach. You can take it from there.
A Houdini-ish trick with handcuffs and submersion:
But then the trick went awry and he was dragged out once when a lock came off accidentally and the second time with all his handcuffs still intact. So the Ring Master ran over him with the unicycle. Compliments to all involved for their improvisational abilities.
And for the final act of the evening, the aerialist, Dream.
Gorgeous, strong and graceful, like cirque de soleil suddenly showed up in the sordid room and everything went from low brow to high brow in an instant. A routine full of pathos and sensuality with the ideal music choice, Creep by Radiohead, the anthem of sideshow freaks everywhere. Dream rocked it out.
A mooning for the final curtain call:
And an evening worth every penny of the $5 admission.
Long live the sideshow!