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Traveling Sideshow: Shocked and Amazed – The Film

Wonder through the carnival grounds to the sideshow and feast your eyes on the amazing curious people that perform for your entertainment.

 

~ Jeff Krulik on Traveling Sideshow-Shocked and Amazed ~

I trace it all back to buying a paperback of Very Special People on a 7th-grade
field trip. On the bus back to school, my classmates and I sat mesmerized by the
human oddities within. Or maybe it was an animal freak show under a tent at the
neighborhood carnival one year, with the five-legged cows and pickled pig
fetuses on display. My Dad even collected stamps that were known as freaks, or
oddities, that were just mechanical mistakes, and I of course followed suit at my
junior stamp club. So maybe there’s something in my DNA that drew me to the
Shocked and Amazed book series as a customer at Atomic Books in Baltimore,
where I soon after made the acquaintance of one James Taylor since I felt
confident we’d speak the same lingo.
At this time in the mid-90s I was also winging it as a freelance producer after a
multi-year stint on staff at Discovery Channel; I had wanted to get my hands dirty
making TV documentaries instead of watching other people have all the fun (or
misery), so I dove headfirst into the world of independent production, successful
or otherwise. Cut to 1999 when James’ American Dime Museum opened up right
next door to Atomic Books, and I showed up with my new camera to record what
was unfolding. About this time, a benevolent friend (and the man who came up
with Shark Week for Discovery Channel) became head of programming for
Travel Channel, and I pitched the idea of taking “Shocked and Amazed” from the
printed word to the TV screen. It worked. And a TV gig was born, modeled after
my lifelong interest and partnering with James’ brand. It should have just been
called “Shocked and Amazed!” but because Travel Channel was commissioning
it the full name became “Traveling Sideshow: Shocked and Amazed!”
Fine. We could live with that title compromise because here was a chance to go
as far and as wide as we could on the subject of freaks and circus sideshows,
hoping it could turn into a multi-part series. We shot glorious amounts of footage
from road trips to the Sideshow Gathering in Wilkes Barre, to Manhattan and
Brooklyn and Gibsonton, Florida. I kept thinking what we don’t use here will be
for parts 2, 3, etc.
Any production features many peaks and valleys and this one was no exception.
Many of the high points are right on the screen, and additionally, I had enough
foresight to save copies of all the footage. Most TV works-for-hire require all
source material turned over, and I obliged. But not before making copies of
everything, hence my ability to preserve Ward Hall’s roast at Inkin the
Valley/Sideshow Gathering in 2002, as well as his tangential connection to the
Rolling Stones, both of which I have posted on YouTube.
But there were some disappointments too, including our very first ambitious
crew shoot, a four-hour drive to Bloomsburg PA Fair to see the California Hell

Drivers, ruined by torrential rain. Or even more heartbreaking, my production
assistant unable to rendezvous with Presto the Magician to reunite him with his
Hubert’s Freak Museum colleague Hovey Burgess. Oh what could have been.
And of course, the whole thing was shelved right after production because Travel
Channel went in another direction (word had it that some hi-level suit took
offense at the “Jim Rose Twisted Tour” series already being aired). Nothing
personal but that’s showbiz. Our program eventually aired a few years later on a
digital channel so obscure I can’t even recall by name, but I since took to sharing
it online via YouTube, Vimeo, etc. which is how it continues to find new audiences
today.
There are a few people that need special mention, and I couldn’t have done this
without them. My “with it and for it” coproducer Adam Eisenberg who turned over
the bedroom in his house for an edit suite. And to the dear departed Kathleen
Kotcher
, James’ publishing partner who was such an asset to the production, as
well as the preservation of sideshow history.
My thanks and good wishes and I hope you enjoy Shocked and Amazed!

 

 


Traveling Sideshow – Shocked and Amazed!

by James Taylor – May 2020

I can’t tell you when nor where I met Jeff Krulik, filmmaker to the real world, you know, the folks who seek the “other” showbiz, the other forms of education that come from discovering the strange, the bizarre, the weird, the odd and the unusual. All us oddballs. I’d known of Jeff for years c/o his cult classic, “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” but no, I can’t say when nor where he and I first connected, but I can tell you what we talked about: We talked about sideshow. And “weirdness as entertainment,” to re-coin filmmaker Fred Olen Ray’s line.

And the topic of discussion between Krulik & me centered on the idea of a show that would air not as a single doc (which you’re about to watch) but as regular programming, airing weekly, a show that presented novelty & variety acts in all their glory, connecting all the talent across the broad spectrum of the “new” sideshow that was being ushered in at the beginning of this century. That was the idea, anyway, Jeff having crossed paths with my “Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway,” still the world’s only journal devoted to the history of novelty & variety exhibition; ok: sideshow. And Krulik was ready to rock & roll.

Sadly, we – Krulik, Kathleen Kotcher (my late partner and this documentary’s co-producer), and I – watched the project go from a proposed series to, well, this hour-long doc. Which wasn’t aired for nearly two years after production wrapped. But that doesn’t diminish the product one iota. Not one jot. You see, still, “Traveling Sideshow – Shocked and Amazed!” is one of a damn tiny number of essential documentaries on this end of the showbiz, picking up on the business at that seminal moment when the business, about to explode into the mainstream, was starting to boil up, attracting more & more talent into this strangest – but oldest, historically – form of distraction. Of amusement. Of entertainment. And while we were (and remain) disappointed that our dream of a series didn’t pan out, there’s this visual record of not only what was but what is, since the business we all love – in its current iteration – was birthed, as much as, in front of Krulik’s cameras. And we should all thank him for that.


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Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret @The Cutting Room

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret @The Cutting Room

What a treat! The Bindlestiff Family Circus Cabaret put together an ‘all-star’ lineup of talent for this show!

Directed by Michelle Matlock.

I was in the 2nd row so I didn’t get the best shots from that seat but I will share a few decent ones with you.

The Bindlestiff Family Circus band was so ‘on-point’ for all the acts. Great addition to the show. Live music makes a difference.

Eric Biondo and Robert Cowie.

(Sorry Eric and Robert- Could capture any shots of you from my seat)

Bindlestiff Co-founder Keith Nelson introduced the audience to the show’s lineup.

Multi-talented Chloe Somers opened the show with a beautiful aerial act.

The Great Kaplan (David Kaplan) mesmerized the audience with his magic.

After magically producing a candle it mistakenly (on purpose) caught his suit carnation on fire.

His credits are so long I will just link you to his webpage. A master indeed! Hysterical and very skilled.

After The Great Kaplan’s grandfather’s uke gets destroyed by a rogue bowling ball he gets consolation from Bindlestiff’s Co-Founder and stage manager Stephanie Monseu.

Keith Nelson entertained the audience with 2 classic vaudeville glass balancing stunts.

Chloe Somers returned to the stage by balancing  and walking on Champagne bottles

She then rearranged them in a different order/line and balanced/walked on them again.

Chloe Somers was fantastic in her skills.

The Great Kaplan returned to the stage playing a ‘turkey baster’.

Evan Ruggiero played the guitar brilliantly and tap danced with his peg-leg. 

Chloe Somers showed her multiple skill set by returning to the stage with her hula-hoop act.

Chloe Somers worked the hula-hoops with such charm and personality.

Keith Nelson performed his 8 spinning plate act.

Keith was successful in keeping all 8 plates spinning and catching the spoons in the glasses.

Mr. & Mrs. G finished off the show with their ‘crossbow’ act. Beautiful and daring indeed!

Mrs. G. (Naomi Brenkman) prepares her crossbow for shooting.

Both Mr. & Mrs. G. fired crossbows at one another in the act. Attempting to hit the target.

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One More show tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm!

For more information on Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and their upcoming events go here!

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Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret @The Cutting Room

Get ready!

2018 Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret at The Cutting Room,

May 23-27!

I have had the pleasure of photographing this company for years and I must say “They are great.”

The performers are amazing, professional and top of the line in their particular discipline.

A very special venue is The Cutting Room. Don’t miss your chance to see this show!

Tickets are $25.00 in advance, $35.00 at the door.  $25.00 at the door for those attending in clown makeup or circus costume

Tickets can be had here!

Chloe Somers Wall

Evan Ruggiero

The Great Kaplan

Mr. & Mrs. G – Crossbow stunts

Keith Nelson spinning the china bowls. (Photograph ©2018 Maike Schulz)

The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret features cast members Keith Nelson (vaudevillian juggler and sideshow marvel), Stephanie Monseu (emcee and instigator), The Great Kaplan (Eccentric man of magic, and purveyor of deadpan nonsense), Evan Ruggiero (triple threat, singer, actor, and one-legged tap dancer) and Chloe Somers Walier (delightfully daring aerial acrobat).  The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Band features Robert Cowie on keyboards and Eric Biondo on trumpet and beats.  The show is directed by Michelle Matlock, the originator of The Ladybug role in Cirque du Soleil’s “Ovo”.

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Check out Vaudevisuals – Review – June 2016

Vaudevisuals – Year in Review – June 2016

June was quite an active month. Bindlestiff Open Stage at Dixon Place, The Big Apple Circus was losing it’s presence in NYC, Quick Change book was started and Conjuring in Asia got some attention.

EEPYBIRD – DIET COKE AND MENTOS – REVISIT

BINDLESTIFF OPEN STAGE VARIETY REVUE – JUNE 2016 – DIXON PLACE

“I’LL SAY SHE IS” – THE LOST MARX BROTHERS MUSICAL AT THE CONNELLY THEATER

VAUDEVISUALS BOOKSHELF – “MAGIC AND LOSS – THE INTERNET AS ART”

MY FATHER THE CIRCUS KING – A DOCUMENTARY FILM

THE BIG APPLE CIRCUS NEEDS YOUR HELP! NOW!

THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF QUICK CHANGE – A PROPOSED BOOK PROJECT

VAUDEVISUALS BOOKSHELF – “CONJURING ASIA – MAGIC, ORIENTALISM”

I'll Say She Is at The Connelly Theatre

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Coming soon! July 2016

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Aerial Acts Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret Circus Clown Comedy Performing Arts Photography Vaudevisuals Interview

Vaudevisuals interview with Keith Nelson – “A Cardboard & Duct Tape Spectacular”

UPDATED POST!

The new show will OPEN May 4th thru the 14th!

Come and see it and have some real FUN!

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Bindlestiff Family Cirkus

Presents

“A Cardboard & Duct Tape Spectacular”

2016.05.07Bindle_256Adam Kuchler doing a one arm balance planche.

2016.05.07Bindle_224Kinko the Clown (Keith Nelson) succeeds in spinning all 8 plates and getting the spoons in the cans!

2016.05.07Bindle_191Ekaterina performs a lovely aerial hoop act.

2016.05.07Bindle_367Bindlestiff Family Cirkus co-founder Stephanie Monseu rocks the house with her jumping rope skills.

2016.05.07Bindle_364Richie Maguire seems ‘gravity free’ in his wonderful acrobatic dance skills.

2016.05.07Bindle_343Peter Bufano, Nate Tucker and Adam Kuchler add a wonderful music touch to the show in this scene.

2016.05.07Bindle_297Adam Kuchler, Kinko, and Stephanie Monseu add the juggling to the cirkus that makes so fun!

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For more information and/or tickets go here.

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The Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – Clowns – by John H. Towsen

<a href=John Towsen’s CLOWNS book” width=”530″ height=”791″ />

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I had a hardcover copy and ended up giving it to Slava when he came to town with Cirque de Soleil.
John also happened to be one of the coproducers of the First NY Clown Theater Festival in 1983. Here is an NY Times review.

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For more writing by John H. Towsen visit his blog which is devoted to physical comedy. ALL FALL DOWN.

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2nd Annual Celebration of American Circus – Presented at the Big Apple Circus Big Top

In 2014 American Circus Awards were created by Circus Now and The Big Apple Circus to spotlight particular achievements in the circus arts, while drawing attention to the creativity, diversity, and public relevance of circus to American cultural expression. Honorees are nominated by the Celebration Planning Committee and voted on by a select panel composed of various leaders in the circus arts sector.

HONOREES

Community Impact Award – Cirkus Smirkus

This award is given annually to a circus artist or organization that has succecced in harnessing and demonstrating the power of circus arts for community engagement and social good, and in bringing diverse audiences together through quality programming.

Elevating Circus Award – Dominique Jando

This award is given annually to an individual or an organization who has made a lasting contribution to increasing public awareness about the beauty, artistry, creative potential of the circus arts through their body of work, with particular attention paid to interdisciplinary collaboration or expression.

Evolving Circus  Award – Bill Irwin

This award is given annually to an individual whose personal and/or professional contributions have made a significant and permanent impact on the circus field in America, with specific consideration of how the recipient’s work has influenced the perception of the circus arts by the American public and the arts and entertainment industry.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Hovey Burgess

This award is given to an individual artist, troupe, or company whose overall contributions to the field and community are substantial, undeniable and significant.

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Adam Woolley - Circus Now Managing DirectorCircus Now Managing Director Adam Woolley makes Opening Remarks about Circus in America.

Guillaume Dufresnoy - Artistic Director of Big Apple CircusBig Apple Circus Artistic Director Guillaume Dufresnoy makes Opening Remarks about Circus in America.

Thom Wall - Master of CeremoniesThom Wall entertained the crowd as he MC’d the show.

Preston Scott of Smithsonian Folklife FestivalProgram Director for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Preston Scott presents the Community Impact Award.

Ed LeClair - Executive Director of Circus SmirkusCircus Smirkus Executive Director Ed LeClair talks about the role of the circus in American Culture.

Circus Smirkus founder Rob MerminCircus Smirkus founder Rob Mermin gives the audience a great list of reasons for the circus.

2016.01.05_CircusAwds.115Community Impact Award was given to Circus Smirkus.

Sawyer Oubre and Liam Gundach do a diabolo duetSawyer Oubre and Liam Gundlach perform a ‘diabolo duet’.

Duncan Wall introduces the Elevating Circus Award.Author of “Ordinary Acrobat’ Duncan Wall presents the Elevating Circus Award.

2016.01.05_CircusAwds.163Dominique Jando received the Elevating Circus Award and talks about how important ‘skill’ is in circus discipline.

2016.01.05_CircusAwds.174Brent McBeth, Duncan Wall, Dominique Jando, and Joel Jeske.

 

Anna and Emily Venizelos perform a contortion duet.Anna and Emily Venizelos perform a magnificent contortion duet.

David Shiner presents the Evolving Circus Award.David Shiner presents the Evolving Circus Award.

2016.01.05_CircusAwds.256Bill Irwin accepts the Evolving Circus Award with his “Old Hat’s” partner David Shiner to his right.

2016.01.05_CircusAwds.264Before leaving the ring David Shiner and Bill Irwin compete with some hat tricks.

2016.01.05_CircusAwds.274Bill tries to ‘up one’ on David’s hat trick,

2016.01.05_CircusAwds.290NEA Heritage Fellowship Award winner Dolly Jacobs presents the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Hovey Burgess receives the Lifetime Achievement AwardHovey Burgess was wheeled in (having incurred a fall a few days ago)  to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award.

2016.01.05_CircusAwds.328Hovey Burgess was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award with Dolly Jacobs presenting.

Serge Akinmov performs the aerial straps.

2016.01.05_CircusAwds.391Big Apple Circus’ “The Grand Tour’ performer Serge Akimov performs the aerial straps.

2016.01.05_CircusAwds.056Master of Modern Vaudeville Thom Wall makes closing remarks.

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Celebration Planning Committee

Mary Jane Brock (Chair)

Jonathan Cerullo (Director)

Adam Woolley (Managing Director, Circus Now)

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Upcoming performances by Circus Now at Skirball Center.

Big Apple Circus’ The Grand Tour show at Lincoln Center.

The Celebration of American Circus was directed by Jonathan S. Cerullo

 

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Hovey Burgess 75th Birthday Spectacular – Official Program – Performer Bios

img001Cover of Program

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This event was produced by Bindlestiff  Family Variety Arts, Inc.

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Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret Dixon Place Music Performing Arts Photography

Dixon Place – 28th Anniversary – Donor Dinner – Sept 15th, 2014

Monday, September 15th, 2014

A magical evening for all that attended this glorious event. Hosted by Bindlestiff Family Circus’s Keith Nelson and Honoring Board Members Eric Jensen & Yoshiko Kasuga and Award Winning Actor-Playwright Peggy Shaw and The Jerome Foundation celebrating their 50th Anniversary.

Performances by:

Terry Dame

Ted Keegan

Nancy Giles

Lava

Stew

Along with the performances there was a ‘Silent Auction’ that had many wonderful books/art pieces/comic strips and more from quite a few generous sponsors:

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Here are a few photographs I was able to capture while eating the delicious meal provided by Richard S Bach and The Marilyn Schlossbach Group.

Ellie Covan opens the evening with a lovely song on her accordion.Ellie Covan opens the evening with a lovely song on her accordion.

Keith Nelson and Ellie Covan start the Bingo game.Keith Nelson and Ellie Covan start the Bingo game.

DP Board Member and supported Yoshiko KasugaDP Board Member and supported Yoshiko Kasuga with Ellie Covan.

Board Member and DP Supported Eric Jensen DP Board Member and Supported Eric Jensen.

Honoree Peggy ShawHonoree Peggy Shaw. Actor/Writer/Producer and cofounder of Split Britches.

2014.09.15_DP.Bnft_113 2014.09.15_DP.Bnft_114Host Keith Nelson performs a wonderful vaudeville trick where he pops a ballon that is balancing on a mouth stick and has a bottle on top of it and catches the bottle on the stick.

Lava performs at DPLAVA cast members perform an excerpt from their show in the audience.

2014.09.15_DP.Bnft_202Award winning composer and writer STEW performed a few songs from his career.

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Bindlestiff Family Cirkus @ Brooklyn Lyceum – March 13 – 16th

The legendary Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret returns to Brooklyn from March 13 – 16 at the Brooklyn Lyceum! For 20 years, Bindlestiff’s New York City Cabaret season has been an alternative New York favorite providing a stage for the world’s best in circus, sideshow, vaudeville, burlesque, and variety.

Over 400 circus and variety arts stars have appeared in the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret since its inception by Brooklynites Stephanie Monseau and Keith Nelson two decades ago, featuring aerial performances, fire eating, funambulism, contortion, acrobatic balance, sword swallowing, juggling, physical comedy, sideshow stunts, oddball novelty turns and much more. The Bindlestiff stage is one of the few arenas in the world where audiences may see internationally renowned street performers, featured acts from Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Brothers, artists made known by America’s Got Talent, and even local legends all on stage together in the same incredible show.

In keeping with Bindlestiff’s underground New York City roots, the audience is encouraged to participate in the glamour of the evening by dressing the part. Those in costume or circus makeup can ask for a discounted ticket at the door. Perhaps you’ve got some top boots and a tailcoat in the closet? Or a corset and tutu you’ve been dying to wear? A cotton-candy-floss wig and sparkly eyelashes? There’s no better time to dig them out, put them on, and be part of the spectacle!

The New York Times said the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret is, “old-fashioned variety entertainment of the sort Ed Sullivan so astutely scooped up, but with twists.”

Tanya Solomon does some sideshow 'talking' .Tanya Solomon does some ‘talking’ inviting attendees to see the sideshow.

Stephanie Monseu performs as the Ring Mistress for the show.Ringmistress Philomena moves the show along as well as perform herself.

Kinko the Clown entertained the audience with some music on the 'squeezebox' accordion.Kinko the Clown entertained the audience with some music on the ‘squeezebox’ accordion.

Sabrina Chap provided a wonderful evening of music.Sabrina Chap provided a wonderful evening of music.

Adam Kuchler performs the Cigar Box ManipulationAdam Kuchler performs the Cigar Box Manipulation

Cardone amazes the audience with his magic.Cardone amazes the audience with his magic.

Cyr Wheel performer was amazing.German Wheel performer Chris Delgado was amazing!

Keith Nelson performs a 'sword swallow'.Mr. Pennygaff (Keith Nelson) performs a ‘sword swallow’.

Ekat Miss Ekaterina performing on the silk.Ekat Miss Ekaterina performing on the silk.

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Get your tickets now for the Cirkus!

FOR TICKETS: brooklynlyceum.wazala.com
More information: 1-877-BINDLES or bindlestiff.org
WHEN: March 13-16
WHERE: Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY

ADULTS ONLY SHOW (18+): 8:00 pm on March 13, 14, 15, 16
Tickets: $20 advance / $25 at the door / $10 discount for clowns in make-up (walk-up only)
FAMILY MATINEES (all ages): 3:00 pm on March 15 and 16
Tickets: $12 or 4 tickets for $40