Life hasn’t been the same without the joy of visiting Coney Island USA! Not being able to see the shows, chat with friends and eat some popcorn at the Freak Bar. This Saturday the folks there have organized an amazing cast of ‘very important’ people for your viewing pleasure!
Jezzibel performs the infamous ‘blockhead’ act with an ice pick.
Jezzibel performs a ‘spark’ spectacular finale.
Lunival Lousion performs a wonderful hula-hoop act.
Betsy Propane entertains the audience with her lovely voice while escaping from her straight jacket.
Jared Janssen charmingly performed juggled with ‘live food’.
Betsy Ritz caught a tongue on her mousetrap while kneeling on the floor.
Dante fooled the audience with his charming magic act.
Salem added a touch of the bizarre with the outfit and magical offerings.
Salem combined the ‘blockhead’ act with the seductive.
Chatty the Mime performed silently combining the chair with mimetic skills.
Nathan McScary dazed the audience with his single-handed knot tying tricks.
Emma D’Lemma performed many skills including walking on bottles.
Sweet Pepper Klopek has his tongue caught in a mousetrap set off by his partner
The Monsters of Schlock finish off the evening’s festivities. Sweet Pepper prepares to slam the cinderblock with a sledgehammer on his partner’s groin. But first a gentlemanly hand butt.
This is the first of 3 separate shows that I documented at The Southern Sideshow Hootenanny. Check back in the next few days for photographs of the other two shows. The All-Star and Living Legends Show (Sat night) – Troupe Night(Sunday show.)
The evening had an edgy feel to it when “Stache Novak” showed up to perform his ‘male strip routine.”
Introduced as the ‘bathroom attendant‘ he quickly removed his pants for the audience’s delight.
And then Laurie Lee Anderson (the winner of Miss Coney Island USA 2020) started her amazing act.
Ridding herself of the dinosaur head she immediately titillated the audience. An audience pleaser for sure she got to her basics real soon. Rockin the house with her jump rope routine Laurie Lee Anderson was wonderful.
Entertaining the audience with her unique looks and style.
Roc Roc-It makes carny gold out of everyday objects. Grinning like a roly-poly overgrown tattooed child, he ambles onstage declaring, “This is the most dangerous stunt ever!” Then he reaches into a black drawstring bag and pulls out an ordinary disposable latex glove.
Making a big hoopla over stretching the glove out, he finally manages to distend the cuff over the top half of his face. Then he proceeds to huff and puff, inflating the glove on his head until it resembles a bloated coxcomb or a balloon mohawk. The audience laughs at the ridiculous sight of a potbellied man wearing a blown up glove on his head, but as the glove gets larger and larger, the laughter turns to cringes and cries of protest. Roc-It jacks up the mounting anticipation with goofy pratfalls and sideshow banter until the glove finally bursts all over his face.
With ingeniously simple acts like these, Roc-It has earned the monicker Clown Prince of Berlin. He has indeed lived in Berlin for about ten years – in a caravan outside a squat in an industrial part of Kreuzberg – but Roc-It was actually born in a small town near the Black Forest. “I’m a country boy,” he says with a wide smile that reveals several missing teeth. After several failed apprenticeships, he finally found his calling on a trip to Barcelona. “I saw all these street performers working on the Rambla,” he recalled, “and I was like, yeah, wow, that’s what I want to do.”
Sleeping on the beach and practicing everyday, he built up skills in Diabolo and fire. He learned to hammer a nail up his nose and juggle balls. Then after five years performing throughout Europe, he found himself in New Orleans breaking up with an ex-girlfriend. “I had two weeks left on my visa,” he said, “and I thought, fuck it, I’m going to go and visit some friends in New York.”
It was on his very last day in New York that he made a fateful visit to Coney Island with no other desire than to do a final show on the beach. “I knew nothing about what a sideshow is,” he said, “My friends were jugglers, guys riding a toy unicycle, doing all this classical stuff, and my show was always a bit weirder. And I was always a bit weirder character. So for me, it was basically, like, okay, there’s the main show and I’m the sideshow.”
With that in mind, he put his kit an old green suitcase and painted the words CIRCUS SIDESHOW on it. He was carrying the suitcase when he strolled past Coney Island Circus Sideshow and caught the attention of impresario Dick Zigun, who invited him to perform. Roc-It was a hit and stayed on for the next three years. “They fired the midget,” he laughs.
“While I was in New York, I did a thousand shows a year,” he estimates, but his visa had run out and living illegally finally wore him down. “I was working so much and so intensively, I got injured quite a lot,” he remembers, “I knocked my teeth out. I broke several ribs on stage. I burned my face off. And at one point, it just got to be like, it’s too much.”
Since returning to Europe six years ago, he continues to wow crowds in burlesque shows and street festivals. Twice a year, he performs with Kabaret Kalashnikov, a variety show with an Eastern European storyline. On summer nights, you can find him in the middle of a circle of people at Alexanderplatz during Berlin Lacht Fest. He also regularly performs with the Squidling Brothers Circus Sideshow when they are in Europe.
“Dazzle them with brilliance or baffle them with bullshit,” he declares, rolling up his sleeve to display a motto tattooed on his arm, “Either it has to be really poetic or just so ridiculous, that it’s just as good.”
ABRONS ARTS CENTER AND ONEOFUS PRESENTS WORLD PREMIERE OF
JACK & THE BEANSTALK
“Now more than ever, New York City needsfamily theater that is inherently irreverent and lightly political—with good eventually triumphing over evil,” says Fraser and Muz. “We got married in the Playhouse 2012, performed Beauty and the Beast in 2014 to critical acclaim, and consider Abrons to be our artistic home. Let’s celebrate surviving 2017 together and bring the whole family to this riotous, all-ages spectacular.”
Julie Atlas Muz directs “Jack and the Beanstalk” and writer Mat Fraser’s adaptation shows much affection for its Lower East Side setting.
Abrons Arts Center and ONEOFUS are proud to present the world premiere of Jack & The Beanstalk, a holiday extravaganza that promotes radical joy and equality in all forms. Running December 6–23, Jack & The Beanstalk features a diverse cast of 22 Lower East Side performers. Written by disabled actor and writer Mat Fraser and directed by legendary feminist performer Julie Atlas Muz, Jack & the Beanstalk brings tap-dancing animals, puppets, pie fights, pop music, cross-dressing characters and the glitteriest of sets to the Lower East Side. Returning to Abrons Arts Center after their critically acclaimed show Beauty and the Beast, Fraser and Muz are thrilled to be making their first all-ages event.
Matt Roper surrounded by the ensemble
The cast of Jack & the Beanstalk, a mix of veteran and up-and-coming performers, includes Dirty Martini, Hawthorn Albatross III, Michael Johnnie Lynch, Matt Roper, Jenni Gil, David Ilku, Christina Duryea, Sarah Folkins, Ekaterina Sknarina, Jonathan Rodriguez, Poison Ivory, Allison Jane, Mikey Giordano, Lute Breuer, Rachael Wickham Shane and Kate Brehm, as well as a chorus of six children: , and Nate Maxwell.
Performances of Jack & The Beanstalk will take place December 6–23 at Abrons Arts Center, located at 466 Grant Street in Manhattan.
Tickets, priced at $25–$45, can be purchased by visiting abronsartscenter.org or by calling 212-352-3101.
When I was a student at SVA studying Film Production I spent a day walking around the neighborhood and found a film set which had been created on West 26th Street. They had reconstructed an old 1920’s neighborhood to film “The Night They Raided Minsky’s”. I was really taken by the work they did on that block. It made it ‘old’ and remarkably believable. The set even included an elevated train and track. Here is the book the film was based on.
THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY’S by Rowland Barber (April 14, 1920 – September 5, 2012)
My signed copy of the original hardcover copy. ‘Morton Minsky’!
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Text from inside front cover flap.
“Take it Off, Take it Off!
In response to the perennial pleading voice from the rear – here is the book that does it. It takes off the dark curtain that, these 35 years, had shrouded the great American institution of burlesque.
It brings back the days of Minsky Brother’s pleasure palace on New York City’s Lower East Side, where, for three bits, you could feast your eyes on those Risque, Frisque Minsky models; those Union Suit teasers; those Naughty-Night Girls and those 13 Luscious Peaches on an Illuminated Runway of Joy.
It gives you, in short, an uncensored look at the unclad, unblushing Eden that was burlesque in the days when funny men were funnier, girls were girlie-er, and the only G-string in the house was on the Pro-fes-sor’s fiddle. You see the strange extravaganza, eavesdrop on the dressing-room conversations, kibitz the permanent floating pinochle game of the backstage area, case the house as the money is made and lost. You meet one of the most fantastic casts ever assembled between hard covers, includingL:
Mlle. Fifi from Paris, France – she drove a million Frenchmen wild!
Jack Shargel, Jack Shutta, Raymond Paine, Walter Brown, with their hoary, hilarious comedy bits.
Billy Minsky, the Bantam Barnum of Burlesque, who masterminded the whole shebang.
It is a tantalizing, provocative, wildly entertaining. And the sensational, full cast, five-star Grand Finale is reenacted before your very eyes as the Society for the Suppression of Vice picks April 20, 1925, for the historic NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY’S.
In the book Minsky’s Burlesque, Morton Minsky (with Milt Machlin) wrote, “As for April 20, 1925, the day that the raid on which the book was based took place, it was hardly epochal in the history of burlesque, but it did turn out to be a prelude to much greater troubles… Anyway, the raid story was fun, but the raid itself was simply one of the dozens to which we had become accustomed; certainly no big crisis.”
Minsky’s theater, the National Winter Garden on Houston Street, was raided for the first time in 1917 when Mae Dix absent-mindedly began removing her costume before she reached the wings. When the crowd cheered, Dix returned to the stage and continued removing her clothing to wild applause. Billy Minsky ordered the “accident” repeated every night. This began an endless cycle; to keep their license, the Minskys had to keep their shows clean but to keep drawing customers, they had to be risqué. Whenever they went too far, however, they were raided.
According to Morton Minsky, Mademoiselle Fifi was a woman named Mary Dawson from Pennsylvania. Morton Minsky suggests that Billy Minsky persuaded Dawson to expose her breasts to create a sensation. By 1925, it was permissible for girls in legitimate shows staged by Ziegfeld, George White and Earl Carroll—as well as burlesque — to appear topless as long as they didn’t move (as a “living tableau”). Mademoiselle Fifi stripped to the waist but then moved, triggering the raid. “Although the show, in general, had been tame,” he wrote, “Fifi’s finale and the publicity that soon followed the raid ensured full houses at the soon-to-be-opened [Minsky’s] theater uptown [on 42nd Street].”
In 1975, Dawson, then 85, refuted the legend. “I was never a stripteaser. I never did anything risque.” She said that novelist Rowland Barber “just put all that in the book to make it better.” She wasn’t even at the theater that night. Her father was a policeman and a straitlaced Quaker, although he never came to New York City and never led a raid on one of the Minsky burlesque houses.
For information on the film (Norman Lear, Jason Robarts, Elliot Gould, Britt Ekland, Bert Lahr, Norman Wisdom) go to Wikipedia HERE!
For most of the world, the mention of Berlin invokes a decadent underworld of androgynous women in beaded gowns and men in monocles smoking from ebony cigarette holders while Marlene Dietrich straddles a chair and tosses out a saucy song. But you would be quite disappointed if you were trying to find that vanished world in Berlin today.
True, state-run varieté exists in every city, but these are mainstream family-friendly dinner theaters. They are not the underground cabarets of the Weimar era with its barbed political satire and transgressive sexuality. It’s hard to believe, but with the Nazis and the war followed by the division of the city, it’s only now that Berlin is recovered enough to start revisiting the legacy of its underground cabarets.
The glamorous mother of all Goldene Zwanziger parties in Berlin is the Bohéme Sauvage and that only began in Else Edelstahl’s apartment in 2006. The following year, neo-burlesque found its way from New York City to a Berlin tiki bar and this activated a new generation of underground cabaret. Since then, a dozen or so burlesque and cabaret shows have opened in various bars in Berlin, most notably Pinky’s Peepshow and Fête Fatale at Bassy Club, and Sunday Soirée at Primitiv. One of the latest and most exciting additions to this burgeoning scene is the Kabarett der Namenlosen, which premiered in Berlin two years ago. Invoking the unsettled ghosts of Weimar cabaret, it almost immediately was a legendary hit.
Kabarett der Namenlosen is the brainchild of Le Pustra, a performance artist originally from South Africa who performed for many years in London. On a visit to Berlin in 2012, he took a walking tour through Christopher Isherwood’s haunts in West Berlin. The tour guide mentioned the Kabarett der Namenlosen, a notorious open stage of the 1920s, where amateur performers were often reduced to tears by malicious audience members. Le Pustra was struck by the evocative name and after moving to Berlin, he set about creating a cabaret-theater piece around the idea of the nameless lost performers of the Weimar era.
Kabarett der Namenlosen is essentially a classic varieté revue with several international performers doing their signature acts loosely framed by a story. But it’s a vastly different experience from any other varieté in Berlin, with its lush visual style, copious nudity, and dark subject matter. Yes, there are plenty of comedic moments – a British Music Hall number with Miss Annabel Sings, a gag with Julietta la Doll as a telephone sex operator. But Le Pustra also plays a drag artist who is betrayed by a friend (performance artist Reverso) and London burlesque sensation Vicky Butterfly is heartrending as a flighty party girl who accidentally overdoses on cocaine. It’s an immersive experience that leaves you feeling like you’ve somehow traveled back in time to 1930, went on a bar crawl from the Kadeko to the Weiss Maus to the TingelTangel, and got to know some of the fragile and needy nightlife denizens of that fleeting time period.
The most evocative moment in this cabaret-theater piece comes at the end. The audience is given little pieces of paper with what looks like a German poem and the cast comes out with a large board with the same writing. Le Pustra begins to recite the English translation:
“What makes them think they have the right
to say what God considers vice?
What makes them think they have the right
to keep us out of Paradise?
They make our lives hell here on Earth
poisoning us with guilt and shame
If we resist, prison awaits
so our love dares not speak its name.
The crime is when love must hide
From now on we’ll love with pride.”
These are the lyrics to Das Lila Lied (The Lavender Song), the hugely popular gay anthem of Weimar Berlin. At the end of the Kabarett der Namenlosen, everyone is encouraged to sing along using those little pieces of paper, which have the refrain in the original German. It’s a powerful moment, even if most audience members don’t know the song and have no idea that they are participating in a remarkable homage to all the nameless artists lost in the untimely end of Weimar cabaret.
Written by Russian émigré Mischa Spoliansky and native Berliner Kurt Schwabach, Das Lila Lied was first recorded in 1921 by the Marek Weber Orchestra. Even though censorship was relaxed and there were several gay cabarets in Berlin, it was still illegal to be homosexual, not to mention socially taboo. Spoliansky wrote the song under a pseudonym and no one knows who sang the original recording. Most people think the uncredited singer was Leo Monesson, one of the most popular crooners of the Weimar era, who is credited on over 1,400 recordings for all the major labels of the era and starred in 11 films.
Spoliansky, Schwabach, and Monesson were all Jewish. One by one, they fled Berlin as the Nazis rose to power. Spoliansky emigrated to London where he eventually became a film composer and never returned to Berlin. Schwabach had a more difficult time and hopped from London to Prague to Palestine during the war years. Although he found relative success after returning to Germany in 1949, he never recovered from the persecution he suffered and committed suicide in 1966.
Monesson also never recovered from the Nazi era. He went from Paris to Spain to New York, where he settled in the town of Ardsley and became a postage stamp dealer. In 1952, he applied for compensation to the Berlin State Office, asserting, “I managed, after 1933, never again to earn money by singing. My playing has been developed by German culture and elsewhere is strange and unpopular.”
It’s the tragedy of these artists that gives the Kabarett der Namenlosen its profound depth of poignancy. At the end of the show, when Le Pustra has the entire audience singing Das Lila Lied, it feels like a bridge is finally being created between the underground cabarets of the Weimar era and Berlin today. After all this time, Berlin is finally able to pick up the threads from the 1920s that were so untimely cut short. The ghosts have been summoned, a ceremony has been performed, and at last, Berlin is free to embrace a part of its past.
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Original version of Das Lila Lied
DAS LILA LIED (“THE LAVENDER SONG”)
Original German Lyrics by: Kurt Schwabach
English Translation by: Jeremy Lawrence
What makes them think they have the right
to say what God considers vice?
What makes them think they have the right
to keep us out of Paradise?
They make our lives hell here on Earth,
poisoning us with guilt and shame.
If we resist, prison awaits,
so our love dares not speak its name.
The crime is when love must hide.
From now on we’ll love with pride.
We’re not afraid to be queer and different.
If that means Hell, well, Hell! We’ll take the chance.
They’re all so straight, uptight, upright and rigid.
They march in lock-step, we prefer to dance.
We see a world of romance and of pleasure.
All they can see is sheer banality.
Lavender nights are our greatest treasure,
where we can be just who we want to be.
Round us all up, send us away,
that’s what you’d really like to do.
But we’re too strong, proud, unafraid.
In fact, we almost pity you.
You act from fear. Why should that be?
What is it that you are frightened of;
the way that we dress,
the way that we meet,
the fact that you cannot destroy our love?
We’re going to win our rights
to lavender days and nights.
Kabarett der Namenlosen is playing from February 24-26 in Berlin. You can find out more on their Facebook event page. Hendricks Gin is a creative collaborator of Kabarett der Namenlosen. The show is produced by Boheme Sauvage.