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Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Unholy Three” by Tod Robbins

Step right up, folks, and prepare to have your blood run cold as you meet the strangest, most bizarre trio of misfits ever spawned by a carnival of blood: TWEEDLEDEE, an adult man trapped in the body of a three-year-old toddler, whose mask of childlike innocence hides a seething brain plotting hideous revenge against all that is sane and normal! HERCULES, the circus strongman, brutal, bestial, reveling in carnage and murder – yet the submissive slave of a deadly dwarf! ECHO, the expert ventriloquist with the uncanny ability to throw his voice so that lifeless wooden dummies seem to speak even as you or I! Together, they are THE UNHOLY THREE, star attractions of Tod Robbins’ classic novel of hate, murder, and madness on and off the midway. Best known as an author of the story which inspired the still-controversial fear-film FREAKS, Robbins first stunned the public with this intense account of a ruthless war on society waged by a triad of carny castaways.

It seems to have garnered much interest by the director Tod Browning and actor Lon Chaney as they made a film out of this book.

Here is the description of the film by Wikipedia:

The Unholy Three is a 1925 American silent film involving a crime spree, directed by Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney. The supporting cast features Mae Busch, Matt Moore, Victor McLaglen and Harry Earles.

The film was remade in 1930 as a talkie. In both the 1925 and the 1930 version, the roles of Professor Echo and Tweedledee are played by Chaney and Earles respectively. The films were based on the novel of the same name by Clarence Aaron “Tod” Robbins.

The Plot:

Three performers leave a sideshow after Tweedledee (Harry Earles), the midget, assaults a young heckler and sparks a melee. The three join together in an “unholy” plan to become wealthy. Prof. Echo, the ventriloquist, assumes the role of Mrs. O’Grady, a kindly old grandmother, who runs a pet shop, while Tweedledee plays her grandchild. Hercules (Victor McLaglen), the strongman, works in the shop along with the unsuspecting Hector McDonald (Matt Moore). Echo’s girlfriend, pickpocket Rosie O’Grady (Mae Busch), pretends to be his granddaughter.

Using what they learn from delivering pets, the trio later commits burglaries, with their wealthy buyers as victims. On Christmas Eve, John Arlington (an uncredited Charles Wellesley) telephones to complain that the “talking” parrot (aided by Echo’s ventriloquism) he bought will not speak. When “Granny” O’Grady visits him to coax the bird into performing, “she” takes along grandson “Little Willie”. While there, they learn that a valuable ruby necklace is in the house. They decide to steal it that night. As Echo is too busy, the other two grow impatient and decide to go ahead without him.

The next day, Echo is furious to read in the newspaper that Arlington was killed and his three-year-old daughter badly injured in the robbery. Hercules shows no remorse whatsoever, relating how Arlington pleaded for his life. When a police investigator shows up at the shop, the trio becomes fearful and decide to frame Hector, hiding the jewelry in his room.

Meanwhile, Hector proposes to Rosie. She turns him down, but he overhears her crying after he leaves. To his joy, she confesses she loves him but was ashamed of her shady past. When the police take him away, Rosie tells the trio that she will exonerate him, forcing them to abduct her and flee to a mountain cabin. Echo takes along his large pet ape (who terrifies Hercules).

In the spring, Hector is brought to trial. Rosie pleads with Echo to save Hector, promising to stay with him if he does. After Echo leaves for the city, Tweedledee overhears Hercules asking Rosie to run away with him (and the loot). The midget releases the ape. Hercules kills the midget before the ape gets him.

At the trial, Echo agonizes over what to do, but finally rushes forward and confesses all. Both he and Hector are set free. When Rosie goes to Echo to keep her promise, he lies and says he was only kidding. He tells her to go to Hector. Echo returns to the sideshow, giving his spiel to the customers: “That’s all there is to life, friends, … a little laughter … a little tear.”

Production:

The “ape” was actually a three-foot-tall chimpanzee who was made to appear gigantic with camera trickery and perspective shots. When Echo removes the ape from his cage, the shot shows Echo (with his back turned to the camera) unlocking the cage and walking the ape to the truck. The ape appears to be roughly the same size as Echo. This effect was achieved by having midget actor Harry Earles (who played “Tweedledee” in the film) play Echo for these brief shots, and then cutting to Chaney, making it seem as though the ape is gigantic. (In the 1930 remake, the ape was played by Charles Gemora.)

Lon Chaney as Professor Echo in “The Unholy Three”.

Harry Earles, Victor McLaglen and Lon Chaney in “The Unholy Three” 

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One of my favorite films of all time!

 

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American Circus Circus Amok Clown Comedy Coney Island Juggling Music Performing Arts Pranks Women

Circus Amok – Coming to a Park Near YOU!

Are you ready for some Circus Amok??

For those of you not familiar with this wonderful group here is an excerpt from a book written about Radical Street Performance by Mark Sussman.

(Circus Amok…reinventing the circus form, borrowing drag fabulousness from Charles Ludlam’s Theater of the Ridiculous, large scale transformation using whole-body masks from Bread and Puppet Theater, and the outdoor bally and verbal rhythm and repertoire from the sideshow, as well as movement vocabulary from post-modern dance. The troupe balances danger with laughter, slipping its critique between the pies in the face and the surreal, scary, and sometimes gender-bent characters of the charivari.)

Saturday, Sept 2
Socrates Sculpture Park, Astoria
Broadway & Vernon Blvd.
3:00pm

Sunday, Sept 3
Coney Island, Brooklyn
On the Boardwalk near 10th Street.
2:00pm & 4:00pm

Friday, Sept 8
Tompkins Square Park, Manhattan.
9th Street and Avenue A
4:00pm & 6:00pm

Saturday, Sept 9
Sunset Park, Brooklyn
6th Ave and 44th Street
3:00pm


Sunday, Sept 10

Marcus Garvey Park, Manhattan
Madison Ave and East 122nd Street
3:00pm

Saturday, Sept 16
St. Mary’s Park, Bronx
St. Ann’s Ave and East 149th Street
3:00pm

Sunday, Sept 17
Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Enter at 9th Street, cross the road and down the hill.
2:00pm & 4:00pm

ALL THE SHOWS ARE FREE!

To make a donation to Circus Amok (since these shows are FREE they need some $$$ to produce them)

Circus Amok is a 501(c)3 organization and all of your donations are tax-deductible!!

Go HERE. And Thank You!

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Circus Clown Comedy Magic Mime Music Performing Arts Photography Physical Theater Pranks Story Teller Video

Dimitri (Clown) R.I.P.

DIMITRISept.18, 1935 – July 19, 2016

Dimitri the Clown

When Dimitri first came to New York with his show I was very excited to see him perform. Had heard so much about him.

This was one of the publicity photographs that was given to the press for his NY appearance.

One of the most talented clowns to ever walk the face of this earth!

R.I.P. Dimitri.

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Here is a link to the dedicated YouTube Channel for Dimitri.

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screenshotDimitri and his family circus!

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Circus Clown Comedy Juggling Magic Magic Music Performing Arts Photography Pranks Puppetry Quick Change Artists The New Victory Theatre Women

“BelloMania” at The New Victory Theatre – April 2016

BELLOMANIA

For his 3rd year in a row success, Bello Noch presents his new production BelloMania.

Featuring  Michael Karas, Dinny McGuire, Annaliese Nock, Shawn Roth

2016.04.30.BelloShow_013Show Host Dinny McGuire kept the show moving along with charm and finesse.

2016.04.30.BelloShow_022Bello starts the show off with a ‘big head’ balloon stunt.

2016.04.30.BelloShow_042He followed that will a lovely ‘chair production’ routine followed by this skillfully accomplished hand balancing act.

2016.04.30.BelloShow_051His daughterAnnaliese Nock did a beautiful split on the tightwire.

2016.04.30.BelloShow_056Bello proceeded to walk on the tightwire and not only sit but STAND (not pictured here)on the chair on the wire.

2016.04.30.BelloShow_064Michael Karas performed a skillful and creative juggling act with rings. balls and a puppet!

2016.04.30.BelloShow_081Annaliese performed many stunning aerial feats and with this beautiful projection, it looked heavenly.

2016.04.30.BelloShow_089The show had many wonderful moments. Bello talked to the audience about the pride he has for his circus family.

2016.04.30.BelloShow_102The audience had to look up when Bello began to climb ‘the sway pole’. 

2016.04.30.BelloShow_126High above the audience on the sway pole with his hair touching the New Victory Theatre’s ceiling.

2016.04.30.BelloShow_120A real ‘comic daredevil’ for sure. Time Magazine calls him “America’s Best Clown”.

2016.04.30.BelloShow_141Curtain call for the cast of BelloMania at The New Victory Theatre. Great fun!

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OPPORTUNITY NOCKS, INC – Producer

JENNIFER NOCKS – Writer and Director

DAVID MILLER – Set Design

GUIDO NAUS – Musical Director

KAY TORRALVA AND WRIIC’S COSTUME ARTS – Costume Design

STEVE CURTIS – Safety Officer & Technical Director

KARIM MUASHER – Audio Visual

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For more information on Bello Nock and his work 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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Comedy Juggling Magic Magic Performing Arts Photography Pranks Puppetry Variety Arts Ventriliquist Video

Ventriloquist/Juggler/Entertainer Senor Wences

Senor WencesSenor Wences in 1935 with an early version of Johnny.

screenshotVentriloquist Senor Wences performing at The Lido Club in Paris. (Photog: Gjon Mili, ©1949)

Wenceslao Moreno, who started his career as an unsuccessful bullfighter in Spain and then became Senor Wences, a gifted ventriloquist who was able to transform his thumb and forefinger into a convincing dummy that endeared itself to millions of American television viewers in the 1950’s and 60’s, died yesterday, his 103d birthday, at his home in Manhattan.

He and his wife, Natalie, had lived on Manhattan’s West Side for more than 60 years. They also lived in Salamanca, Spain, Senor Wences‘s hometown.

In a career that lasted more than eight decades, Senor Wences repeatedly proved himself a stellar part of the tradition that included Edgar Bergen, Paul Winchell and other popular ventriloquists who delighted audiences from the 1920’s well into the television age.

What set Senor Wences apart from everyone else was that his main character was not carved out of wood, as were Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy and Mr. Winchell’s Jerry Mahoney. Johnny, Senor Wences’s dummy, was naturally formed by one hand. He painted lips on his thumb, draped a ridiculous orange wig across his fist, stuck eyes on the side of his hand, just below the wig, and let the hint of a body dangle below. As soon as he began his act, this unlikely creation came to life as Johnny, a lovable, impertinent little boy, not unlike the boy Senor Wences had been.

It was shortly after the turn of the century in Spain that Wenceslao Moreno found that he could imitate others and throw his voice. In school, when one of his classmates was absent, he would answer for him, and the teacher would mark the missing student present. In those days, he had a friend named Paulo, who lived next door. The friend’s mother would appear at an upstairs window and call for her boy to come home.

”No, Mama,” a voice sounding like Paulo would say. ”I refuse to come into the house.” When the mother demanded that her son obey, the voice would continue in defiance: ”Mama, you attend to your own business, and I will attend to mine.”

Poor Paulo got the dickens on several occasions until it was discovered that he had not been the culprit. It was Wenceslao Moreno.

Other times he successfully imitated the voice of the mailman, telling the tenants of his apartment house that the mail was there and ready for distribution. (There were no mailboxes.) All of the tenants would dutifully come down the stairs and assemble at the front door, only to find that no mailman was there. In one instance, an angry resident dumped a pail of water on the real mailman’s head to teach him not to trifle with the residents of that building.

The little sprite of a voice and impish personality emerged to a widespread audience decades later, in the United States in 1948, when Senor Wences made his television debut and introduced Johnny to virtually the nation’s entire television audience, which assembled on Tuesday nights to watch Milton Berle‘s variety hour.

Shortly thereafter he made the first of 48 appearances on Ed Sullivan’s show. Neither Mr. Sullivan nor his audience ever tired of Senor Wences.

Senor Wences’s Johnny was not a rake or a wise guy, like Charlie McCarthy. He was a disembodied insurrectionist whose single-minded purpose was to nettle Senor Wences in little ways, as small boys are wont to do. And so, if Senor Wences announced to his audience that a certain trick was going to be ”very difficult,” Johnny’s little voice would insist that it was ”easy.” If Senor Wences gave Johnny a dirty look, Johnny would add, ”Difficult for you, easy for me.”

In the conversations that ensued, Johnny would seem to be a completely separate being from Senor Wences, quite capable of saying anything. There were no jokes, per se. Just snippets of silly but strangely eloquent conversation. And the exchanges were always polite, gentle; segments ended with kisses between Johnny and Senor Wences.

Johnny was not the only star Senor Wences developed. The other was Pedro, a talking head in a covered box. Pedro was grouchy, imperious, raspy. He almost did not become part of the act. Originally, Pedro had a body that was crushed in a train wreck near Chicago. Senor Wences, salvaging the head, put it in a box. At first, those who booked the act resisted; they did not think people would relate to a head in a box. Senor Wences prevailed, and Pedro proved almost as big a hit as Johnny.

Whatever happened in the act, whatever pandemonium there might be, Senor Wences would always open the box and say to Pedro, ”You all right?” Pedro would always respond, ”S’all right,” to which Senor Wences would say, ”Very good.” If Senor Wences presumed too much and opened the box when Pedro preferred privacy, Pedro would demand, ”Shut the door!”

When Pedro and Johnny were simultaneously in action, it seemed a wonder that Senor Wences could get through his shows in full control. He had a palpable Spanish accent, and there were times when some found it difficult to understand him. The laughs came just the same; his timing and the gentleness of his message were such that he transcended the bounds of language.

Senor Wences, who was also a formidable juggler, started out as a young torero in local bull rings near Salamanca. After several bulls had got the best of him, he turned to ventriloquism and juggling. By the 1920’s his renown in both fields was such that he was in demand in Europe and Latin America. He first came to New York in 1935, performing at the Club Chico in Greenwich Village.

But it was not until he appeared on television that he became truly famous. In addition to his appearances on the Berle and Sullivan shows, Senor Wences also appeared with Jack Paar, Steve Allen, Perry Como and Jack Benny. He was seen in a specialty act in the 1947 movie ”Mother Wore Tights,” starring Betty Grable and Dan Dailey. In 1963, he toured with Danny Kaye’s International Revue.

In 1996, Senor Wences received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Comedy Hall of Fame for his devotion ”to entertaining generations of audiences and bringing countless hours of joy and happiness to millions throughout the world.” He was also honored by New York City, which erected a blue street sign alongside the Ed Sullivan Theater designating a block of West 54th Street from Eighth Avenue to Broadway as Senor Wences Way.

He remained vigorous well past his prime and was still working in 1986 when he toured with Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller in ”Sugar Babies.” His wife, who is his only survivor, said he got that job because she was able to convince the producers that he was a mere 75 years old, 15 years younger than he was.

(Originally published 1999)

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unspecifiedSenor Wences Way, NYC

In the 1950’s Wences did several attempts to make TV commercials. A few for Parkay Margarine and a few for Prince Spaghetti.

Here are videos from those days.



Ed Sullivan Show –

ED SULLIVAN SHOW – Senor Wences Bio and show appearance Information. Go Here
Having photographed many performers over the last 30+ years I can truly say that ‘Senor Wences’ was one of my all time favorite acts!
I was fortunate to have seen Senor Wences and Francis Brunn share a bill at NY’s “Chateau Madrid” club. It was a delight!

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Book Shelf Cinema Film Magic Magic Performing Arts Pranks

The Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Nightmare Alley” by William Lindsay Gresham

Nightmare Alley

NIGHTMARE ALLEY

Nightmare Alley begins with an extraordinary description of a freak-show geek—alcoholic and abject and the object of the voyeuristic crowd’s gleeful disgust and derision—going about his work at a county fair. Young Stan Carlisle is working as a carny, and he wonders how a man could fall so low. There’s no way in hell, he vows, that anything like that will ever happen to him.

And since Stan is clever and ambitious and not without a useful streak of ruthlessness, soon enough he’s going places. Onstage he plays the mentalist with a cute bimbo (before long his harried wife), then he graduates to full-blown spiritualist, catering to the needs of the rich and gullible in their well-upholstered homes. It looks like the world is Stan’s for the taking. At least for now.

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Mr. Gresham yanked the reviewer into the midst of his macabre and compelling novel, and kept him a breathless captive until the tour was over. It’s a truly rewarding whirl through his nightmare alley, adding up to Grade—A guignol with a touch of black magic about it. If you enjoy hundred—proof evil—and a cogent analysis of same with your nightcap—then, in the words of the Ten-in-One barker, hurry, hurry, hurry!
James MacBride, The New York Times

Gresham…wrote with vivid punch and a close understanding of the carnival world.
— Los Angeles Times

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2014 New York Clown Theatre Festival – ‘tinydangerous-popcorn’

Andy Sapora and John Leo hosted an evening of ‘clown short’ films. However they didn’t waste any time getting into their ‘tiny dangerous‘ fun!

2014.09.21_NYCTF_019John Leo and Andy Sapora start the show off with some eccentric dancing and stuff.

2014.09.21_NYCTF_027

2014.09.21_NYCTF_045Andy Sapora juggles some razor pen knives for some ‘ooohs and aaahs’.

2014.09.21_NYCTF_058John Leo pierces this arm with a long needle and bleeds a little. (the ‘dangerous’ part of tiny dangerous’.)

2014.09.21_NYCTF_069Just before intermission Andy and John make an ‘offering’ to the audience of some really delicious cookies.

2014.09.21_NYCTF_071Three audience members accept the offering and are ‘drafted’ to make a short film during intermission.

2014.09.21_NYCTF_078After intermission and before screening the films Andy sets his arm on fire for a more ‘ooohs and aaahs’.

2014.09.21_NYCTF_079More ‘insane’ antics followed this but due to ‘R’ rated website I am not able to post the photos.

Here are links to the films that were screened.

Hilary Chaplain – “Happy Hour

Noah Diamond – A Vaudephone Presentation – “United Nations Song”

Trav S.D. – “Too Much Nutcracker

The Maestrosities – ‘Topeka Tomorrow

Wayne Wilson/Franco Dragone – “Willie Jones: Trouble with Love

Yang Miller – “Humor Seminar with Phillip Dunman”

Jeff Seal – “Lazer Katzenberg

Emily James -“Flag Crew

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Vaudevisuals Interview with Matthew Morgan & Heidi Brucker Morgan

Matthew Morgan and his wife Heidi Brucker Morgan are quite a couple..(of clowns)

This year at the NY Clown Theatre Festival they will be performing a new show
“Life After Death”?

I got Matthew and Heidi to talk about the show and about their process.

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 6.22.35 PM
For more information/Tickets etc go HERE.

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Burlesque Circus Comedy Coney Island USA Juggling Magic Performing Arts Photography Pranks Sideshow Story Teller Tent Show Variety Arts Video Writer

“Ward Hall – King of the Sideshow” book launch party and talk.

WARD HALL is the man who for over 50 years has performed/produced and lived in the ‘sideshow’.

Last night we were honored to hear him talk about his life, his work and most of all about the people he met in the sideshow.

“WARD HALL – THE KING OF SIDESHOW” is a new book authored by Tim O’Brien. It tells the stories Ward shared with us last night as well as many more from his life.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 7.33.04 PM

The evening was chock full of ‘sideshow’ dignitaries.  Host by Todd Robbins and featuring Donny Vomit, Marlena Dee, Adam Realman and Harley Newman.

The music was provided by a wonderful group “The Bailsmen“.

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The evening began at the lovely MORBID ANATOMY MUSEUM on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn.

Ward Hall talking about sidehsowAuthor Tim O’Brien (seated) and Ward Hall talk to a overflowing crowd of attendees in the basement during the talk by Ward.

2014.07.24_WardHall_067Ward Hall (84 years young) was very expressive about the people he worked with during his years in the sideshow.

2014.07.24_WardHall_049The Morbid Anatomy Museum has a basement equipped for talks and presentations of this kind. It was a FULL HOUSE!

Tim O'Brien autographs the new book.Author Tim O’Brien signs a book during the presentation for “Ward Hall -King of The Sideshow”.

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The evenings festivities moved to THE ROCKSHOP where the ‘Sideshow’ was going to start any minute.

The Bailsmen performing at The Rockshop.Opening the show was the wonderfully talented band The Bailsmen.

Todd Robbins certainly knows how to get someones attentionWhat better person to MC this amazing show that sideshow eccentric TODD ROBBINS.

Donny Vomit followed Todd by using a whip to break a noodle off his head.DONNY VOMIT followed Todd by using a whip to break a noodle off his head.

2014.07.24_WardHall_122DONNY VOMIT juggles two sharp machete knives and an apple. He was able to take bites out of the apple during his act.

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Marlena Dee swallows a coat hanger.The lovely Marlena Dee was up next on stage. A rather talented young lady with looks to match. Swallow a coat hanger? Sure!

Marlena Dee swallows a sword while doing a split!Marlena Dee swallows a sword while doing a split!

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Coney Island USA’s Adam Realman takes the stage and bends a large nail in half.

Adam Realman bends a large nail into a horseshoe shape.

2014.07.24_WardHall_310Adam Realman blows up a enima bottle until it exploded! Strong man tactics are his specialty.

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Well, Ward Hall was upstairs signing books and talking sideshow with all the interested people. He came down to the stage area and gave a ‘talk’ about Todd Robbins and the sideshow shows today.

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2014.07.24_WardHall_195Ward Hall talks to the audience about his sideshow and the current state of affairs.

Todd Robbins lights up the room with his glass eating stunt.Todd Robbins lights up the room with his glass eating stunt.

Todd Robbins examines the half eaten light bulb as he chews on the other part.Todd Robbins examines the half eaten light bulb as he chews on the other part

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Harley Newman always has surprises for his audiences.Harley Newman always has surprises for his audiences. Don’t let that big smile fool you.

Harley Newman produces tennis balls from his mouth.Harley Newman produces tennis balls from his mouth.

Harley Newman waves good bye to the audience after his amazing feat!Harley Newman waves good bye to the audience after his amazing feat!

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Websites of Interest

Morbid Anatomy Museum

The Rockshop

Huffington Press/Weird News

Todd Robbins

Adam Realman

Donny Vomit

Marlena Dee

Harley Newman

Tim O’Brien

Ward Hall

HuffPost Weird News hosted the event, in coordination with the Morbid Anatomy Museum, COED.comHendrick’s GinBulleit Bourbon,Narragansett BeerHobNob Wines and Solber Pupusas.

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