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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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American Circus Circus Clown Comedy History Performing Arts Sideshow Tent Show Women

PBS – American Experience – ‘The Circus’

Certainly one of the most interesting forms of popular entertainment America has experienced. Now – with the pandemic and final curtain call for Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus…what is next?

Here is a wonderful excerpt from the American Experience special titled “The Circus”.

This four-hour mini-series tells the story of one of the most popular and influential forms of entertainment in American history. Through the intertwined stories of several of the most innovative and influential impresarios of the late nineteenth century, this series reveals the circus was a uniquely American entertainment created by a rapidly expanding and industrializing nation; that it embraced and was made possible by Western imperialism; that its history was shaped by a tension between its unconventional entertainments and prevailing standards of respectability; and that its promise for ordinary people was the possibility for personal reinvention. For many Americans, the circus embodied the improbable and the impossible, the exotic, and the spectacular. Drawing upon a vast and richly visual archive and featuring a host of performers, historians, and aficionados, The Circus follows the rise and fall of the gigantic, traveling tented railroad circus and brings to life an era when Circus Day would shut down a town and its stars were among the most famous people in the country.

To Watch this Series click here!


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Big Apple Circus at Lincoln Center – 2017/18 Season

Ringmaster Tyron “Ty” McFarlan

 

Barry Lubin – Grandma

Joel Jeske – Clown

Jenny Vidbel and her horses.

Gamal Garcia Tuniziani – Juggler

The Flying Tunizianis Troupe – Trapeze

Jan Damm – Rolla Bolla

Wallenda Seven-Person Pyramid – Highwire


The show also featured Elayne Kramer/Contortionist and The Anastanini Brothers.

What a wonderful show this year! All the acts were amazing and the direction was brilliant! So happy to see The Big Apple Circus Back in town!

Today and tomorrow ONLY!

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American Circus Big Apple Circus Circus Clown Comedy Performing Arts Photography Physical Theater Tent Show

IN/SIGHTS – Big Apple Circus Clowns

Big Apple Circus ClownsBig Apple Circus Clowns

“1987 – Big Apple Circus Clowns. This shot encompasses the wonder of clowns’ first contact with the audience: hope, innocence, vulnerability, and impending mayhem.”

~ ~ Paul Binder – CoFounder of The Big Apple Circus

(Pictured above top to bottom: Michael Christensen as Mr. Stubs, John Lepiarz as Mr. Fish, David Casey as Oaf and Jeff Gordon as Gordoon.)

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Aerial Acts Circus Clown Comedy Music Performing Arts Tent Show Video

L’Homme Cirque – A short video with David Dimitri.

…NEW video by Michael Flume

Posted by L'Homme Cirque on Sunday, 31 May 2015

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American Circus Big Apple Circus Circus Clown Comedy Juggling Music NYDownTownClownRevue Performing Arts Photography Tent Show The Clown Un_Mask Writer

The many faces of Joel Jeske – A review….of sorts~

I have had the ultimate pleasure of photographing and videotaping  Joel Jeske in many shows and moods in many venues over the past several years. I will attempt to post here a collection of images and such to reflect his incredible talents and charm.

Currently, he appears in the Big Apple Circus show “The Grand Tour” at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

But wait…he does not only appear on the show but he also Wrote and Created the show with direction by Parallel Exit’s Mark Lonergan.

Also, the clown material for this show was created by Joel Jeske. He performs the material along with the delightful Brent McBeth.

(these are not chronological)

First. Here is my Clown Un_Mask shot of Joel.

Joel Jeske in the Clown Un_Mask series.

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Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 10.11.54 PMNext is a still from a video I did of Joel talking about ‘what is funny‘ in Sept 2011.

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Joel Jeske at Dixon PlaceJoel Jeske performing at the New York Downtown Clown Review at Dixon Place in Sept. 2012.

Joel Jeske opens his piece – “I have seen over 16 midgets today and it’s only Monday” by yelling the title at the audience.

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Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 10.14.12 PMJoel Jeske performing at the AMUSE BOUCHE Festival at The Brick in Sept. 2011

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Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 10.09.32 PMParallel Exit’s “MOVE IT” show at Canal Park Playhouse in April 2013

Joel Jeske reads from his index cards all the qualities of his likes and dislikes.

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JOELCLOWNJESKEJoel is performing at the New York Downtown Clown Revue at Under St. Marks Place in 2011.

JOEL_Rm17bJESKE Joel Jeske performing in the hysterically funny and successful Parallel Exit show “Room 17b”.

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Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 10.16.10 PMJoel Jeske and Mark Lonergan of Parallel Exit talk about their upcoming physical comedy workshop in this video.

March 2013 workshop video here.

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Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 10.03.23 PMBrent McBeth and Joel Jeske in a scene from the current Big Apple Circus show “The Grand Tour”.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 10.02.26 PM Joel Jeske and ringmaster John Kennedy Kane perform the ‘Red Nose Transplant’.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 10.04.45 PMJoel Jeske looks quite disturbed in this fantastic version of musical chairs with audience members.

Brent McBeth is seen behind Joel directing the Big Apple Circus Band. Did Joel lose this contest?

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I expect to experience much more mirth and joy from Joel Jeske and hope to have to photograph it as well.

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Do yourself a favor and see Joel Jeske perform live at The Big Apple Circus. Now till Jan 10th, 2016

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Aerial Acts American Circus Big Apple Circus Circus Clown Comedy Juggling Music Performing Arts Photography Tent Show Video Writer

Big Apple Circus – “The Grand Tour” @ Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

THE BIG APPLE  CIRCUS – “THE GRAND TOUR”.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 12.46.30 PMAll Aboard the S.S. Big Apple Circus

2015.10.20_BAC.002The Opening Scene of the new Big Apple Circus Show “The Grand Tour”.

2015.10.20_BAC.304Ringmaster John Kennedy Kane delighted the audience and kept the show moving right along.

2015.10.20_BAC.346Chiara Anastasini was magical in her ability to keep all the hula hoops going.

2015.10.20_BAC.363Brent McBeth and Joel Jeske keep the audience laughing with their “Feeling Hot” routine.2015.10.20_BAC.375

2015.10.20_BAC.364Joel gets a face full of water thru the port hole door.2015.10.20_BAC.369Joel finds an innocent audience member and threatens him with a bucket of water.

2015.10.20_BAC.393Alexander Koblikov performs an amazing ball juggling act.

2015.10.20_BAC.415Alexander Koblikov drops all the balls at the end of his act.

2015.10.20_BAC.417A professional ‘class act’ all the way from beginning to end.

 2015.10.20_BAC.444Jenny Vidbel and Emily McGuire make a wonderful dog act with jumping and running dogs.

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2015.10.20_BAC.471Brent helps Jenny with the ‘jumprope’ for this amazing dog.

2015.10.20_BAC.476Dogs are the best!

2015.10.20_BAC.485The Energy Trio perform a muscularly amazing Handstand act.

2015.10.20_BAC.489The Energy Trio with their balance and strength showing here.

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2015.10.20_BAC.515John Kennedy Kane, Joel Jeske and Brent McBeth all contribute to the “Red Nose Transplant”.

2015.10.20_BAC.524Eric & Jayson Dominguez appear in a thick fog before they climb onto “The Wheel of Wonder”

2015.10.20_BAC.526The Wheel rotates as the two walk inside the circular open path.

2015.10.20_BAC.537Eric Dominguez walks on the outside of the circle blindfolded.

2015.10.20_BAC.550Brent McBeth reminds the audience what to ‘hashtag’ when they ‘tweet’ the show.

2015.10.20_BAC.128Jenny Vidbel and Emily McGuire perform a beautiful “Arabian Horses” act.

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2015.10.20_BAC.150A graceful bow by Jenny Vidbel’s horse was gorgeously performed.

2015.10.20_BAC.616

Joel Jeske and Brent McBeth were clowning the whole evening and singing and dancing as well.

2015.10.20_BAC.631The camel with Joel Jeske hanging onto the tail was part of a piece titled “Istanbul” that was performed with Brent McBeth.

2015.10.20_BAC.643The ZUMA ZUMA TROUPE performed a  wonderful balancing acrobatic act.

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2015.10.20_BAC.664The Zuma Zuma Troupe worked great together accomplishing great balancing.

2015.10.20_BAC.203Sergey Akimov performed an amazing “Aerial Straps” act flying up in the tent.

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2015.10.20_BAC.673Sergey Akimov performed with grace and strength throughout his act.

2015.10.20_BAC.719Joel Jeske with Brent McBeth performed an audience participation “Musical Chairs” that was hysterical.

2015.10.20_BAC.218After the others get disqualified it becomes a battle between Joel and this cute young girl.

2015.10.20_BAC.224Joel is infuriated that he didn’t win the chair!

2015.10.20_BAC.234The Dosov Troupe complete the show with their athletic ‘Teeterboard’ act.

2015.10.20_BAC.735Flying off the teeterboard into the air.

2015.10.20_BAC.744Flying off the teeterboard onto the seat.

2015.10.20_BAC.274 The cast leaves the circus ring after the ‘finale’ and says GOODBYE to the audience.

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“THE GRAND TOUR”

Written and Created by Joel Jeske

Directed by Mark Lonergan

Scenic and Lighting Designer: Maruti Evans

Sound Designer: Jean-Pierre Perreaux

Props Designer: Katie Fleming

Costume Designer: Oana Botez

Associate Director and Choreographer: Antoinette Dipietropolo

Props Master: Becca Bernard

Musical Director: Rob Slowik

Original Music and Arrangements: David Bandman, Peter Bufano, Jeffrey W. Holmes

Clown Material Created by Joel Jeske

Big Apple Circus Executive Director: Will Maitland Weiss

Big Apple Circus Artistic Director: Guillaume Dufresnoy

2015.10.20_BAC.286Artistic Director Guillaume Dufresnoy introduces the show at ‘Dress Rehearsal’.

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American Circus Circus Clown Comedy Dance Exhibit Juggling Magic Performing Arts Photography Sideshow Tent Show Variety Arts

SHOWHISTORY.COM – A Unique Image Archive

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 10.02.40 PM

This is the mast head for SHOWHISTORY.COM website. A very unique place for those interested in odd, unique and offbeat memorabilia.

Here is a comment by the website manager:

“Membership is $25 a year and allows you access to all of the materials, photos, letterheads, etc.– including multi-page items, such as the largest collection of sideshow pitchbooks ever gathered together– currently 65 scanned and online, and more than 60 more to be added.  Currently we have about 1200 images online and plan on adding about 2000 more items per year until the growing collection has been fully digitized.”
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“The origin of this undertaking emerged in casual conversation outside The Sarasota Showman’s Club one February evening sometime in 2001. The Showhistory.com website first debuted on February 11, 2002.  The plan then, as now, was to engage in the enormous task of listing every novelty, variety, sideshow and freakshow performer who ever crossed the lot, creaked the boards of dime museum or bally, saw sun glint in the eyes of an audience in some small town, waiting for the sound of nickels and dimes clacking into a metal box.”
 
“Finally expanding to more than a thousand pages of material and hundreds of images, the site was unfortunately mainly inactive after 2006.”
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“In October 2014 the site was redesigned and relaunched in a slightly different form– as an online image archive available on a subscription basis.  While now you must pay to access the full contents of the site, including our expanding archive of online images (over 1000 at launch), we plan on preserving and re-introducing all of the earlier material, and presenting a large quantity of free-access material.”
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ShowHistory.com plans on eventually making available online for members all of the 11,000-plus item archive of photos, pitchcards, handbills and ephemera in the area of sideshow, novelty and variety, vaudeville, burlesque, dime museums, carnivals, and outdoor show business in general.  The earliest item in the collection dates from 1609, and the archive continues to expand to include items from present-day performers and exhibits.”
Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 10.17.21 PM
 
Showhistory.com wishes to chronicle the lost, fading and future scene on the fringes of the American amusement business– in biography, history, photographs, and whatever else we can find.  Collect the stories before they disappear, push and pull together the conflicting sources in books and memoribilia so that they can coexist in one place.”
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In the next post I have ready to go up I have ‘borrowed’ some text from Showhistory.com to help illustrate the life of Clarence Dale.
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Hope you have the inclination to JOIN…it is certainly worth the fee and it helps support the work they are doing on the site.
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Categories
Photography Sideshow Tent Show

Bearded Lady – Julia Pastrana – History and photographs from 1850’s.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 7.24.20 PMEngraving from 1862 showing Julia’s embalmed body on show.

Here is the whole story with photographs from Public Domain Review website.

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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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