Categories
Canada Sideshow Women

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf ~ ‘Canadian Carnival Freaks…’

Canadian Carnival Freaks and the Extraordinary Body by Jane Nichols book cover

Canadian Carnival Freaks and the Extraordinary Body, 1900-1970s

by Jane Nicholas

“This book represents the first in-depth scholarly examination of the freak show in Canada, an institution with deep roots in our popular consciousness. Jane Nicholas has produced a significant addition to our understanding of the history of Canadian entertainment, attitudes towards children, and the social construction of able-bodiedness.”

Keith Walden, Department of History, Trent University

“In Canadian Carnival Freaks and the Extraordinary Body, 1900−1970s, Jane Nicholas seamlessly weaves together multiple histories: the history of the body, of children and childhood, of the working class family, of the cultural and social history of the carnival and the ‘freak show,’ among a number of others. Meticulously researched and sensitively argued, Nicholas adds immeasurably to our understanding of the central role that marginalized Canadians, particularly those with embodied differences, played in shaping broader ideas of normalcy, social acceptability, productive work, and cultural consumption.”

Mona Gleason, Department of Educational Studies, University of British Columbia

“Working backwards from the last CNE ‘freak show’ in 1973, Nicholas demonstrates the workings of state and business that made the shows fundamental to a burgeoning modern popular culture − hence consumer culture. She positions the freak show as integral to a ‘modern exhibitionary complex’ focused on the body as spectacle, an innovative approach to the power relations inherent in race, gender, and class, as well as the lesser discussed, but nonetheless critical, categories of age and ability. In this provocative and exciting book, above all a welcome addition to the growing historiography on disability, the author adds much to understandings of the ‘normal’ body as historically contingent, socially defined, and culturally performed.”

Cynthia Comacchio, Department of History, Wilfrid Laurier University

“Original, careful research combined with insightful analysis makes this book an important contribution to our understanding of popular culture and human variation.”

Robert Bogdan, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University

CNE Midway 1920 City of Toronto

AN EXCERPT

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Categories
Book Shelf Sideshow Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Women

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Weird & Wonderful – The Dime Museum in America”

By Andrea Stulman Dennett

Dioramas and panoramas, freaks and magicians, waxworks and menageries, obscure relics, and stuffed animals–a dazzling assortment of curiosities attracted the gaze of the nineteenth-century spectator at the dime museum. This distinctly American phenomenon was unprecedented in both the diversity of its amusements and in its democratic appeal, with audiences traversing the boundaries of ethnicity, gender, and class. Andrea Stulman Dennett’s ‘Weird and Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America’ recaptures this ephemeral and scarcely documented institution of American culture from the margins of history.

Weird and Wonderful chronicles the evolution of the dime museum from its eighteenth-century inception as a “cabinet of curiosities” to its death at the hands of new amusement technologies in the early twentieth century. From big theaters that accommodated audiences of three thousand to meager converted storefronts exhibiting petrified wood and living anomalies, this study vividly reanimates the array of museums, exhibits, and performances that make up this entertainment institution. Tracing the scattered legacy of the dime museum from vaudeville theater to Ripley’s museum to the talk show spectacles of today, Dennett makes a significant contribution to the history of American popular entertainment.


REVIEWS

“The book should prove interesting to readers of American social history, and particularly enjoyable for museum and entertainment professionals.”

“This book was a great read and provided the information I was hoping to learn about nineteenth-century dime museums. All the information on the subject seems to be scattered about and often lacking. This book ties it together in a succinct yet informative text.”

“Weird and Wonderful is a well researched and very readable account of the (mostly) 19th-century phenomenon commonly known as dime museums. While they were themselves short-lived, the influence of dime museums extends far and wide throughout our culture – from Discovery Channel programming and blockbuster museum exhibits to freak show revivals and viral videos.”

To purchase this book go here!

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Categories
Performing Arts Sideshow Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Women

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Phantom Twin” a Children’s Graphic Novel by Lisa Brown

A formerly conjoined twin in a carnival sideshow feel the pang of cut ties!


A young woman is haunted by the ghost of her conjoined twin, in Lisa Brown’s The Phantom Twin, a sweetly spooky graphic novel set in a turn-of-the-century sideshow.

Isabel and Jane are the Extraordinary Peabody Sisters, conjoined twins in a traveling carnival freak show―until an ambitious surgeon tries to separate them and fails, causing Jane’s death.

Isabel has lost an arm and a leg but gained a ghostly companion: Her dead twin is now her phantom limb. Haunted, altered, and alone for the first time, can Isabel build a new life that’s truly her own?


Interview with the author Lisa Brown

Q: The Phantom Twin is about sisterhood, loss, and identity. How do you think young adults will relate to Isabel’s story?

A: I think that all those elements resonate in just about every human’s life; family, death, and loneliness. I know that they resonate with me. As for young adults, they’re in the middle of an enormous identity shift from childhood to adulthood. It’s an evolution that sometimes feels like a loss, other times an achievement. It’s really a bit of both.

Q: The setting of The Phantom Twin is very unique. Why did you choose it?

A: I’ve always been enamored of carnivals. They perch on the edge of wholesome and seedy: innocent fun on the outside and perhaps more sinister behind the curtain. The lives of the sideshow performers themselves were also a muddle of contradictions: beauty and talent, exploitation and bigotry, and, for some, success and happiness. In the end, it’s complicated, and I am drawn to what is complicated.


About the Author

Lisa Brown is a New York Times bestselling illustrator, author, and cartoonist. Her work includes a slew of illustrated books including Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket; The Airport Book; Picture the Dead with Adele Griffin; and Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert. For adults, Long Story Short is a collection of comic strips about classic novels. She lives in San Francisco and teaches in the illustration department of the California College of Art.


“Reviews”

“In the tradition of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, Lisa Brown’s The Phantom Twin explores the behind-the-scenes lives of performers in an old-timey circus sideshow, tapping into our fascination―and on some level identification―with these obvious ‘outsiders.'” New York Times

“Skating the line of unsettling and adorable, Brown’s trademark tidy artwork and straightforward, emotional text will make readers wrestle with what it means to be a ‘freak.’ Step right up.” ―Daniel Kraus, New York Times–bestselling coauthor of The Shape of Water

“Lovely. A fascinating and heartfelt tale of two sisters, beautifully told, beautifully drawn.” ―Ransom Riggs, #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Categories
Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret Comedy Coney Island Film History Interview Performing Arts Sideshow Tent Show Video Women

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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Categories
Sideshow Tattoo Women Workshop

The Southern Sideshow Hootenanny!

March 6th thru the 9th @Cafe Istanbul, NOLA

James Taylor: First in Half the World (A Spiel on the Peale)

Kick off the 2020 Hoot with a brand new talk by James Taylor about the oldest museum in the country. “America’s sideshow historian,” James Taylor, talks on the Peale’s history and legacy, one that highlights institutions from the Smithsonian to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! to dime museums and carnival midway shows.

Friday – March 6th

6:00pm – James Taylor: First in Half the World (A Spiel on the Peale)
9:00pm (8:15pm VIP Pre Show) The Innovators Show hosted by The Monsters of Schlock

It’s the opening night of the 2020 Southern Sideshow Hootenanny! Come out for a night of innovative sideshow and variety entertainment.

Featuring:
Betsy Propane
Nathan McScary


Jared Janssen
Emma D’Lemma


Dante El Dante Dante
Janie Slash


Lunival Lousion
Chatty TheMime
Salem

Saturday – March 7th
11:00 m – 5:00pm Workshops
9:00pm (8:15pm VIP Pre Show) The All-Stars and Living Legends Show hosted by Reggie Bügmüncher

Showcasing some of the best and brightest in sideshow and hosted by the one and only Reggie Bügmüncher!!
Featuring:
Jack Dagger
Juliette Electrique


Thom Wall


Sansa Asylum


Louie Foxx
Sam Aquatic
Kali von Wunderkammer

Plus our Lifetime Achievement Award Presentations at Kathleen Kotcher and Rob Huston.

VIP Pre Show by Lunatic Fringe Sideshow

VIP Seating for the VIP only pre-show at 8pm
GA Doors at 8:45pm
Show starts at 9:00pm

Sunday – March 8th

11:00am – 1:00pm – Networking and Awards Brunch
1:30pm – 4:00pm – Get your act videotaped!
4:30pm – Dick Zigun Special Talk

Dick Zigun, Mayor of Coney Island, joins us to talk about how Coney keeps sideshow ALIVE! and infecting the rest of the country with a love for the strange and unusual.


7:00pm (6:15 pm VIP Pre Show) Troupe Night

VIP showcase Performances by: Geoff With A G & Skabz The Clown

Main Show Performances by:
Cheeky Monkey Sideshow
The Brides Pixiegrit Circus Sideshow
The Stolen Stitches


10:00pm Hoot Afterparty Location TBD

– TICKETS and MORE INFORMATION –

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Categories
Coney Island Coney Island USA Culture Project Exhibit Film History Interview Photography

Interview with Dick Zigun – Sideshow Hall of Fame

When you visit Coney Island USA you have an odd feeling you have stepped into another time. This ‘not-for-profit’ corporation is dedicated to ‘popular entertainment’ and like the rest of Coney Island, it means fun and excitement.

Dick Zigun is the founder of this wonderful oasis and has created a “Sideshow Hall of Fame” for all of us that are a ‘little different’.

Here he explains it all for you in this Vaudevisuals interview.

Become a member of Coney Island USA!

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Categories
Coney Island USA Sideshow Vaudevisuals Interview Women

Vaudevisuals interview with Sarah the Bird Girl At Coney Island USA

Sarah The Bird Girl performing at Coney Island USA 

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With her uncanny resemblance to Minnie, Sarah presents a haunting and visceral account of the beauty of difference and a hidden story of endurance, from the voice of a natural born freak. Koo Koo and the other unlikely stars of Tod Browning’s revolutionary film, Freaks (1932), are also honored in this performance. Significant, because the film was banned for 30 years for being too controversial, yet it is so much part of our history. Minnie went on to work at Coney Island, ensuring she was free from the life of asylums. This is a very special Coney Island show that will give you both answers and leave you wanting more.

As an internationally acclaimed circus and physical theater performer, Sarah has performed for several companies around the world, including Cirque Du Soleil. Most recently she starred as lead female in feature film ‘Reflections in the Dust’ and toured with Extant Theatre UK. She has a TEDx talk and recently spoke at the United Nations. “Koo Koo the Bird Girl” won an Australian Green Room Award 2019 for Contemporary Performance.

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REVIEWS

“This is a terrific show – intelligent, emotional and witty, and a direct challenge to the audience’s expectations about performance, identity and what it means to look and be looked at.”  

“This is a performance that explores, beautifully, the capacities of the body and the self, rather than letting the differently abled body be shaped by restrictive legal, social and medical strictures that mark ‘deviance’ as a negative thing, instead of a marker of the breadth of human experience.”  – New Zealand Theater Review

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“Amazing, moving and revealing… This is an important performance… ”  – Express Magazine, Nov 2015

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“Houbolt’s performance evokes a frisson that every misjudged soul can recognise… Evocative… impressive… Houbolt has a gravitas earned through many years performing around the world… Her demonstration of side show is a rare treat.” – Nothing Ever Happens in Brisbane, Nov 2016

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“A show that smashes boundaries between herself and the audience… truly unique” – The Creative Issue Nov 2016

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Excerpt from Tod Browning’s “Freaks” featuring Koo Koo the Bird Girl.

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ONE NIGHT ONLY!

AUGUST 14th – 9pm

Sideshows by the Seashore

For more information/tickets go here!

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Categories
Coney Island USA Music Performing Arts Photography Sideshow Women

The Seashore Variety Hour @Coney Island USA

ONE NIGHT ONLY – Thursday August 1st, 2019

The Seashore Variety Hour!

Classic American Circus and Sideshow

Circus and Sideshow for the modern day.

STARRING: The Human Sword Basket, Wendy Blades & The Chairman of Cheers, MeeZee!


Paying homage to the rich tradition of American Circus and Sideshow in a family friendly atmosphere, The Seashore Variety Hour includes new music by Portland Oregon favorites, Three For Silver. In addition, The Seashore Variety Hour presents the extraordinary marionette stylines of Rasputin’s Marionettes.

You’ve never seen anything like it, I promise!

Special Guest! Koo Koo the Bird Girl

COME! LOOK! SEE! BE AMAZED!

THIS! is

The Seashore Variety Hour!

$20!

1 FREE ride on Deno’s Wonder Wheel & 1 Coney Island Brewery beer WITH EACH TICKET PURCHASED!

Advance tickets HERE!

FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!

All ticket sales are non-refundable and WILL CALL only to be picked up night of performance, at our box office at 1208 Surf Avenue. TICKETS WILL NOT SHIP. There are no extra service fees for online purchase.

For more information/tickets!

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I will be there photographing the festivities!

 

Categories
Performing Arts Sideshow Video Women Writer

Coney Island USA – ‘Congress on Curious People’ – James Taylor – Guest speaker

“My Sideshow Mammas” is NOT a spiel on sex in the sideshow; nay nay. Sideshow historian and publisher of “Shocked and Amazed – On & Off the MidwayJames Taylor waxes poetic on the sideshow “freaks” (a title both women wore proudly in the show biz), the women who were “Mom” to him: Jeanie Tomaini, billed in her day as “The World’s Only Living Half Girl,” and Percilla Bejano, the famous “Monkey Girl.”

Jeanie Tomaini and her husband Al (The American Giant) Tomaini.

Percilla Bejano and her husband Emmitt (The Alligator Man) Bejano.

I bought James’ book several months ago before knowing he was going to speak at this ‘Congress of Curious Peoples‘ event at Coney Island USA. I had to record his talk!

To order “Shocked and Amazed – Collectors Edition” click here!

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Categories
Auction Magic Photography Potter & Potter Auction Sideshow Tattoo Women

Johnny Fox – ‘Freakatorium’ Auction

This is an amazing collection of popular culture  ‘Americana’ artifacts. Here are a few items of interest to those folks who admire sideshow.

This Saturday the auction happens. You can bid online!

Annie Jones Bearded Lady Cabinet Card Photograph. York, Penn.: Pentz, ca. 1880s. 6 ½ x 4 ¼”. Mount softened and beginning to peel by layers.

Carte de Visite of a Bearded Lady. Baltimore: D.J. Wilkes, ca. 1860s. Original mount, studio imprint to verso. 4 x 2 ¾”.

Betty Broadbent Youngest Tattooed Lady Photo. Boston: H. Golden, ca. 1928. 8 x 10” sepia tone photograph of Broadbent, also known as the “tattoo’d lady.” Crease at top and border damage at corners, not affecting image. In 1927 Betty Broadbent met tattoo artist Charlie Wagner, who alongside several other tattoo artists, including, Tony Rhineagear, Joe Van Hart, and Red Gibbons, would tattoo a bodysuit on her consisting of over 565 images.

Four Sideshow Attraction Cabinet Cards. American, nineteenth century. Including Lewando Baldwin, “Armless Wonder,” (Boston: J. Katz, 1880s); together with Mrs. May L. Baldwin, and photos of unidentified “Skeleton Man,” by Wendt, NJ; Bob McKay, sideshow “Fat Man”; and a “Fat Lady” by Eisenmann of New York. Evidence of wear, biographical information penciled in on verso to some.

Wild Men of Borneo Cabinet Card. New York: Wendt, ca. 1880. Cabinet card depicts sideshow “Wild Men of Borneo.” Identifying back stamp. Very good.

Carlton and Smaun Sing Hpoo Photograph. Bath, England: W. G. Lewis Studio, ca. 1880s. Sepia tone photo depicts “Carlton and Smaun Sing Hpoo, The Tallest and Shortest Artistes in the Variety Profession.” 8 x 10”. Clipped corners of card.

Charles B. Tripp “Armless Wonder” Cabinet Photograph. York, Pa.: Pentz Studio, 1887. Cabinet card of Tripp with samples of his calligraphy, and other work accomplished through the use of his feet. Signed and dated on verso “Charles B. Tripp. Woodstock Ontario. Age 32 ys”. With an endorsement, also in Tripp’s foot reading “William Kennedy, July 30 ‘87.” Very good.

John Robinson Circus. Group of Photos and Ephemera. Including a female cast photograph on cabinet mount (4 ¾ x 6 ½”); The Bartlett Sisters cabinet photo (6 ½ x 4 ¼”); Millie Irwin Iron Jaw Act halftone card; a cabinet photo of a horse-drawn wagon outside a large tent; a 1906 route card and booklet; and a 1927 program.

Siamese Twins Postcards. Four images, including a RPPC of Siamese twins Mary and Margaret Gibb, as well as Rosa and Josefa, The Hilton Twins, and unidentified RPPC of girl twins.

Siamese Twins Daisy and Violet Hilton Signed Photograph. Studio portrait of the twins posing with a dog, inscribed to the recipient “with love and best luck/always your pals/Daisy + Violet Hilton/Jun-9 1929”. Ornately carved antique wooden frame, overall 14 x 12”.

Skull and Human Bones Chapel Photo. Italy, ca. 1890s. Sepia tone photograph of Roman chapel decorated with skulls and bones, and with skeletons dressed in Capuchin robes. Framed to an overall size of 9 ½ x 12”. Not examined out of frame.

Fox, Johnny. Group of X-Rays Showing Johnny Fox Swallowing a Sword. Five original X-rays depicting the sword thrust down Fox’s throat as seen from various angles. 17 x 14”. Original Johns Hopkins Department of Radiology envelope.

Portfolio of Large Format Modern Sideshow Photos. New York: Val Duarte, 2004. Group of ten original full color photographs (14 x 11”) titled “Very Special People.” Submitted by Val Duarte, a photography student of Amy Arbus, for entry in an exhibition at the Gallery of the School of the International Center of Photography, NY. These include photos of sword swallower Johnny Fox, clown dwarf, dwarf fire eater, tattooed sword swallower, tattooed transgender woman, front and rear pictures of whole body tattooed man, and others. Together with a quantity of over fifty similar size photographs of various sideshow performers, including several of the octogenarian human blockhead, strip tease show, and others. Very good.

Click here for the Doyle & Doyle Website! Happy Hunting.

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