Friday, August 14, 2009

Every (Five-Legged Coney Island Freak) Dog Shall Have Its Day (in Court)

I came back from Coney Island intact after last night’s concert, but after his own departure from Coney Island, this poor dog now has as many owners and would-be protectors pulling at it as it has limbs.

If I haven’t said so before, by the way, one thing I find fascinating about modern freak shows and sideshows is how much their tone (in many cases) has fused with anarchism. Once the realm of strongmen and gypsy mystics, the sideshows lately seem dominated by tattooed, risk-taking young folk who you could easily imagine might otherwise have formed a punk band — the slightly more dangerous analogues of the Weimar-toned burlesque performers who seem to be all over NYC in recent years, ostensibly promoting a sort of judgment-free, pro-bisexual Third Wave feminism by showing their tatas while being ever so slightly fat, cynical, or drug-addled, as if any of that’s going to make a man stop highly prioritizing the tatas and corsets.

A few years ago, I saw the Coney Island sideshow performers, the s&m-like but comedic Bindlestiff Family Circus (including the truly amazing bullwhip-work of Philomena Bindlestiff — and the complete destruction of a teddy bear by a skilled knife-thrower), something more arty and European along the same lines that I can’t quite remember the name of that was put on down at South Street Seaport, and the Jackass-like Circus Apocalypse (opening for a Church of the Sub-Genius “devival” meeting) with a clever but alarming bit in which a man’s piercings-lipholes were used to create the illusion his mouth was being spontaneously sewn shut by his co-performer. They are all, I can safely say, a bit scary — but then, I always loved it when the carnival came to the Norwich, CT area when I was a kid.

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