Friday, September 17, 2010

Side Show


Today's picture is from 1915, and it shows a "Side Show" at Coney Island. I can remember going to the "Side Shows" or "Freak Shows" which were quiet popular at carnival midways in the 60's and 70's. Today, political correctness has very much reduced the more unusual "Freak" shows. One I went to when I was young had what they dubbed was the "Walrus" man. It was a man with a deformity where he had no arms, but had normal hands growing out of his shoulder. If you went into the show, you could walk up and talk to the guy, and he showed how he could do lots of everyday things in clever ways, using his hands, or his legs and feet. He was a very cheerful and talkative guy, and was happy to answer any questions. Now, this would be considered exploitation. I sort of wonder though. This guy had a serious deformity, but had figured out how to make a living that was not too hard, and he appeared to enjoy the attention and being around people. 

9 comments:

  1. That man kinda looks like my wifes uncle

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  2. Exploitation to some is actually employment for others.
    It's not very far removed from going to an ethic restaurant where the employees must wear traditional clothing.

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  3. If they are happy then im happy.
    At least they are working, not asking for a handout because of their disability.( the bearded lady is quite goodlooking shaved).

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  4. Years ago when the circus came to town, the freak show had a "wild man" who during his act would bite the head off of a live chicken. He had on make-up to make him look dirty and vicious. We talked a little at the show. Later that night I was at my family's owned bar, this guy came up to me and started to talk to me. His voice sounded familiar, when I asked if I knew him he laughed and told me we had met a few hours ago. Then I recognized him when he said he needed a few shots of whiskey to get the taste of chicken blood out of his mouth. Man he sure cleaned up nice.

    I applaud the Walrus man. He found a way to earn a good living and did not rely on hand outs.

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  5. The "Geek" is the person whose act involves biting the head off a live chicken.

    We're human and we will always be fascinated by differences, oddities, and what each of us find exotic. We love to be scared (safely) and we love stories of triumph.

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  6. My favorite was "Snake Boy." He was in a pit inside a tent. I had some tickets left so I went to look at Snake Boy.

    Well, he was a shirtless hippy kid of about 18 in cutoff jeans. He was surrounded by plastic snakes. Not even rubber ones—hard plastic. He saw me and started flicking his tongue and swaying from side to side. It was the dumbest thing I'd ever seen. I laughed my head off.

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  7. Remember the Thalidomide scandal of the Sixties? How many thousands of children were born without limbs?

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  8. Mary:

    Yes, I remember that. The pictures of the deformed children terrified me.

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  9. The old freak shows.My family history is the Wirths Circus which closed down in the 1960's.I love looking back at the past.

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