Category Archives: Sideshow

Modern Sideshow: Bebe the Circus Queen

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From our friends at Wikipedia:
Bebe the Circus Queen (Beatrice Aschard) would perform a variety of stunts such as having a watermelon placed on her back and split with a sword, lying on a bed of nails while weights were placed on her chest… or the “Plastic Bag Of Death”, where she gets into a large plastic bag and one of the other performers sucks all of the air out with a vacuum cleaner. She would also employ an electric grinder in her act (for example, she would create a shower of sparks from a metal chastity belt covering her groin area).”

Taking classic acts from sideshow and vaudeville and translating them for modern audiences, the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow found themselves with ‘falling ovations’ daily, as people in the crowd would faint (no doubt aided by standing in the sun for hours, binge drinking and enjoyment of recreational party favors) as The Amazing Mr. Lifto performed his take on Rasmus Neilsen’s ‘pierced weight lifting’, upping the ante by including swinging heavy objects from his pierced penis. They’d cover their eyes as The Torture King skewered his cheeks and torso like B. A. Bryant had done decades before while touring with Barnum himself and laugh with relief when ThEnigma, tattooed from head to toe like a jigsaw puzzle did a tattooed clown act- that is until he started geeking live insects.

This was still when piercing culture trended older- 40s, 50s- and youth culture was just starting to discover expressing themselves with tattoos, body piercings, scarification and other avenues of modifying their bodies. Seeing stretched piercings swinging weights live on stage, with Eddie Vedder (or insert rockstar here) joining the cast to oooh and awww had a profound effect.

But the one member of the original troupe that didn’t get much attention was Rose’s partner, Bebe the Circus Queen. She didn’t have the dynamic motormouth of Jim, the pain proof skin of Tim “Torture King” Cridland, the stretched piercings of Joe Lifto… so she often got overlooked when it came to media write-ups of the show.

This may be an odd photo for a body modification history/culture blog in so much as it features no body modification, but without the Jim Rose show’s promotion of piercing/tattoo/modification culture during the transitional years of the early 1990s, things may have played out differently, and without Bebe, the Circus wouldn’t have been what it was.

That and I really liked the photo.

Late 1990s, 35mm print scan.

Get Forked

I was going to save this post for the actual 20th anniversary of Erik’s tongue splitting, but seeing as how today is his birthday…

I had imagined, fantasized, and dreamed about split tongues since childhood. I would often sketch faces or characters with forked tongues. I was drawn to idea both aesthetically and for the potential sensual aspects it implied. However, I thought it to be simply an idle fantasy and not something that would eventually be so easily achievable. By rumor and second references I began to hear about people splitting their tongues through methods like cutting between multiple piercings and similar efforts but I could find no hard evidence or first hand accounts. I discovered BME in late 1996 and saw similar information and reports to the ones I had already encountered. But then there was an update in BME Extreme that included notes from an Italian gentleman who was splitting his tongue via cutting and cauterization. There were no pictures at first but this was a great motivator. I began to consider how I would split my tongue and beyond simply researching anatomy I realized that consulting an oral surgeon would probably be the best route – if I could find one that would talk to me about such an esoteric topic. I was in luck, I first began by searching for oral surgeon that performed voluntary adult frenectomies (sometimes call tongue lengthening) and figured that I would first discuss getting this procedure and then bridge into the subject of tongue splitting. The first place I called was the office of Dr. Busino and after a positive conversation with the office secretary I broached the subject of doing something ‘more unusual’ and was soon talking with the doctor himself. Dr. Busino was very open-minded and interested in my ideas and so I set up an appointment to consult with him at his offices. 1

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Erik ‘The Lizardman’ Sprague’s tongue splitting. While his wasn’t the first documented forked tongue, Erik’s surgical bifurcation, performed by a Maxillofacial surgeon, is certainly one of the most significant nodal points in the popularization of the procedure.

Monsters of Schlock- Philadelphia

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Signal boost for Philadelphia area readers-
Burnaby Orbax and Sweet Pepper Klopek- the Monsters of Schlock- will be performing at “Connie’s RicRac” on Sunday 21st June. They put on a hell of a show, so if you’re around- check it out!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1748689922083553/


Join us for a night of entertainment like no other!!

Monsters of Schlock are Canadian entertainers who have sold out shows internationally as ‘The World’s Most Extreme Two Man Circus Sideshow Comedy Magic Extravaganza’.
They have performed in theatres, carnivals, festivals, night clubs and colleges worldwide. In the past year their madcap stunts have been broadcast on Canadian television to over 2 million viewers, to a million in the United States, and to over 8 million viewers in Europe and the United Kingdom. Showcased in the Ripley’s: Believe It or Not compendium and with multiple Guinness World Records, the ‘Canadian Mad Bastards’ continue to entertain worldwide.
The duo is a touring juggernaut performing over two hundred live shows this year alone to crowds ranging from ages 8 to 80! Continue reading

Dallas Suscon 2009: The Lizardman

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Spring cleaning at my house always turns up treasures that have been sitting around uncategorized for far too long. Today’s finds included the DVD-R full of photos from the 2009 Dallas Suscon hosted by Allen Falkner. It was one of my first times using a long since stolen Leica D-lux 3 camera, with this photo of Erik ‘The Lizardman’ Sprague being my favorite shot of the bunch.

 

Dennis Avner- Stalking Cat

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The first time I met Dennis Avner- Stalking Cat-  in person was at Pierson International Airport in Toronto the night before ModCon3. We picked him up in the huge passenger van that was rented for the weekend, offered him dinner which he politely refused and brought him to his hotel, which caused quite a stir with the reception staff who’d never seen a human tiger before.

He proved to be quite a character. In the years that I knew him I never saw his back and chest tattoos in person, so these photos were quite a find. Facial tattoos by Larry Hanks, 1985.

Dennis Avner August 27, 1958 – November 5, 2012.

Top photo features tattoo legend Bob Shaw, scanned from 4×6 print. 1980s photos scanned from 3×5 prints. ModCon photo of Philip Barbosa, Erik Sprague and Dennis Avner ©2001 Bme/ModCon.

The Illustrated Man

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One of the most recognizable faces from the 1980s tattoo scene belonged to performer Michael Wilson who joined iconic personalities like Fakir Musafar, Hanky Panky, Anton LaVey and a host of others in RE/Search Publications seminal 1989 book Modern Primitives. He appeared in the Bruce Springsteen video for the song ‘Tunnel of Love’ and performed for the legendary Coney Island Sideshow.

Wilson, who got his first tattoo at the age of 13, passed away at the age of 44. This photograph dates back to the mid 1980s and comes from the collection of Jack Yount.

”He said in his dreams, he had no tattoos.”   1

OVxSD: Amsterdam 1995 w/ the Enigma

Crossposted from Occultvibrations.com, this video features sideshow performer The Enigma being tattooed, simultaneously, by 22 tattoo artists at the 1995 Amsterdam Tattoo Convention.

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Original source: 8mm video tape.
Filming location: Amsterdam Holland.
Filming date: May 1995.
Featured: The Enigma, Alex Binnie, Bob Vessells, Horiyoshi 3, Timothy Hoyer, Permanent Mark and more.

I shot this footage in 1995; it’s shaky and has had the audio removed due to copyright concerns.

Community Garden

photo by Atom Moore for Scarwars

The Headmaster- Scarwars3 (2007)

Thanks to some generous donations over the last month we’ve been able to purchase a new-old media player that will help in capturing hundreds of hours of 8mm body modification films shot by Jack Yount from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, as well as donated hard drive space to preserve the content at full resolution for future archival. It’s been a rough process; buying aging “vintage” tech always comes with problems and frustrations so it’s been a waiting game of returning a defective unit, shopping for a new one, waiting for it to arrive and all of that nonsense, but I’m beyond touched by the support we’ve received- I still want SD to be a Community Garden (where one day I’m not the only gardener) where we all help keep it afloat and the support we’ve had in the last few weeks has really lifted my spirits and made me super geeked to get back to the import/archival grind.

I’m on hiatus until the tech arrives and the eventual and often frustrating learning curve of any new system is worked out, so in the meantime…

In 2008 we hosted the third and final Scarwars event in Philadelphia; our event manager rented a 35mega-pixel medium format digital camera for staff photographer Atom Moore, who was responsible for the portrait photography at the event. He captured this very serious photograph of Wings of Desire/Pain Solution’s Håvve Fjell showing off fresh cuttings by Christiane Pinpoint of Norway. Håvve is in the fundraising phase of WoD’s newest book, TOO BLEED OR NOT TO BLEED, which covers Pain Solution performances from 2003-2015.

We’ve been blessed here at SD with support, but if you’ve got a few extra dollars to spare, head over to the TBONTB Indiegogo and grab yourself an amazing book that’s my by and for our community: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/to-bleed-or-not-to-bleed-by-ps-media#/story

Shannon and Tim

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This photo was originally submitted to my spcOnline site in 1998 and features BME’s Shannon Larratt and Tim Cridland (aka Zamora the Torture King)  showing off their split tongues. In 1998 tongue had yet to achieve the popularity it’s currently enjoying:

At the first Modcon in 1999 my split tongue was a novelty and, as I recall, the only one present other than Shannon’s. Between hosting many of the splits at my house and Shannon’s network of people and practitioners via BME we could say that at that time we probably knew personally or could at least name most of the split tongues in the world. This would soon change.- Erik Sprague 1

By the last ModCon event, tongue splitting had reached a level where it was no longer on the qualifications list for entry.