The Last of the Freakshow

by Michael Terry

We are big fans of the Venice Beach Freakshow.  If you’ve never heard of the Freakshow, about 11 years ago a man by the name of Todd Ray quit his highly successful music industry job to produce a carnival type sideshow, or “Freakshow” and set up shop on the boardwalk of Venice beach.  Soon after they were picked up for a cable reality series, titled the same, which was two seasons of the people and back stories that made up the entire troupe of performers and families.

Annamarie and I with Morgue during a break

This is an important place, at least to me.  It is a big part of Americana, and closely tied into the history of the early traveling circus, before Disneyland, or other such amusements of todays age.  Yes, it’s important.  The human giant.  The bearded lady.  Alligator man, bubble Boy, the list is endless.  “Step Right Up!” It was all the masterful draw of the carnival barker that enticed the curious to see the wonders of the world inside the tent.  Yes, it’s important for future generations to know the past.  And this year Ringling Brothers, the last of the big circus enterprises, announced they are quitting the business. This is now the last of it’s kind.

Morgue, a shock artist, doing what he does.

I myself spoke with the man after the show, and what a wonderful, kind, intelligent and genuine person he was.  I felt a little guilt within myself, and promised that i’d try and embrace difference as opposed to avoiding it.  The Freakshow is important.This, and too many other reasons to detail here, make the Freakshow important.  And it has a positive message.  One we all need to see in this day and age.  For example, take Bubble Boy.  A man with tumors over 100% of his body.  A man that if you saw on the street you would probably avoid, or snicker at.  Or point.  At the freakshow, however, he is just another performer.  And all the people in the audience that would turn away anywhere else, sat and listed as he told his story.  Of his struggles, his challenges.  He was no longer a freak, but became a real, living human being, with feelings, and fears and hopes and dreams not unlike the rest of us.  People who would have never given this man the time of day became somehow connected through the show, and left with a little more critical view of how they view the world.  Or at least how they view people that are different.  It was an amazing transformation.

Annamarie and I with “Wee Matt”, “Ali Chapman” and in the back, “KANYA the Amazing Living Half Girl” on the right and “Wolf Boy Larry Gomez” on the left.

Well, April 23rd was their last day.  The freaks have left the building.  They have been pushed out of their home by the new owners, (Who mysteriously appear to be an arm of Snapchat), and sent packing.  Todd assured me that they are doing everything they can to relocate on the boardwalk, and I hope to god that they do.  This is to me just as important as preserving Ghost towns, or monuments like Pearl Harbor to me. No, I’m not comparing the importance of a sideshow to a world war.  But they are both just as important in the bigger picture of preserving the past so that future generations can learn from them


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