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Fair Blog: the Art of the Sideshow

  • Blog Post by: James Lileks
  • August 28, 2013 - 11:54 AM

The Freak Show is one of the Midway’s oldest traditions: hoochie-coochie allure and horrible deformities, just on the other side of the canvas wall. The barker stands out front and describes the marvels inside; a fire-eater swallows a bolus of flame and promises more exotic delights. You pay your admission and crowd inside, where the disappointment is swift and complete. I went inside a few years ago, and it was just pathetic. But it’s keeping a tradition alive, and there’s something to be said for that.

The best part is the pictures outside.

 

Losing one's head doesn't prevent the desire to look good in a little black dress and heels. The technician's look is priceless: dismayed that she can still carry it off.

The executioner is almost apologetic:

 

 

Yes, she exists. Of course. If there was such a creature you know she'd be working sideshows for a 50 cent admission fee:

 

 

Severed floating arm with prominent bone: of COURSE he's alive, and OF COURSE that's exactly what you're going to see inside:

 

 

Close-up:

 

 

"Hall" may be the artist's name. Whoever he or she was, the work is a marvelous update of the old signs, a few of which can be seen in Heritage Square.

Dead divas walking on glass wouldn't be much of a draw:

 

 

A true tradition:

 

 

There's an old Voltara chair in the train car museum in Heritage Square. What constitutes a lethal dose of electricity? A 60-watt bulb.

 

 

 

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