Friday, October 06, 2006

The Last Sideshow? Part 6

“Professor Chumley” is well named, with more than a passing resemblance to the cartoon walrus. The first of three inside talkers, he introduces the show. The audience only half-listens to his lackluster speech. Fidgeting, the audience hardly stands in the same position or place for more than a moment. They want the wonders promised outside.

Chumley spiels on the history of sideshows, the “illusions” in the show, and the working acts that make up the modern sideshow. He warns us not to try any of this at home after which he pounds an ice pick into his nasal cavity with the microphone. The pick is just as quickly removed and our attention is directed to one of the side stages.

To the left of the main stage, there are three smaller curtained platforms. The one of interest at the moment is a smallish riser with a tall, narrow frame. The curtain, we will find, hides the first illusion of the show, The Headless Woman. And it is a beautiful woman’s body apparently without a head, just a mass of tubes where her neck terminated. It was only a brief display and we are back to the main stage.

Our Professor oversees one more act, the electric chair. A young sleepy-eyed girl (Ms. Viva) decked out in a cocktail party dress joins Chumley. The electric chair approximates the death seats seen in old-time prison photographs. Attached to the chair is a large box that apparently is the generator or the regulator or the something.

Ms. Viva sits in the chair. Chumley turns the switch. He assures us that voltage is now coursing through her nubile body. The only indication that anything is happening is a small light at the top of the box goes on. To prove the supposed electrocution, Chumley retrieves a four-foot fluorescent tube and holds it out for her to touch. As she does, it lights. Dimly. He runs the tube up her arm and down her body to her foot and it continues to glow faintly. The act is over and the second mc, BJ is introduced.

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