Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Last Sideshow Part 9

For us, the show is over. I am nearing the end of my sideshow adventure, but I want to reset the clock a little. I wanted you, dear readers, to get the sensation of the bally and the show first. Things did not happen in quite that order.

I met Ward Hall after I saw a show. It was one of his employees giving the bally when I first walked up. After watching the show twice, I left and Ward was onstage beating a bass drum to help draw the tip.

Introducing myself, I told Ward that I drove up from Chicago to meet him. He replied, “I don’t know why you would do that.” This is the first clue to Ward’s personality. He is humble and even as he speaks of his life and his accomplishments, it never sounds like bragging.

Ward took me into the tent and introduced me to who he could. We talked about sideshows, pitching magic, and exhibiting oddities. I got a good look at his Feejee Mermaid. Ward’s generosity impressed me.

To quote the cliché, he didn’t know me from Adam yet, treated me like an old friend. When I asked permission to record the ballys, he jumped up on the stage and spit one out, ad-lib. Unfortunately, our time together was too short. He, along with Poobah and Chris Christ, signed an old “World of Wonders” poster that I bought on Ebay. I asked if I could look him up in the off-season.

The quote goes something like this, “When a man dies, we lose a library.” Ward is the American library of sideshow. I wish to draw out a few volumes before that library closes. Even if I don’t see Ward down the road, I’ll never forget the few hours that I spent with him.

There is only one more part for me to write. It is the part I have been avoiding. I watched and listened to a half-dozen ballys and shows. Up until this last part, I have tried, with varying degrees of success, to hold any criticism. In the last part, I will discuss the good and the bad of the show. In addition, I’ll try to offer some solutions. See you next time.

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