Saturday, April 28, 2007

Random Acts of Sideshow

How to go from Ordinary Human to Blockhead.

It started in the pain and torture acts, sideshow performances in which the performers endured or seemed to endure intense pain.

Some survived crucifixion on a nightly basis. Others just pushed needles through their skin. Not like in this age when gratuitous piercing has rendered shoving a spike through your tongue meaningless. Nope, these guys and even a few girls shoved needles through parts rarely pierced today, like arms and legs. One nutty bastard even thrust a sword through his chest. And when I say through his chest, I mean it. From the front and out the back, not just through a bitsy piece of skin, impalement is the correct terminology. If you want to see the pictures visit the link to The Human Marvels, check his archives.

One of the common torture tests was for the performer to pound a large nail or spike into his nasal passage. It horrified. The audience believed the nail pierced skin, bone, and, perhaps, even brain to make its way into the head. Of course, the performer hammed it up.

Then came a man by the name of Melvin Burkhart, he changed everything. He took a minor torture piece, turned it into a showstopper, and gave birth to a generation of blockheads. The big change was that he played it for laughs. This made it accessible to audiences. Sure, it was still shocking, especially because he used a HUGE spike.

I have performed the Human Blockhead act for at least a decade. What makes a man pound a spike in his face? I think for Melvin, it was work; it was show business. For me, it was another challenge.

So many years ago when I decided being a magician was preferable to working for a living, I also decided that I wanted to learn everything about magic and its allied arts. I learned to juggle, ventriloquism, and eat fire. Right now, I am working on whip cracking.

I digress. Ten years ago, a friend, Scott Wagmeister, introduced me to the act. After some experimentation with Q-tips, I moved to nails. First, just sliding them in and then figuring how to “pound” them into my nose. I tried larger nails until I settled on a size and length that was comfortable. I believe my sinus passage would stretch, but I don’t want to go through the pain of enlarging it.

Now, you can find performers who have backslid into making the act a torture act again. They shove ice picks, screwdrivers, and drills into their heads. Whatever works. (Whatever sells!)

I prefer the middle road, a little shock, a little fun.
Make ‘em squirm, then make ‘em laugh; pull them and let them know everything is safe.

The other day a new addition for the act came in the mail. Glass Nails!

I’ll get to the maker in a moment. The nails are made from Pyrex. They look great and slide in smooth. One of their amazing properties is that they conduct light, much like fiber optics. When the nail is deep in my nose, I can put a flashlight in my mouth and light up the nails.

Cool. I’m the Human Lite-Brite.
(Lite-Brite is a registered trademark of blah, blah blah.)

The maker of these wonderful new tools is Brett Loudermilk, The Freak Prodigy. I found out that he made these in the sideshow section on the Magic Café. No, never fear, I am not a member. I lurk, mostly shaking my head in disbelief, except in the sideshow section, which seems pretty decent.

Back to the commercial, Brett has made an incredible product. I urge anyone reading this that does the blockhead act already to purchase some nails from him. Don't waver. For a few bucks, it will make your act better. Even if you just perform it for fun, these nails add a lot to the show. Here is his e-mail:

Hey, get your freak on.

No comments: