Stars of the AVT #5: Johnny Fox
This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganzain the New York International Fringe Festival this August!
I’ve only had the pleasure of presenting Johnny Fox once, at a special Halloween vaudeville show at New-York Historical Society a few weeks after September 11, 2001. The scene was ridiculously jumpy. I put my suitcase containing my costume down for a minute and instantly the security guards started running around like a squadron of Barney Fifes…because everyone knows that after the World Trade Center, the terrorist’s next major target was going to be the family programs at the New-York Historical Society. But enough editorializing…uh, for today.
Anyway the theme for that particular edition was spooky and icky things for Halloween so most of the folks we booked were sideshow folks. At the time, Johnny was well known as the proprietor of the Freakatorium, New York’s only genuine dime museum, featuring rare oddities and curios of various sorts. It was on the Lower East Side, around the corner from the Present Company Theatorium.
In our show, Johnny did sword swallowing and the usual, making sure that his act didn’t overlap with Todd Robbins’, who was also on that bill. Johnny also brought along some kind of tattooed/ body-pierced skeleton chick. I can’t remember what her skills were. I think maybe she ate bugs and worms.
“I was inspired to get into show business by the desire to see the world and spread laughter,” says Fox, “I was mostly self taught.” But he was also lucky enough to enjoy the mentorship of such legendary performers as magicians Jim Cellini and “Master of Misdirection” Slydini, as well as “Human Blockhead” Melvin Burkart. Johnny has toured all over the country and been featured on national television over two dozen times, including “The View” and Letterman. The legendary Freakatorium was open from 1999 through 2005.
For more on Johnny Fox go here.
To learn more about vaudeville past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.