I believe The Wizard of Oz put it best: “A heart is judged not by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” The phrase never made a lot of sense to me until Saturday night at the annual Coney Island USA Spring Gala. A lot of people were showing a lot of love for the old sideshow. It was a lot like the atmosphere at a wedding, when you encounter people from every phase of your life. I saw lots of old pals and collaborators I’ve known for 15, 20 years along with plenty of new ones. The tentacles of the octopus that is CIUSA are just out there everywhere…all of these different subcultures (sideshow, circus, burlesque, fashion, history, vintage, indie theatre, performance art, visual art, CULINARY art, rock and roll, and I know I’m leaving some out) all coming together, not just being under one roof, but really coming together, as though to have this place in common is to have everything in common.
And then all of the SUB-disciplines: “”Ah, I see all the sideshow and variety show PHOTOGRAPHERS are here!” Because there is a freak paparazzi. I only took a handful of snaps (I was having too much fun) and they don’t even begin to convey the craziness to be had. Fortunately, others captured it all for posterity. Perhaps because world affairs are so grim, there was plenty of happy madness afoot. There’s something extremely special about the transformation of the already surreal Coney Island USA complex into a landscape even more dreamlike and liminal.
For a supplemental visual record I highly recommend checking out Jim Moore’s post at Vaudevisuals.com, which is especially strong on the all-star variety show on the mainstage, which included host Adam Real-Man, Mat Fraser of American Horror Story: Freak Show, Circus Amok’s Jennifer Miller, the amazing Velvet Crayon, the Great Fredini, etc etc etc. While Jim was taking those pix, I was over in the VIP room, where the performances were more burlesque oriented (and watched the sideshow on a video monitor). I saw Gal Friday and Julie Atlas Muz and Shelly Watson and Jo Boobs Weldon and several Miss Coney Islands take the stage. I got to chat with most of these folks as well as Juliet Jeske, who did face painting, Gary Dreifus who did walkaround magic. Dame Cuchifrita provided high end consumptibles, and I’m inevitably leaving many people out.
At any rate, I urge you take the whole ride right down to the bottom. It gets wilder as you go. Raymond Adams got some of the best party pix. The uncredited ones are by me, and there are also some by Jim Moore and Norman Blake, and like I say, Jim Moore’s pix of the show itself on his his blog are amazing.
Original sideshow art by Marie Roberts on the auction table.
An array of delicious cakes. Uncharacteristically I didn’t take any. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. Life is full of regrets.
A close up of a cephalopod cake decoration.
Photo by Norman Blake taken early in the evening of myself (right) with CIUSA board chairman Dr. Jeffrey Birnbaum and Jim Moore. Shortly after this, Dr. Birnbaum started running around wearing a pinhead mask.
Hydra-Headed vintage entrepreneur Don Spiro was on hand with his lovely companion to dispense absinthe. The line for his product was deep. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, attend one of his monthly Green Fairy Absinthe Tasting Parties at the Red Room.
These gents are the Apple Boys, a Barbershop Quartet
The inevitable Reverend Billy was on hand to give the proceedings his blessing.
Billy and his congregation hoist CIUSA founder Dick Zigun into the sky and throw him around the room some.
Go-Go Dancers on the Freak Bar.
Me with burlesque biologist Pinkie Special and Collective Unconsciousness’s Caterina Bartha.
Took this one shortly before I slipped out. If you missed the gala, don’t worry you can still give them money! All you need to know is at the Coney Island USA web site. The sideshow opens for business next month and the Mermaid Parade, as always, will be in June.