Pete Hennen's THALIDOMIDE BABY Show

 

Pete Hennen started out in the late 1960's with partner James Dinsmoore. Together they owned and operated their Ten In One show, MIDWAY MARVELS. Dinsmoore soon discovered that the carnival life was not to his liking and Hennen went on alone, later becoming one of the biggest showmen in the late 60's and early 70's. Labeled by Jeff Murray as a "veritable genius" Hennen framed many a Grind Show such as "The Last of the Tree People" (a family of boa constrictors, although the trailer front depicted some kind of human pygmies), Monica Rand - The Body Beautiful (a Headless show), a Barnum Museum, The Strange Sisters - an incredible exhibit that featured a gigantic 50 foot bannerline to show off two pickled punks, and one of the best Girl to Gorilla illusion ever. He did, in fact, build the Gorilla illusion that was featured at Circus, Circus in Las Vegas and featured in the James Bond movie, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.


Pete operated live shows on and off as well, including the Hells Belles Ten-In-One, which featured an all female show (made up of women and drag queens!).


For years he provided services to other showmen, building illusions like the Gorilla Show, selling punks for $50-75 a piece, and even repainting rides and shows out of his Kissimmee, Florida headquarters. He is now retired in Georgia.

 


 

THE BABY SHOW


People have always been intrigued by the possibility of human monsters. The thought of a child being born with two heads or one large cyclopean eye in the middle of its forehead still fascinates the public. To this end, the Grind Show owner has supplied the Baby Show, or Punk Show. These shows go far back into the history of the carnival and still attract attention today.


In the past, unborn fetuses were easily obtainable from Mexico and there were several importers in America who offered such specimens to the Grind Show impresario. Babies with one head and two bodies, or arms and legs shaped like flippers were certain to raise a gasp of awe from the marks as they filed past the row of formaldehyde jars.


The show usually sidestepped its own subject matter artfully in advertising the show. It was labeled "The Mystery Of Life" show or some such impressive medical hokum. Sometimes they even promoted the punks as being "Nude as Nature Intended", forgetting to mention that the "nudes" were, in fact, preserved babies.


As the heat rose through the years, Showmen took to displaying bouncers, babies made of rubber or soft vinyl, in the jars. In this way they were able to continue the show without breaking any applicable laws, and the public, mostly unaware of the gaff, didn't seem to care one way or another.

 

Images

Pete Hennen's Thalidomide Baby Show

Thalidomide Bouncer by Kevin Gerrone - bouncers, babies made of rubber or soft vinyl, displayed in jars.

 

Text from - Fred Olen Ray's book Grind Show

 

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