I Wanted It So Bad!

by Doug Higley

 

In the early 50's, I saw them all. Was awed by them all. The real freaks, with three legs and faces that couldn't rob a bank and disappear in the crowd.

I wanted so bad to be a Sideshow performer, but I guess not bad enough. Hell I was born with the 'normal' compliment of appendages so that was out. I decided I would be a Fire Eater!  But there was nobody I knew to teach me. The first time I burned my lip I figured that was a bad idea.  I decided to be a Sword Swallower!  My gag reflex was so strong and hard to take that for years I figured I was just a wimp and forgot trying to be a 'made' freak.

Then I discovered Magic (that was easy and not painful!) and did that for awhile, did some Clowning and turned to Escapes after I got some equipment from Mario Mancini.  Not really me though. As a teen, I had done a brief 'stand-in' bid as a Talker at some forgotten Midway show...and THAT was me!  Hell I could talk, that didn't hurt!

In the late 60's I had moved from New York to San Francisco.  I briefly did the Escape Act at a Topless club but since I had a very dangerous element in the act (I only did 3 on stage bits so this was a strong closer) which involved, unless I was really fast, nearly choking to the point of passing out and croaking, I really didn't think the $200 bucks a week was worth it. The 'bosses' liked me though and I 'talked' them into keeping me on as a Talker (Barker in that industry) outside the club. Man did I bring 'em in and turn the tip. One night a guy comes by and say's in a thick Australian accent, "If you got rid of that ridiculous New York accent, I could use you in Sidney. (What New York accent? I really had no Idea I sounded like some Bowery thug I guess.) The guy was John Bailey who was a big time TV news Anchor on Channel 10 over here. He gave me his card and said to go to a Broadcast School then call him. I went to the school but never called him as I couldn't see being somewhere like Australia and not being able to hitch hike out. Besides, I got an offer in Alaska and that was the start of a long and interesting career in Broadcasting, which allowed me to get back into the sideshow biz and be a talker without sounding like Peter Falk or having to burn my lip. I still love watching the sword swallow and the fire acts and I'm still glad it's not me doing them.

 

The great Tim Cridland still makes me cringe like a mark and Lifto... well...cringe is not the word .... yeah I know...I'm still a wimp.


My friend, David Markham aka "The Miracle Man" does an act I wish I could do though...Fire Eater, Sword Swallower, Strong Man and Knife Thrower....the guy even sings in Opera!


What an amazing group we are all part of and even though I just talk and make funny weird Grind Show exhibits, I couldn't be more proud to know ya.

 

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