I was about nine years old and Mom had
already conditioned the rules - you're not allowed into the
sideshow. Needless to say, on that overcast day in the summer at
the Jersey shore, I coughed up my dollar and entered the
There weren't but 5 or six of us at the 10am show. I remember
not believing I was on the inside. For many summers before, all
I could do was fantasize over the posters on the outside. Now I
was here...and breaking the rules.
We stood within inches of the first stage. The first act was
elastic man. Wow. I could see the pores on his flesh we were so
close. He contorted through all the standards and I was amazed
at him crawling through a barrel after having bent himself in
two. The stage light dimmed and we were directed to turn 90
degrees to the next stage platform where the lights had begun to
rise. A beautiful woman, the enchantress, spoke seductively and
mesmerized me and the huge serpent around her neck.
Into another room and its elastic man again, but as a sword
swallower. I didn't expect him to be the same person.
cautioned on the danger of swallowing in a hoarse and gravelling
voice. I recall tuning him out and focusing on the electric
chair behind him. I imagined it was used to bring death to some
before it was brought here to the show. Electro was no other
than the same fellow. His tall, lean frame was in a way
frightening. He demonstrated some electric effects on the
enchantress who I suppose we weren't to believe was the same
The last act I remember was on the way out. It was a narrow, dim
lit aisle that had a few small closed and draped 'rooms', maybe
just 8 square feet. The closed rooms I believe were acts that
weren't in town. In one open and thinly lighted room there sat a
figure. As we gathered within inches she began to speak. In a
monotone, practiced speech she described herself as the bearded
lady. Her whiskers were indeed a beard and I was thinking it was
a man, pretending. Her voice was husky, but gentle. It really
had me confused. And then it happened. She proved it. Her house
dress blouse was slowly undraped to reveal her hairy chest -
complete with the very first set of real breasts I had ever
seen. My heart pounded and I remember thinking - this is why I
wasn't allowed in here.
I hit the daylight and never told a soul. Since that day, I have
been to many a show and many an act, but that was the most
memorable. I never looked at breasts the same way again.
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