CHAPTER THREE
 

Pt 7

 

  SNAKE KING


William Abraham King spent over forty years of his life as 'Snake King', the brave soul who captured and sold reptiles to the Grind Show operators.


Born in 1875 in New York, the young King grew up selling hand-caught snakes in the street to vendors who used them as 'attractions' to rope in prospective customers. He later met and married Manuela Cortez (a direct descendent of the Spanish conquistador).
King  once   claimed  to   have   maintained   at  least  ten thousand rattle snakes at his Brownsville, Texas, reptile ranch in order to keep the carnival buyers happy and well supplied.


After surviving over 200 poisonous  snake   bites   King succumbed to natural causes in 1952.


JOHN STRONG. Jr.


John Strong, Jr. has been in the business all his life. His father, Big John Strong, Sr. was the patriarch of his own circus until his recent death, and John Jr. carries on the family tradition via Ten-In-One Side Shows and a variety of Grinders. For many years he was associated with showman Bobby Reynolds and recently purchased Reynolds' Ten-In-One operation for $20,000. For his money, Strong acquired a 40 by 100 foot tent, bannerline, electrical hook-up and staging. This, apparently is the show I witnessed at the El Monte, California, date mentioned earlier in this book.


Strong has revamped the show recently to capitalize his involvement in the movie, BATMAN RETURNS, in which he played a sword-swallowing henchman and fire-eater to Danny DeVito's Penguin.


The newly framed show now features Flame,  a fully-tattooed 28 year old snake charmer, a 500 Ib. clown, and Strong's other working acts. He calls the show the Hollywood Circus of Celebrities.


In the past, Strong had been known to separate his acts into Single-O attractions such as the Spidora and Headless. At one point he ran a freak animal show during the day and then combined the critters with a live stage act in the evenings. Even during his El Monte date he exhibited a pair of elephant skinned dogs inside his Ten-In-One.


He operated a Snake Show on his father's circus, a Giant Lizard (river monitor) Show, and a Giant Rat Show that got him busted in Fireball, California for misrepresentation. He framed up an extremely successful Wild Woman Show that featured either a girl or a man (whichever was available - the men wore wigs) behind bars. According to Jeff Murray, this show was a knock-out at the Fresno, California Fair.


Elsewhere, Strong can be found exhibiting his legitimate two-headed   baby,   pictured   elsewhere   in   this   volume,   and continues to frame up new shows all the time.

 

 

The Ten-In-One in its former days of glory.

 

All stories are copyrighted Fred Olen Ray and posted here with his express permission,

 

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