A GIANT SWINDLE!
Witnessed by Lee Kolozsy
The line separating
great showmanship from brazen deception is indistinct…
Many years ago at the Indiana State
Fair, I saw Sideshow Impresario Peter G. Hennen studying his
Arabian Giantess Show from across the midway. The place was
packed, they were shoulder to shoulder, moving down the midway
like a herd of cattle. Everything on the fairgrounds was working
at or near capacity. With the single exception of the Arabian
Giantess Show. It was coming in a lame dead last in the lineup
of back end
attractions on the midway.
The show was a giant
turd that wasn’t drawing flies…
A typical three-section bannerline,
with some insipid faded banners, that were serving primarily as
a home for mildew. Behind this unimpressive façade was a twenty
by thirty collection of holes, held together by some shreds of
canvas, and remnants of rope. Inside was the phoniest looking
gaffed up mannequin, ever assembled from sticks and mud, in
sideshow history. Every ducat
sold meant a beef at the pulpit.
Fortunately, there weren’t many. This was the part that was
bothering the Mogul of Misrepresentation.
I actually saw the
moment of inspiration when the light went on…
Peter G. (who looked a little like
Woody Allen) went from a studious frown, to a self-satisfied
beaming smile, in an amazing transformation that spread across
his features, and changed his entire demeanor. He headed down
the midway with a purposeful stride and a no nonsense attitude.
He elevated the art
A short while later, I saw him
headed into the tattered top
carrying an eight-foot stepladder. He was up to something. Soon
after, the show was humming along at a brisk grind. People were
falling in like kids going to school. The recently
lackadaisically lethargic ticket seller was now in a furious
frenzy of raking in the receipts.
And it topped the
I just had to find out what he had
done to turn this fiasco into a gold mine. As soon as I could, I
baled out and headed for the single-o.
As I got in front of the grind show,
I noticed that people were now tipping up
in front of the ragbag.
They were watching
their friends and neighbors headed into the top.
As patrons were entering the tent,
they were stopping for a moment in the doorway, and reaching
way up high, apparently to hand their tickets to the
giantess. I knew better, but I had to see for myself. I duked
my way in, and what I saw inside had me laughing for days.
The fair board
appointed ticket taker
was posted at the entrance, behind the
ragged canvas sidewall, just out of sight of the midway, sitting
at the top of the ladder, collecting the ducats from the
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