The Geek 

   by Lee Kolozsy

The Brush[1] had a love/hate relationship with The Geek…

 

We were circus people. I was one of the many show-kids. In Gibtown[2]. A little Florida community of freaks, carnies, circus performers, con artists, show animals, and mystified crackers.

 

We all called this poor wobbly[3] “The Geek”… 

 We weren’t heartless, we never called him “Geek” to his face. Plus we tried to avoid his face. One girl said rats lived in his beard. I wasn’t gonna check. The Geek was textbook ugly. With every factory option. The full package. Odor. Visually offensive, filthy clothing, chewed tobacco, the works. Had hideous scars from dread diseases. A face full of revolting. A lingering rank stench. Filthy unhygienic, long, greasy, disgusting hair. The rednecks called him “hippie”  The Hippies called him “hillbilly” He was neither.

 

He was a geek… [4] 

The Brush simply loved The Geek, when he didn’t hate him. The Brush worked The Geek to death. Only he didn’t die. He just coughed up more phlegm, wobbled a little more than usual, stank a little more intensely, and kept on working. Not rocket science. Just boring, stupid, endless drudgery. For which he received no money. Only an old show truck to live in. And cigarettes and food. Mostly cigarettes. Hardly any food. And beer. Somehow The Geek managed beer. Us showkids could get a sixpack by paying for two. Ask The Geek. He’ll get it at the Tropicana. Behind the playground. If you could stomach the reek. Better get another six, it’ll help you forget the foul odor. And the ugly to match. 

 

Gibtown was a trap for some. The Geek was trapped. The Brush was a way out.

 

The Brush offered The Geek a job. A job with the promise of pay… 

The Brush was a Circus man. A Showman. A great Showman. An artist. A scholar. A great mind. A broke Showman. Trapped in Gibtown. Shipwrecked. But surviving. The Brush could paint. Not houses. Not cars. Not park benches. Not things. The Brush could paint thoughts. Well, pictures of thoughts. And words. Pictures and words. The Brush was a show artist. A banner painter. He could create a banner where the picture and lettering layout conjured up an irresistible desire to see the object it described. A master banner painter. Only no-one was ordering banners. Too many around. Good used banners and those damn stock O-Henry banners. Starve making banners. Lotta carnies need signs. Circus kinkers need props decorated. Work around for a painter.

 

Gotta get on the road… 

The Brush didn’t want The Geek around at first. The Geek found The Brush. The Brush was lettering a piece for old “ Col. Specs” at the Bluegrass winter quarters.  The Geek started handing The Brush stuff. The Brush was on a ladder. The Geek didn’t wait to be asked. When The Brush needed a Fitch[5], there it was, The Geek knew. When The Brush handed a brush to The Geek, The Geek cleaned it. He didn’t need to be told. He wrapped oily paper around the quills. Like he knew the drill. The Brush asked, “ you ever work in a sign shop?” The Geek mumbled something about before he became a lush..

 

The Mighty Blue Grass Shows didn’t want him, so The Brush took him home…  

To the lot in Gibtown. The lot with only a power pole. No water. No sewer. The Geek could live in the gutted Mack. Piss in the woods. Drink some more. Pass out… 

 

The Brush woke The Geek at daybreak. .. 

 

Dig a doniker pit. Sounds simple. A pit. With a shovel. A pit for The Brush’s house trailer to drain water into. Told The Geek, dig here, The Geek asked how big, how deep. This big and I’ll tell you when it’s deep enough. The Brush started a job. Went to town for paint. Stopped at the Giants Camp[6]. Had a few at Starkey’s bar. Got home late. Went to bed. Heard the damnedest sound. Coming from outside. Took a flashlight, had a looksee. Clods of dirt hitting the trailer. Coming from a hole in the ground. Eight feet down, up to his ass in water, still digging. The Geek.

 

The Geek was gonna make The Brush a bundle… 

 The Brush was framing a show[7] for The Geek… Actually, The Geek was framing a show for The Brush… More precisely, The Geek was framing a show for The Geek…  A Geek Show… for The Brush to exhibit The Geek in.

 

 A Geek Show…  

That is how he came to be called “The Geek”. He was going to be the geek in The Brush’s Geek Show. The Brush painted some sensational banners. Geek Show banners. Taught The Geek to glom[8]. Had a glomming geek. A glomming geek who looked the part. This was gonna be good. Traded some work for a twenty by twenty top[9]. Taught The Geek to put it up. Framed a banner line[10] from old sign lumber. Good looking show. Million dollar paint job on a pile of crap. Looked great. Had The Geek convinced he was gonna be a star. An actor born to the role. On a carnival show. High status. Gonna get your own trailer. When the money starts rolling in.

 

The Brush booked a route…  

A good one. Show painter and back end operator[11]. Free priv and green to boot[12]. Things were looking up. 

 

First jump was hell. Lotta miles and did I mention The Geek stank. Finally on the lot and in the air[13] and The Geek wants some money. Unprecedented. Not gonna start drinking are you? The Brush didn’t like it, but The Geek had worked all winter, framed a show, and seemed to be looking forward to opening the next day and acting. Like a geek. Probably needed some beer and other necessities.

 

Figured it was ok. Gave him ten… 

Next morning, as the show was getting open, we all heard The Brush raising hell. Sailors blushed, women swooned, flowers wilted. The Brush had traveled far. He knew how to swear.

 

“Why were you so mad at The Geek, Brush?”… 

 And a thoroughly enraged Brush bellowed  “Cause the miserable, no good, drunken, wobbly kneed, stupid, halfwit, simpleton, reject from a diaper factory, got a sawbuck[14], took a shower, and went to town and got a haircut, a shave, and a new suit from the mission, and now he’s reporting to work looking like a respectable banker!” 

 


[1] Author’s note…Some of these people have managed to survive old age, their habits, and I hesitate to speculate what else. Therefore I am reluctant to use real names.

[2] “Gibtown” Show lingo for Gibsonton Fl. The infamous Carnie Community.

[3] “Wobbly” Show lingo for a broken down or otherwise disreputable looking alcoholic.

[4] “Geek” A wildman or primitive human exhibited in a sideshow. Usually an actor, although some Showmen have exhibited mental defectives in this setting. Harry Houdini once played the geek. A classic bit of show lingo that has come into widespread use. I suspect that we Gibtown show kids may have brought this about.

[5] “Fitch” A type of paintbrush favored by signwriters.

[6] “Giant’s Camp” landmark fish camp and restaurant in Gibtown.

[7] “framing a show” Show lingo for mounting a new production. Creating a carnival attraction from scratch.

[8] “glom” A geek show speciality, the act of swallowing, or pretending to swallow, disgusting things. Fake feces made from peanut butter and hershey’s syrup, and other gaffed plays. Genuine glomming can be biting the heads off live chickens, and devouring live snakes.

[9] “top” A show tent

[10] “Banner Line” The rigging to hold a display of show banners illustrating the offered attraction(s)

[11] “Back end” The traditional domain of the sideshow.

[12] “Free priv and green” free rent (privilege) for a game or attraction plus a paycheck.

[13] “on the lot and in the air” Show lingo for having arrived and being all set up.

[14] “Sawbuck” Show lingo meaning a ten dollar bill. From the Roman numeral X which resembles a sawbuck.


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