The inssside lecture…
By Lee Kolozsssssy
The snake has earned
a well deserved place in the sideshow hall of fame…
have seen more old sideshow photos with snakes, than without. As
long as I can remember, there has been a snake around this show. I
have seen many variations of snake exhibits, and many ways that
snakes play a role in performance art. There is nothing that
provokes a reaction quite like seeing a big snake…
Wrapped around a
the sideshow, snakes are, and always have been, a staple in the
lineup. As you first fall under the spell of the sideshow arts,
your very first taste of peculiarity is usually the sight of a
lovely bally beauty
in intimate contact with the slithering scary scaly sinuous
serpent of your nightmares. The fascination often stems from a
fear of snakes.
The snake charmer…
otherwise rational people have an inexplicable built in revulsion
and abhorrence of the snake. This may be cultural. Or instinctive.
To see an attractive scantily clad female wrapped in the
horrifying embrace of the serpent is both fascinating and
revolting at once. The hypnotic effect created by this sensory
confusion is useful to the bally arts where the objective is to
stop and hold a crowd.
A widespread phobia…
same effect is responsible for the snake’s obligatory presence in
the menagerie show. In the traditional pit of snakes type show,
the captivated crowd standing around the pit, actually ballys for
the attraction, drawing more patrons.
Trapped in it’s coils
with no escape…
crowd of spectators, mesmerized and gazing into the pit of snakes,
attracts the attention and piques the curiosity of midway
bystanders, resulting in more fuel for the engine. These become
the next ones spellbound at the snake pit, and trap more as the
cycle continues to grind away.
the wild, snakes try to blend in and become invisible, in order to
trap a meal. The midway snake show works in a remarkably similar
fashion. Passersby become curious and end up enchanted by the
Stone deaf and
Snakes live in a silent, blurry world of shadows and light. Fido,
the dope sniffing dog, can only envy, but never achieve, the
snake’s remarkably well developed and ultra sensitive sense of
smell. They capture their prey by following an airborne scent
trail. Their forked tongue darts in and out to taste the air, and
works kind of like binocular vision, or stereo hearing, allowing
them to discern direction and distance. The trigger that causes
them to strike is the carbon dioxide in the exhaled breath of its
prey. They identify and relate to all other living creatures based
on these olfactory signatures, much as we rely on vision, hearing,
Always hold your
handling a large snake of unknown temperament, don’t exhale. They
always strike the face. And wrap the victim in their coils
immediately. With unexpected swiftness.
Reptiles are a paragon of efficiency. Without the ability or the
need to maintain body temperature, they burn very few calories.
The giant jungle pythons seldom move. They claim a territory in
the wild that is about the size of an average apartment. If a big
snake is on the move, it’s because something is wrong, too hot,
too cold, or the game trails have changed. Watching a snake eat is
a lesson in alien behavior. They waste remarkably little. They eat
their prey completely, swallowing it whole.
Wrestlers of the
also kill quite efficiently. They strike with lightning speed. The
constrictors are amazingly powerful. They take down strong animals
that are fighting for their lives. They do it with bodily
strength. They squeeze
breath out of them, then they crush their bones. They use their
entire bodies the way we use our hands.
a snake swallows its dinner, the very act of eating is a workout.
A snake’s jaw unhinges, and this allows the throat to stretch and
expand to swallow an animal much larger than the snake’s body. You
can see the lump move down inside the expanding belly. They are
the swallowing champions of nature. Some of the venomous species
can spit venom with amazing accuracy, blinding and disabling its
adversary or its prey.
Fat and lazy…
Pythons mature to tremendous size, they never stop growing.
Reptiles grow till the day they die. The limitation is food supply
and appetite. As a young man in the circus, I had the good fortune
to learn a few secrets from the best animal experts. I once worked
a season with jungle cat trainer Pat Anthony. He had a wild animal
compound in Riverview Florida. He had beautiful daughters, I was
over there a lot. Bill Johnson was his zookeeper. He was known for
providing showmen with the largest giant snakes. He cultivated and
He fed them…
obtained pythons as juveniles, as time went by, he sold off all
but the most aggressive hunters with the best appetites. These he
gorged with meat. Snakes are by nature, hunters and predators.
They eat only what they kill, by instinct. Snakes, when fed live
prey, seem to do much better than snakes fed frozen or even
recently killed meat. Most healthy snakes won’t eat dead meat.
instincts that stimulate the appetite…
Anthony had lions and tigers. Lots of them. Also meat eaters and
predators, they required massive amounts of red meat. This was
obtained on the hoof. Poor old retired broken down old nags
destined for the glue factory, lived out their last days in a
pasture that led to the abattoir. When it was time to butcher cat
meat, Bill always cut a few long boneless strips of prime
horsemeat. Sixty, maybe eighty pounds a strip. Big around as a
man’s leg. Into one end of these giant meat strips he would sew
some strings of catgut.
was to tie the huge chunk of meat between the legs of a live
chicken. The hungry snake would hit the chicken, swallow it head
first, and the horsemeat tied between its legs would go with it.
All that protein would soon become more snake.
After gorging themselves on massive amounts of raw meat, they find
a cozy warm place to take a nice long
Like a week or two. During which time they digest and grow. They
outgrow their skin and
shed it off. All
that’s left is an empty snake. They move on completely
reupholstered. And very hungry.
Beauty and the
performer I have often envied the sideshow snake’s good fortune in
getting to work coiled around gorgeous babes. Until I saw what
went on in the Geek Show. The Geek Show is snake hell. The only
member of the company with a worse job than the star, the geek, is
the co-star, the geek’s snake. Even in the toned down modern Geek
Show, Billy Reed, the drug addicted geek, performs an unnatural
act with the snake. Not to be prudish, but performing oral snake
in public is sick. This should not even be done
phallic symbols, biblical references, etc…
heard all this, repeatedly, and can’t prove or disprove any of it.
All I know for sure, is that the public really goes big for my
snake show. And I’m kind of proud, and quite fond, of
enormous python who is a gentle giant.
Unless she’s hungry…
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