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Stories from the 1981 Tennessee State Fair
By Spalding Gray

 

PT - 12

 

September 24. After breakfast I finally got up my nerve to go talk to Priscilla. She was dressed in a kind of suburban housecoat as she sprayed down the driveway. I walked right up to her and saw that she looked like a kind of beautiful suburban ape. Her nose was just like an ape's. She had a full black beard about five inches long. She was very relaxed the most relaxed person on the midway and she started right in talking about her beard in a relaxed conversational way. "See this? That's just since June! I shave around the house ... you know, the neighbors and all. We have a lovely little house down in Sarasota. I have my rose garden, my six dogs. We're retiring from show business this year because Emmett had a heart attack, and I'm going to stay home and take care of him and ...." I could see she had on eye makeup and eye shadow and it just seemed, all of a sudden, very sad, and 1 didn't want to bother her any more. So I said, "Good luck and have a good retirement." And 1 left and went back to the truck.


I didn't spend much time on the midway that day because it was filled with groups of retarded people and paraplegics in wheelchairs and stretchers. I went up to the agriculture barn and then came down for the last cocktail hour with the B. J. Reed people. We were all getting pretty friendly by then and got into a big discussion as to whether or not their show was actually a "geek show." Randy insisted that it was and he was telling them they'd better sell their show before they went crazy. Maurice had already started sleeping with the snake. But Maurice insisted they were helping people stay off drugs. And Randy told them that they were deluding themselves. "There's no way you're going to keep people off drugs out of fear." Maurice said, "No, we're going to help people. We're going to get enough money. We're going to have a rehabilitation center. Or we're going to buy a shrimp boat and we'll shrimp and the girls will sell the shrimp from the truck on shore." And Randy said, "Well, you'd better do it quick, because by the end of the season you're going to be biting the heads off chickens, like any geek." And Maurice said, "No, no, we're not into blood and meat. 1 saw a geek show in Illinois and there was a holdover where the geek wasn't working and he was so bloodthirsty he bit the heads off eighty snakes, and the guy said, 'What'd you do  that for?' and he said he just craved the blood and meat, and the guy had to write it off to a business expense."


Then Maurice told about another geek show in Illinois that made $ 10,000 on one spot. There, the guy bit the heads off frogs, chewed them, swallowed them, and then vomited them up in his hand. Maurice said, "That was a geek show and we ain't getting into that." And Ellen said, "That's right, there's no way we're going to do that. I can't stand blood and guts." Then Randy said, "I think there's an erosion going on here." And they said, "No way, man. Nope, we're not going to bite the heads off animals."


It was time for them to do their show and they left. A little later Randy and I decided to go over and give them some help bringing in a crowd. We went in and just stood in the doorway by Pierre's cage where we could be seen by the people outside. Then we performed these gross exaggerated reactions and staggered out going, "Oh, my God, did you see that? Disgusting!" When the people outside saw us do that, they rushed to buy tickets. Ellen couldn't sell them fast enough. So we were helping the geeks. And then I went in and instead of rushing out I got entranced by the two gerbils. The Doors were playing full blast and the snake was there digesting the gerbil it had swallowed. The other two gerbils were right next to it and they must by now have begun to sense death. Either that, or the Jim Morrison music was getting to them, or a combination of both. They were desperately trying to climb on top of one another. One covered the other, and then that one would cover the first one. I was getting more and more hypnotized, and while I was standing there Pierre got up with the snake around his neck and he took his fist and punched the Plexiglas as hard as he could. I jumped. I went flying out that door. I was terrified. And then a lot of people bought tickets and came in.

 

To be Continued

 


Special Thank to Kathleen Russo, the Estate of Spalding Gray and www.spalding.com official website of Spalding Gray

All stories are re-printed with the permission of the Estate of Spalding Gray

All stories are copyrighted Spalding Gray & Spalding Gray Estate and posted here with their expressed permission,


 

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