YOU ARE DOING THE
LONDON BURLESQUE FESTIVAL THIS YEAR. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
honored. That festival has grown in to the largest and most
prestigious of its kind and being asked to host it is a real
thrill. I can't wait.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST
JR: one day
I had an epiphany.." give punk a new tentacle...do it with
sideshow..the old ways weren't working for that genre anyways so
force this stuff in to rock clubs..most of these stunts haven't
been seen in 20 years..there is a lost generation..fuck it i'm
going to try this..sure beats a cubicle"...best decision I've ever
made. Now there are 100s of troupes all over the world doing
it..every time I see new performers or shows I get a tingle..half
of them don't even know about my show..that's cool too...together
we brought a slice of lost art back on our own youthful terms.
YOUR DESCRIPTION OF THE
JIM ROSE CIRCUS
If I was a complete
virgin to the Jim Rose Circus and had never heard of you, what
would be your description of it to me?
see the unexpected. Thrills, chills and doctor bills. A ticket's
good for a seat but you'll only use the edge. It's over-the top
high-flying bone-jarring excitement. Not since Christians were fed
to the lions has there been a show this hysterical.
But I bet if I told you
that there was an episode of the SIMPSONS where Homer ran away to
the join my circus as the human cannonball, you would in fact
realize that you are familiar with me. Or if I told you that I was
in one of the most popular episodes of the X-FILES or had my own
weekly TV show on the TRAVEL CHANNEL, you may go "oh, okay, I do
know him." But if you don't have any of that reference to help you
along, just expect the unexpected.
YOUR EARLY YEARS
The best place to
start would be your beginnings, what was the family life like with
So there was a heavy
dose of moral dogma?
and it was always fluid, the doctrine was never set in concrete.
It changed as the selfish needs of my parents needed them to. So
what applied to the good book one day, didn't necessarily the
next; they were hypocrites but aren't we all?
Tell us about your
early years. Where did you grow up, and how did you end up honing
your skills in Europe before coming to national prominence in
JR: I was
born premature and cross eyed. My father was an amateur magician
and mentalist. After birth I was so small I had to stay at the
hospital in an incubator for 2 weeks. Standard cribs were too big
so when I was brought home my parents fitted me in a shoe box to
serve as my first bed. My mother used to joke that she didn't
remember how much I weighed but she did know I was a women's size
7. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona as something of a freak myself,
not getting corrective surgery for my crossed-eyes until the age
I lived across the street
from the fairgrounds and went to all the traditional circuses,
monster truck shows, motorcycle daredevils, freak shows and
legitimate theater that came to town. My first job was at the
fairgrounds, doing odd jobs like going around selling soft drinks.
I fetched soft drinks and cigarettes for the Lobster Boy, the
Penguin Boy, the Frog Boy. I was doing that for awhile and then
learned to do the human blockhead and learned how to be a
motorcycle daredevil. That was my first real job, but I had a
little motorcycle accident. I attempted to jump 27 cows and must
have landed on some spent cud.
I went a bit wobbly, I
cleared the cows but still managed to crash. I hurt my back so
that's why when I speak to you today I have the posture of a jumbo
I kind of gave up on
entertaining for a while: I attended the University of Arizona and
studied political science, moved to Washington DC and dabbled in
spoken word performances, played in punk bands and the like while
working on fundraising events for social causes (as well as a
stint in car sales). I used to perform at a place called D.C.
Space that was back in the day of Henry Rollins and Fugazi, this
was right about 1984-85. I was there when that happened, I didn't
break because I was not very good at that time, I only got
started. At one of my shows I ran into a little French girl named
Bebe who comes from a circus family in France. She has been my
beloved wife for over 25 spectacular years. I was a heroin addict
when we met, and she took me to France to kick, I did, and I began
working with her family circus. She introduced me to the European
tradition of circus spectacle, which inspired me to research it
thoroughly. Her brother is the director of the Royal De Luxe, the
largest circus in Europe; one sister and her German husband have
the Randalini circus, and I used to travel with them, going around
the Lake of Constance. So I learned a great deal about circus
stuff and freak shows at that time, I didn't know too much about
how to run a freak show. It was hard to find anything about it in
the US because it had disappeared for about fifteen years. So I
brought some of the American stunts over there and I picked up
some Euro stunts, brought them back to the US.
I then went to Venice
beach where I worked as Jimmy the Geek Rubber Man, I got my
presentation skills up doing seven shows a day, seven days a week
as a street performer.
That is how I made my
money - fucking with tourists...
Then I started the Jim
Rose Circus and reintroduced American audiences to freak-show
attractions in Seattle and it seemed like likeminded monsters sat
up in their crypts and started auditioning.
Things went so well in
Seattle that we went down to Portland, OR and that sold out, and
soon we were asked to tour Canada. We became so well known in
Canada that we started getting calls to do TV shows and then
things exploded. It all happened in about a 6 month period.
circus was put together before the age of Facebook and Craigslist,
how did you manage to pull together all the people involved?
like I said, like minded people sat up in their crypts and started
to audition. There was a little click of people that were
interested in it and there was no place really to perform this
stuff. I would go around the clubs in Seattle and talk to the
owners about it and they would look at me like I killed the
Lindberg kid. I found this little Middle Eastern restaurant that
was across the street from my house called Ali Baba's, which on
Thursday nights they had belly dancers. So I talked to the owners
Ali and Baba, whatever I don't remember their names, and I ended
up doing a gig. I put up some posters and I thought that I would
get about twenty of my friends; instead I got there two hours
early and the place was packed with a line outside. Since everyone
had gotten in early so they didn't have to pay, I had to start the
show going around getting money from everyone. There was this
group of people outside who refused to pay and pressed their faces
against the window of the restaurant. I was just winging it at the
time, didn't even know what my show was going to be since I
thought no one was would show up; so I started the show off
talking to those people staring through the window. In that melee
of people were individuals like Kurt Cobain and a few other names
that escape my mind, so I went outside with a plastic bat and told
the people they had to pay a dollar or I would hit them over the
head with the bat.
The people on the inside
who had already paid the 6 dollars to be inside got to watch.
I turned the people
outside INTO the show. Everyone inside was looking outside at me
going around collecting those dollars, if they didn't have a
dollar I would bop them on the head with the plastic bat.
That is pretty much how
the show got started, I got back in and did my shit, it was pretty
punk. I guess that is why I get some kind of weird credibility,
because before that show punk pretty much meant rock and roll, and
I pretty much expanded it to include performance type art that
In '92 your show saw
its breakthrough point with Lollapalooza, how did you end up
getting recruited for the festival?
JR: I'd done
a sold out tour of Canada and I'd done some national television in
the US. Perry Farrell saw the Sally Jessie Raphael show and he
asked me to join up. We did and we've not looked back since.
At the time I had no idea
who his band was. Hell the first day of Lollapalooza someone
pointed out this band to me and said “look it is Jane's
Addiction!” I said “well I hope she gets treatment.”
The festival itself
was so beyond anything given to the public at that time, what did
you think of the whole event? Any crazy stories that come to mind?
JR: That is
true be cause most of them were stationary at the time. As for the
crazy stories, that time was really a spunk incrusted blur..Yeah
it is pretty blurry.
A lot of alcohol
JR: No a lot
of complete stress. I was on MTV everyday, so it was very hard to
go out in public and the first time I ever had to deal with
anything like that. Of course as soon as it stopped airing on TV
everyone stopped recognizing me.
TOURING WITH NINE INCH
From what I
understand the festival was when you first began to be friends
with Trent Reznor, what brought you guys together and how did that
lead up to you touring with him for the Downward Spiral Tour?
that is not true. I had gotten a phone call, I had heard that he
had come to a few of my shows and watched it.
I was a bit clueless...I
was about ten years older than everyone on that tour and I had
just gotten off of heroin. I get on Lollapalooza and go oh boy! So
I picked up a copy of Spin Magazine and watched about twenty
minutes of MTV and I said oh I see they have this new edit thing
going on, where you see everything quick quick quick, these days
you see it on every network but it was a new edit style back then.
These audience wanted it fast with the F word. I was the first to
do an MTV type of a live show, I made it feel like you needed a
swivel on your neck with how fast we were doing the performance,
it felt like Biblical times, there were miracles happening
everywhere. That was the type of feeling I was going for but with
a little more of a growl as a character.
X-FILES AND THE
You've appeared in a
few culturally significant television shows, such as acting in the
XFiles and being immortalized in The Simpsons. How did the X-Files
gig come about?
Carter, the producer, read my book (FREAK LIKE ME), he was a fan
and so was David Duchovny. They originally got in touch with me to
see if I could do something on the show. I'd never heard of the
X-Files I was touring Europe at the time and I said no, and they
came back again and again, they were very adamant and I said no.
Then my agent called me up one day and said, you know this is a
pretty big show, and said they will let me help write the script
if I decide to be in it. Which I
replied “now I definitely
don't want to be in it because that sounds like too much work”.
They called back with a good offer, so I said okay, I won't help
write it; Darin Morgan wrote it and he did a really good job.
The episode was Humbug
from the second season of the X-Files and I was featured as Dr
Blockhead. Trivia fans may be curious to know that Gillian
Anderson ate a live cricket after a dare from me during the
filming. It was the first real curve ball episode, I was the lead
murder suspect in it, they do fan favorite voting and that episode
comes in at number one or number two all the time.
And then The
Simpsons, well they got a hold of me, they wanted to do a Homer-palooza.
They knew that my show was pretty much the vibe of that festival
for many years. My wife Bebe is the Human Cannonball in the Jim
Rose Circus, so Homer basically took her place in that episode.
That's quite some
JR: Yeah, I
swapped my wife for a cartoon.
After The X-Files and The
Simpsons, things changed for us. People perceived us differently.
We got the rock-and-roll tour buses and nice hotels. It was like
some kind of pop-culture thing going on.
Did the X-Files give
you a taste for acting? Can we expect to see you in the movies?
this movie out with Ben Affleck who I just beat in poker for a bit
of money. His production company, Project Greenlight, did this
thing in the US, called Outing Riley, and I'm a priest in it, and
I actually play it straight.
On the topic of film
productions, there was a series on HBO called Carnivale which
centered on a traveling freak show circus. Have you seen it and do
you think it would have been better done with you and your crew?
I was asked to be in it, but I was too busy. I had a really big
career in Europe and Australia so I was not in the US as often as
I would like to be.
Out of curiosity, have
you seen the 1932 cult classic movie Freaks? What are your
thoughts on it?
course, but I hadn't seen it until I already had a career...well I
wouldn't say had a career, but I was already doing it. I was still
punkin it in Seattle...without a Mohawk, I had really long hair. I
had hair in places that monkeys don't.
Any video games?
Tricky. I am Psymon. And they liked that game so much I am also
Psymon on the new one - Sled Storm II.
You've relocated for
a while from Portland, OR to Las Vegas. So what was once the "Jim
Rose Circus Sideshow" is now an act in Vegas?
JR: Yeah, we
knocked off the "Sideshow" part in 1994 after we sold out three
straight nights in Madison Square Garden. We're the Jim Rose
Circus now, not really much of a sideshow after that point.
Is there a typical
audience member you guys tend to attract?
JR: There is
no such thing anymore. I have been around too long. You will see a
biker next to a cowboy, next to a punk rocker, next to a
University artist, next to a lesbian. And they are all pointing at
the stage, laughing, and slapping each other on the back.
I pretty much bring
communities together. God's work.
BEING A PRECURSOR
You were a precursor
for much of the grunge performance art and circus sideshows, and
things like Jackass, and Dirty Sanchez in the UK. Do you feel like
you're the grandaddy of this stuff ?
JR: Well, a
lot of the Jackass guys have said publicly that I am. I knew 'em
back when they were little mules. They are good guys.
Dirty Sanchez, not very
familiar, but I've been around since they were clean!
I know in the United
States and I don't necessarily agree with this but publications
like Time, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal give me credit for
starting a fashion trend for piercing and tattooing: the circus
brought it to national consciousness, prior to other entities.
There are other reasons
why that took off, but they do call me “the God of Bod Mod”! which
is as close to hip as Newsweek can get!
You have seen so
many people jump on the band wagon how have you stayed ahead of
your own curve to keep up?
twenty years ago I started with a guy with a few tattoos and one
piercing. Now, that guy's your next door neighbor.
But with Jim Rose Circus,
I have a brand. I was on the covers of the Wall Street Journal,
Fast Company... I'm not this trained business guy but I have an
idea about what it takes to convince people that their life is
incomplete if they don't buy a ticket, plan an evening, get in
their car and see something that their better nature tells them
YOUR SHOW ELEMENTS
Tell the bile beer
JR: We do an
act that has a performer thread 7 feet of tubing into his stomach
via the nose and we use a huge cylinder and pump all kinds of
stuff into the stomach (mostly beer and Pepto Bismol) then we do a
reversal and pump the stomach contents back into the cylinder and
pour the concoction into a cup and the performer drinks it.The
joke with that stunt went "It's the after after taste he worries
One night Chris Cornell of
SOUND GARDEN walked on stage and drank it. Eddie Vedder of PEARL
JAM saw this and came up the next night, then Al Jourgansen, Flea
from the Peppers, Gibby from the Butthole Surfers, all came up the
next night to partake. It made MTV.
After that we needed extra
security because at shows the audience would rush the stage to
drink the vomit.
Do you still do that
JR: We still
do the act, but it's done in a more scientific and explanatory
way. And audience participation is not encouraged.
We're not really doing a
gross and disgusting show anymore; it's more of a thrill show.
It's like P.T. Barnum meets John Waters.
It's a much, much bigger
In your circus,
there seems to be an element of returning to an almost Victorian
sense of the macabre. Are you a fan of those old-style touring
freak shows and carnivals?
JR: You know
I used to be, but I gotta tell ya, there were so many people that
were I guess we could say inspired, other people would say
imitating, my 1992 and 1993 act, word for word. It was my original
inspiration but then I got into power tools and lawnmowers and
chainsaws, the different things you can do with stuff like that,
twenty-first century phobias like Super-Glue, etcetera. And then I
morphed into kind of a big wrestling show for a few years like
women Sumo wrestling, Mexican Transvestite Wrestling, etc..
It is an amazing thing
though, I took out women Sumo wrestling and Mexican transvestite
wrestling back in '97. That was my biggest selling show, I did
17,000 $35 tickets in just about every city doing theatre runs.
Tell me about
Mexican transvestites wrestling.
The transvestite wrestling, with the face masks! I was just
smoking pot one day and I thought to myself “Mexican transvestite
wrestling? Now that would be cool.”
First of all they wear
dildos, and the rules of the contest are simple: the first sissy
who can force into the other one's mouth for a one-two-three count
wins. Slapping is allowed, but fisting, kicking and biting is
illegal. No holes barred. There will be no chickens at this
cock-fight, all the action takes place below the belt, and it's a
fudge-packin' grudge match. It is the Mexican Transvestite
Wrestling Panty Weight Division Championship Bout. The belt is on
the line, and the bras are gonna fly when these mix it up.
We have Low Blow Ventura,
Trailer Trash Guerrero, Pickles Valdez and Billy Martinez "The
Barrio Bottom." He is every man's woman and every woman's man, you
will always find him at the bottom of the pile. I am not sure that
he even wants to win. He will be going up against, probably the
sexiest man alive, Tickles Valdez - now these two are former Fag
Team partners, and they hate each other with a pansy passion
because Tickles stole Martinez's lover. Billy Martinez is probably
the favorite, because he/she studied Filipino slap-fighting.
Tickles Valdez, on the other hand, can take a good bitch-slap, and
is known for breaking the rules. They've got a bone to pick, and
they settle it all across the country!
That is some of the
I know I didn't want it to
be like regular wrestling.
The wrestlers were all
contortionists and the audience didn't know it, so when they
started ripping each other's arms and legs back, it looked very
And what about women
JR: I've got
one young lady whose measurements are 36-24-36 and that's just one
leg. You'll feel the earth shake when over 800 pounds of female
We've got Tundra, Large
Marge, Judy "The Bull Moose" Jenkins and Katie "The Pile Driver"
Wilson tipping the scale at a dainty six hundred pounds.. We're
also looking for full-figured ladies to challenge our world
champions. I pay them by the pound. Their diet is pretty
impressive, with lots and lots of hamburgers and rice. Mmmm...
That's some patter as well.
Do you look for
something particular in your performers, as in their history or
presentation? How do you find the people you feature in your
Actually, I come up with weird ideas and then I find people. It
can be tough, like with women's Sumo wrestlers.
How do you recruit
women Sumo wrestlers?
JR: That was
tough. You don't just go up to a large woman and ask what she
weights or if she wants to be a sumo wrestler because she will
knock you into next week.
The ad I wrote up in the
Seattle Times saying "seeking full-bodied women willing to travel
around the world" led to mixed results. Aside from the people
calling back saying "'full bodied' is a wine, you mean full
figured” or girls calling up at 120 pounds thinking of themselves
as big, or when a qualified applicant would call up, the phrase
"women's sumo wrestling" would get them to immediately hang up.
If I approached a large
woman on the streets, I'd get slapped.
What did it was putting an
ad out that said "seeking women, 250 pounds plus to tour the world
with performance show." Then they started calling in, all the
right ones, and I would just start small-talking them about the
Jim Rose Circus, and every year it is a different theme. This year
the theme is wrestling and we will have all kinds of different
wrestling; sumo, midget, Mexican, etc. and I'd ask “By the way how
tall are you? How much do you weight? How long have you lived in
Seattle? Do you like it? etc”
Then I would close the
conversation with "hey, I have a meeting, let me think about it
and call you back tomorrow." Then I would call back the next day
and say "we had a great talk last night, I think we'd work well
together, but there's only one position open and it's women sumo
wrestling... I don't think you'd really qualify but I'd be willing
to give you a shot. Could you gain a few pounds?" As soon as I
said gain a few pounds, they were all fine with it! "Sure! I'll
eat ten hamburgers a day!" That approach seemed to work.
Chainsaw football? You
refer to that as if it's something that has made its way into
Oh yeah, that's a whole
new meaning for "halfback." It's just like football, but instead
of a ball we use a chainsaw. The blades are on, we touch stuff
with them to demonstrate before we play the game.
You've always been a
performer as well as a ringleader, are you having as much of a
hands-on experience with the show as you once did?
JR: Yes, I
come up with the concepts, write the stuff. I try to stay funny.
Lately I've had a girl who
comes out nude. I tell her to put her clothes on and she pulls her
top out of her butt, her bottoms out of her vagina and then puts
And a girl that blows blue
paint out of her butt. She's a real, uhh... artist. Her rear-enderings
are a mixed media. Seeing someone squirting blue paint out of
their ass isn't exactly something you see every week at the
Saturday market...... She's a Pablo Picasshole. They sell her
paintings on eBay. You'd be surprised how many people want that
painting when she finishes it. She basically takes an enema before
she steps onstage, so it comes out all Grateful Dead
You've had some
extremely interesting performers get their starts and learn their
stunts from you, including pierced weight lifters (a man who is
capable of lifting more than the average bodybuilder... with his
dick), Enigma and the Lizard Man (tattooed head to toe) and The
What has changed or
evolved since 1994?
JR: The show
looks nothing like that anymore. It was a very imitated type of
show, one that you could probably see on any corner anywhere
today, but back then it was pretty hot.
Tell me about the
pierced weight lifter.
actually changed his act now. He's lifting a 17-pound car battery
while receiving an electrical shock with his tongue. He also lifts
the concrete block with the nipples and the irons with the ears,
and he lifts 'em all at the same time, all three. Of course, he
still does his famous lift with the part of him that's most a
That thing has gotten
huge! It's got an elbow! It gets its own lunch money! He's looking
for a significant other who can house his manhood. He may have to
go to a Realtor.
I heard rumors about
his penis falling off.
yes..we were in a shopping cart - the whole circus for a photo
shoot, and he had the cart attached to his man hammer through a
chain to pull us. He leans back, takes the cart to the precipice.
The shopping cart didn't
move like it was supposed to, and I look down at the end of the
chain, and his best friend is hanging on the floor.
Thank god cooler heads
prevailed, and we managed to get that head in the cooler. In his
surgery, they did not add any length girth. They took skin off of
his butt and grafted it to his shaft. He says that now when he
scratches his ass he gets an erection. It is what it is - it looks
like a dogs chew toy.
Now that he has fully
recovered from the John Wayne Bobbit-style operation it is now
bigger, harder and meaner than the Alaskan Pipeline, and it
carries more spew. It will freeze your seed before it hits the
restroom tile. It has a heart, a lung, and a mind all its own. It
is like a baby's arm holding an apple.
Any new favorites?
year I've been really proud of The World's Fattest Contortionist,
we've been taking him out, along with this new kid who's been
featured on my TV show.
Any more accidents
JR: Oh sure.
I mean if you could see me right now, you would say "Jim - next to
you, the Elephant Man just looks a little puffy." We do this thing
in each show where we come up with challenges for the others to
do. And we know each other pretty well, so we know what each other
hates. So I pulled out "Spray yourself in the face with bear
repellent." I have been sprayed with pepper spray. Lots of times.
Pepper spray is a no-brainer, double entendre intended. Now pepper
spray is the premature little sister of bear repellent. I mean - I
know it sounds cool to spray yourself in the fact with bear
repellent, but I want the readers to know that it is not a good
We also had a performer
lose a little toe in a chainsaw football game.
That's a very underrated
toe. You'd be surprised how much a little toe helps with balance.
You don't realize it until you lose it.
For all your fame
for presenting human oddities is there anything that you wouldn't
do in your show, or let one of your performers do?
anytime there are stunts done successfully and it still creates
blood, or if it has to do with mutilation, I won't do it. If I put
my face in broken glass and let people stomp on the back of my
head and I come out looking like a hamburger, that's not success.
I mean, there is no blood
or any of that in the show. I can't seem to get away from the
myths of '91 and '92. And at this point the legend around those
shows is so skewed, it's nowhere near reality. There has never
been live mutilation or blood in The Jim Rose Circus. But I'll be
damned if you ask some kids out there who think they knew what
happened back in the old days, they are going to tell you all
kinds of stuff...
I had a guy one time who
said 'Look Jim, here's what I can do: Audience members can hold my
eyes open while other audience members dump buckets of dirt in
them." And I knew he was wearing the thick contacts, and I knew he
was microwaving the dirt to keep a lot of the potential for
Still, I was noticing that
the weight of dumping that dirt all at the same time was letting
dirt get through the contacts and scratch the retina. And I just
thought that it wasn't foolproof enough to be in a professional
The Jim Rose Circus has
always relied heavily on a bizarre kind of comedy and that's what
the audience expects, and the stunts are not secondary but they
are vehicles to spin comedy around.
Has anyone faint in
Human Dartboard is the first human marvel act that made my jaw
drop. The Dartboard's response is something I haven't forgotten.
Hundreds of people have fainted during that act over the years.
You only get a lot of
people to faint if you tell them they might ahead of time. It's
all the power of suggestion. It's an instruction I have used well
in my own exploits as freak-show provocateur.
We used to have a
fainters' corner during the Human Dartboard act where significant
others with a rag would be patting down the foreheads and wiping
the bubbles from their lovers' noses.
Do you think such
gruesome fair still isn't acceptable to the masses?
turn on your TV set and take a gander at Guinness World Records or
most of the FOX schedule.
Today you see acts on
prime time television that I was being thrown in jail for in '91
Is it better going
out with just the circus instead of opening for a band and not
being the center of attention?
JR: Well, I
had some of the most fun I've ever had touring with Trent [Reznor,
Nine Inch Nails]. We'vevbeen good friends for a long time. But
I've got more freedom and time when we headline.
Is the ability to do
what you do easier or harder when touring the United States
compared to other areas?
JR: We do a
lot of touring outside of the U.S. We do Europe, South Africa, all
over. One of the biggest draws is in Australia. Our following is
really strange, and I can't explain why. I just did Houston, a
comedy club for a week, and sold it out. Two-thousand people that
came that week, they were all mainstream and my older crowd. Then,
in the same city at a rock club, I did eleven hundred younger
people who would never have gone to the comedy club, and vice
versa. It's an odd demographic. I do best in the theaters, but
because I'm "rock and roll" or "comedy" according to the United
States, mostly because I did one tour with Nine Inch Nails and a
younger Marilyn Manson in addition to a few other shows. I have a
hard time booking a theatre in the United States, but it's where
we do best. When you're in a theatre, it's art. They let you do
everything, it's accepted. It's what the artist intended, it's
what's ascertained and then accepted based on its merits.
Which country loves
your circus the most?
pretty similar, but I have to give a nod to Australia.
What do you do when
you're not touring?
JR: I play
CHARACTERS YOU MET ON
Have you met some
shady characters on your travels around the globe?
yeah. Luckily because that really fascinates me.
Can you give me any
examples? Do you come across people who go “Jim Rose? I'll try and
JR: I had a
guy one time in the live show who absolutely would not participate
in any way shape or form during my hypnotist act. He wouldn't look
me in the eyes, he wouldn't follow any of my instructions when I
tried to put him under hypnosis, and I was under a lot of pressure
because there were a couple of thousand people in the audience.
Off the microphone so the crowd couldn't hear, I whispered into
his ear, “just play along and I'll give you a hundred dollars”. As
soon as I said it, he rolled around the floor like a pig in mud
and completely humiliated himself. At the end I said, "stand up,
before I count to three to bring you out of hypnosis I want to
leave you with a powerful thought: for the rest of your life you
will believe and you'll tell your friends that Jim Rose owes you
money, one, two, three, you are out of hypnosis, ladies and
gentlemen give him a big hand!" He walked back into the crowd
saying, "he said he'd give me a hundred dollars!" and nobody
believed him! Hahaha!
Gimme your greatest
freak show groupie story.
JR: We were
in Holland once, and we had this girl come up to us before the
show and she says "I am the Candle Lady. I stick a candle in my
vagina, flip my legs back over my head, light the candle, take a
sip of gasoline, and blow a huge fire ball between my legs." And
we thought "Ok - cool." We didn't have anything else to do at the
time. So she takes off her clothes, lays on her back, sticks the
cuntle in her cant, flips her legs back, takes the sip of gas, and
blows a huge fire ball - creating much more heat than a candle is
used to. So it melts the candle, and the wax ran down and created
a pool in her anus.
Now, she pulls the candle
out, and we all applauded. When she stood up she bowed, and I
heard this ping on the floor it was the clump of wax that had been
in her butt - it was an exact replica of her sphincter. I could
have made a key.
You've met William
JR: I have
met a lot of famous people in my time, but the coolest moment was
when William Burroughs came to my show.
Al Jourgensen was the one
who brought him to my show in Lawrence, KS.
He had a cane but he
didn't need it, he basically used it to bat people away as he
walked by. I knew that he loved Ferdinand Celine (French writer),
I believe his favorite of his books was Journey to the Edge of
Night but I could be wrong. Anyways I meet Burroughs for the first
time, and I had no idea what to say to him. So I said “hey
Mr. Burroughs what do you think about Ferdinand Celine?” And he
replied “he's dead”. So now when people ask me about Burroughs I
say “he's dead”. Figured I would carry it on.
In the realm of
books, you have written three yourself ( Freak Like Me, Snake Oil
& Your Lucky Book) how different was it to make this leap from
performer to writer?
JR: About as
easy as it was to make a leap into an actor. If you want a green
suit I have a green suit, if you want a blue suit I have a blue
I was a writer before I
was anything and then it was spoken word which was basically
My book Freak Like Me was
sold as a movie. They've got the script now, and they're going to
start trying to cast it. That ought to be an interesting project.
But I'm not going to act in it. There's also a documentary being
done on us. Both of them will go to theaters.
What would people be
surprised to learn about you that they won't glean from the books
JR: In Freak
Like Me, I guess I pretty much give it up. I don't think there are
many surprises, really, because I was pretty open. But I guess
people who haven't read it would be surprised how much I love my
wife, and how I spend my down time with her, taking long walks
with her and playing pinball.
Are you a debunker,
like Penn and Teller or James Randi? Or do you just leave them to
get on with their own thing?
JR: Well, in
my book Snake Oil, there's a lot of debunking!
Do you think other
performer and magicians are going to get upset because you're
revealing the trade secrets?
JR: No, you
know, I don't care! Some of that stuff, like how to train a bear
to ride a bicycle, or how to hypnotize different animals, is going
to get lost forever, and one of the reasons to put out Snake Oil
was to make sure that the information was preserved.
Although there's a caveat
at the beginning, warning that many of the tricks are dangerous,
do you think that there's a danger people will use this book as a
manual and try some of the more dangerous tricks like being run
over by a car?
that's a concern of mine, and I hope they don't, and I hope they
have somebody that's right there on the spot that can help with
it. A lot of the stuff in the book could land you in jail; it's
not exactly illegal, it's a sort of psychological manipulation,
calculations, mis-directions that take place in every day life. So
I hope people don't use it to, uh, become a pimp and turn girls
into prostitutes, and I'm hoping people will use this book in a
positive way. Its goal really is to show what's out there so that
you don't get taken.
Snake Oil had some
hysterical bar tricks, including the old pick up the $10 bill
trick where did you gather these pranks from?
JR: You know
what? I had so much stuff in my head that I just didn't want it to
get lost. This is stuff you would only know if you had hung around
junkies in the 70s and 80s, and that is what I did. I just didn't
want it to be lost, since I was one of the few old guys left who
could get it published. My motivation was what does a street
education mean? You hear about it all the time, now to get that
degree you have to go through a ton of hard knocks. So I figured I
would give people their street education without the hard knocks.
The second tier of the
reason why I decided to write the book was, for example: brain
washing! You can read a 200 page book on brainwashing and at the
end of the book you know about as much about it as when you
started. Then it dawns on you, wow I could have distilled that
into about two paragraphs and I would have understood it! So why
did the author need to write 200 pages? Because that is what a
fucking book is. And that really frustrated me. I just came from
the position that everything in the book could be summed up in a
few paragraphs, this is what it is so here it is. I never copped
to it in the book, but a lot of those scams I did when I was a
The third motivation
behind the book was to allow people after reading it to be dumped
off into a country that they didn't know the language and still be
able to make a living and survive. I wanted to chock that book
full of different kinds of information: how to scam people, how to
change your identity, how to disguise yourself, how to win a fight
if cornered, how to do easy jail time if you have to go to jail,
how to win free pints at a pub, different magic tricks, circus
stunts, how to get even with people... it's an eclectic
encyclopedia on all things“shysterish”. I thought that'd be fun to
put that out.
That was pretty much what
I wanted to accomplish with the book, and a few other topics that
fit into those categories that I could pull off. It is about a 200
page book but you get about 700-800 scams from
The response has been huge
by the way; on Amazon.com they've really been selling a ton of 'em!
JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS
Recently you just
went on tour with Jake The Snake Roberts how did this crazy idea
come about? Are you actually stepping in the ring with him?
JR: Yes .
You know the movie The Wrestler was based on the documentary
called Beyond the Mat which featured Jake The Snake Roberts who
has had some ups and downs as we all have and I was always a big
fan. I would like one of my last stories to be touring with Jake
The Snake Roberts.
I wrote the show. It is
basically pretty girls, amazing circus stunts, pro wrestling, and
a fist fight. Who could ask for more?
The story line is that I
bring Jake out and talk about how great he is, and ask him some
questions like what was it like to slam Andre the Giant. He will
answer it, which you never know what Jake will say on any given
night. So at some point in the evening he has to get the people to
turn, which he is really good at, so to upset the audience and
create the need for a fight he tells me that he appreciates my
comments but he takes real offense by circus people. So we try to
impress him, and Jake makes fun of every thing that we do and
finally the circus attacks him and he beats the hell out of
everybody; except me. So him and I finish off the show with a
When I booked the Jake The
Snake show all these wrestlers started calling up from across the
country getting in touch saying “I'll bring a table, I'll bring a
trash can, I'll bring anything as long as Jake The Snake throws me
TV SHOW JIM ROSE
Do you have final
say on how the episodes of TV show The Jim Rose Twisted Tour turn
JR: Oh, God
no, that wouldn't have been fair. There are a lot of really
creative people involved. I've got as much input as an idiot
deserves. There's really good, savvy, smart TV people. I'm just a
But in the stage
show, you have final say on what goes up there. Was it tough to
give up control for the TV show?
really. During my live shows, there is a microphone on the
left-hand side of the stage where any one of the performers can go
say whatever they want whenever they want. Control freaks don't
You guys are all
performers. Do things change when the reality show cameras are on
JR: Well, I
think everybody is aware there are cameras the first couple of
days. But then you just get used to them. We're all crammed into a
bus, which is a giant test tube on wheels. I know none of the
footage where we were aware made it to the final shows, so you're
getting a pretty true depiction of elements of what it's like.
What legal limits
most frustrate you? Would we get a better performance if there
were no rules?
JR: Well, in
all other parts of the world, complete nudity is not offensive. I
mean, I go all through Europe, Australia, Japan and Brazil, and
nobody really cares. My women Sumo wrestlers wrestle all over the
world topless. In some cities, they have to wear little pasties.
And they're not topless for sexploitation purposes; it's because
they're athletes, and they don't want to be hindered by extra
Have you ever been
JR: Yes I
got arrested for Mexican Transvestite Wrestling in Lubbock, Texas.
Of course, that's the buckle on the Bible Belt. The cops said we
were simulating a sex act. If so, then they are fucking weirder
than we are. The best compliment I could give my arresting officer
was: "nice tooth."
If you could be any
one person from history, who would it be and why?
Churchill. I hear Ron Jeremy picked Churchill, too...Great minds
think alike. One time Winston was taking some journalists around
his pig farm, and one of the journalists asked him why he liked
pigs so much. And he said "Dogs look up to you, cats look down on
you, and pigs treat you as an equal." I always liked that.
Do you ever find
yourself assimilating into popular society, or do you just say
"fuck you, I'm Jim Rose, I do what I do."
JR: I have a
lot of assimilation issues. Lots of anxiety problems. I know I'm
this guy that looks larger than life onstage, but I'm just this
geeky individual. I'm not certain how to handle stuff in social
situations real well, I'm not too good at it. I don't go out much.
Could you imagine a
parallel universe where you ended up working in an office?
JR: I gave
it a really good try in my youth, but it just wasn't working out
for me. So I can't imagine a parallel universe at this stage of my
career and life. I don't need to work really, I'd rather go
fishing, it'd be impossible to get me into an office at this
point. When I was younger I tried politics, but the attrition
rate, the way they use people, was just something I couldn't
Aside from all of
this madness and debauchery, what dreams are left to achieve?
JR: You know
what, it's like an AA meeting, I take it one day at a time. I
honestly just don't know and to tell you the truth never have
known. I never put any stress into it.
I did Politically
Incorrect with Bill Maher and Jerry Falwell, I smoked pot right in
front of John Kennedy Jr., back before he got his pilot license.
Trent Reznor used to be my roommate, I know David Bowie, I did
Ozzy Osbourne's retirement party, and Sharon made the kids leave
the room, William S. Burroughs used to come to my shows before he
died, I was on the X-files, Homer ran away and joined The Jim Rose
Circus on The Simpsons as a human cannonball.
My only dream was a
pop-out couch and a toaster, so I have to pinch myself daily to
believe that all this is possible.
Is there anything too
freaky for the Jim Rose Circus?
JR: Yeah -
lunch with a lawyer.
Do you have any advice
for any young, aspiring freaks out there?
JR: Try to stay
away from bear repellent.