give us a little background about yourself?
My name is Brett
Loudermilk, I'm 18 years old and have been in the
entertainment industry for most of my life. Through
modeling, acting, visual arts, music and
sideshow...most recently I've discovered how great
Tech. Theatre is, and I work at Davidson College at
the Duke Theatre in Davidson, NC.
My grandfather is an
ex-Pentecostal preacher (read that: con-man) that
had his own touring tent show, He did the faith
healing, sold snake oil and I'm quite sure handled a
few snakes too! He retired soon after he found out
he was too honest and was paying his actors and crew
too well for him to make any money.
That's where I came
from, and that's where I get my abilities.
How did you become interested in the sideshow?
was around 8 or 9
years old working at the Carolina Renaissance
Festival as a stage hand.
I met a man named
Dextre Tripp, who is a Ren Fair tight rope
walker/juggler. I liked talking to him because he
didn't treat me like the kid I was, he treated me
like an equal. I had read a book about sideshows
before, and asked him if he knew anything about
it... He did.
Dextre was a sideshow
performer in his younger years. I asked if he could
teach me blockhead, he did.
Who are some of the people who have influenced you?
Dextre Tripp is a big influence on me because he
gave me my start, he showed me the way.
Todd Robbins has
influenced me greatly, he's a good friend and
mentor... He bought me my first suit, it's bright
blue, but a suit none the less.
A whole slew of other
people have either influenced me or helped me out
one way or another.
mentioned Dextre Tripp and Todd Robbins and a whole
slew of other people influenced you, how did they
influence you and what effect has that had on your
They are the people
that taught me what I know, people like Slim Price,
Doug Higley and Ward Hall. Everyone has had a
different teaching method that goes from "Just do
it" to careful observation and critiques. They have
influenced me in my technical skill, how and why I
do things a certain way. As far as performing goes,
I am 'me'; The Brett Loudermilk you get on stage is
very close to the Brett Loudermilk in real life.
I am 'me'; The Brett Loudermilk you get on stage is
very close to the Brett Loudermilk in real life. Who
is the real Brett Loudermilk?
The real Brett
Loudermilk is spontaneous yet reserved, other than that... I
really couldn't tell you, it's hard to describe myself in that
How do other describe Brett Loudermilk?
I've been called
Charming, weird, wacky, laid back, odd, perplexing. I'm a mixed
bag I guess.
your decision to enter the world of the sideshow?
age. I am one of the youngest professional performers in the
business, I take pride in that. Sideshow is a dying art and
I feel so passionate about it, that I couldn't stand to see
it go away; even if it does, I'll still have a piece in me.
Your age is why you entered show business, could you
help me understand what age has to do with your choice of
many people the fact that I do so many interesting things at
such a young age is an oddity in its self. I figured out
really quick that I could exploit that.
said sideshow is a dying art, would you explain a little of
what that means?
We all know that
the back end shows are holding on by a few threads... Rent,
gas, labor all that and more bearing down on it. It makes it
hard to keep going. The Sideshow is evolving to fit on TV
screens, and concert stages...That is the sideshow that I'm
a part of. I tried the real sideshow, and it's hard,
too hard for me.
You say I tried the real sideshow and it's hard, too hard
for me? How long did you work "THE REAL SIDESHOW" and what
was it that you found too hard for you?
worked the Word of Wonders show, owned by Ward Hall
and Chris M. Christ. I worked with them for three
weeks!!! And I had, had enough!
get me wrong, I love the real sideshows, and I
admire the folks like Ward, Chris and Jimmy Long
that keep it going and can trudge through the mud
and still maintain composure.
so hard because of the work schedule, 10AM to 2AM,
day after day, no breaks. No air conditioning,
toilets or good shower facilities. I just can't deal
with that. Especially after being bred in the Ren
Fairs, night clubs and theatre, it's just a
I've heard it said by others that it's a hard life
on the midway, some have come home never wanting to
return to the life but everyone has told me after
being off the road for awhile that they wouldn't
trade the experience for anything, what would you
say about your experience on the road? What would be
your advise to someone trying to get into the
If I could do it
again...bottom line is I would. I know I just said I was
miserable and hated every minute of it, but looking back at it,
I miss it terribly and would run back if I had the chance.
If you want to get
into this business and learn a thing or two, then Hell yes.. go
on the road. You will hate it, if you can't take it leave, but I
guarantee you'll want to come back.
In the past when I have attended the fairs and carnivals
there has only been one or two shows on the midway. In the
past few years more and more shows are being booked
in areas of the country and world that haven't had a
sideshow, grind show in years. If the back end show are
dying then what explains the interest and attendance on
What fairs are
you going to?! I would agree on the uprising in grind shows,
they are around because they are cheaper to operate, less to
move and easier to set up and tear down. A lot of grind
shows I've seen are trailer mounted, so all you've got to do
is shut the doors and hitch it to your truck. Maybe I'm
wrong... I often am.
Most of the
fairs I have attended were in the Western part of the US.
In Utah we haven't seen a bannerline since the 80s.
But there have been more shows on the Midways over the past
few years. People really seem to have enjoyed them.
The older folks were excited and shared many memories, the
younger crowd hadn't seen a larger show. Most after
visiting brought back friends and family because they were
amazed at what they saw on the inside and wanted to share it.
Some coming back time after time.
You say the Sideshow is evolving to fit on a TV screen or
concert stage. For years the concert stage and TV has been
involved with folks like Jim Rose, Ken Haurk, Lee Kolozsy.
They have used the media and concert as their stage. What
do you see yourself offering to those venues that hasn't
already been done?
past ten or twelve years people like Rose and Harck
have done great things on tours like Lalapalooza and
myself as a singular sideshow figure, someone that
can bring a face and character to what sideshow is.
A representative of sorts.
I understand you
have been performing for 10 years, what were some of the
first acts you learned?
Blockhead was the first act I
learned, as with most others. I moved on to fire eating. I
learned them because that is what was offered to me. Dextre
said, "Here, I'll teach you this..." and I listened and
Blockhead and fire eating, have you had the chance to learn
course! I breathe fire, walk on broken bottles, climb
ladders of swords, eat light bulbs, jam my hands and tongue
in various animal traps, I swallow and regurgitate live
cockroaches, I do some equilibristics and I swallow swords.
I think maybe I've left some things out...
Would you explain for our readers what equilbristics
juggling. Those type of stunts.
Which of the
acts you perform do you like the best?
Swallowing. I am a member of a very exclusive club, there
are only around fifty of us. It is such a rarity, and I'm
proud to say that I can do it. I also am quite partial to
the variation of Blockhead that I invented...I use a glass
nail (That I make) put it in and shine a light in my mouth,
that makes the head of the nail light up like a Christmas
Variation of Blockhead I invented..."I use a glass nail
(That I Make) and shine a light in my mouth, that makes the
head of the nail light up like a Christmas bulb." You
invented this variation on the Blockhead, what inspired you
to create and use this as part of your act. Have you seen
other perform using a glass nail since you started the act?
I'm a glass
sculptor, I make jewelry and knick knacks. I figured that if
I make a glass nail, no one can say it is collapsible...that
was the motivation, the fact that they conduct light was
just a bonus. I have not seen anyone do it but I know
there are some out there, since I used to sell the nails.
Are there other acts you have invented or put a different
spin on that make them your own?
I came up with
the idea of swallowing a sword with a torch at the hilt, and
having someone breath fire off of it. The idea was leaked
and a few people are doing it now. I have a few other things up
my sleeve, but I'm saving them for a rainy day.
acts that sideshow performer do are
and can cause harm and even be fatal if not done right.
Have you learned from experienced professional or not, what
would you tell a young person trying to learn?
I learned from
some of the best, it's the only way. If you want to learn
how to eat fire don't ask the next hippie you see spinning
fire poi, find a real pro. If you don't you could possible
learn the wrong methods make more mistakes and it could cost
you your life.
Have you tried learning things that have caused you or other
I do are dangerous, there is always potential of hurting
yourself. I have cut my feet, burnt my lips, mouth and nose
hair and gotten throat infections...It isn't fun.
Has your family been supportive?
Not really, it isn't normal, they don't see how I could make
a difference. My grandfather however, couldn't be happier.
What do you mean by "it isn't normal"?
Normal, You know, average. Sideshow isn't average for
everyday people...my parents happen to be everyday people.
of difference did your family think you won't make in the
don't think it is possible to overcome the fact that
sideshows are almost nonexistent, they don't think people
Have they encourage you?
Grandfather has. He was a con-man, the idea of me hustling
people is a wonderful one in his mind.
Grandfather was a con-man, you mention in your intro that he
was a preacher, snake oil salesman, etc. "He retired soon
after he found out he was too honest and was paying his
actors and crew too well for him to make any money".
I'm sure our reader would be interested in how that
influenced you to enter the show business?
Eh, I grew
up with a big loud Italian man yelling about Jesus and
miracle oil to rooms/tents full of people, grew up around
the music and the dancing...it was all so theatrical!
I wanted to be more than just a spectator. I wanted to
dupe the people. But now, what's funny is the fact
that I don't dupe people. Everything I do is real, I
don't use deception.
mention working Ren Fairs, what other kinds of venues have
Sideshows, small theatres, large theatres, coffee housed,
lounges, bars, clubs.
venues do you prefer working ?
I like small theatre, I like being close to my audience and
I like tight quarters.
You like working small theatre, being close to your
audience! With that in mind you've mentioned that the
sideshow is evolving to the concert stage and TV screen.
How is that going to effect you? These media and venues are
not small or close.
I prefer working within close
proximity. I don't need to, most of the time playing for
thousands of people is much more fun, just less intimate.
I'm flexible, I can go either way.
Is there anyone you would like to thank?
and everyone involved, Dextre Tripp, Todd Robbins, Slim Price,
Doug Higley, Bobby Reynolds and Ward and Chris.
Is there anything
else you would like to share with our readers?
Take risks and
wear clean underwear.
one last question, what do cockroaches taste like?
Cockroaches taste like Crap!
I would like to
thank Brett for his candid responses, it was a pleasure
doing this interview.
Courtesy of Brett Loudermilk,
2 Brett Mouse
Trap - Coney Island
3 Inside the
World of Wonders Tent
5 Brett Fire
Eating on World of Wonders
6 Trap on