Q: Several showmen, including myself, had a pretty tuff season.
How did your summer tour go?
 
PK: We had a terrific season this year.

Q: Why do you think your season did so well?


PK: Lots of prayer!


Q: Pete, how many years have you been in the business?
 
PK: Since before I was born.


My mother was performing in an acrobatic act well into the third trimester with me.


I started making money by age six...checking under the seats after every show for "shakes"


Then I would clean out stalls for some of the animal trainers.


The shakes paid better.


When we started working around carnivals, I would "gopher" coffee and drinks for the flatties, alibi and hanky-pank agents.


They tipped okay.


As you can probably imagine, I also learned plenty hanging around those guys.


I
was 8 or 9 yrs old then.

Q: Some of our readers may not know what shakes are, would you explain what and where the term came from?

 

PK: "Shakes" & "Groundscore" both mean pretty much the same thing. Lost cash with no apparent owner in sight.


If it is in a wallet with ID, it's not a legit score. You must return it. Otherwise, "finders, keepers...".


The term "shakes" came from the ride operators. The loose change would be literally shaken from the pockets of riders.

 

Q: Could you tell us a little about your mom and dad and their background including their circus act?
 
PK: Sure. Mom & Dad started out doing a casting act in Europe. Casting is a type of trampoline act that involves a person on a horizontal bar (the Caster) high above the trampoline on one end. Then, there is another person on the other end of the trampoline called the Catcher. The third person is the Flyer. The trampoline is very long and the Flyer is thrown by the Caster towards the Catcher who will hopefully catch the Flyer at the other end. Combined with the Casting they, along with their partner, would do all of the usual tricks on the trampoline that western audiences are more familiar with. As a finale, Dad would accompany the circus band playing the slide trombone while doing somersaults on the trampoline in tempo to the music (A Sousa march). Since these somersaults would sometimes run into the hundreds you can imagine that it was a showstopper. 


Q: Some kids for the life of them wouldn’t want to work the same kind of job as there parents, what was it that kept you in the business and Why?


PK: Tough question. I'll explain it this way... I wouldn't want their parents' job, either.


Show business was not just a "job" in those days. It was a way of life for a very close knit & close mouthed society.


If you came across a show rig stopped on the side of the road, you checked to see if everything was OK. It didn't
matter if you even knew the people. Odds were, they were another family much like your own.


There is less and less of that as the years go by, but I doubt that it will ever disappear completely.


Draw your own conclusions.

Q: What was your first job?
 
PK: My first job in the ring was as a shill for Harold Barnes on the old Bearse & Barnes Circus. Mr. Barnes would do a clown act in the show involving a chair, two kids from the audience and an Asian elephant. I was always one of the kids from the audience.

Q: Would you explain what the job of a shill is?

 

PK: Perhaps David Blaine or David Copperfield could explain it better, but roughly, it is this.


The job of the shill is to act as a secret confederate to the performer while maintaining the outward appearance of John Q. Public. This is done in order to pull the wool over the eyes of the audience.


A favorite ruse of magicians & televangelists everywhere.

Q: You must have had many different jobs over the years. What has been your favorite job?

 

PK: What I do presently combines all of the skills I've acquired over my lifetime in show business.


I'm working harder and having more fun than ever before.


Right now, this is it.

 

Q: Your family started in the circus and then expanded to the carnival midway in the 1960’s, working the backend. Could you tell us a little about the transition?


PK: We started getting more dates for the acts at fairs. Grandstand shows. This naturally led to my parents meeting the carnival owners of the period. One thing leads to another, and there you have it.


Q: Could you tell us about the first back-end piece that your family framed?

 

PK: My dad was (among other things) an illusionist. A Houdini fan. His favorite stunt was when Houdini wowed the masses by walking through a brick wall constructed by masons in full view of the audience. A simple trick, but very effective.


He framed a single-o illusion show based on this trick.


It was an unbelievably heavy prop.


It was sinfully expensive to build.

 

The few people who saw it in action were all nonplussed.


By the third day of operation the handwriting on the wall was plain to see... In short, it didn't win a nickel.


Nobody was interested.


So my mom repainted the banners on the front while my dad and older brother built a new illusion in the back.


By the second weekend of that fair the newly re-themed show was a phenomenal success.


The show? " Tasha, the Gorilla Girl !! ".

Q: What are some of the differences between working the circus and the carnival?


PK: As a circus performer, you risk your neck a few minutes per show.

 

A few shows per day.


You get lots of applause, plenty of adulation.


But, sadly ,very little money.

 

As a showmen, you work constantly. Risking your neck even more frequently.


You get no applause. Only hostility.


But, happily ,you can make plenty. If you're smart, you might even get to keep it.


Q: You say hostility, what are some of the things that have happened working as a showman?

 

PK: Once this older man accused my wife of "gypping" him on the Giant Rat show. He called her all sorts of things and swore up and down that " That ain't no rat and ain't nowhere near no hunerd (sic) pounds!"


It turned out that the old pessimist had peeked in the window and having spied the rat's basketball ( a beloved play toy ) he immediately assumed he had been defrauded by a bait-and switch!


When the actual rat was pointed out to him he was impressed but not very apologetic.


We deal with this level of stupid crap all day long.


To be fair, we do see our share of friendly smiles.


While these smiles may not be applause, they are the next best thing!

Q: Could you name a few of the sideshow/grind shows you have operated?

 

PK: Little Man, Little Woman, Little People, Snake girl, Spidora ,Gorilla girl ,Headless Lady, Little Horse, Two Headed Baby, Man-Eating Chicken ,Unicorn ,Giant Pig, Giant Horse, Rosemary’s Baby, Fat Man Dr Zodiac's Palace of Illusion (10-in1) Bigfoot, Freak Animal(10-in1), Snake Show, Rat Show, Oddities Museum.
 
Q: Was the “Giant Snake” the first show you owned on your own?

 

PK: No. Headless Lady & Little People, as I recall.
 
Q: What shows did you have out this year?


PK: My wife Athena  &  I are taking out 2 shows.
Giant Rat / Giant Snake.

Q: How long did it take you to frame them? Do you have your own shop?


PK: I started building this Snake Show about 10 yrs ago and one of these days I'll finish it even if it kills me.


I've only been two years on the Rat Show so you can imagine how much I have left to do on it.
Maybe if I did have a nice shop things would go along a bit faster for me.


But, I’m not convinced.


As it is, I carry all of my tools. All of the time.


Neatly stashed in the capacious (is that really a word? Hmm.) tool compartments of my hand built motor coach.

 
Which we refer to as-The Flying Doniker.

 


 

This way I'm always ready for action.


Though I'm seldom inclined towards it.

Q: How many months per year are your shows out on tour?

 

PK: We've been doing about 4 months a year starting out sometime after the 4th of July.
 
Q: Do you have any plans on expanding your operation in the future?


PK: Definitely yes. When the time is right. I’ve got lots of ideas.

Q: When the time is right, would you let us know a little about what you mean by that statement?

 

PK: You can burn out territory by going over it too many years with the same stuff.


Also, you can bottom-line as much with two shows in a tight operation as you can with four that are loose because you are top heavy.


If you don't follow that let me put it this way... Let's say I have four shows.

 

I might actually be better off leaving two in the barn and swapping them off
with the ones I take out at, say, three year intervals.


The reasons? The particulars?


Mail me a G-note and I'll be glad to explain it to you...

Q: What is it about this business that has kept you in it your entire life?


PK: I've given this a lot of thought over the years.


There are a lot of other fields that could be just as, or even more, lucrative than this one.


I think I'd have an easier time making the construction racket pay, for instance.


Making a buck with grindshows is never a surefire thing.


It's a lot easier to go wrong than it is to go right.


That is what is so addictive.

 

The thrill you get from overcoming obstacles.


Add to that all the colorful characters I've met over the years, all the unbelievable adventures I’ve had in strange locales under unlikely circumstances and it becomes obvious that the question isn't "what has kept you in it?"  but "Why on earth would you ever leave it?" 

 

Q: If you could frame your "Dream Sideshow", what would it be?

 

PK: Something that generates plenty of income on its own.

 

Yet is paid handsomely just to be brought to the event.

 

Is criticized harshly by the press and the cause of much controversy.

 

Is hounded out of town just as the engagement comes to a close.

 

Is invited by all never to return.

 

Then doing it all over again next time because everyone had forgotten.

 

Q: Would it work today?

 

PK:  Happens every four years.


They call it politics.

Q: What would you change about the business if you could, i.e. fair boards, carnival owners, etc?

PK: Nothing. Why should I try to screw them? They are doing a fine job of it all by themselves.


Q: Past, Present, Future…if you could choose the era, where would you choose to operate your grind shows?


PK: Definitely in the present.


We are living in interesting times.

 

Have you looked at ladies swimsuits lately?


It can't last forever.


I'm glad I was here to see it for myself.

Q: What is it about today that makes it different from yesteryear? Perhaps it takes more to shock people than it did 40 years ago?

 

PK: Are you suggesting that people are somehow more sophisticated now? That would be incorrect. If they are harder to shock it is because their senses have been dulled, not sharpened.

 

Every trick I ever learned as a kid works better now than ever.

Q: There have been a lot of “animal rights” groups protesting the displaying of animals. Have you had any encounters with them and how have you handled it? Do you feel these groups will affect your ability to display animals in the future?

 

PK: We've had no problems. We don't expect to.
 

Q: Most of us have had a helping hand when we were starting out. Could you name a few of the people who have influenced you in the business?


PK: My Dad Laszlo, Jack Waller, Ward Hall, Constantine, Bill Cody, Lee Kolozsy.


Q: You listed your brother among your influences. Sometimes relationships between siblings can get strained. I have read where Chang and Eng, the famous Siamese Twins, would even get into fistfights. Would you tell us about growing up in the shadow of your older brother?

 

PK: My brother Lee casts no shadow. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing his reflection, either...

Q: Since you first started in the carnival backend business, what are some of the major changes you have witnessed?


PK: Too many suckers buying into the food biz and jacking up the price of real estate.


The show office forgetting the value of free bally entertainment on the midway, then later paying the price.


Million dollar ride payments bankrupting the big shows.


Skyrocketing insurance premiums bringing all them geniuses to their knees.


One show trying to outbid another for fair contracts until all the fair boards were trained to expect BIG money.


Now, a vast conglomerate buys all the carnivals and corners the market!
HA! HA! HA!


Surely Satan sits in Hell and laughs with fiendish glee!


One thing is certain, the changes we've seen are nothing compared to what's waiting in the wings.
 
Q: With the decline of sideshow operations, where do you see grind shows and sideshows heading in the future? Do they even have a future on the midway?


PK: Maybe not on the carnival midway, but certainly they will always find a home on the fairgrounds somewhere.


Don't forget, shows have a long history and tradition with these events and the public has not forgotten this.


We have more than once been informed by our public that the only reason they are at the fair is because they were told that there was an old time "sideshow" set up there. 

 

Not to mention that our fronts seem to be the most popular photo op on the grounds. 

 

I mean that it isn't unusual to see people politely waiting for each other to snap their photo so that they can take their turn posing in front of one of our shows.   

 

This type of thing is not lost on the fair officials.


Q: In the last few years, have you found it easier to deal with fair boards or the carnival owners?

 

PK: I've quit trying to deal with either. Athena does that. I clean the rat's litter box. Less crap to deal with.


Q: How are the astronomical rises in expenses…gas, rent, supplies, repairs, etc…affecting the bottom line?  Is it still possible for a sharp showman to make a decent living in these changing times?


PK: Lots of folks are complaining about that!
                                                                                                                                             
I find all those expenses to be trivial. A mere bag o’shells. And I don't even consider myself all that sharp.
 
Q: Is there anyone special you would like to thank?


PK: Athena does all the booking. She is the sharp one. She never ask a question unless she already knows the answer.


She always backs me up when I'm in danger of being attacked and/or eaten.


She helps me with the big words.


Of course I'm grateful.
 
Q: Do you have any hobbies or interest outside of the carnival business?


PK: Yes, but they all involve the circus.
 
Q: What is the one thing you remember most fondly from all your years in the business?


PK: The smiles.
 
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add before we close?
 
PK: Only this:
 
     
"If you're going to present a sideshow, promise them the most fantastic unbelievably strange thing they will ever see.


  
Then, deliver!"

 
Thank you Pete, for making time in your busy schedule to do this interview for SIDESHOW WORLD. We wish you only the best and look forward to reading more of your amazing tales in the Grind Shows section of SIDESHOW WORLD 
 

  Interviewed for SIDESHOW WORLD BY RICK WEST

                                                                


 Pete has shared many of his experiences with Sideshow World, you can read them by clicking on GRINDSHOWS


 

 1-Header Pete & Athena - Grindshows, by JR Robinson

 

Photographs courtesy of Lee and Pete Kolozsy

   2- Pete's Parents doing a casting act

   3- The Flying Doniker

   4- Pete's Father with Trombone

   5- Giant Rat Show Banner

   6- Spidora Grindshow

   7- Headless Helga

   8- Kolozsy Grindshows circa 1970

   9- Pete & Athena Kolozsy  

 


Each month we will try and interview a new performer for the site.  Because of the logistics of it face to face interviews are tough to come by.  A good percentage of the interviews we will be doing will be via e-mail or telephone.  If you are interested in being interviewed for the site drop us a line.

 

Featured Interviews

 

All photos are the property of their respective owners whether titled or marked anonymous.

"Sideshow WorldTM" is the sole property of John Robinson © All rights reserved.

 sideshowworld.com   sideshowworld.org   sideshowworld.net  sideshowworld.biz   sideshowworld.info

is the sole property of John Robinson © All rights reserved.

E-Mail Sideshow World     E-Mail The Webmaster