Tallon Crawford - Bat Boy - 9/1/04

 

Q: When did you first become interested in the sideshow?

 

A: Ah, it was the year I went out with Jeff.

 

Q: How old were you when you went out on that show?

 

A: I was twenty-seven.

 

Q: What year was that?

 

A: 2001, no it was 2002 maybe, Ya! 2002.

 

Q: Did you ever have an opportunity to see one of Jeffís shows before you joined him?

 

A: No, he doesn't like doing the fairs on the West Coast. The area where we live isn't the best for the sideshow business.

 

Q: How did you meet Jeff Murray?

 

A: Jeff's son was with one of my friends. They had a baby together so his granddaughter is my friendsí daughter.  She was living there so I just started talking with Jeff and he asked me to go out with him.

 

Q: What was it that caught your interest when Jeff asked you to do the show?

 

A: I thought the travel would be great and it was going to be pretty good money. I needed to get out of town. I was getting into a little trouble and wanted to get out of Dodge you know! I really had a good time and learned a lot. It was good for me to be out there.

 

Q: What was it about you that Jeff thought would work for his show?

 

A: I think he just saw an opportunity so we ran with it. I don't know. He was getting bored with the West Coast (you know) and the things he was doing there. He just wanted to do something different and we both saw an opportunity.

 

Q: What was the inspiration for the Bat Boy Show? Was it your idea?

 

A: We were all just sitting around trying to think of what character I could be. It was my friend that made the suggestion and said why don't you just be Bat Boy?  I said all right.

 

Q: Did you have tattoos at the time and do you think it may have had something to do with her suggestion?

 

A: Ya! I had been getting tattoos for a long time. It may have inspired her idea for the Bat Boy character.

 

Q: What was your first spot and why did Jeff pick that fair?

 

A: We came through Peoria, Illinois first.  We were trying to make some money on the way out to New England.  So our first stop was in Peoria here in Illinois.

 

Q: Peoria was your first spot. What was the turnout like and how did people react to you?

 

A: It was a really bad fair. They lost on that spot. It was in a bad area and nobody came to the fair because it got rained out.  But

it was good for me because it kind of got me eased into things.  It was my first time and most of the people liked me. In fact most of them came back time after time.

 

Q: So Peoria was the very first time you appeared.  How did you feel about being on that show?

 

A: It was odd, but it was all right. I'm not used to, like dealing with a lot of people. You know like, pretty much a customer service basis.  I was in the spotlight and it was kind of strange for me to be there.

 

Q: How long was it before you started to become comfortable?

 

A: It was just a couple of days, then things became easier for me.

 

Q: Can you give me some idea of what the show was like?

 

A: It was a Single O with a banner line. We had a tape bally and we changed it a few times. When we started out it was kind of outrageous so we softened it a little.

 

Q: Do you remember what the first bally said?

 

A: The first one started out about my parents being missionaries down in South America.  They got attacked by a large bat while my mom was pregnant with me.  After I was born she got sick and died, but I was born with a lot of bat traits, you know. The attack was what started the metamorphosis.  It was like the old ballyís, you know, the elephant manís mother being scared.  I think that was kind of what a lot of the others were like. Their motherís were scared by some kind of animal.

 

Q: You mentioned that you had to change that bally a few times.  What changes did you make and why?

 

A: People nowadays aren't as naÔve. They didn't believe that spiel and we got tired of them telling us about it. So we softened it a little and made it more believable. The changes made it sound like it could almost be real.

 

Q: What were the changes you made to make it more believable?

 

A: Well, when I was a baby I got bit by a bat while I was living in the desert in Nevada.  I got sick, then my features started to change and all that, you know.  People started saying woo, well maybe, just maybe that might have happened.

 

Q: After you left Illinois where was the show headed? Was New England your next spot?

 

A: Ya, but we broke down in New York. Jeff's motor home, you know, the engine blew out. They had to sleep in their Blazer and I stayed in my pop-up trailer. It was in Hamburg, New York close to the Erie fair.  We tried to get a spot on the Erie fair but it was all booked. It was ready to happen within the next two days. We were stuck there for like a week so we were just looking for a fair to do and try to make some money.  So we found one in Rochester, New York. We did the fair there and we actually did pretty good.

 

Q: While you were working that fair did you come across any other Single O's or sideshows?

 

A: Not too many. We had one with the shortest lady and she was the only human show. We did have some animals.  Back in Peoria they had a Sideshow at that fair. It was Ward Hallís World of Wonders.  Ward was there with Molotov and all of them. It was really cool for them to be at my first show.  They gave me the heads up and so on. Other than that they were the only ones.

 

Q: You have mentioned that the World of Wonders Sideshow was on the midway when you played Peoria. Who did you meet while the show was there and what was your experience with them?

 

A: I met little Pete and you know Bruce the big guy, he wasnít very talkative, but mostly I hung out with Molotov and Felicity.  While I was in Alabama to catch up with my girl friend Wardís show was there, so I did get the opportunity to do the electric chair for him.  That was their last spot for the season so I did it a couple of times.   It was kind of cool!

 

Q: What was the best experience you had while you worked the show?

 

A: I think meeting all of the people. Some places were just really accepting and cool.  One town, it was Rochester, New Hampshire, it was like the best town because everyone was like, I became an idol.  I couldn't even go around town without people stopping me, like a celebrity almost. I went to the local high school and went to the lunchroom and met all the kids. They were like ďYAY! There is Bat Boy.Ē  It was like King Papa came in or something like that.

 

Q: Thereís a Weekly Tabloid that claims to have a Bat Boy. While you were on the road did you have any problems with people telling you that you weren't the real Bat Boy or at least not the one in that Weekly Tabloid?

 

A: A few people asked me if the Bat Boy in the paper was me. I told them no he is a fake and that I am the real one.  They were like Ya, OK....

 

Q: What were some things that you didn't like about being on the road and why?

 

A: Some people thought I was being held against my will. They would say, (you know how in the old days people thought that they would hold people with disabilities against their will and made to do things.)  I would tell them I'm not being held against my will.  I'm making more money than you are probably.  They would ask me if I was sure I was all right?  It got old, so after a while me and Jeff just told them it was my business that I owned the Sideshow and they worked for me. They would say oh I guess that's OK.  I would tell them to leave me alone. I'm the one who is doing this.  That was about all. No one really hassled me or anything like that. I became friends with a lot of the people on the lot. They loved me and would tell me that if anything happened to just whistle. You know how on the carnivals we build those little communities.  I became tight with everybody and no one messed with our tent or trailers or anything.

 

Q: How large was your top? Was it a pit show?

 

A: I think it was a ten by ten. Yes it was a pit show.  It had three walls around it and the other side had just two bars. I would just slip through the bars, and go into the area where I was exhibiting and sit in my chair.

 

Q: When people came into the show, what kind of reaction did you get? Were many of them shocked at your appearance?

 

A: Not really, but the way we had it set up, some of the people thought it was just fake, a gaff, that it was just something in a little glass jar or they were going to be duped or something.  The way it was set up on the inside it looked like I was kneeling down ready to jump at somebody, but I was just sitting in my chair.  They would come around the corner, saying like Ya, Ya it's going to be this or that.  Then they would see me and some of them would jump or fall down, I guess I surprised them!

 

Q: What kind of costume did you wear for the show?

 

A: I just dressed in black with a collared shirt. I only had the one pitch card and it shows a little of how I dressed.

 

Q: You sold your own pitch cards on the inside. Did you get to keep all of the money you made on the sale your cards?

 

A: I split the money with Jeff half and half.

 

Q: Did you work a percentage on the show itself?

 

A: No, I was paid a flat weekly rate. He just paid me $500.00 a week. I also made about $150.00 or $200.00 dollars on the pitch at each fair.

 

Q: What would you say your overall experience was that season and would you like to go on the road again?

 

A: I really had a good experience. I would love to go back on the road, but I have a baby now so I need to take care of her.  Maybe when she gets older I could go back out on the road. But Ya, I would like to do that.

 

Q: Were you able to work the show for the whole season?  There were some rumors going around that you left the show early?

 

A: No I didnít leave early.  I worked the whole season with Jeff and we finished up our season in Topsfield, Mass.

 

Q: I understand you met a young lady on the road and fell in love. Could you share a little about how and where you met her?

 

A: Yes, I met her in Marshfield, Mass. It was the first spot on the New England route. She and one of her friendís were walking around the fair. They saw my show and said what the heck is Bat Boy?  Neither one of them had enough money to get in the show, so Jeff just let them come in.  We started hanging out for the rest of the show. Now we have a baby.

 

Q: After you and your girlfriend met what kind of experiences did you have together?

 

A:  We went separate ways for a while. She went through Michigan and Alabama and I stayed out in New England.  After we got together in Alabama, we got tattoos together. After we got our tattoos we were driving back to the fair grounds and came upon this five-car pile up. She got out of our car and started to help to save other people that had been in the accident.  No one from EMS had arrived. There were just the people that were involved in the accident. They were all over the place. Many were hurt and one guy was dead.  As we were trying to help, more cars were piling into the accident. It was late at night and on the bend of the freeway.  I was standing there and a tire came off of one of the cars and came rolling past me almost hitting me.  It was kind of scary!

 

Q: Was she working one of the shows at the Marshfield Fair?

 

A:  When she came to see me, she was working on a tiger training show. It's an educational show where they inform the public about tigers and the importance of saving them. It's a tiger refuge. People could take pictures with tiger cubs and other stuff like that.  After the season was over I went down to Alabama to hang out with her.  Her season was almost over. She only had two more fairs.  At the end of her run, we met a guy that ran a reptile show and he gave me a little job.  We traveled with him for a couple more fairs.  Then we went to Puerto Rico with that show but we had to come back early because the show was doing very badly. It was a bad fair season out there so we left because the guy wasn't making any money.  When we got back we found out she was pregnant.  We went to Chicago, that's where her familyís from.  I didn't want to go back to California. I'm from Fresno. That's right by where Jeff lives. So we stayed in Illinois.

 

Q: I want to ask you again what was the strangest thing that happened while you were out?

 

A: The Strangest thing!  Well, we were on a very tight tour, so not too much, you know only the Carny stuff, like staying up too late and getting drunk and getting in fights, things like that.  Not sure if this is strange, but Steven Tyler came through my show. He is the guy from Aerosmith.  You know he is from Marshfield, Mass. He came through the show with his son and daughters. When he came in, it brought in about fifty kids that had been following him around. I said thatís cool you can come in anytime. Everybody had to pay to get in.  When he came in and everyone followed him we made a lot of money.

 

Q: What did Steven Tyler have to say to you?

 

A: He shook my hand and said nice tattoos. Where did you get them?  I was like out in California.  He said thatís where I got mine. It looked like he was getting harassed by all of the kids that were following him around.

 

Q: What kind of security did he have while he was in your show?

 

A: He had a couple of really big bouncers with him.

 

Q: Before you entered show business, did you ever want to work in the Sideshow?

 

A: No, I had never even seen a Sideshow before.  I always had an interest in doing things strange, because of my uniqueness, you know, I always thought I might be able to profit off of it or maybe I could exhibit myself.

 

Q: What did your family think of you working in the Sideshow Industry?

 

A: Most of my family didnít know what I was getting myself into. My grandmother knew because she was from New England and had seen sideshows. She would say, I remember back in those days when I had seen Lobster Boy.  She is from Boston. She was the only one that knew anything about it. The rest of my family had no idea. As long as we lived in Fresno there has never been a Sideshow.  They were all born and raised there. They were like what are you doing?  I told them I was just getting tired of the same old routine and that I needed to do something different.

 

Q: Since you have worked in the Sideshow Industry, what have you learned about the history of the Sideshow and how has it helped you in understanding show business?

 

A: I have been reading a couple of books that Jeff had given me. My whole house is covered in Sideshow Memorabilia. I think Sideshows are cool. I have been to the fair here since I have been off the show.  Ziock had his museum show at the fair with a two faced cow, Chupacabra, Cyclops and a lot of other stuff.  He told me that he has heard of you. The Chupacabra he had looked like a deer butt. I said to Roxiey you know that looks just like a deer butt. I think it was. He had some other cool stuff like an albino and a two head turtle that were both alive.

 

Q: Do you have any plans on going back out on the road? If so, would you frame your own show?

 

A: No, not right away.  It would be cool to frame my own show, but you know with the baby to take care I canít do anything like that right now.  Itís hard when you have a family.

 

Q: So what are your plans for your immediate future?

 

A: Just to be Dad for a while, maybe when sheís older I could go out for a summer. There are a lot of fairs here in the summer. Last year we were like vendors and sold novelties at the fairs.  We worked five of the fairs around here. We did the Italian fair down town and made some pretty good money.

 

Q: Is there anything you would like to say to the folks in the show world, family or friends?

 

A: Yes, It was the funniest time of my life and I hope everyone is having fun and making a lot of money.

 

Interview by John Robinson

 

Photographs courtesy of Harmur Shows, Mark Frierson and Tallon Crawford

 

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