I Wanted It So Bad!
by Doug Higley
In the early 50's, I saw them all. Was
awed by them all. The real freaks, with three legs and faces that
rob a bank and disappear in the crowd.
I wanted so bad to be a Sideshow performer, but I guess not bad
enough. Hell I was born with the 'normal' compliment of appendages
so that was out. I decided I would be a Fire Eater! But there was
nobody I knew to teach me. The first time I burned my lip I
figured that was a bad idea. I decided to be a Sword Swallower!
My gag reflex was so strong and hard to take that for years I
figured I was just a wimp and forgot trying to be a 'made' freak.
Then I discovered Magic (that was easy and not painful!) and did
that for awhile, did some Clowning and turned to Escapes after I
got some equipment from Mario Mancini. Not really me though. As a
teen, I had done a brief 'stand-in' bid as a Talker at some
forgotten Midway show...and THAT was me! Hell I could talk, that
In the late 60's I had moved from New York to San Francisco. I
briefly did the Escape Act at a Topless club but since I had a
very dangerous element in the act (I only did 3 on stage bits so
this was a strong closer) which involved, unless I was really
fast, nearly choking to the point of passing out and croaking, I
really didn't think the $200 bucks a week was worth it. The
'bosses' liked me though and I 'talked' them into keeping me on as
a Talker (Barker in that industry) outside the club. Man did I
bring 'em in and turn the tip. One night a guy
by and say's in a thick Australian accent, "If you got rid
of that ridiculous New York accent, I could use you in Sidney.
(What New York accent? I really had no Idea I sounded like some
Bowery thug I guess.) The guy was John Bailey who was a big time
TV news Anchor on Channel 10 over here. He gave me his card and
said to go to a Broadcast School then call him. I went to the
school but never called him as I couldn't see being somewhere like
Australia and not being able to hitch hike out. Besides, I
got an offer in Alaska and that was the start of a long and
interesting career in Broadcasting, which allowed me to get back
into the sideshow biz and be a talker without sounding like Peter
Falk or having to burn my lip. I still love watching the sword
swallow and the fire acts and I'm still glad it's not me doing
The great Tim Cridland still makes me
cringe like a mark and Lifto... well...cringe is not
the word .... yeah I know...I'm still a wimp.
My friend, David Markham aka "The Miracle Man" does an act I wish
I could do though...Fire Eater, Sword Swallower, Strong Man and
Knife Thrower....the guy even sings in Opera!
What an amazing group we are all part of and even though I just
talk and make funny weird Grind Show exhibits, I couldn't be
more proud to know ya.
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