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 couldn't 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 didn't hurt!

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 comes 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 them.


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.


All stories are the property of Sideshow World & their respective authors.  Any republication in part or in whole is strictly prohibited.  For more information please contact us here.


Back to the Good Old Days      Back to Main


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