The End of the Sideshow Legacy

by Judy Tomaini Rock


It meant the end of a livelihood, for most of the ones still on the road. In my parents case, they retired from traveling around 51' when the shows were at the top, but my Dad had good sight into the future, and saw it was time to get out.


He still had a Giant Sea Turtle show that went out for a couple of years, with someone else in charge. It did ok, but nothing like their big Sideshow. The one with the 150 foot front. And enough acts to fill, the 150 foot tent behind it.


Back then along with the "Freaks", a word my Mother hated, instead of having one person do 10 acts, they had 10 people each do one outstanding act. They were all the cream of the crop. My Parents looked after their help, and worked right along with them, only longer hours.


Since my Dad died in 62' I have NEVER, not one time heard a bad thing about him and how he ran his business.


He and my Mother were fair and honest people, and I, as a child, was reminded to be respectful to the help, as "they are the ones putting food on your plate, and clothes on your back". They were always treated with respect. They had two fat ladies, one black, one white, very small Midgets, walking skeleton, Popeye Perry, Lorello, I think he could turn his head all the way around. An ossified man, Runts, also black and white, A pincushion, A sword walker, The same swords that my grandson Alexzander walks.  My Mother Jeanie Tomaini, My Dad Al Tomaini, A REAL half and half, a complete baby show, with real punks, a complete Illusion show. Sword swallower, or two. Inside talkers, and outside talkers, Most of the time Daddy did the bally, Andy Brisky the fire eater, who could blow a volcano to the top of the tent. Snake charmer and BIG snakes, one of which had about 100 babies on a jump, and when they got set up and Daddy opened the lid of the shipping crate, they all struck at him, and he almost died on the spot. No one even knew the snake was expecting, so it was a real shocker, to have all of them jump at you, when you opened the lid. Daddy was squatted down, and fell over backwards, using all the choice Italian words he remembered from childhood, While everybody else fell over laughing. He wasn't a real snake lover, but took excellent care of any wildlife he had on the show.


He owned all the equipment in those days, and would hire the help to fill what ever spot was empty. And if they didn't have what was needed for putting on a show, it was waiting there for them at show time.


I think what I am getting at, is that the "freaks", were just like everyone else, people. Some had a chip on their shoulder, because they felt they had been dealt a bad hand. These were the ones that didn't last long on their show, or anyone else's for that matter. It was a place where they could be for a few minutes, the star of the show. The talkers were top of the line, and everyone was treated the same, my parents included, they were just doing a job like everyone else, except they saw to it, the others were paid well.


Over the years we have seen them die off, not to be replaced. Mothers passing, has been a great loss to many people, ones that knew her well, and those that just knew of her. She always had time for her fans right up to the end.



Al and Jeaine Tomaini

Martin Laurello


2006 Judy Tomaini Rock, All Rights Reserved - Published with the permission of Judy Tomaini Rock


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