Stories from the 1981 Tennessee State Fair
By Spalding Gray


PT - 2


When I went back, I couldn't sleep at all, so I decided to go across to the Pickled Punk Show to see if it really was a rip-off. When I got close to it, I heard they had turned on the tape recording which went:

The world's strangest babies are here. You've read about, heard talk, and wondered about them. Now come in and see them. You've read about the Siamese twins, the little ones joined together. You've read about the two-faced baby, the two-headed baby, the gorilla child. You've read about the little baby born to a twelve-year-old mother. In fact, you've read about all these strange babies in your leading newspaper. Recently, you've been reading about the drugs responsible for these strange babies. Look at the pictures. Read all the signs. Get your tickets and come in. Stay as long as you like. Come out when you're ready, but when you do you'll agree it's a show the entire family should see. Mothers, bring your daughters. Fathers, bring your sons. You owe it to yourself to see the world's strangest babies. This is a show for the broad-minded, deep-thinking intelligent class of people. It's the most highly recommended exhibit on this entire ground.

So I went in. It was a big semitrailer truck with faded green carpets and fluorescent lights. Some of the lights were pretty dim. And there were these photographs of these freakish babies framed between plastic wood panels behind Plexiglas that was covered with what looked like a combination of sperm, snot, and spit that hadn't been wiped off in a long time. The photograph that I remember most vividly was labeled "the gorilla baby." Underneath it was a little message that said both parents had syphilis. "This is truly a monster. Note the developed arms and penis coming out of the navel." Some of the sentences ran right off the frame so you had to guess at some of the words, and each little message ended with the advice, "It's important that you take care of yourself and your unborn baby."

Outside, at ten o'clock in the morning, the carnival had started up full blast. All the rides and generators started up at once. Every ride the Superloops, the Sea Dragon, which was a quarter-million-dollar giant Viking boat had its own music blaring. "Disco Duck" was the most popular tune. There were the Space Shuttle, the Mind Blower, and the Giant Himalaya, which was the most disgusting of all. It spun very fast and tilted up, while strobe lights flashed and sirens went off and truck horns blew, as the operator shouted, "Do you want to get high? Do you want to get high? How high? Higher, higher?" I felt like a rat in an electric maze. I knew I had to get out of there, so I went over to where our truck was parked, right next to the Tri-Star, which was playing "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" full blast. I woke Randy up. "Randy, we've got to move. I don't think I can actually stay here at the fairgrounds." And he said, "Look, you'll get numb. All carny people just get numb. You've got to get used to it." It was like living on Forty-Second Street. I wasn't sure that I wanted to get numb. At last I talked him into moving the truck up next to the sideshow freak tent. There the noise subsided to a general, dull roar, but I still couldn't sleep so I went out for a walk.


To be Continued


Special Thank to Kathleen Russo, the Estate of Spalding Gray and official website of Spalding Gray

All stories are re-printed with the permission of the Estate of Spalding Gray

All stories are copyrighted Spalding Gray & Spalding Gray Estate and posted here with their expressed permission,


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