Stories from the 1981 Tennessee State Fair
By Spalding Gray


PT - 7


September 20.  As I looked up. Selling the tickets was this very beautiful country-looking girl about twenty-five years old with a baby about six, seven months old in her arm. I thought, "This is an unusual show. I'm going to buy a ticket and go in." When I got in the door I saw a guy who looked like a hippie. He was about thirty years old, he had a full bushy black beard and sunglasses, and he was wearing a cop's outfit. I went past him he was kind of like the security guarding the place he was reeking of urine. I looked through this cage, these bars, and there was a guy in a wheelchair in an insane asylum suit. He had stereo earphones on, he had not shaved in three or four days, and he wore a sloppy wig. And he had a fifteen-foot python wrapped around him, and he was sucking on its head. He put the python all the way in his mouth, and he manipulated it to the music of Jim Morrison and the Doors, which was playing full blast. Above all this was a, sign that read, This is B. J. Reed who took over seventy LSD trips and has now become psychotic. He thinks the snake is a reincarnated dead friend.

I took one look at this and went back to tell Randy. He said, "Oh yeah, yeah, I met them, they're the geeks." Randy insisted this was a geek show. I didn't know a geek show from Adam, but he insisted that's what it was. I said, "Look, Randy, I think I'm going to go to the girlie show tonight." He said, "No, you can't do that." And I said, "Why? This is getting spicy. What do you mean I can't go to the girlie show?" He said, "A lot of the carnies' wives work there. They're strippers, you know? And we're going to the G-top tonight to talk with the geeks, and if the carnies see you there at the G-top after you've seen their wives naked the G-top was an after-hours gambling tent "they're liable to rough you up." That made me more excited. I really wanted to go. I thought I'd save it till the last night.

So, waiting to go to the G-top, I went up to the agriculture barn and watched the farmers go to sleep. They go to sleep very early because they do their first milking at six o'clock. And they're beautiful. They sleep with the cows, so you have a long row of about fifteen cows. Then you have this little pavilion that they've made where they've taken certain trinkets from their farmhouses like a little table, a few chotsch-kas, an aerial view of their farm color photograph aerial view. All their blue ribbons are out, a little TV is playing, a little armchair, some Kentucky Fried Chicken is out and some Pepsi, and they're just finishing up dinner, and they're putting out their sleeping bags on bales of hay right next to the cows, and they're just going out.

After they went to sleep, I went down to the G-top and we talked with Maurice and Ellen from the B. J. Reed show. Maurice started in. He said he was of French-Canadian descent, from Burlington, Vermont, and his father had worked for IBM and broken his leg and become addicted to very strong drugs, painkillers the doctor had given him that were too strong, and the father actually died from this addiction. He was also very pessimistic, and the boys had buried him; they had thrown the dirt in on the grave. After that, Maurice had gotten into taking a lot of LSD; he had taken well over seventy trips, so this was an autobiographic sideshow. And he always went for the clear light. Now he got involved with this Catholic order, the Maryknoll order, and he had been a missionary in Africa, and he got thrown out of the Maryknoll order, because he was involved in sedition, and he decided to become a more conservative minister and went to the Princeton Seminary to study the ministry. He met his wife, Ellen, there. Ellen was traveling with him, and they had a baby named Ian, who was eight months old. After graduating from the seminary they went down to New Orleans because they wanted to help people in need, and they started a drug rehabilitation program, which was stopped by the Reagan budget cutbacks.


It was there that they met this older interesting drug addict named Reuben. He used to be a kosher Jew who wanted to be a doctor. Reuben was forty-seven years old. and a methadone drug addict. Reuben said, "Do you guys want to make money? Open a sideshow, make $500 a night, and then you can help the poor." So Reuben talked Maurice into buying a Pickled Punk Show for $2,000. The pickled punks didn't come with it; it was just a trailer. It took a thousand dollars to paint the B. J. Reed stuff on the side. After the paint job they needed a show. First, Maurice started out giving a lecture about the horrors of drug abuse, but that didn't work; no one was interested. So the next thing he did was to get snakes. Reuben said, "You've got to have something that's more attractive." So Maurice bought two fifteen-foot pythons weighing 110 pounds from a pet shop in New York City, and he got a nineteen-year-old drug addict to go into the cage with the pythons. But the guy was comatose and completely catatonic from Quaaludes, and he only sucked on the snake about once every two hours. So they fired him and hired Samantha, a born-again Christian. Reuben said Samantha was perfect because she was braless. She'd be great with the snakes. The only trouble with Samantha, Maurice said, was not that she was a born-again Christian, but that she wanted to get born again in bed. And she did get born again in bed with Reuben on the Wednesday night just before she was supposed to go on with the snakes on Thursday night. After being born again she decided it was too degrading to go on with the snakes, so they had to get rid of her and replace her with a heroin addict. Then he quit. Finally Maurice said, "Listen, Reuben. I put up the money you go in the pit. You're B. J. Reed." And Reuben said, "Wait a minute. I wanted to be a doctor." Maurice said, "You're B. J. Reed. Go in that pit" Reuben went in, but he began to act out in his offstage life. He began to feel degraded. In Kentucky Reuben went into town with Maurice's twenty-foot house trailer and came back without it. Maurice said, "Where's the trailer?" and Reuben said, "It's gone. Lost it. Can't have it any more."...................


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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