Jeffrey Reid and his
America's Smallest Traveling Museum
Interview with Jeffrey Reid
Aka big kahuna aka The Professor
For the folks that
haven’t had the pleasure of seeing your exhibit, would you tell us
a little about your show?
I took great pride in
conjuring up an image that people would never forget. It was a
combination of not only the image in front of them, but the
background music, the inside talk...all of it would combine to
create an experience that would invariably leave the patron with
their head shaking in amazement.
What was inside was not as
important as how it was presented.
What did you do before you owned the show?
Well, I still do it...make and sell tie dye. I am almost getting
good at it. (www.abigkahuna.com)
This winter I did a line of shirts for the world renowned blues
guitarist Tommy Castro of Tommy Castro and the Painkillers. You
can see some pictures on my website.
How did you come to be the owner and operator of the Smallest
We had been in the fair business, my wife and I, since the early
90s. "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to do." We make
and sell our own tie dye, as well as sell body jewelry, incense,
make our own ceramic incense burners. We have a real Hippie Shop
right on the midway.
Anyway...after about a
dozen years of dealing with idiots, I mean customers, I was
looking for something else to do. I was sitting in Cottonwood,
Arizona, talking with my friend Snakey Steve, (Steve Dornin).
He had a hot cobra
show. We were tossing around stuff one afternoon and suddenly the
words "Freak Show" came to my feeble mind. Steve said he knew
someone with a Fee-gee Mermaid in Texas. I immediately began
figuring out how to frame the show. This was in the spring of
We got back from our spring run
and I began researching exhibits. That is how I ran across Doug
Higley. I contacted Doug and he made a mer-creature for me. I had
some banners made and did a summer run at selected shows. It
worked. The end of the season I had
a chupacabra for me. 2006 was the first full year run of America's
Smallest Travelling Museum.
It was a smash hit
so to speak.
Why a Traveling Museum?
Pretty elementary really. The whole idea was that the museum
would be adjunct to our regular fair business. The two booths were
set up right next to each other. The museum was to pay for all the
expenses of being at the fair. It did that and more...
two season you said you exhibited creatures that you got from Doug
Higley. How have you expanded
At first it was just a mer-creature. Then Doug's chupacabra. After
that I began collecting all sorts of things. I had the ear of a
Solomon Island Giant from Guadalcanal. (In my talk, it was the
first exhibit I ever acquired.
My grandfather got it off of
Guadalcanal in 1942. Found in in the middle of a pile of dead Japs
that were ripped asunder. One of the untold stories of WW2).
In all, I think I have thirty
exhibits, including a 3 foot Juan Cabana mermaid.
Now the most talked about
exhibit, beside the chup and the boys, was a little finger in a
box. I had Doug make a finger. I put it in a little cedar box with
black satin lining. I made a little sign and told the following
story: "Mrs. Robinson was a friend of my mother. She would
refinish used furniture.
She bought a used credenza and
was talking out all the drawers getting ready to sand it down. She
found this little box in the back of one of the drawers, thinking
there might be some trinkets inside she opened it.
Imagine her surprise." Folks
could really relate to that one.
What do you like about the business?
Making the unbelievable believeable.
How has it evolved over the years?
Ha! It has evolved to the point that it is on haitus! Let me
explain. I found out that a single-o can only work for a limited
time. I have been at some of my fairs for nearly 20 years. The
money started dropping to a point that it was not feasible to keep
bringing it to the same fair year after year. We still have our
main booth. But the museum has been put away for now. In a few
more years I will bring it back out. It will be all fresh, and
sparkling and new again.
But let me tell you what I did
do. About three years ago I made two coin op museums. They were
out of wood and very old fashioned looking. This stemmed from the
blow-off exhibits I would create in my little ten by ten. So for
50 cents, folks would get a peek at what was inside. Worked very
well. No heat and paid for lunch everyday. I am a little upset
because I could not bring it along this year do to lack of loading
space. It is sitting in the barn right now, waiting for someone to
plunk two quarters. Maybe next year.
If you could own your “Dream Sideshow” what would it be?
I think a 20x20 show that is dedicated to the usual, the bizarre.
What are your favorite exhibits?
Zack and Mack, my two-headed turtle. You see, they are
a creature to behold. Each has their own separate personality. In
the wild, they would not have survived, but I am spoiling them the
best I can.
2-headed turtle are very rare. I think most of the folk that see
them still think that you have one turtle with two heads, not two
turtles that share a body. Could you give a little back ground on
how they come to be?
I love my boys, Zack and Mack. As far as we can tell, it is just
one body with two heads. I would bill them as America's Smile
Ambassadors. When I got them, they were literally the size of a
quarter. Now they terrorize villages. One body, Two Heads and All
Could you tell us a little about each of them?
Zack is the dominate one. You want one dominate. He does most of
the eating and decides where to go. Mack is passive but more
curious than Zack. Zack is a bit of a 'fraidy cat, while Mack is a
bit more out-going. While Zack does most of the eating, Mack
usually holds out until Chicken night. He loves his chicken and
cooked shrimp meat. The boys will not eat greens or any commercial
turtle food at all. Currently they are eating fish. Little silver
backs I get frozen from the pet store. For years the boys ate meal
worms. First the little ones, now the mega super worms.
Zack and Mack, when did they come to own you?
You know, it was a six or seven month search for Zack and Mack.
Snakey Steve helped out on that
one. I missed getting a two-headed box turtle by days, so we had
to wait until hatching season. We had Snakey Steve, as well as
Robby, the new Crocodile Hunter--I think he helped out too.
Finally we got a call in September nearly eight years ago. We were
setting up at the Puyallup Fair. We arranged it over the phone.
They were being shipped overnight Fed Ex. I went and picked them
up in Tacoma, WA.
I opened the box and there was
a little styrofoam container. I pulled off the lid and there was
this little two-headed turtle. Cuter than a button. Now mind you,
they were just the size of a quarter. My wife and I had already
picked out their names, Zack and Mack. Everyone always asks about
mentioned that you got the turtles in Washington state,
What was the first show Zack and Mack
Zack and Mack's first show was the Arizona State Fair. We had a
little ten foot front. We had 12 thousand paid go through our
exhibit. Not bad considering it was a crappy location. Tom
Bierbaum (sic) The guy with the world's biggest Horse, steer,
Crocodile, etc,...He was set up in Phoenix too. he came by just to
see Zack and Mack. He was amazed that I could make money with an
exhibit that I could carry in my pocket home every night. Like I
said, everyone loved the boys. They just sort of make you smile
with their simplicity.
You know, I look at them and
they look normal. A one headed turtle looks kinda strange after
Zack and Mack. (They know I am writing about them here. Right now
they are in their tank. They have a special tank here in the RV.
Its a large black tub of sorts that has a large water area and a
land area where they can bask.)
did the story of Zack and Mack come about?
It was just a year ago. Last April at the Yuma County Fair. Next
to use was Linda the airbrusher. She had retired, but was doing
She had given the business to
her daughter and son-in law. He was a documentary producer/maker.
He was telling me of his projects in Afghanistan and another in
Rhodesia (he was Rhodesian, nee Zimbabwe). B. said if I had any
ideas, let him know and we would go in on them. Well, let me tell
you. No sooner than those words were out of his mouth, than I had
the project written in my mind. I said "Great" I raced back to my
rig and pounded out an outline. I took it back and pitched it. He
said, "A director will want more than one animal to do a shoot,
just in case something happens." I said "CGI." But I knew that he
was more interested in his coming of age in the Rhodesian Army
flick than one about a two-headed turtle. Oh well, there went my
chance with Disney.
So I continued the season.
After Fresno (of which I am the Voice of the Fair), I came home
and half-heartedly began researching what it would take to produce
an e-book. Easier than I thought. I just have to write the dang
thing. Which is what I did.
Let me re-phrase that. Zack and
Mack told me what to write. I do the actual typing. They would
walk around the keyboard, making a
real nuisance of themselves. They would knock over the
can holding all the pencils and stuff.
So we had an
agreement. I would write what they wanted, if they stayed off the
keyboard. It was an arrangement that has worked out pretty well.
Now no one is going to believe that a two headed turtle wrote the
book, so I explained to the boys that I need to put my name on the
cover. They were fine with that.
people re-act when they are around the boys?
In real life, Zack and Mack have a special effect on people. They
sort of give a warm glow from the inside out as you stand there
and look at them. They always appear to be smiling, hence they
were billed as "America's Smile Ambassadors" early on. So it was
this effect that Zack and Mack have on people that I wanted to
turn into a story. I wanted to write a story suitable for all
humans, especially children. The book is geared toward 9-12 year
There are moral lessons in the
story. There is drama, excitement and a vivid description of the
rough and tumble action of full on turtle racing. I don't want to
give anything up here...
Do the people
you met on the midway figure into your book?
going to use people I know in
the story so it was only natural to include Jim
and his Big Circus
Sideshow in the book.
What was your first impression of the Curator (Jim Z. owner
of the BCS)?
It is an interesting meeting. We met in Tucson. I had America's
Smallest Travelling Museum at Tucson for a few years before BCS
In fact, a few months before
the fair I read on Magic Cafe that BCS had booked Tucson. Ha!
After one look at the front, I knew that I was going to be blown
out of the water. Anyway, April came around. I was setting up our
main tent of tie dye goods. After measuring the space, the fair
shorted us some three feet that I needed to set up the museum.
There was no way I could set it up. During all of this I was
suffering from the Valley Fever Grunge that I get in the desert.
All the dirt and dust really affects me health-wise. So while
setting up, I was fevered, coughing, blowing snot and not really
in a good mood.
Up comes this guy with a bow
tie and pork pie hat. Now I knew everyone on the grounds because I
have been playing Tucson for nearly 15 years at that point. I knew
that was The Curator. So with a head full of snotty infection, I
held out my hand and said, "you must be the Curator, I am Big
Kahuna." I think my reputation had preceded me, because he knew
who I was.
We chatted for a bit. Later on
that day, I took him to a joint and bought him a cup of coffee.
After that, we hit it off pretty well. We would go to each others
joints and share the jackpots. It's been that way every year
Does The Smile
Ambassadors take place on the fair?
The fair figured in the plot line early on. Actually
using Jim and BCS was
important to the plot in The Smile Ambassadors and will figure
again in the sequel, The Smile Thief. I wrote and asked Jim for
permission, he said as long as he was a "good guy". He is. He is a
very likeable character in the book as well as in real life. I
changed the name of the show to Big Time Sideshow and his moniker
to The Professor, only to protect the guilty.
Before press time in February,
I wrote Jim asking if he wanted me to change it to Big Circus
Sideshow and his character to The Curator. I didn't hear back. I
then began worrying that perhaps he had a relapse of his cancer.
It was only a few days ago that I found out that indeed he did
have a relapse as well as other very bad health issues. I saw that
Lori had set up a gofund site. I decided that afternoon to do what
I am doing now, which is offering the book for sale with all the
proceeds going to help Jim. I don't know if he has read the book
yet. I sent a draft to him at the end of February. If anyone can
nurse Jim back to health, it is Lori. We have met her, and she is
just what the big lum-ox needs to get back on his feet.
Zack & Mack -
Book about the Only Two Headed Turtle
Above Meet Jim
So, if you can't afford 20
bucks or so at Jim's gofund site (which
a deal for you to help Jim here at Sideshow
you can afford a cup of coffee. Then for a
special price of $2.84 you can get a copy of the
e-book about the adventures of a two-headed
Out of that, the
distributor takes a percentage as well as credit card fee.
That leaves $2.09,
which will go to Jim Z.
To help him with his battle to over come cancer.
Mr. Reid will donate
all his proceeds from the book to Jim until
he's on his feet an on the lot.
The Smile Ambassadors
You can buy The Smile Ambassadors
by following this
use download code SW48R
five percent off.
Remember you can help.
of you purchase price will go to Jim
to help him with his battle to over come
We are very grateful for
your and Mr. Reid's contributions to
support Jim Z.
click on above
image to learn more about Jeffrey Reid's Book The Smile
Zack and Mack live
in the idyllic Gold Country of Northern California.
When we are not busy
with our adventures, we like to eat and bask in the warm
sun. Of course there is always training for our next turtle
training, that's all we seem to do these days. Can't we have
a break so we can smell the daffodils growing along the
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