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Topic: Shock Magic/Geek Magic
Message: Posted by: Vincenzo (Dec 18, 2002 07:44PM)
Hi everybody! I'm new here, and I was just wondering, what's the difference between shock magic and geek magic?

And I was wondering on some tips on blockhead, This may seem opposite to what most preformers are trying to do, because most preformers try to make sure everyone knows there is no trickery involved. What I want to do is make it seem like a trick. Any advice on how?
Message: Posted by: Slim Price (Dec 18, 2002 11:32PM)
As a sideshow performer, I very much like the term geek magic. Whoever started mis-using geek as a term for sideshow arts needs to do some homework! (A quick look for the word geek might open your eyes... What we do is not "magic, it's real. Here's an example:
subject:
[SwSw] Status report
Date:
Thu, 19 Dec 2002 03:49:03 +0000
From:
Charon <artist@oddangelstudios.com>
Reply-To:
SwSw@topica.com
To:
SwSw@topica.com

Due to the dangers and liability of sword swallowing, this List is private, and archived messages are closed to non-members.
Please do not forward this e-mail to non-sword swallowers.

Hi all,

Many of you know I was hospitalized this past Friday following a swallowing accident during a media appearance for James Taylor's S&A book signing. The live TV appearance that morning went fine. It took place at the Dime Museum in Baltimore where the surroundings were familar.

Second media stop was for radio. First sword went fine. Second sword (the one I'd only been working with for a day ... my main mistake ...) hung up at the bronchial divide and I removed it, figuring my breathing
was off. Did a quick self-check and everything felt fine so I attempted it again, slowly. It hung up again, so I didn't force it, but when it came out I felt a swelling up in the back of my throat and my voice had gone tight. I met eyes with James to let him know something had gone wrong and we ended our appearance there.

Once we were outside and at the vehicle I spat and saw blood. Next stop was the ER at St. Jospeh's. Even spitting up blood it still took nearly an hour to get seen. By the time the doctors came around to question me about what had happened I was so full of air that even the slightest touch made a scrunching noise in the areas of my neck and chest.

The nurses in x-ray had seen me on the TV appearance so things sped up at that point, though the morphine could have come more quickly, IMHO. A thorasic specialist stood at my bedside and told me that a perforation
in my throat (they couldn't determine where) had allowed air, blood and saliva to escape into my chest cavity and set up an infection that was near my heart and would likely kill me if I didn't go to surgery. I was
transferred to Johns Hopkins for that, which took place around midnight.

Hearing that you might die puts an awful lot of things into perspective, let me tell you...

Through all this, James stood at my side and held my hand and made sure I got the painkillers I needed so that I could relax a little instead of tensing up around the affected area. I cannot thank him enough for
this. When I was transferred he took my call list and made sure specific friends and family were contacted about what was happening.

Prior to surgery I was scoped so they could find the exact spot of the perforation. Doctors don't like hearing that the blockhead act makes this procedure easy to handle... I was told after my initial stint in recovery that they were able to do the entire surgical procedure through my open mouth. They were surprised that everything dropped open so nicely, when they titled my head back. And the feeding tube went in on the frst try. Go figure ...

What they told me was that they had stitched closed a four inch laceration behind my pharynx. I can feel the stitches back there. They itch. I only had one doctor frown at me as he told me I should go back to my old job, whatever that may be.

I was released yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) and am eating through a tube. Guess that means I'm working on my gavage act. The tube may come out in two days if the second swallowing study shows good healing. I'm
feeling pretty positive about it. I'll post an update following my appointment.

Wanted to thank all of you who called, wrote and generally showed concern or interest in my prognosis and condition. I knew I had found my family when I got involved in the sideshow but through all of this it has been truly wonderful to feel so much a part of it. I send my love and gratitude to you all.

Charon*

Slim & Krista Price
Message: Posted by: Missing_Link (Dec 19, 2002 02:26AM)
Hi Vincenzo

It will depend on your presentation. Tell people that the blockhead is just a trick and they may well believe you.

Having said that, if you're going to the effort of learning the blockhead, why don't you let people know that you really are hammering a spike into your head? Believe me, that gets a far bigger reaction.

The problem with doing something as a trick is that, for it to be effective as an illusion, people have to really believe that what you are doing is real. So, if you have the option of doing something for real, then you have a double whammy (people can't believe that the blockhead is real, yet you can show them that it is).

Hope this makes some sort of sense!

Cheers

ML
Message: Posted by: Ellen Kotzin (Jan 5, 2003 09:24PM)
I think there is a big difference between GEEK and shock. GEEK seems more "classic" than shock.

Here's an article I wrote for our Fan Club Newsletter, hope you enjoy:

Ellen
harryandersonfan.com
---------------------------------------

It’s ALL GEEK to me: Analysis of the sideshow geek. by Ellen Kotzin

"Let's talk GEEK". When I talk GEEK here, I'm not talkin' about the pencil neck in school who never got dates. A GEEK is a guy who used to work in a circus sideshow. They would do strange stunts in a sideshow like they would bite the heads off of living chickens, they would take like a live rat or snake, they would hold it by its tail and then swallow it and they'd wait and then they'd bring it out and it would still be living, sort of, you know, it wouldn't be fuzzy anymore.

But they would take like a six Penny nail and pound it up one nostril with the heel of their shoe or they ate ground glass, drank kerosene -- they were party kind of guys. Most states outlawed geeks years ago. Most carnivals aren't allowed to present a man who eats live animals. But geeks are men of great talent. They are illusionists." (Harry’s act)

Harry’s love of the sideshow can be seen in his career through his act, his tv specials and also his shop!

Tricks of the Trade and Sideshow tried to emulate a “classic sideshow” environment with all the fancy banners and lingo with talkers and all. Harry talks about the GEEK in his act and has a huge sideshow banner of a WILDMAN act. Harry does his Needle thru the Arm illusion making the audience gasp. Harry also did a geekish type of trick while appearing to swallow SKIPPY.

Harry’s shop not only displays sideshow banners (see behind us in our author photos with Harry), but he has many freak-carnival models that Harry made and put together himself.

So what’s with the fascination? In articles, he always mentions Bill the 3-eyed Geek -- but what actually WAS a GEEK?

James Taylor (carnival historian), e-mails me, “I’ve always thought they were the ***** step-child act derived from the old ethnic shows, where “savages” were exhibited for Victorian (and post-Victorian) audiences. Obviously, no Phillipine “Igarote” (“dog eaters” though they were called) was going to “geek” in the traditional, Tyrone Power NIGHTMARE ALLEY sense, but you just know that the idea had to come early to carnival showmen, who were always interested in upping the ante.”

GEEKS were usually men, described as down on their luck drunks who would perform for alcohol and a bed. The act usually consisted of biting the heads off chickens, eating snakes, and doing a wild-man routine.

“Earlier Geeks were portrayed as absolute victims, driven to the black abyss of debasement by alcoholism, or the accident of being born black, deformed and not very bright... But ANYONE, merely by altering con-
sciousness can become a Geek, become for others the Freak he has always felt himself to be.” (Fiedler, 346)

The “first” Geek act can probably be traced back to 1783, when French magician DuFour debuted. DuFour’s routines were gaffed as were some of the Sideshow Geek acts. DuFour would tear a cat “from limb to limb” and eat the carcass, then incredibly extract it in full form again from his mouth. He also did a similar trick with a dog, ripping its head off, swallowing it, throwing it aside, and then bringing it back to life. (Jay)

The Geek show (according to Howard Bone’s experience) was located beyond the carnival rides at the back-end. There would be a huge banner that read CAPTURED IN THE WILD, with a pit either full of snakes or chickens. Bone spoke about the Geek (named Steve) who dressed in wild man garb (wig, make-up etc), who ran around and drooled stirring up the audience. His act would consist of biting the heads off of chickens like it was nothing.

During his break he would finish off a bottle of wine. (Would you do this sober??) Also when the end of the carnival came around, the Geek would escape, people would freak out and run for the hills (totally staged-even with the local police), the end of the ruckus, the Geek would be shot, and everyone would be safe. This made more and more people pile into the carnival.

One time, Steve got really drunk and went ballistic and the policeman did too (by accident). Instead of using blanks and firing away, Steve was hit in the leg and had a trip to the hospital. Howard said this was the last time he saw him at the carnival. He probably got smart? The SPCA later on outlawed the geek shows, not for the people, but for the chickens and snakes.

The movie NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947) came originally from William Lindsay Greshem's 1946 novel. It portrays carny life with Stan Carlisle (Tyrone Power) The central question of Nightmare Alley is, "how does one get so low?" At first Stan asks that question about the circus geek, who we never see except in shadow. No one really likes to talk about the geek. He's a fact of life that everyone accepts; the black sheep of the family. Crowds like to see him because he holds an odd fascination. Because Stan breaks the rule and asks about the geek, their fates become intertwined. No matter how successful Stan becomes, he is destined to fall down again. (J. Anderson) Stan becomes a famous mentalist, fooling tons of people, and then losing everything. He then must grovel for a job back at the carnival, and his sad situation leads him to alcoholism.

Gerald Peary (critic) said, “Never be too proud. There's a geek inside all of us, waiting to drag us into the pit, where, rumsoaked and diseased, we crawl about, chewing the heads off screaming chickens.” Nightmare Alley is a definite Go See.

Harry often talked about Bill the 3-eyed Geek in his interviews. But who was he? I couldn’t find anything on him until Harry gave me his real name... Bill Durks. Bill was a man with a severely deviated septum. Although he was called the 3-eyed man, he only had one functional eye, one non functional one, and an empty socket in the middle where he’d paint an eye, or insert a false one. Harry did an imitation for us of Bill, when we visited him in New Orleans, in nasal-type voice, saying ‘when you swallow a snake you gotta oil that sucker up.’ Harry said he met him at a state fair in Texas. James Taylor’s article on Bill tells of his difficulty growing up with such a deformity, how he overcame it, and how he found love with Mildred “the Alligator Girl.”

There are some books that talk about the lives of geeks. Geek Love, a novel by Katherine Dunn, is about a carny family that breeds freaks for the sideshow. It provides a provocative look at a world most of us never see-a world made up of aberrations we probably couldn’t even create in our wildest dreams. Surprisingly enough, we found out a while ago that Harry wrote the screenplay for this novel. (see Lynn’s critique on the screenplay in this issue) Harry says Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Nightmare Before Christmas) owns the rights. Hopefully he’ll produce it!

The Geek, by Craig Nova, is another novel about carny life and geeks on a Greek island. Chickens and all.

Reading about all the carny life, it seems so far from our reality. What a different life-romantic, but at the same time a cruel one for most.

Bibliography;
Bogdan, R. Freaskshow: Presenting Human
Oddities for Amusement and Profit, Chicago, 1988.

Bone, H. Sideshow: My Life with Geeks,
Freaks and Vagabonds in the Carny Trade,
MI, 2001.

Fiedler, L. Freaks: Myths and Images of the
Secret Self, NY, 1978.

Jay, R. Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women,
NY, 2001.

Taylor, J. Shocked and Amazed Vol.4, 1997

Nightmare Alley: movie, 1947.
Message: Posted by: rkrahlmann (Jan 6, 2003 02:21PM)
About the blockhead...
I'm sure why you would want to tell people it's a trick when it isn't. What's great about it is that it's real. Besides, many people won't believe you are actually doing it anyway. Tell them it's real, and give them every chance to examine the nail (except when it's in your head, of course!)
Message: Posted by: Vincenzo (Jan 12, 2003 04:38PM)
What are the chances of someone (heckler) thinking it's a trick and try to ruin it, by, oh I don't know, trying to pull out the nail/push it in further than comfortable? I don't think I'll be trying to do blockhead. It seems pretty risky, what with the nail, a couple inches in your head.
Thanks for the advice though.
Message: Posted by: Kondini (Jan 19, 2003 06:42AM)
Over the years have done Blockhead thousands of times,,,just do it,,,fling the nail down,,watch them grab !!! Many occassions I have been offered up to £50 for one of those special trick nails !!!
Message: Posted by: Slim Price (Jan 19, 2003 11:30AM)
[quote]
On 2003-01-05 22:24, harryandersonfan wrote:
I think there is a big difference between GEEK and shock. GEEK seems more "classic" than shock.

Here's an article I wrote for our Fan Club Newsletter, hope you enjoy:

Ellen
harryandersonfan.com
---------------------------------------

It’s ALL GEEK to me: Analysis of the sideshow geek. by Ellen Kotzin

"Let's talk GEEK". When I talk GEEK here, I'm not talkin' about the pencil neck in school who never got dates. A GEEK is a guy who used to work in a circus sideshow. They would do strange stunts in a sideshow like they would bite the heads off of living chickens, they would take like a live rat or snake, they would hold it by its tail and then swallow it and they'd wait and then they'd bring it out and it would still be living, sort of, you know, it wouldn't be fuzzy anymore.

But they would take like a six Penny nail and pound it up one nostril with the heel of their shoe or they ate ground glass, drank kerosene -- they were party kind of guys. Most states outlawed geeks years ago. Most carnivals aren't allowed to present a man who eats live animals. But geeks are men of great talent. They are illusionists." (Harry’s act)

Harry’s love of the sideshow can be seen in his career through his act, his tv specials and also his shop!

Tricks of the Trade and Sideshow tried to emulate a “classic sideshow” environment with all the fancy banners and lingo with talkers and all. Harry talks about the GEEK in his act and has a huge sideshow banner of a WILDMAN act. Harry does his Needle thru the Arm illusion making the audience gasp. Harry also did a geekish type of trick while appearing to swallow SKIPPY.

Harry’s shop not only displays sideshow banners (see behind us in our author photos with Harry), but he has many freak-carnival models that Harry made and put together himself.

So what’s with the fascination? In articles, he always mentions Bill the 3-eyed Geek -- but what actually WAS a GEEK?

James Taylor (carnival historian), e-mails me, “I’ve always thought they were the ***** step-child act derived from the old ethnic shows, where “savages” were exhibited for Victorian (and post-Victorian) audiences. Obviously, no Phillipine “Igarote” (“dog eaters” though they were called) was going to “geek” in the traditional, Tyrone Power NIGHTMARE ALLEY sense, but you just know that the idea had to come early to carnival showmen, who were always interested in upping the ante.”

GEEKS were usually men, described as down on their luck drunks who would perform for alcohol and a bed. The act usually consisted of biting the heads off chickens, eating snakes, and doing a wild-man routine.

“Earlier Geeks were portrayed as absolute victims, driven to the black abyss of debasement by alcoholism, or the accident of being born black, deformed and not very bright... But ANYONE, merely by altering con-
sciousness can become a Geek, become for others the Freak he has always felt himself to be.” (Fiedler, 346)

The “first” Geek act can probably be traced back to 1783, when French magician DuFour debuted. DuFour’s routines were gaffed as were some of the Sideshow Geek acts. DuFour would tear a cat “from limb to limb” and eat the carcass, then incredibly extract it in full form again from his mouth. He also did a similar trick with a dog, ripping its head off, swallowing it, throwing it aside, and then bringing it back to life. (Jay)

The Geek show (according to Howard Bone’s experience) was located beyond the carnival rides at the back-end. There would be a huge banner that read CAPTURED IN THE WILD, with a pit either full of snakes or chickens. Bone spoke about the Geek (named Steve) who dressed in wild man garb (wig, make-up etc), who ran around and drooled stirring up the audience. His act would consist of biting the heads off of chickens like it was nothing.

During his break he would finish off a bottle of wine. (Would you do this sober??) Also when the end of the carnival came around, the Geek would escape, people would freak out and run for the hills (totally staged-even with the local police), the end of the ruckus, the Geek would be shot, and everyone would be safe. This made more and more people pile into the carnival.

One time, Steve got really drunk and went ballistic and the policeman did too (by accident). Instead of using blanks and firing away, Steve was hit in the leg and had a trip to the hospital. Howard said this was the last time he saw him at the carnival. He probably got smart? The SPCA later on outlawed the geek shows, not for the people, but for the chickens and snakes.

The movie NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947) came originally from William Lindsay Greshem's 1946 novel. It portrays carny life with Stan Carlisle (Tyrone Power) The central question of Nightmare Alley is, "how does one get so low?" At first Stan asks that question about the circus geek, who we never see except in shadow. No one really likes to talk about the geek. He's a fact of life that everyone accepts; the black sheep of the family. Crowds like to see him because he holds an odd fascination. Because Stan breaks the rule and asks about the geek, their fates become intertwined. No matter how successful Stan becomes, he is destined to fall down again. (J. Anderson) Stan becomes a famous mentalist, fooling tons of people, and then losing everything. He then must grovel for a job back at the carnival, and his sad situation leads him to alcoholism.

Gerald Peary (critic) said, “Never be too proud. There's a geek inside all of us, waiting to drag us into the pit, where, rumsoaked and diseased, we crawl about, chewing the heads off screaming chickens.” Nightmare Alley is a definite Go See.

Harry often talked about Bill the 3-eyed Geek in his interviews. But who was he? I couldn’t find anything on him until Harry gave me his real name... Bill Durks. Bill was a man with a severely deviated septum. Although he was called the 3-eyed man, he only had one functional eye, one non functional one, and an empty socket in the middle where he’d paint an eye, or insert a false one. Harry did an imitation for us of Bill, when we visited him in New Orleans, in nasal-type voice, saying ‘when you swallow a snake you gotta oil that sucker up.’ Harry said he met him at a state fair in Texas. James Taylor’s article on Bill tells of his difficulty growing up with such a deformity, how he overcame it, and how he found love with Mildred “the Alligator Girl.”

There are some books that talk about the lives of geeks. Geek Love, a novel by Katherine Dunn, is about a carny family that breeds freaks for the sideshow. It provides a provocative look at a world most of us never see-a world made up of aberrations we probably couldn’t even create in our wildest dreams. Surprisingly enough, we found out a while ago that Harry wrote the screenplay for this novel. (see Lynn’s critique on the screenplay in this issue) Harry says Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Nightmare Before Christmas) owns the rights. Hopefully he’ll produce it!

The Geek, by Craig Nova, is another novel about carny life and geeks on a Greek island. Chickens and all.

Reading about all the carny life, it seems so far from our reality. What a different life-romantic, but at the same time a cruel one for most.

Bibliography;
Bogdan, R. Freaskshow: Presenting Human
Oddities for Amusement and Profit, Chicago, 1988.

Bone, H. Sideshow: My Life with Geeks,
Freaks and Vagabonds in the Carny Trade,
MI, 2001.

Fiedler, L. Freaks: Myths and Images of the
Secret Self, NY, 1978.

Jay, R. Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women,
NY, 2001.

Taylor, J. Shocked and Amazed Vol.4, 1997

Nightmare Alley: movie, 1947.

[/quote]Great post, Ellen!
Thank you...I grew up knowing and working with the "Strange People", in fact they were the first true family I ever had. For them, and for me, Geek is truly a dirty word. I guess I need to accept the adaptations made to our language, but I do not need to like it. The things we do today in the sideshows are, for the most part, real and dangerous.
It's sad, really that when we do something real it is labeled "geek" but if it is faked, it becomes "magic."
Slim Price