Gearheads, Wrestlers, & the Circus

West Bay Invitational

Mike LaVella: Around ’91, my hair was long. I was into Soundgarden and Mudhoney. But I was really into garage. I was going to see Trashwimmen, Untamed Youth, Supercharger, Phantom Surfers, Steel Pole Bathtub, Mummies, that whole scene. It was like rock ‘n’ roll, strained through a punk rock filter. Rat Fink and all that car imagery was coming back. I noticed Eddie Spaghetti from the Supersuckers had a Hot Wheels sticker on his bass. There was a still from that movie Red and Rosy on the cover of Steel Pole Bathtub’s record. This film about a guy at a drag strip who got addicted to adrenalin.

Matt Wobensmith: Punk was starting to get much bigger in the mainstream. And I noticed this resurgence of garage rock, this retro ’50s and ’60s thing that Tim Yohannan was on. The whole Rip Off Records, Mummies thing. I enjoyed the music, but I also noticed it wasn’t just the musical and artistic aesthetic that was being revived. It was also some of the attitudes. This vaguely sexist, homophobic, racist vibe.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: Every skinhead became rockabilly. Every one of them. It was hilarious.

John Marr: The retro rock thing was always bubbling below the surface. Punk is not very far removed from wilder breeds of garage rock, rockabilly, and surf music. The Cramps, among others, were mining this vein back in 1977.

Mike LaVella: That was the era when every girl drove an old Fairlane, Barracuda, or Dart. People were coming back to it. It was not fashionable to be into cars during the hardcore days. When I found out about punk rock, no one was into cars. We thought we were going to change the world, apparently by dancing around in a circle with our shirts off.

John Marr: The lounge thing came from the thrift stores, too. You always dug through the racks, maybe picking up some Esquivel or Martin Denny records for a quarter because the covers were pretty goofy and cool. After playing them, they started to grow on you. Punk rock is fine when your in your 20s but, as the 30s roll along, you’re not so much angry as bitter. You look to music for more relaxation than exhilaration. Lounge works a lot better than the Sex Pistols.

Mike LaVella: You get older. You relax a little. Most famously, Youth Brigade became Royal Crown Revue. That would be the biggest example of an actual political hardcore band that went from singing about hating cops to Zoot Suit Riot. I went to Bimbo’s to see Sam Butera. I was 30 maybe. Half the crowd was younger than me. There were kids wearing spats. How does a kid even know what a spat is? That’s San Francisco for you. There’s scenes on top of scenes, on top of scenes.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: The DNA Lounge had a swing thing every Tuesday night and it was packed. I would get off work at the Paradise Lounge and we’d go dance after hours. At that time, anything you booked like that would sell out. I don’t know how it became the natural progression but it did everywhere.

Mike LaVella: We laid out Gearhead #1 at Maximum RocknRoll. Tim said, “You can lay out your first issue on our computers.” The logo on the first record, a helmet and a checkered flag, Tim made that little logo. He was really helpful. When that first issue came out, he was like, “Okay, you guys are outta here.”

Audra Angeli-Morse: I’ve known Mike LaVella for a super-long time. Long before there was a Gearhead magazine. When they ran him out of Pittsburgh and he had to come here. To the hippies.

Mike LaVella: There was a scene here. People were using car imagery. There were songs about cars.

James Washburn: Me and my friend Guido, we’re the only two people that did independent car shows in the Bay Area. He did one called Hot Rods and Hot Dogs in San Francisco, and I did Backyard Believers in the East Bay. Backyard Believers is an independent punk rock car show. I’m very passionate about old cars. I can’t play instruments for shit, but I’m one hell of a mechanic. I can fuckin’ fix anything. So I did Backyard Believers.

We’d have punk bands come play. Jello Biafra came to my first show and brought a little Plymouth Valiant. I disqualified him from the awards because he opened a beer on the grille and bent it. You may be a punk but that’s not how you respect an old car, you fuckin’ asshole. He had the only car that was disqualified.

Jason Lockwood: Nando and I prospected for the East Bay Rats. It’s a local motorcycle club that’s been around for about 13 years. The oldest members are mostly Oakland guys, Oakland natives. A rat bike is one you piece together out of spare parts, like Frankenstein. I grew up on motorcycles, my dad was a biker.

I almost didn’t prospect because all the stupid shit I did as a kid. The idea of being caught up in a group mentality was not pleasing. But the East Bay Rats are not a group of teenagers. Granted, it’s a rough and tumble crowd, but I’ve seen members talk their way out of fights they could have easily won if they wanted to.

I hung out for about eight months before I decided to prospect. Nando and I had to fight. As a prospective member, you have to fight at the parties. We’re notorious for our fight parties.

The first really big fight party the club did, and the second one I fought in, we flyered for six months. We handed flyers to police officers. Everyone knew where it was at. In the state of California, if two people put on gloves, and they don’t fight for cash or any prize, it’s legal. 100 percent legal. We constructed a slipshod ring, put down some rubber and some canvas, and people signed up like a pool table. You put your name down, somebody else puts their name down. If your weights match, you fight.

That was also the first party to get a lot of TV coverage. Fang played that night and I was working the stage. So Fang was setting up behind me. Two guys were beating the dog shit out of each other in front of me. There was blood and sweat flying, and a Tesla coil firing blue lightning bolts into the steel rafters of this warehouse space. In the midst of all of this, there were chicks on top of this stripper-pole car. That was a fuckin’ party! That was exactly what punk shows were like to me when I first started going. We also have car smashing parties. We provide the power tools and the car. You render the car down to parts.

Waiyde Palmer: Incredibly Strange Wrestling was that combination of punk rock, blood, mayhem, and humor that was so lacking in San Francisco at the time.

Audra and I became friends during a fight at Sparky’s Diner on Church Street in 1992. She was working the door at the Paradise and I was bar manager of DNA Lounge. After work you could find most bar staff eating a plate of eggs cooked up by legendary punk dyke Kriss X. We were eating at adjacent booths when some preppy boys began hassling a table of baby dykes. Being Queer Nation sorts, the dykes told the boys to fuck themselves. The boys said the girls needed dick. The baby dyke smashed a big boy on the head with a dinner plate and it was on. The boys crashed into me and Audra and spilled our dinners. We tossed him out of the restaurant by the seat of his pants, without fully opening the front door. The guy’s friends didn’t like that. Kriss came out from behind the counter and we gave them a beatdown as well. When the cops came we pleaded ignorance and finished our meals.

Blag Jesus: San Francisco is well-known for ceviche and homosexuals, but there is a strong, fierce tradition of professional wrestling here.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: Greasers were a huge part of the Incredibly Strange Wrestling crowd in the beginning. My partner Bret Kibele was basically a punk that went into rockabilly and psychobilly. I didn’t go that route but I knew all those people and I booked a lot of that kind of music at the Paradise. That’s what we started with at the wrestling shows. It was garage and rock ‘n’ roll. I still booked a lot of punk rock, too.

Our first Incredibly Strange Wrestling show was May 15, 1995 at the Transmission Theater.

Count Dante: It was like a Robert Rodriguez Hollywood fantasy version of a crazy rock and wrestling show. An oddball coalition of scenesters, psychobilly dudes, tattooed party girls, and nerds, all trying to put on this weird wrestling show.

Blag Jesus: World Wrestling Federation was pretending to represent middle America, but it was all Hollywood. Incredibly Strange Wrestling is the John Cougar Mellencamp heartland of pro wrestling.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: ISW was inspired by Love and Rockets. My friend Bret and I both loved Love and Rockets, Whoa Nellie!, all those Hernandez Brothers’ comic books.

Count Dante: ISW’s first venue was the Transmission Theater, which was a former transmission repair shop right next to the Paradise Lounge. Both clubs shared a doorway. You could go into the Paradise, and some garage-surf band dressed in skeleton suits was playing under black lights.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: Then, at two a.m. everybody who wanted to went through to the Transmission Theater and paid two dollars to see this after-hours wrestling show.

We didn’t have a ring for that first show. We used the oak-wood staging in the Transmission and covered it with packing blankets and a big blue tarp. We made our own costumes and our own characters. And we just beat the crap out of each other. The next morning I woke up with huge hematomas all over my body. Everybody had a really great time.

Before the second show, Toni Isabella, who I was working under at the Paradise, got us on the West Coast leg of Lollapalooza. We slept in the back of the truck on the wrestling mats, all of us rolled up in sleeping bags.

Chicken John: Audra wanted to have fun, and travel with her friends. She wanted to rub it all over her body. She was like, we’re going to do Mexican wrestling and punk rock! It will be fun. It will be brilliant. But she needed someone to assume subsidiary responsibility because she needed a ring and she wanted to pay her wrestlers and her bands.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: At first, we were trying to work with the local Bay Area Wrestling Association. They thought our show was stupid because it wasn’t traditional or straightforward. So we just started training our friends. I didn’t like that meathead mentality anyway. My friends are punk rock, my friends are smart, my friends like comic books, my friends like music. If I gotta go on tour and be in a van with you all day long and sleep next to you, I want you to be someone I like.

Floyd: Some of the wrestlers took the wrestling aspect more serious than others, but no one thought it was a stepping stone for big-time success. It was just like punk in the early days.

Lochlan McHale: My very first show doing security at Incredibly Strange Wrestling, I didn’t wear glasses. All the other guards had glasses. So I went to my car and got my glasses. Five minutes into it, I saw why. Everybody was flinging tortillas around like Frisbees at the bands and the wrestlers, and you too.

Floyd: ISW was a giant excuse for a food fight. Long before the first match, the tortillas started flying.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: We had this rowdy, crazy crowd. They weren’t sitting down. They weren’t behind barricades. They threw everything. They threw shoes at us, full cocktails. This one rockabilly dude actually threw his girlfriend at us like a projectile. So one night, the Bomboras were playing and they had these two cute go-go dancers who were wearing pasties that were tiny taco-sized tortillas. At the end of the show, they ripped ’em off, exposed their boobs, and flung them into the crowd. Bret and I looked at each other. “That’s it!” The next show we brought tortillas and started giving them to people. “Throw these!” People started bringing their own. They would come weighted down like pack animals. When we started doing shows at the Fillmore, they limited people to 20 dozen each. We only brought them to Europe or countries where you can’t get tortillas as easily.

El Pollo Diablo: The tortilla dust build-up makes my Chucks lose traction.

Count Dante: At a show headlined by NOFX, it felt like me and my co-announcer Allan Bolte were calling wrestling matches during a sandstorm.

Lochlan McHale: When you got home, you had tortilla in your ass crack.

Waiyde Palmer: With punk legends like the Dwarves and the Adolescents rockin’ out between bouts, what could be better?

Audra Angeli-Slawson: The Dwarves have played. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, the Bobbyteens, the Count Backwards, the Dickies, the Supersuckers, Gas Huffer, Fear, Mike Watt, Electric Frankenstein, the Queers.

Count Dante: The Donnas had to share the backroom at the Transmission with us. These 16-year-old Palo Alto High School girls in a room full of flabby, half-dressed wrestlers.

Chicken John: ISW got sponsors and bands that had a huge draw. She probably had to pay the bands less than they would have made on their own, but they wanted to do it because it was a fucking tremendous, epic night. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

Blag Jesus: I was one of the voices of Incredibly Strange Wrestling. Fortunately, a working knowledge of wrestling is actually a hindrance to doing the job correctly.

Lochlan McHale: It was like low-scale WWF, but you’ve got wrestlers jumping off of rafters.

Count Dante: ISW combined a masked Mexican wrestling aesthetic with weird social satire.

Waiyde Palmer: Audra’s tongue-in-cheek ideas about fair play, women’s rights, gay rights, and pro-choice concerns could play out via the wrestling characters and the outcome of the matches.

Count Dante: We had Christians to the Lions matches, where I wore a burlap tunic, dragged around a giant cross, and fought a guy in a lion suit managed by Flamius Caesar.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: We had El Pollo Diablo. He’s 400 pounds of pure poultry action. He’s a seven-foot cock. He’s fabulous. He’s the Devil Chicken. He has his own dancers.

El Pollo Diablo: First time I came out, I could hear the crowd roar, even through the mask. You know, I can’t really see out of that thing. Don’t tell my enemies.

Count Dante: There was the Man Against Nature match, where Macho Sasquatcho teamed up with El Pollo Diablo to fight a pair of construction workers who were chopping down old-growth forests to build yuppie lofts South of Market. There was the Poontangler, the Ku Klux Klown, the Mexican Viking, and a Scientology boy band called 69 Degrees. 69 Degrees often feuded with the gay tag team of El Homo Loco and the Cruiser, trying to convert the queers to Dianetics.

Waiyde Palmer: El Homo Loco vs. the Missionary Man!

El Pollo Diablo: El Homo Loco is the greatest physical comedian in S.F.

Peterjohn Paolucci: I saw my first ISW show in 1996, just after moving to San Francisco from Texas. I was so taken by it, and intoxicated, that I commented to my friend and acting door slut Tree Angulo, that “I could be El Homo Loco!” Apparently ISW was in need of victims — I mean wrestlers. Halfway through the night, bloated tyrant Audra Morse approached me and said, “El Homo Loco, huh? You’re in the next show!” That started close to ten years of physical abuse at the hands of the fat, smelly wrestlers of ISW.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: We went to Mexico at least once a month to buy merch. We started pulling wrestlers from Mexico. They were real Mexican wrestlers, and they totally fit in with my crazy punk rock friends. They are amazing, so fast and agile and comical. Killer Chimera once did a somersault off the top of the DNA Lounge balcony and landed in the ring on his back.

Chicken John: Audra took it to the next level and changed the perimeters. Somebody had to. Because what was happening at that level fucking sucked. It was go to a show, drink a beer, and watch a band. What Audra did was inspirational to a lot of people.

Blag Jesus: My personal favorite is the Oi! Boy, because he combines rich, creamery racism with a hint of urban angst. When he faced off against El Homo Negro in the world-famous “Sickle Cell Anemia Cage Match” he proved once and for all the inherent superiority of the retarded by covering his opponent with flour and screaming “White Powder!” at the top of his lungs.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: We made up the Oi! Boy just for the Warped Tour because we thought we should have some sort of punk rock character. We already had Jimmy Straightedge but he was straightedge. How much fun could he be?

Blag Jesus: Snackmaster and his Snackettes. The combo of carbohydrate and carnage are essential to the ISW experience.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: La Chingona used to pick up El GorMexico and do the helicopter over her head before throwing him out of the ring.

La Chingona: I am still undefeated inter-gender champion.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: The very last day of the Warped Tour, when we pretty much knew we weren’t gonna get invited back, we had Uncle Nambla wrestle Kehoe the Chemo Kid. Uncle Nambla weighs close to 400 pounds and was wearing a Speedo and a mask, wrestling a pre-pubescent boy. It made the Warped Tour worth it.

Peterjohn Paolucci: In Vienna, El Homo Loco was carried to the tour bus by Austrian youth singing El Homo Loco songs they created by altering local soccer chants.

Who’d of thunk that a fag in a pink tutu would be cast as the hero tea-bagging his opponent?

Audra Angeli-Slawson: Recently, we did a wrestling show in Switzerland. People were throwing garbage cans, pissing in cups and throwing them at us. They were really violent, really angry. You had to watch your back. At the end of it, even some of the tough wrestlers were sniveling, “I can’t believe we did this. That was the worst thing ever.” I said, “What do you mean? It was fantastic. It was like a punk show in the old days.” I was all excited. Everyone was super pissed at me but, seriously, I felt 14 again. Then I went to my merch guy and he said we sold everything. They bought it all. This is what Swiss people do? They throw piss at you and threaten you and then they buy all your merch? Fucking weirdos. They’ve been neutral way too long.

Lochlan McHale: Audra throws the most insane, weird shows. She’s always been a good person in the scene for smaller, touring bands. Stinky’s Peepshow at the Covered Wagon was probably one of the most consistently badass places to go for shows. Guaranteed fun time. Walk in the door, there’s the Large and Lovely Go-Go Dancers on the bar, pool tables straight ahead, bands going, everybody hangin’ out.

Waiyde Palmer: From the inception of Stinky’s, Audra offered me a place behind the bar. Nashville Pussy played so loud that the bottles shook. I got to see Blag’s dick while he was peeing.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: It was a punk rock club but it mixed gay and straight, which didn’t really exist at the time. There were bands that brought out both, but there was no club to hang out in. Between me on the music end with my gaggle of homos, and Paul King being a gay piercer in the scene, it was really a great mix.

Waiyde Palmer: Paul King had been the promoter of Club Fuck, one of L.A.’s craziest homo punk nights ever. He and Audra got on really well since they shared similar aesthetics and humor. At the time, the Homocore movement in S.F. had stalled since many of the avant-garde clubs were defunct. When they started doing Stinky’s it was immediately packed to the gills with the underbelly of multiple worlds. The club became a hotbed for hook-ups, band formations, art discussions, and lewd and lascivious behavior.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: We hired big girls to go-go dance. No one was doing that. Everyone went nuts. I once hired a chunky girl to dance who was training to compete as a boxer. She started losing weight and people were complaining, “That chick’s too skinny!” I had to fire her. I said the dancers had to be 200 pounds or more, and we had weekly weigh-ins. If they were underweight we gave them a burrito and sent them home. The girls would dance and eat donuts. Dudes fucking loved it. Society says you’re supposed to look like a super model. It’s bullshit. Guys were turned on and they didn’t know why. These were hot fucking cute women. They were built like brick shithouses and they wore ridiculous outfits. Liz crashed her scooter and had a cast on her leg so she dressed like the wounded nurse. Kink is this beautiful Asian-black girl with this huge afro, who would scream at people and order them to buy her drinks. If any guy said, “You’re fat!” the crowd would turn on them. Go-go dancers were encouraged to kick the guy in the head. It was awesome.

Peterjohn Paolucci: Watching chubby chasers drool all over themselves? What a way to spend the evening.

Waiyde Palmer: Humor and fun. It’s a potent combination. Even the most disgruntled S.F. punks could relax at Stinky’s and watch Tree bitch-slap some guy who was annoying her at coat check.

Lochlan McHale: In between the bands, for one dollar, you’d walk into this little back room. Everyone would cram in there, and Audra yell, “Alright, it’s all done!” She’d shut the doors. You were elbow-to-elbow, drinks in hand. There was some sort of theme, with a stripper. You’d laugh, you’d joke, they’d throw shit at you. It was interactive. At the end, you got a Polaroid picture.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: I got girls I knew from Mitchell Brothers to do some. Our friends would come up with some or we’d come up with a theme and find someone to do it. They had to be funny. Pretty soon, girls who had never shown their boobs before wanted to do a peep show. There was a different one every week. Often they were topical.

Dookie Flyswatter did one as Woody Allen, with Frank Sinatra, Mia Farrow, and Soon-Yi, played by Suzie Ming, coming out of a big box of Ramen noodles.

There was some article in the paper about old people being abused in nursing homes so Tigger dressed up like an old lady and put pudding in her diapers. She also did a lactating peepshow, which was fabulous.

Waiyde Palmer: Dwarf stripping!

Audra Angeli-Slawson: There was a girl who had been in Juggs a gazillion times that held phone books and watermelons under her boobs and dropped shit on people’s heads.

Peterjohn Paolucci: For “Pilgrims Rape the New World” we gang-raped a bunch of Injun squaws then proceeded to fuck Thanksgiving dinner.

El Pollo Diablo: I have experienced Peter John’s Thanksgiving pageant. Corn and drumsticks, yum!

Audra Angeli-Slawson: For “Boobzilla Destroys Tokyo!” we built a cardboard cityscape.

El Pollo Diablo: For the record, I’ve never taken my pants off for money. But, for some reason, there was always some black guy in dreads — not always the same one — who paid to grind in Pollo’s lap.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: Phat Man Dee came out from Pittsburg. She came out and sang the national anthem with her entire fist shoved in her mouth while tap dancing. Then showed her boobs. Everyone from Pittsburgh is a fucking cartoon character.

Lochlan McHale: There was one featuring Sausage Girl and Hitler. Of course, Hitler was gay. And the sausages, well…

Floyd: I must admit I got uncomfortable during some of the WWII-themed ones. But I knew it would be a good peepshow if Audra was selling plastic bags to protect yourself.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: The singer for the Retards once drank the Peepshow guy’s enema and informed me that it was chunky. He said other enemas he had drunk were not chunky because the person washed out beforehand. Then he tried to make out with me.

Snackmaster: My “Flavors of the World” peep shows included France, U.S.A., Italy, and Mexico. I always felt a twinge of guilt for leaving gravy and Snoballs smeared on the flocked wallpaper of the Covered Wagon.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: On Fourth of July, we got a little Weber grill and had a barbecue. Tigger shoved Ball Park Franks up Peter-John’s butt while the national anthem played. Peter-John would squeeze his cheeks and shoot them out while I caught them with the Weber. That’s how we celebrated the most patriotic day of the year.

Peterjohn Paolucci: We put the BBQ outside after closing and the local bums ate all the hot dogs.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: Chicken John’s best peep show was advertised as a “Live Nude Chick.” You walked up to this woman-sized box and paid a dollar to look through a little window. There was actually a little baby chicken, sitting inside under a light. I guess it was nude ‘cause it wasn’t wearing an outfit. Chicken was also the supplier of props for many peep shows. I think the Covered Wagon still has a car seat that Chicken provided for the Tawny Kitaen Whitesnake peep show, where Elsa danced on the hood of the car. Chicken provided the hood and the seat.

When Nell Carter from Gimme Me a Break! died, we had no peep show that week. I love Nell Carter. So me, Chris Shaw, Ron Donovan, and Chuck Sperry built “Nell Carter’s Cunt.” It was a dark tunnel made of black plastic. I put a long air mattress for a pool on either side of the doorway and glued African-American wigs to the sides so you had to spread the lips and step in. You were walking through a giant pussy. The only thing that lit your way were “old” condoms filled with florescent tubes. You had to use the walls to feel your way through but we had smeared them with lube so you immediately slipped. There were little dried fish buried in the corners so it totally reeked. The piece de la resistance was Nell Carter blasting at a million decibels on a loop, “Gimme a break ‘cause I sure do need it!” So, it’s dark, it’s stinky, you’re slipping and sliding in condoms and you couldn’t even hear yourself think.

Chicken John: Audra graduated to the next level. I brought the level down and gave it away for free.

Molli Amara Simon: In 1995, underground circus was bubbling up all over the place. It was so attractive to me at the time. I had just moved from Tucson, where I was performing with a group of artists doing underground ritual theater and performance happenings. I met Chicken John and he needed some help planning his circus tour. I jumped at the chance.

Chicken John: In 1994, I started the first touring punk rock traveling circus and sideshow. Circuss Redickuless. I booked the first tour without having a troupe. I told the people on the other end of the phone, that it was all together, a real punk rock circus. I told people on this end that the tour was booked, that there would be shows every single night, there would be money, cocaine, and chicks. We were going to be famous. I lied. But it became the truth. Through faith or tenacity, we had a gigantic traveling circus with absolutely no talent, no rehearsal, and no nothing.

I wanted to do the punk rock thing and travel with purpose. But there were too many bands. You could buy a guitar for a hundred dollars. It had hit a saturation point. It became obvious we were not challenging the dominant paradigm. I didn’t want to be a punk rock enthusiast, a punk rock hobbyist. I still wanted full immersion. I still wanted be Robin Hood, siphoning gas out of cop cars on tours. I knew how to book tours, I knew how to make the phone calls, I knew how to keep the vehicles running. So I brought my skills to the circus.

There was no way you could pay retail for the circus. The posters, the phone calls, alone. It had to be free. We all went bowling, asked for size 13 shoes, and left. We wore a red one on the left, a blue one on the right. Suspenders, baggy pants. Punk rock clowns.

We never rehearsed. We just went up and did it. It was an improv show. We had no idea what we were doing and neither did the audience.

Gilman refused to book us. I tried to book the tour a year in advance. And they said, “No, we’re all booked up.” They weren’t fucking the least bit interested. We got the cover of MRR though.

Tim Yohannan put the circus on the cover. He did a huge interview. In a way, the circus embraced his no-advertising policy because no one knew what the acts were gonna be. It was just like, tonight, Circuss Redickuless. You’d come and you’d endure this three-hour disaster. An insult more then a concept, we took acts that generations of people honed to perfection and obliterated them with comedy and beer. The Temporarily Tattooed Man! The Prideswallower! The Vegan Geek! He bites the heads of lettuce right before your very eyes! The Human Human! A guy in tighty whities with no piercings, and no tattoos. The juggler who can juggle 40 different fucking things, in complete darkness! That was my favorite. The Self-Taming Lion! A Live Dog!

Over the course of five years, the circus had 300 members. So that gives you an idea of the attrition rate. At its apex, there were 42 people, 17 warrants, six vehicles, four dogs, three chords, and no clue. That caravan got half a mile to the gallon.

Jarico Reesce: I ran away from home when I was 16 and lived in my car, saw a lot of good shows, traveled all over on trains and buses. I met Chicken when I was 22. He came to my Cacophony event in L.A. called Story Night. In the circus I was the Vegan Geek, the Bad Magician, the Man Eating Chicken, Doctor Electro-Glycerin, and all the other acts when there were no other performers.

During the ’94 tour, I brought enough pot to sell that it would have supported the entire tour. The idiots snitched me out, and then made it worse by trying to defend me to Chicken. He had a no-drugs on the bus policy. I had to walk 15 miles to get to the gig, but I performed my act that night on time! And smoked a lot of pot, so much in fact, someone once poured water on me because they thought I was dead.

Molli Amara Simon: Chicken would always snort a balloon through his nose and pull it out of his mouth at some point. Dammit the Amazing Wonder Dog would attack bubbles and not jump through the hoop.

Chicken John: Igor the Ignitor would shoot bottle rockets out of his ass.

David Apocalypse: Watching Chicken and Jarico chase live props around the stage during Jarico’s mad scientist act was the best. I did all the sideshow stunts: Human Blockhead. Eat, drink, and breath fire. Straitjacket escape hanging from the Mousetrap crane. The blade ladder. Bed of broken glass. The electric chair. Dealing with the cops, drunk audiences, and drunker clowns.

Molli Amara Simon: In ’97, the bus broke down on the way to our first show. We went out with Jim Mason and the Veg-O-Matic, a V-8 engine that blended cocktails, the Hard Times Bike Club from Minneapolis, and Plunder Industries’ life-sized game of Mouse Trap. The Mouse Trap made it to our first show, but was never set up and left behind for the rest of the tour.

Jarico Reesce: I was with the circus until the end or until the Circus Redickuless had the terrible idea of bringing on talented performers. I hated all other circuses. I was against our touring with the Bindlestiffs or the Bindletwits, as we called them. I argued with Chicken but to no avail. We heckled the Bindlestiff performers. That kind of became a part of the show.

Chicken John: Audra did it in her realm and I did it in mine. In 1985, you would go to a show and ask who’s playing. By 2005, you’d go to a show and ask, is it a band, a game show, a burlesque troupe, a trapeze act, a memorial service? Is it the death of the cheeseburger or giant fucking machines dripping hydraulic fluid from their guts? It’s no longer chocolate or vanilla. It’s a smorgasbord. And it wasn’t just me and Audra, it was people all over, pushing this thing in new directions.

The final nail in the coffin of the circus was a spread in Spin magazine. Let’s just say that we couldn’t live up to our own hype. As no one really can. Defined by a story, and no longer available to possibility, the honeymoon ended. No one could run away fast enough.

Jarico Reesce: After the Circuss, I should have done drug rehabilitation and read the Bible. However, I started drinking heavily and building bikes. Cyclecide began in 1997 and was inspired by the Hard Times Bike Club in Minneapolis. We created a show called the Heavy Pedal Bike Rodeo. We’ve toured with crazy bikes and pedal-powered contraptions for over ten years.

David Apocalypse: After Circuss Redickuless, I went to work for The World Of Wonders, the last [authentic] traveling sideshow. I’m semi-retired from show business after breaking my back during a straitjacket escape.

Chicken John: With the circus, I wanted to do something that was going to be memorable and unconventional and fun and whimsical. Something that the machine couldn’t adapt, steal, and commodify. I haven’t exactly figured out how to do that, but I’ve not lost heart.

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