Why Doing Television Is Hard

Posted in Behind the Scenes at FSD with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2016 by freakshowdeluxe

Recently, members of your FreakShow Deluxe were able to get together because we were all in the same place, for a change.

13592286_10208453272142200_4383703831775156345_n

FSD’s National Officers meeting in a restaurant… like the mob. Just sayin’

While we were there to do this television thing, Reverend Tommy Gunn shared some thoughts about why it seems every sideshow performer we know seems to hate working television.

The complaint heard most often is that television folks don’t “understand” what goes into a sideshow performance – either by skill, or in the structure to make the stunt work for the audience in performance. Another common complaint is that the setting up for the shots just takes too long, and that is too time-consuming to have the television crew do things the performers usually do on their own.

There are a few things to point out – but let us start with a story!

When FSD arrived at the location of the television studio, we had previously supplied the production team with the dimensions of the props we needed, including the plans for a knife throwing board. We also listed that we needed balloons. They had a few questions, and wanted to make some changes, but overall everything seemed on track.

When the FSD crew arrived, the board looked great – even with the changes they asked about making. However – a quick look at everything else made us realize our directions had not been specific enough!

The board was covered in neat rows of small balloons (about the size provided by stores for water balloons), covering the entire board from top to bottom. All the balloons were attached to the board with pieces of tape. When the first knife was thrown, it missed its (tiny) target, but managed to dislodge the balloon’s tape — but instead of falling to the ground, the ballon rose up into the rafters of the studio. The balloons had been filled with helium!

Usually, we use nine-inch latex balloons for our acts, blown up to nearly maximum size by our performers’ breath, then tacked to the board in precise locations ONLY where we need targets (no more than five at a time) with pins or staples.

Whose fault was this? ALL OURS!

See – we had not been specific enough. When writing out the directions for building and supplying what we needed were provided to the studio by us, we had a couple conversations with the production team about it — and they had also seen the videos we submitted of the acts — so we figured everything would be fine.

What we forgot was that the instructions that we sent were then filtered down through the ranks and eventually forwarded on to the production crew – including the shop and its builders who had been hired in and not part of the production team – all of whom had not seen the video, had not had the conversations with us to ask questions, and plus had our needs in a queue with all the other performers and acts that they were scheduled to take care of!

On previous events, we have had similar issues. One place provided plastic balloons rather than latex (they would not pop, no matter what we did). Another built the props out of hard wood, not soft wood – making them VERY heavy and unwieldy. One time when we said we needed a sledgehammer provided, they gave us a hand-held one – not the full-size tent-stake pounding kind we really needed.

There’s no way to get around the crew issues – television production is (thankfully) a Union gig. But that also means every person there needs to justify their existence (who doesn’t?) – so we often had to explain and re-explain the same things to a variety of people, each in charge of only one particular aspect of the entire performance.

But that is how it works! You have a very limited time to make things happen — and not everything can be fixed in post. We kept our FSD crew calm, personable, and in good humor as much as we could. Television is a lot of “hurry up and wait,” and we knew that going in – so we were prepared.

We felt a little sorry for the folks who had no idea what all was involved coming in. They usually were not very happy. But — *shrug* — live and learn!

Also – we have amended the information we provide to outside production teams to include the many, many specific things we need. We are hoping to avoid problems in the future as your FSD continues to move forward!

FreakShow Deluxe sponsored by Lucky 13 Apparel

photo by Kino McFarland

This Business We Call Show (part 2)

Posted in Behind the Scenes at FSD with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2016 by freakshowdeluxe
IMG_2830

Poutine… from Canada. At Wendy’s… in Canada.

FreakShow Deluxe does not “tour” in the sense of doing club dates like a rock band.

We do a lot of traveling, sure… lots of traveling to the venues, amusement parks, events, fairs and such where we usually perform. But we do not book tours in the sense of town after town for weeks at a time, with our income dependent on the clubs ticket sales.

Not that there is anything wrong with touring night clubs. We know plenty of folks who do! They always seem to be having a great time.

HA! HA!! No… No – they don’t.

It’s just one story after another of broken down vehicles, rip-offs, low audience turn-outs, canceled gigs, bad food, sleeping in the van… the list just goes on and on.

In the conversations amongst the community of which we are a part, it often comes up about why, if everything is so bad out there on the road… WHY do folks keep touring that way?? Usually, the answer is something along the lines of —

We do hundreds and hundreds of shows per year! You can’t beat that kind of experience.

Reverend Tommy Gunn, here. I was talking with Harley Newman, who is a legendary performer and I am happy to call him a mentor of mine, about the above quote as we were discussing various theoretical aspects of performing and touring – as we often do – and he brought up a good point: it doesn’t do anyone any good to do 900 shows a year if you’re done 900 bad shows! Lots of shows does not, itself, make you better.

Something about it came together for me when I heard the following quote from comedian Brian McKim in the movie I Am Road Comic. Sitting at a table with his wife, talking about being a traveling comic, he says:

There’s this thing people think: if you sleep in your car, and you drive a thousand miles and you do this and you do this… and the end of it they think, “Boy, I’m going to be a spectacular comic.” And it’s like… well… you’re going to be a better comic. I think you can be a spectacular comic and, like, not endure so much heartache.

And this is so true.

I was happy to get that it was so true not just for sideshow – but for comedy (and, in turn, I guess for music, burlesque, acting, yada yada).

Oh – how many of those “road warriors,” with their stories of rip-offs and break-downs and bad food, think that this is the only way to do it. And make no mistake, there are a lot of folks doing it “this way” (whatever way it may be),  because they only know “this way” to do things!

Perhaps, they probably read Jim Rose‘s Freak Like Me… but NOT read the infinitely superior Circus of the Scars by Jan T. Gregor, even though they both cover roughly the same time period – when the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow was at it’s peak. Days of sleeping in the van. Not seeing pay. Getting gear stolen. And hitting the high points (concerts, celebrity) Oh, yes!! But plenty of low points, too…

Traveling and performing this way is hard. It does NOT create the best situation for creating the best kind of shows. Especially when these shows are one-offs. When you’re traveling like that, you can be just overwhelmed with the constant turn over, driving, bad sleep, and worse food. It’s hard! Definitely a young person’s game.

13317034_10154850515416393_5896825319853993614_o

It’s Krystal Kurio and Kasey Rose off to do another FreakShow Deluxe gig!

But what I see so often is everyone who is touring like a rock band trying to do is to reinvent the wheel! More often than not, I try to steer them towards the book Tour Smart: And Break the Band by Martin Atkins (who has an impressive resume of touring and performing). This book is filled with so many stories – including pages of malarkey from the Suicide Girls (no link to them, because there was SO much cluelessness going on), and some great stories from The Enigma, among others. Every bit of it is useful! Even for someone not touring like a band.

Honestly, at this point in my life/career it’s about working smarter, not harder.

Yeah – I could still cowboy it (and sometimes I still do just for fun): sleeping in the car, with the same clothes for days on end, not bathing, and eating at gas stations. But, usually I need to be able to sleep comfortably to be able to function. I need a hot shower (lots of cuts, bruises, and pain at the end of every show that needs to be cleaned up). I need time at the venue to make sure everything is on deck. I need clean clothes to keep from getting rashes (and infections with all those cuts). I need to eat well so I don’t have an upset stomach or issues so that I can do the best job possible.

See – if I have those things, in the long run I can actually do MORE shows. I am more professional, calmer, and get more done at each place. I can create better shows, and keep them running. With guarantees, contracts, and more I can better plan for money – that means less break-downs… plus all the FSD performers get paid.

Bad shows just leave a bad taste in the mouth of every promoter. With sideshow – unlike any other type of entertainment – it seems that one bad show will make a promoter/venue never allow it there again, saying

Sideshow just doesn’t work here.

If a rockabilly band comes in and bombs (for whatever reason), they usually don’t just bar all the rockabilly bands. They just pay a bit more attention with the next one they bring in.

A lot of this is on the sideshow troupes heading into these places though.

 

IMG_3255.jpg

Though drink specials when we are at a club is REALLY the way to go!

 

What Happens At the Hospital

Posted in Behind the Scenes at FSD with tags , , , , , on May 13, 2016 by freakshowdeluxe

13165928_1287175877978395_3923945517170953547_n

We have some interesting experiences out and performing and on the road. We also get to meet a lot of interesting people! That is probably the more fun part…

The audiences who “get” what we do the least seem to be medical professionals. The very idea that we willingly swallow swords, stick skewers through our skin, put gasoline in our mouths to eat and breathe fire is such a foreign thing for them to understand. They, more than anyone, are the first to say “that is impossible!”

So a few years ago – a cast member at one of our shows (note: this was NOT a regular company member of FreakShow Deluxe – this was a person who was hired in just for this gig to see how they did) got injured during a show trying a stunt that she had never done before. This is something we do not recommend for this reason:

While initially she appeared to be fine – as the evening went on, she was in more and more pain. Like, seriously, real pain. Initially, she tried to suck it up and tough it out – but it became obvious that something was really wrong and it had to be taken care of. SO —

Off to the hospital we went!

Seeing as how we were not in a huge city – the time in the waiting room went by very quickly. Once she was being seen (and an FSD person was on deck with her, of course, to look out for her), we explained to the staff how she received the injury she did: she had scratched the inside of her throat while sword swallowing.

Of course, they did not believe us. There was some arguing back and forth a bit while they disbelieved everything that we told them.

But, finally, the doctor arrived.

Once he did, he took a look before hearing the story of what happened. And when his staff said, “how is this possible?” And then the big reveal…

The doctor revealed to us that he knew all about sword swallowing!!

See – it appears that the doctor liked to do a little stunt during dinner parties: first, he would pick up the spoon and stick the handle in one nostril. Second, he would pick up the fork and stick the handle in the other nostril. THEN he would pick up the knife, tilt his head back, and swallow it all the way down his throat. Then, with a smile, he would remove all the items and continue with the party!

We let him know that if he ever wanted to give up on this “doctor” thing, we had a job for him.

Thanks to his candor, the staff took great care of our injured sword swallower. After a few days in the hospital, she was released back to the show (though we did not let her sword swallow for the rest of the run, per the doctor’s orders). She recovered – and we understand she still sword swallows on occasion.

And we are still waiting for a call from the doctor to come and work for us!

311706_2630253881973_1424138301_3045048_1484909725_n.jpg

Do not try sword swallowing. It is dangerous.

 

This Business We Call Show (part 1)

Posted in Behind the Scenes at FSD, History of FSD with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2016 by freakshowdeluxe
1916956_111561977321_7987322_n

photo by Lornography at Coney Island USA

So I, your Right Reverend Tommy Gunn, have been writing a book in addition to presenting at conferences and the like — but a lot of that has been on hold as your FreakShow Deluxe worked to reboot itself once again.

“What?! AGAIN!?,” I hear you crying out there upon reading that last sentence.

Yes.

Look – the last big restructuring really came back in 2004, after I moved your FSD from where it started in Ohio to Hollywood, where we opened The Empire Amusement Hall. That really was a while ago… I need to create “Examining 10 years of FreakShow Deluxe (part 6),” but in the meantime you can read this to catch up: Examining 10 years of FreakShow Deluxe (part 5)

The company has hit a time now where a fair amount of our family who has been with us has been doing this for going on 10 years (if not more). But their lives are NOT the same!! Things change – people change – life changes… and with those changes, some of our folks need to focus on other things besides your FSD, and we want them to have the opportunity to do so. Additionally, there have been some additions to our family – and it is time for them to move to the forefront.

So, with all the retirements going on (our company members switching to OG (aka Oh Gee!) Status, and some new patched members coming to the forefront, AND a restructuring of the company, along with creation of several new divisions within your FSD (namely, The Skeleton Crew, The Koffin Krewe, and The Voodoo Krewe). There is a lot of work to do. A lot of thinking – and then writing – then thinking again… plus a new executive staff to work things out with, too.
SkeletonCrew1Voodoo Krewe-Final

The Koffin Krewe Logo
is being created now

 

It is the process that is the hard part. The analogy I used to explain it to someone yesterday  was that I am effectively building a motorcycle. From the ground up. And, even though I have built motorcycles before – this one is to be an improvement on the last one I built.

This means the structure paperwork is, in this analogy, is the putting together of all the pieces. The framework, the wheels, the motor & pre-fabricated pieces, and then determining what the new pieces are that I need to manufacture myself. There’s a certain amount of time that I put things together – step away to look at it from a distance… maybe even walk away for a bit to think about what I am doing. Sometimes, I have to stop working on the new bike to bang out some parts or get some things going for jobs that are already on the books — things that have to be squared away before we reveal the new creation.

At this point, there is a sprocket I need that I have to create for a specific purpose. So I research a bit, but then I have to take raw material and then pound it into the configuration that I need to fit where it is supposed to and do the job it is meant for.

The process is time-consuming and difficult. Eventually, the planning portion has to stop and the bike moved into the next steps.

Now – here is where my competitive spirit comes in: at the same time I am working on this new bike, there are other bikes out there on the road. Some are pretty cool, some are pretty fast – some are copies of other bikes I built, and some are totally original – but other people are out there with their bikes… and I wish mine was out there, too. Especially because I know that my bike is going to be much better. Perhaps it will even be considered game-changing!

So, yes, I am a bit jealous of the bikes that are out on the road right now. Then I have to remind myself that the new bike will be game-changing, and even when it is, some people have different tastes, and maybe even like one of those other bikes over mine (even though, obviously, mine is superior). And then I get back to business.

Because it does not end with designing the bike, creating new parts, and initially putting it together. Oh no…

Once most of the designing and fabricating is done – then the whole thing has to be disassembled and sent off for paint, chrome, and/or powder coating… Which means it goes into someone else’s hands to do some of the work on it. The big question – will everything happen like it is supposed to during this stage? If something goes wrong – am I prepared for that and how to fix it?

Then, when all of the pieces have come back, the whole bike has to be reassembled (looking for all kinds of problems along the way), and this time extra things are added like the wiring. Does everything go back together like it is supposed to? Did I forget anything, or mis-measure anything? Do the layers of finishing (paint, chrome, sealer, etc.) add anything that now means things do not fit together like they are supposed to?

And, FINALLY, with it all together we get to fire it up and see what happens. Did it fire? How does it do on the test drive? There is going to be a break-in period on the motor. Some bolts are going to need to be tightened (maybe sprayed with some Lock-tite, if it seems they are going to be a problem), parts adjusted, lubed, sparked… you get the idea.

Now that it is broken in, NOW we get to ride it! Try and see how fast it will go. How tight it can take a corner. How cool does it really look and sound when it is moving… and when it is standing still.

Of course – now that it is done, I can see a few things I might like to change about it. That color is not really what I was thinking of – that chain is not exactly where I would like it to be – maybe I do not like that style taillight after all.

Soon, it is time to build the next bike…

Many thanks to Pat at Led Sled Customs for the insight into what it takes to build a bike. Led Sled has been a friend and sponsor of FSD since our companies started at the same time in 2001. Check out their amazing products at: http://www.ledsledcustoms.com
Also, do not try to build your own bike (or sideshow) from my analogy here… it won’t work.

207229_168811053172879_167992983254686_377463_6926445_n

FreakShow Deluxe – DO NOT Try This At Home

The Past Couple Years In Review

Posted in Behind the Scenes at FSD, History of FSD with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2016 by freakshowdeluxe

FSD-skelly

There have been QUITE a few things going on with your FreakShow Deluxe! So much so, in fact, that it has been VERY hard to keep up on this blog — but it is a new year, so new goals (like doing this blog)…

The last real posting about what we have been up to was back in January 2013, it appears… Shortly before the death of our good friend, and the filmmaker who shot the first FSD documentary, Andrew Copp, we posted about some great things that had been going on… Now it is time to talk about what has happened since then.

The biggest thing is that FreakShow Deluxe has continued to just POWER through shows in ALL kinds of places!!

IMG_0983     IMG_0675
One of the biggest things we did was unveil the new skills of Grennan the Green Monster and Charlotte, La Pequeña Arañita, on the unsuspecting pubic. Grennan is still the World’s Youngest Professional Knife Thrower; and his target girl, Charlotte, is still The Bravest Little Girl In the World – being his target girl. They appeared on America’s Got Talent – where Howard Stern said it was genuinely something he had never seen before – and then they appeared on SuperKids in Germany. These appearances got them featured in magazines and newspapers all over the world.

Additionally, wee produced a couple monthly variety shows: Cap’n Jonny’s Whiz Bang and Ilumen-Naughty in Dayton, Ohio – which brought in some GREAT talent from all over – AND continued to produce one-offs in Los Angeles! We were also a big part of regular shows, like Tales From the Strypt and Circus Maximus in Southern California, a series of shows in Japan, and plenty more.

FreakShow Deluxe was featured as a major part of Kirk Von Hammett’s Fear FestEVIL! We drew a lot of attention to it and opened a lot of people’s eyes as to what was possible. Additionally, Reverend Tommy Gunn presented a paper about sideshow (and did a little show) at the Popular Culture Association’s conference at the Marriott in New Orleans. FSD was part of the New Orleans Fringe Festival and this year’s expanded Razor’s Edge Festival in New Orleans, too.

Being at The Gathering of the Juggalos got a great picture featured on Rolling Stone’s website (see more FSD pics from the Gathering here: http://www.drivenbyboredom.com/2015/07/29/freakshow-deluxe-gotj/ )

Plus there were all our great shows at these awesome places listed here
(* indicates we returned at least once, if not more):

  • The Harem – Dayton, OH*
  • Gilly’s – Dayton, OH*
  • The Ostrich Festival – Chandler, AZ*
  • The Brimstone Breakout – Long Beach, CA
  • Maritime Tattoo Festival – Halifax, NS, Canada*
  • Tommy’s Tattoo Convention – Hartford, CT
  • Coney Island’s Sideshow by the Seashore – Brooklyn, NY*
  • Texas Showdown Festival – El Paso, TX*
  • Full Throttle Saloon – Sturgis, SD*
  • Riverfront Fair – Owensboro, KY
  • Star Lounge – Shibuya Tokyo, Japan*
  • Throttle Fest – Kansas City, MO
  • Delta Fair & Music Festival – Memphis, TN*
  • The Joint – Little Rock, AR*
  • State Fair of Virginia – Doswell, VA
  • Civil War Days – Hartford, CT
  • Georgia State Fair – Atlanta, GA*
  • Frontier City – Oklahoma City, OK*
  • The AllWays Lounge – New Orleans, LA*
  • DiPiazza’s – Long Beach, CA
  • Etti – Shizuaka-shi, Shizuoka, Japan
  • California Institute of Abnormal Arts – North Hollywood, CA*
  • Fresno Tattoo Expo – Fresno, CA*
  • High Desert Tattoo Expo – Lancaster, CA
  • PT’s Showclub – Portland, ME
  • Elitch Gardens – Denver, CO
  • Scandals Bar – Virginia Beach, VA
  • Cafe Istanbul – New Orleans, LA
  • Full Circle Bar – Fresno, CA
  • Siberia – New Orleans
  • Little Darlings – Oklahoma City, OK*
  • RockBar Theater – San Jose, CA
  • Therapy Cafe – Dayton, OH*
  • Pioneer Event Center – Lancaster, CA
  • The Banana Ball at The Docs Inn – Silvis, IL
  • Gathering of the Juggalos – Thornville, OH
  • The Penthouse Club – St. Louis, MO
  • Byrdie’s Cafe – New Orleans, LA
  • The Pony – Starkville, MS

Looking at this list makes us all kind of tired, seeing how much we have done in the past three years. We went through most of our calendars to come up with it. Plus all the press, clippings, videos and more. SO MUCH STUFF!

But for 2016? THERE IS SO MUCH COMING ON DECK!!! It will have to be a whole other post…

Good-bye to a Good Friend of FSD

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 21, 2013 by freakshowdeluxe

Image

Today is a very sad day for not just your FreakShow Deluxe, but for a lot of people.

Our dear friend, Andy Copp, an amazing visionary filmmaker and artist, is gone. He was the one who shot the first FreakShow Deluxe documentary. He also made a couple films that featured members of FreakShow Deluxe in the cast.

Andy was a great guy, too. He and FSD’s founder, Rev. Tommy Gunn, were good friends and shared a friendship with Dr. Creep (without whom there would be no FSD). The two of them were working on a new promo video and a re-issue of the original documentary as well as additional footage of how much the company has changed.

Adios, Andy. Vaya Con Dios. We will always miss you.

Time for a Brand New Year of Freakiness!

Posted in Behind the Scenes at FSD, History of FSD with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2013 by freakshowdeluxe

Image

Your FreakShow Deluxe is ramping things up for an interesting year in 2013.

Wait… isn’t there the fablied Chinese curse? “May you live in interesting times.” Uh oh.

Too late now. We are in 2013, rebirthed, and ready to go…

Of course, as with any rebirth, there has been some pain involved.

This year FreakShow Deluxe was once again a part of the Full Throttle Saloon (for both Bike Week AND the TruTV series) – plus their big event in Kansas City, KS, Maroon 5‘s epic Halloween party at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Halloween week at the infamous Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA, fairs & festivals with our good friends at Universal Fairs (including the Ostrich Festival, Delta Fair & Music Festival, AND their new venture: the State Fair of Virginia), Texas Tattoo Showdown in El Paso, TX, the Sideshow Gathering in Wilkes-Barre, PA, Hell City Tattoo Show (this time in Killumbus, OH), OC Market Place‘s Trick-r-Treat Halloween event, PLUS we did plenty of stuff at PT Showclubs, Diamond Cabaret, and other great clubs all over the U.S.!

If those weren’t enough, we did GREAT shows for the Frontier City Amusement Park in Oklahoma City, OK, Melbourne Freak Show in Melbourne, FL, kicked as at The Joint in Little Rock, AR, appeared at the Steampunk Saloon in Altadena, CA, returned to (and did our last show at) Washington DC’s Red Palace, made it into Canada for the Maritime Tattoo Festival in Halifax, NS, helped out the folks with The Devil’s Carnival, PLUS some great private events and local club parties all over the U.S.!

We had our great sponsor LUCKY 13 APPAREL, did good stuff with Rebel TV Radio (including their awesome Misfit Sideshow Cabaret shows), worked with WE ARE THE FALLEN, and had our people appearing on ALL kinds of television shows — one of the best being Grennan the Green Monster’s appearance on Nickelodeon’s FIGURE IT OUT, for which he received national attention.

It wasn’t easy, though… a couple of our core members have stepped away or taken a break — to move, or get married, start a new relationship, or whatever the case might be… but FFSDFSDF (Forever FreakShow Deluxe FreakShow Deluxe Forever). They are still in our hearts and on our minds.

We also lost some of our Associate members – moving on after figuring out for themselves that they were not up to our challenge, or getting the boot for lying about who and what they are. We may be a lot – but liars we are not and do not put up with. We are the professionals. The amazing ones. It takes more than the average bear to be one of us — one of the 1% of sideshows.

And 2013 is already looking amazing!! We have some GREAT new performers and Associates we will be working with!!

We look forward to returning to visit with our friends  — and making some new ones — so stay tuned to find out all the fun stuff we are going to be up to!!