Examining 10 years of FreakShow Deluxe (part 1)

After doing some figuring and pouring over calendars, we realized that the FreakShow Deluxe IS indeed coming up on 10 years of shows and such – but it is a bit more complicated that originally figured. In truth, the 10-year anniversary is a celebration that will sort of begin in October 2010 and then continue until the following Halloween season!

It’s kind of like this:

FSD didn’t start out as the show it is today – originally, Rev. Tommy Gunn was working for a outdoor theater in 2001 that sponsored a haunted trail on its property as a big fund-raiser every October. The Reverend realized that people were standing for as long as two-hours in line after they had already purchased their tickets for the event, just waiting to get in – so he tried to figure out a way to entertain them. Calling upon some skills he had as a fire-eater and with the bed of nails, he began busking the queue.

Within a few minutes of starting to entertain the crowds, the Reverend was joined by The Wolf, a local who had been hired to scare people as a monster along the haunted trail’s path. Turned out The Wolf had some skills of his own in fire-breathing and a great look perfect for the stage. Shortly, the duo was responsible for entertaining the crowds waiting in the long lines on those cold southwestern Ohio nights to walk the haunted trail. They built up a show, bringing in local television horror host Dr. Creep to assist in running the show and creating a lifetime bond of friendship.

Rev. Tommy Gunn and The Wolf entertained a few thousand people that October – but once it was over there was a real question of what they would do next… Dr. Creep gave them an idea.

Dr. Creep has a charity called Project Christmas Smiles, supplying food and toys to needy people in Ohio’s Miami Valley during the Christmas season. It was the good Doctor who suggested to Rev. Tommy Gunn and The Wolf that they should do some sort of fundraising event for the Project. So arrangements were made with the local public access station for a single live variety television show in December that would promote the Project.

When called upon to come up with some sort of name, however, it took a bit of doing. Rev. Tommy Gunn had a habit of calling all of his projects by the pet name “Pigf*cker.” When asked, his first off the cuff answer was to call the show “Pigf*cker Deluxe.” While that name was quickly shot down by the television station for obvious reason, the idea of it stuck in the Reverend’s head and, when pressed, he coined the name “FreakShow Deluxe.” So, the show officially became FreakShow Deluxe in December 2001 for the television show “FreakShow Deluxe: a Christmas Special.”

The notoriety of the troupe and show started with the television special – especially when its combination of sideshow stunts (including Human Pincushion and Pierced Weightlifting as well as the Bed of Nails and Fire-Eating), a live rock band, risque improv comedy, strange modern art, professional wrestling, and a drag queen turned out to be a little too much for some viewers. Complaints were called in, a sister station abruptly stopped broadcasting the show partway through, and eventually some people at the television station and some who worked at and promoted the show at the local newspaper were fired… allegedly because of the show’s content.

But the seed was sown, and the idea just would not go away. By Halloween 2002, Rev. Tommy Gunn had arranged for the fledgling FreakShow Deluxe to return to the same haunted trail – but this time as a separate ticketed event on its own stage! The previous year’s television show and this new development interested filmmaker Andy Copp enough to come out and shoot a documentary about the new show. Rev. Tommy Gunn and The Wolf did four (4) shows a night three days a week during the month-long run of the haunt, to disappointingly small crowds in their special theater – but once the Halloween season ended, things began to pick up.

Copp’s documentary, FREAKSHOW DELUXE (available from Copp Films, and other internet resources), garnered some interest and positive reviews and this, couple with favorable responses to the shows of the past two Halloween seasons, interested the local Clear Channel station enough to enter with Rev. Tommy Gunn in a partnership deal for the haunted trail – AND some sponsorship (for lack of a better word) for FreakShow Deluxe!

By the summer of 2003, it was decided the haunted trail’s entire advertising campaign would focus on FSD, and Clear Channel began using FSD for promotional events – including their huge concert festival, where FSD had their own stage and performed for over 13,000 people that year!

Rev. Tommy Gunn and The Wolf also realized that with this added attention and the need for bigger shows, they needed to expand. Before the big concert event, Rev. Tommy Gunn brought in Dirty Jonny Grinder, and The Wolf brought in Phil. Jonny brought his skills as a talker and (obviously) with the grinder, while Phil added his own special appeal of getting audience sympathy while the rest of the cast abused him and The Wolf broke boards, bottles and other things over his head. The group was rounded out with two girls: Kirva Jade and Devilicious, who performed their own acts – and FSD made what would amount to a giant leap towards the big time.

The show was VERY well received at the concert event – attracting and holding far bigger crowds than expected around their tiny stage. Interest was growing around the group – but the real test would be the 2003 Halloween season where they were preparing a new show to return to the haunted trail.


One Response to “Examining 10 years of FreakShow Deluxe (part 1)”

  1. Thanks for sharing the details. I found the info really helpful.

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