Examining 10 years of FreakShow Deluxe (part 2)

By the time the 2003 Halloween season rolled around, FreakShow Deluxe was primed for big things to happen! The former two-member troupe (Rev. Tommy Gunn & The Wolf) was now four-member troupe (adding Dirty Jonny Grinder & Phil to it’s regular show), it had performed for 13,000 people at the annual X-Fest concert event, hosted by Clear Channel radio in downtown Dayton, Ohio and everyone had been working hard on new props and stunts for the annual PsychoPath Haunted Trail in Xenia, Ohio.

This was Rev. Tommy Gunn’s and The Wolf’s third year at the redesigned (by Rev. Tommy Gunn) PsychoPath, and now, with newbies Dirty Jonny Grinder and Phil rounding out the cast, a new stage set with props built by Jonny, Andy Copp’s documentary DVD in wide release, and expanded advertising for the Haunt was featuring The Wolf’s face as the prime focus – hopes were high. And with good reason!

In 2002, FSD had built themselves a 150 seat theater at the PsychoPath. Most nights, however, the show never came close to filling it. So the boys decided to close up the space, taking 50 seats out and bringing the walls in closer for a more intimate venue. But during October 2003, FSD blew the walls out of the space they had set up for themselves. Not only were they scrambling to find space to add more chairs in the space they had, the boys usually had to add a fifth show to their four-show a night run to accommodate the hundreds of people trying to cram into the small theater!!

With the addition of two more cast members, the show began to change is an unexpected way. With just the original two, the show was more serious – the message that if you train and work hard enough, you can achieve anything demonstrated in an ominous and earnest fashion as Rev. Tommy Gunn & The Wolf demonstrated their stunts. Once Jonny Grinder and Phil joined the show, competition began to become a part of each performance. The message was the same, but the cast members began pushing each other to take their acts to the next level, increasing the danger and, inadvertently, the comedy.

What had started out as some friendly rivalry on the FSD stage during Clear Channel’s X-Fest – with each member trying to outdo each during the pierced weightlifting act, then again choosing things to break over Phil’s head – began to emerge as a regular part of the show as cast members got in the habit of interrupting each others acts with additional stunts and comedy bits, adding a real light-hearted, improvisational “anything-can-happen” kind of feel to the shows that audiences really seemed to like.

btw: the ladies involved X-Fest, Kirva Jade and Devilicious, were not as involved in the competition aspects of what was going on during those shows, though Kirva Jade never shied away jumping right in to match what the boys were doing. However, by the time the Halloween season rolled around, both of the girls were too involved with their own things to be a part of the show. Besides, a bigger the cast means the less money getting paid to everyone involved – so the regular cast size was capped at 4 members.

So the shows were a success – and so was the merchandise. Rev. Tommy Gunn introduced the official FSD logo: with letters looking like blood dripping (reminiscent of logo for the band, The Cramps). The first t-shirts and stickers introduced were black with the FSD logo prominently on the chest in white – with the phrase “carnival-style sideshow” and the website address added by the printer, local Dayton company Death Industries. Dirty Jonny Grinder coined the phrase “Devils or Madmen? You Decide!” which was printed on the back of the shirts and would become an ongoing rallying cry for FSD.

Gunn also created the official website, http://www.FreakShowDeluxe.com, through another local Dayton company, Nihilist Media. Immediately, it was put to work advertising show dates and talking points. The Myspace account at http://www.myspace.com/FreakShowDeluxe hit the web soon thereafter. Gunn also began working on FSD’s very first video reel with footage from the 2003 X-Fest and PsychoPath Haunted Trail.

In the year after the 2003 PsychoPath, The Wolf & Rev. Tommy Gunn worked with film director Andy Copp on his film “Her Name Was Samantha,” playing two misogynistic villains who run a strip club with a snuff film studio in the basement. It was great fun for both! Individually, Gunn continued to manage his theater, and began doing some small shows as a solo performer,  writing magazine articles and designing the next year’s PsychoPath, while Wolf worked his regular nightclub gig. Dirty Jonny Grinder set to making all kinds of artwork – AND creating lots of new props to prepare for the upcoming Haunt season. Phil… just did whatever it is Phil does when he is on his own.

But as things were moving forward, there were things in the works which would forever change FreakShow Deluxe in 2004.

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