Examining 10 years of FreakShow Deluxe (part 4)

Part of what led to the big changes in FreakShow Deluxe during the 2004 season needs some back story about what else was going on at the time:

Rev. Tommy Gunn had been working for the theater where the PsychoPath Haunted Trail took place for several years, which is what led to the creation of FSD. Over the years he had risen up in the ranks until he was top management. Under his guidance, the theater and the PsychoPath had become more profitable every year, especially with the partnership deal he had worked out with Clear Channel – of which FSD was an integral part.

However, by the summer of 2004, Gunn was on his way out. Despite his successes, he had become unhappy with the company, plus the non-profit theater’s board did not like his management style or approve of him in general and – after repeatedly butting heads and arguing – removed him from his post. There was a lot of ugliness involved in how this came about, and a lot of bad feelings on both sides. Eventually Gunn was informed that neither he, nor FreakShow Deluxe, would be a part of the 2004 PsychoPath event.

While this was going on, tensions were growing inside FSD. Both Reverend Tommy Gunn’s and The Wolf’s big personalities (and egos) were creating a lot of friction. Gunn had taken to making decisions and doing things for the troupe without checking in with The Wolf or anyone else. In turn,  a promotional photo shoot was scheduled without checking with Gunn – and when he could not make it, the rest of the guys decided to go ahead and do it without him. Distrust was growing, and Gunn’s getting canned and banned from the PsychoPath‘s home (and his divorce, which was also starting about this time) did nothing to reassure the rest of the troupe he had their best interests in mind.

Clear Channel, actually, came to the rescue. It seems one of the main reasons they had partnered with the PsychoPath was for the marketability of the FreakShow Deluxe – and they were not about to do the event without FSD. Clear Channel informed the theater’s board that, in no uncertain terms, they were to allow FreakShow Deluxe to do their scheduled shows – and that Reverend Tommy Gunn would be a part of those shows. The board acquiesced, and FSD was back on track.

So the show was back on, but the theater was not going to lend any support to the troupe. Using some ingenuity, and some hard work, the guys built themselves a space where it always had been – though more ornate.  Jonny Grinder built and hand painted a huge decorative facade (with a full-sized ticket box). He also created extensive set pieces. Reverend Tommy Gunn got LED SLED CUSTOMS and BLUE BYRD TATTOO to sponsor the show – and hung their huge banners on the stage.

Miss Malice Aforethought had come on deck at this point, beginning to manage some behind-the-scenes things. She got the boys a camper, which was a BIG boon to them as a warm place to hang out between shows at the especially cold PsychoPath that year. Additionally, with no responsibilities by Gunn to run the event, FSD got to just hang out together – which went a long way to helping them all get along again.

That’s right! By the end of the PsychoPath Haunted Trail, getting ready for Clear Channel’s annual Boo & Brew event, FSD was getting along pretty well! As part of their deal with Clear Channel, FreakShow Deluxe was given a stage in the middle of Dayton’s Oregon District, which was shut down for the BIG party. The camper was parked behind the stage for in between shows, and the boys were excited about the upcoming evening!

Then: disaster!

Leading up to the Boo & Brew showtimes, Reverend Tommy Gunn, The Wolf and Phil had no word from Dirty Jonny Grinder. Phone calls were not be answered, messages were not being returned and, obviously, something was very wrong. Finally – a phone rang…

It turned out that while getting ready for the Boo & Brew at the PsychoPath site, Dirty Jonny Grinder had a horrible industrial accident that had left 3rd degree burns on his face, hands and chest. While working, a small explosion ignited flammable chemicals on his clothing – and he was at the hospital. He would not be doing the shows.

While upset, this helped pull the remaining three together. In tribute to Grinder, Gunn slapped on the skull-type make-up Grinder had been wearing for a good part of the PsychoPath season – and the Freakshow Deluxe hit the stage like a raucous freight train! They brought foot traffic to a standstill in front of their stage – AND then from the stage verbally went after a group of conservative-types protesting the “debauchery” of the event down the street, turning the capacity crowd against them. They brought a contortionist, Baby Doll, up on the stage with them where she wowed the crowds.

By the end of the night they were united and ready to fight anyone who stood against them (and there were plenty of folks who wanted to – but in the end, they all backed down). Thankfully, within a couple of weeks, Dirty Jonny Grinder recovered from his injuries.

But things were not to continue smoothly.

Reverend Tommy Gunn had been talking of returning to Los Angeles, CA for some time. Now, with no job to hold him down, he made plans to move back there. In his preparations he had an epiphany: the realization that FreakShow Deluxe had the potential to really be something big – but that it could only go so far in Dayton, Ohio. In order for the show to get big, it needed to go somewhere it could be noticed… Like Hollywood.

Gunn invited the entire company to come out to California with him – further causing friction with The Wolf, who did NOT want to go as he had both family and other responsibilities in Dayton. Arguments ensued, feelings were hurt, things went awry. At a final local show at Dayton’s The Foundry, The Wolf nearly sliced off his own finger during a stunt – but like a trooper, eschewed a visit to the Emergency Room to finish off the evening’s shows.

With the final move date approaching – tensions were especially high as everyone had to make a final decision of what they were going to do…

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