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Sideshow

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"Sideshow" by Lesley Spanos. Acrylic painting on Multimedia Artboard, 5 x 7". Copyright ©2010 Lesley Spanos, all rights reserved.

"Sideshow" by Lesley Spanos. Acrylic painting on Multimedia Artboard, 5 x 7". Copyright ©2010 Lesley Spanos, all rights reserved.

“She has no arms, no legs, no bones in her body, yet she will talk to you and answer all of your questions.” That nightmarish refrain has haunted me since the early ’70s, when a 12-year-old me heard it on endless repeat at the entrance to the freak show at my county fair. The sing-song phrase burrowed into my subconscious and still resides somewhere next to uncomfortable (but delicious!) memories of Laffing Sal at Playland, and midnight showings of David Lynch’s classic film, Eraserhead.

Sensing a ripoff, I never paid the money to go inside and see the boneless lady, but now I wish I had. Or maybe it’s better left to the imagination.

In those days, no carnival was without some sort of freak show or sideshow. Bearded ladies, two-headed lambs preserved in glass jars, flame eaters, and Siamese twins were just some of the delights awaiting those brave enough to enter that canvas door.

Oh, how I wish my State Fair had a seedy underbelly! I long to paint some of my freakish fair memories to balance the sweetness, but alas, today’s fair is PC and family-friendly. The freakiest it gets is the PG-rated version of the Indianapolis-based Blue Monkey Sideshow. In an adult setting you might see these guys swing paint cans from their nipples, but at the fair it’s all about the classics, like sword swallowing, juggling, and bed of nails. Child-friendly, but when Swami B’Mon lays his shaven head in broken glass, or Freakshow Foley swallows a long curvy sword that moves his Adam’s apple, it’s still enough to make most people cringe. It’s a great show and if you ever get a chance to see them, do… if you dare.

Just for kicks, I plugged, “No arms, no legs, no bones in her body” into Google to see if anyone else shares my freak show memory. My jaw dropped when I found an actual sample of the recording in a video by Combichrist. OMG, this is it, exactly as I remembered it!  Here’s the video, if you care to listen:

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