By Wynter Holden
Met any freaks lately? Now, by "freaks" I don't mean the black trenchcoat wearing, Twilight book reading, A Perfect Circle listening, tragically hip wannabe goth set. Or the scary dudes who post pictures of their penises in the "Casual Encounters" section of Craigslist. I'm talking about actual live freaks: genetically unusual humans who have one leg, or two claws, or scales covering their entire bodies, but are otherwise just like the rest of us.
999 Eyes is an honest-to-goodness freak show, touted by ringleader(ess) The Freak Mama as the only one of its kind in the world, and they graced the outdoor stage of The Trunk Space on Wednesday night. A few things I learned:
1. Freaks are not on time. LA traffic detained this bunch, so the 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. shows melded into one gigantic vaudevillian event that began around 9:30ish and ended a bit before midnight.
2. "Freak" isn't a bad word, despite what the ADA tells us. The performers are proud of their genetic anomalies, and wear the "freak" label with pride. Think of it like gays calling themselves "queer" or women embracing the C-word.
3. Freak shows are still illegal in 3 states, according to 999 Eyes. (Wonder if they're the same states that outlawed gay marriage??)
4. In the '80s, one freak performer was sued by a disability rights group for exploiting his oddity for profit. "Frog Boy" won the lawsuit and went on to perform at the now defunct Coney Island freak show (story as told by 999 Eyes).
Maybe it was the full moon, but the night was as freaky as the performers. Phoenix's own "Outrageously Odd Couple," the nefarious Dr. Reverend Stephen Strange and his lovely snake-wielding counterpart Mother Fakir, extended their opening act to allow the freaks time to eat dinner and don their costumes. Unfortunately, poor Strange lost his pants during the routine when he passes his slender little frame through an unstrung tennis racket. Mother Fakir was bound so tightly in her chains that I thought she'd need baby oil to slip from their grasp. And I swear Strange suffered a few stings from the normally docile pet scorpion he keeps in a Johnny Walker Black Label box. Ouch!
THAT Damned Band gave us a vaudeville-style interlude with songs about goblins and circus freaks. Event flyers described the group as "a circus train wreck't into a hobo camp where wandering jews and gypsies from eastern europe have been learning Irish drinking songs from Tom Waits." Um, I'm not sure I'd go that far, but let's just say their music is eclectic and some of their string instrumentalists could kick Natalie McMaster or Yo-Yo Ma's respective asses in a throwdown.
And of course, there were the freaks. Five of them appeared last night, including my personal favorite, The Human Tripod. What's a Human Tripod, you ask? A woman with a full torso and just one single tiny leg, so that when she sits down, it appears as if she's just a floating torso. Seriously, when she was brought onto stage in a shallow steamer trunk, I was expecting to see Chriss Angel come out of the wings. What looks like a magician's trick is actually real, and damn if this girl didn't have talent and a great set of pipes. She sings, she composes, she does acrobatics and she's a karate expert. In other words, she has more talent in her one tiny foot than most of us do in our whole bodies.
Other performers included an adorably cute 27-inch-tall dancer nicknamed Firefly, T-Rex the Flipper Man, the misunderstood Elephant Man and The Black Scorpion. Sideshow note: "Medusa's China Doll" recently recovered from the medical condition that gave her scales and is now happily retired. Also missing was the advertised female sword swallower, one of only 11 in the country. Sorry boys, the only phallic devouring you'll see in our FREAK SLIDESHOW is done by the incredibly hilarious comedian slash magician The Black Scorpion, also known as "Lobster Boy" because of his two missshapen claw-hands.
The Verdict: Freaks rule. I wonder if they've got space on America's Got Talent for these guys?