There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
The carnival that came every summer to my small town had no sideshow, but we kids didn’t notice its absence; we saw quite enough freaks among the paying customers, and as for the geeks, well, we did our best to fill in, publicly swallowing goldfish by the dozens. Still, we missed out on a great American tradition, as the venerable Jeff Krulik illustrates in his documentary based on James Taylor’s book series, Shocked and Amazed! On and Off the Midway. In his film, produced for the Travel Channel, Krulik examines the history of this fast-fading aspect of snake-oil Americana and introduces us to the human blockheads, sword-swallowers, and flea-circus and dime-museum operators intent on keeping the 10-in-one tradition alive. If watching people pound nails into their noses—or listening to practitioners graphically recount the dangers of the sword-swallowing trade—isn’t your cup of tea, well then, you’re part of the problem, aren’t you? As for the rest of us, Krulik’s documentary features gorge-raising acts aplenty, as well as interviews with Ward Hall and Bobby Reynolds, the last of the surviving sideshow impresarios, who are refreshingly frank in their hucksterdom. Throw in the “Big Swallow”—an attempt to set the world’s record for group sword-swallowing—and you’ve got yourself as popeyed a 50 minutes’ worth of entertainment as any midwaygoer ever experienced. So come one, come all for the flick, a chance to meet Krulik, and live entertainment by the Human Blockhead, the Human Pincushion, and, of course, a sword swallower. The Washington Project for the ArtsCorcoran presents Traveling Sideshow: Shocked and Amazed! and friends at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Frances and Armand Hammer Auditorium, 500 17th St. NW. $5 (suggested donation). (202) 639-1828. (Michael Little)