WILKES-BARRE PA – The Annual Sideshow Gathering — the world's only sideshow convention — returns to northeastern Pennsylvania with its unique and shocking blend of weird, wonderful, and wacky entertainment. From November 2nd through 4th, the strange
takes center stage when showmen and genuine sideshow freaks from across the country descend on Wilkes-Barre's The Woodlands Inn & Resort to celebrate the giddy thrills of the carnival sideshow. Over the course of three days,
many of today's best sideshow performers will walk on glass, swallow swords, eat light bulbs, put hooks in their eyes, attempt to break a world record, and otherwise risk bodily harm for
the sake of twisted entertainment. The Sideshow Gathering is the premier networking event for performers, fans, collectors, and historians — an unsurpassed weekend of gasps and laughs.
The Sideshow Gathering is very pleased to welcome back Todd Robbins as this year's master of ceremonies. Todd Robbins is an award-winning performer and creative artist who has appeared on stage, in the circus ring, and in countless homes via radio and television. Recent appearances include The Discovery Channel's Oddities, the upcoming Lost Magic for the History Channel, and the Drama Desk-nominated Play Dead, a spooky evening of paranormal phenomena that Robbins created with Teller (the silent half of famed magic duo Penn & Teller). For fifteen years Todd was associated with Coney Island USA, where in addition to serving as a performer, executive director, and chairman of the board, he also founded the Coney Island Sideshow School — the only school of its kind. He has taught hundreds of students how to eat fire, swallow swords, and other classic sideshow skills. It is especially appropriate that Todd Robbins will be hosting the Sideshow Gathering this year, as many of the featured performers are successful showmen and showwomen who studied with Todd, and others are sideshow legends who have shared the stage with him before.
Concurrent with the 19th Annual Inkin' The Valley tattoo convention at Wilkes-Barre's The Woodlands Inn & Resort, the Sideshow Gathering begins at 3:00 PM on Friday, November 2nd, with live sideshow performances starting at 5:00 PM. The convention floor opens again at noon on Saturday, and performances will resume from 3:00 to 6:00 PM and 8:00 to 10:00 PM. On Sunday, there will be special performance workshops with Harley Newman, Stephon Walker (a.k.a. Swami YoMahmi), and Thomas Nealeigh (a.k.a. Reverend Tommy Gunn) from 2:00 to 5:00 PM. Admission for the entire weekend is only $15 at the door.
ORIGIN OF THE SIDESHOW GATHERING:
The Sideshow Gathering was a labor of love and inspiration for Drums PA resident and tattoo business owner Franco Kossa, who tragically passed away in May 2011. Eleven years ago, Franco wanted to add sideshow entertainment to his annual tattoo convention, Inkin’ the Valley. These art forms shared a common history, so it seemed an ideal pairing. “Tattooed people have been exhibits forever,”
Kossa said. “Sideshow history and tattoo history are conjoined.” However, at the time the popular acceptance of tattooing was on the rise while sideshow was on the decline. It was while talking with legendary showman and co-owner of the World of Wonders Ward Hall about the wholesale disappearance of sideshows from America’s fairgrounds that Franco hit upon the idea of starting a convention for sideshow performers. The idea was that for one weekend a year showmen and carnies from across the country could
gather to ‘cut up jackpots’. It would be like the old showman’s clubs, but the public would also be invited inside. From those humble beginnings, the Sideshow Gathering – the world’s only sideshow convention – was born and in time became a much anticipated annual calendar event for veteran showfolk and a training ground for the next generation. Tim O’Brien of Ripley’s Entertainment and Ripley Radio said, “I come every year to find new talent for Ripley’s Believe It or Not. This place is a cornucopia of oddities and bizarre acts!”
“Legacy isn't the first word that comes to mind when you think of sword swallowers and fire eaters and people who eat broken glass,” said James Taylor, publisher of the journal Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway and someone who has attended the Sideshow Gathering from the beginning, “but it was for the late Franco Kossa when he created the annual Sideshow Gathering, and that yearly convention has shown for a decade that Kossa's heart was in the right place when he had legacy in mind. Hey, I told him not to do the Gathering when he first came to me about it, and his reaction was perfect: ‘Yeah, but...’ And he did it. We're all in debt to him.”
“Frank was a generous and loving man who created for this group of people a haven where once a year we could gather… to share the love of our different lifestyle, and our respect for one another,” said Ward Hall, who was himself once honored at the Sideshow Gathering with an Ambassador of Wonder Award for his many decades in the sideshow industry. “Through his compassion for those who wished to present themselves to the world in unusual ways, Frank provided a method for us to gather together and get to know him and each other as no one else was ever able to do… I expect that he is now working to assemble a Sideshow Gathering in Heaven for all our people who have gone on before us.”
Kossa’s dedication to this art form has proven that public interest in sideshow is in fact alive and well. Over the years, the Sideshow Gathering has attracted a great deal of media attention – especially for the world records that were set there for mass sword swallowing and human blockhead – and attendance has steadily increased year after year. “The Sideshow Gathering for Franco meant bringing something he loved to his home town and sharing it with those around him,” said Franco's widow Kim Kossa. “He just wanted to share the fun. It also was about bringing like minds together. Sideshow acts are on the road so much, they rarely get a chance to see other acts and be among their peers.”
“I believe in the afterlife here on Earth,” said Tyler Fyre of The Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow, “that a person lives on through the deeds they did, the lives they touched, and the legacy they leave. Franco lives on through the Sideshow Gathering, and by bringing us all together each year his legacy will live forever.”
Cartoon of Todd Robbins courtesy of Ripley's Entertainment Inc.
TODD ROBBINS is an award winning performer and creative artist that has worked in many areas of popular entertainment and the performing arts during a thirty year career.
If Todd looks familiar to you, it is probably because you have seen him on one of the more than 200 TV shows he has done. These include all the major network morning shows, the late night talkfests of Letterman, Leno and Conan O'Brien and the NBC special, Extreme Variety. Howard Stern has said about Todd, “This is truly an amazing talent,” and Penn & Teller say, “Todd Robbins is a god!”
Todd is also one of the producers of New York City’s longest running magic show, Monday Night Magic.
You can see Todd on the Modern Con Man series of instructional DVDs: How to Scam Your Way to a Free Beer, Poker Night Scams and Cons, and Work Place Pranks. Bloomsbury Books has released his book The Modern Con Man: How to Get Something for Nothing.
He has been the host of the Ripley’s Live! show that has been presented in numerous venues. He has also performed in every place imaginable, from the stage of Sideshows by the Seashore in Coney Island to the stage of Carnegie Hall.
For more information about Todd Robbins, view the documentary on him, American Carny: Tales of the American Sideshow, and go to his website: www.toddrobbins.com.
Todd Robbins will act as emcee for the 11th Annual Sideshow Gathering!
Hollywood's own and ONLY carnival-style sideshow, THE FREAKSHOW DELUXE, presents a short version of its touring show, featuring the lovely if forgetful Amy Amnesia; burlesque vixen MacKenzie Moltov; Bizarre magazine's world's sexiest sword swallower, Brianna Belladonna; and the pain-proof man in black, Raven Lunatic. Hosted by “the best talker on the west coast” and FreakShow Deluxe founder, the Reverend Tommy Gunn, the show will also feature his progeny: the 7-year-old Grennan the Green Monster, who recently blew audiences away on the Nickelodeon Channel television show Figure It Out; and 4-year-old La Pequita Arañita.
Started in southwestern Ohio in 2001 with two guys and a handful of stunts, FreakShow Deluxe's comedy thrill show moved to Hollywood in 2004 and is now a repertory company of nearly 30 members and offering 40 different acts and attractions. FreakShow Deluxe and its cast members have been featured on the Discovery Channel's Time Warp, MTV, Univision's Sabado Gigante, The Late Show, and much, much more. They recently returned from filming their second season on TruTV's Full Throttle Saloon, where they performed at the famous bar for Sturgis Bike Week.
With numerous appearances on television, and live shows ranging from biker rallies to tattoo festivals, from amusement parks to fairs, theaters to nightclubs, and college campuses to corporate events — wherever there is an audience, FREAKSHOW DELUXE is there with its dark vaudevillian extravaganza that keeps spectators coming back for more.
FreakShow Deluxe will perform the night of Friday, November 2nd!
Also, the Reverend Tommy Gunn will present a special performermance workshop on Sunday, November 4th!
OLDE CITY SIDESHOW
If it were 100 years ago, the OLDE CITY SIDESHOW would be traveling the southern states scaring the backwoods, toothless masses with their acts of the grotesque and macabre. Sword swallowing, face nailing, bug eating, bed-of-nails laying, creepy organ music playing, scream inducing and always entertaining, the Olde City Sideshow is an act for the ages. Not exactly all ages, but the ages anyway. Come watch, be disturbed, and have your funny bone tickled by their unique brand of comedy stuntacular!
The troupe consists of DANNY BORNEO, MARTIN LING the SUICIDE KING, and REGGIE BÜGMÜNCHER. Based in Philadelphia, The Olde City Sideshow has performed all over the United States. Recently, Olde City Sideshow represented Magic Hat Brewing Company, appeared on the cover of Carny Sideshows, and opened for Primus.
Olde City Sideshow will perform the night of Friday, November 2nd!
CHEEKY MONKEY SIDESHOW
Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare to witness the most fantastical show your eyes have ever beheld!
Bizarre and beautiful, hilarious and heart-stopping, the award-winning CHEEKY MONKEY SIDESHOW is a cavalcade of astounding feats and amazing oddities.
They have been hailed as “unusually good” by The Washington Post and "top notch" by Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway.
Appearing at the 11th Annual Sideshow Gathering will be SWAMI YoMAHMI, the Original Sideshow Geek; DC's Own Sideshow Girl, MAB JUST MAB; SALLY THE CINCH, the Human Hourglass; Gastronomical Wonder, THE AMAZING TRINKET; and special guest REVEREND VALENTINE, Burlesque That Makes You Say, “Wha–?!”
The players are three of New York’s premier variety artists — Adam RealMan, Cardone, and Kryssy Kocktail — who together perform unusual acts and death defying feats right before your eyes. Their unique blend of dexterity, danger and décolletage has audiences up and down the east coast raving about their shows.
Adam RealMan dishes out a perfect blend of Borscht Belt humor and audience interaction, but it is his slew of wacky feats that make him a much sought after entertainer and master of ceremonies. As a skilled practitioner of the sideshow arts, Adam has been seen on the Science Channel's series Oddities, The Food Network's hit show Sweet Genius, and in the latest New York Dolls video.
Cardone is the ultimate vaudeville magician. He is an accomplished close-up magician, stage illusionist, and ventriloquist who is putting a new and modern twist on the ancient forms of prestidigitation. Cardone has been seen on Fox 5, Good Day New York, and as the opening act for the Hong Kong Pop Show.
Kryssy Kocktail can easily be called the world's prettiest sword swallower. And if her looks don't get you, her razor sharp tongue will, so be careful! Kryssy's facial expressions, body language, and comedic timing make her the funniest hot girl or the hottest funny girl around. Kryssy has been a full time performer with the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, a knife thrower's target girl, and a magical assistant. Cheating death has been her specialty for many years.
Together, these variety artists have created a one of a kind show which provides a truly unique and unforgettable entertainment experience.
The New York Variety All-Stars will perform the evening of Saturday, November 3rd!
As a baseball team mascot, HARLEY NEWMAN lit firecrackers under unsuspecting umpires. In the circus, he was clown, sideshow talker, and special assistant to the manager.
Since the mid-1980s, Harley has focused on stunts and escapes, discarding traditional presentation styles while adding verbal, physical, and prop comedy. He's been widely emulated.
Harley pushes the boundaries of stunt performance. He was rejected by the Guinness Book of Records, as “too dangerous to publish”.
Harley has appeared on over 200 television shows worldwide, and viewed by approximately a billion people. His television credits include The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and Penn & Teller’s Sin City Spectacular. He's appeared on hundreds of college campuses, and has been a featured entertainer at theme parks. Harley's newest show, Dancing With Ghosts, was featured in the 2009 NY International Fringe Festival.
Harley Newman will perform on Friday, November 2nd!
Harley will also present a special performermance workshop on Sunday, November 4th!
DAVID LONDON discovered that he was a magician at the age of seven, and has since spent over 20 years trying to figure out just what that means. David regularly performs his unique style of magic at theaters, museums, galleries, festivals, and private events. When not on stage, he spends his time writing, making art, inventing things, and exploring the infinite possibilities of the world in which we exist.
David's performance combines magic, story-telling, comedy, puppetry, and that which cannot be defined, into a show of magic unlike anything you have experienced before. His show is packed full of laughs, mystery, and the unexpected!
David London will perform on Saturday, November 3rd!
KNOTTY BITS SIDESHOW
Rusty blades, bullwhips, broken glass and hundreds of mousetraps... What do these things all have in common? They are the packing list for one of the most unusual shows on the market: THE KNOTTY BITS SIDESHOW!
Most accurately described as “George and Gracie on speed”, the sideshow danger and circus troupe — Gwyd the Unusual, Sylver Fyre, Danger Jess, and Michelle the Pretzel Girl — perform traditional sideshow acts and high flying stunts with a healthy dose of humor.
Since 2004, they have done shows for all sorts of clients, from MTV and Nine Inch Nails to the Food Network and Chrysler. This multiple world record holding show has traveled North America from top to bottom amazing and amusing young and old alike wherever
The Knotty Bits Sideshow will perform on Saturday, November 3rd!
SCARRED & DANGEROUS THRILL SHOW
Come one, come all, step right up! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, freaks and geeks and you there in the back! Make your way to the front and witness the spectacle known as THE SCARRED & DANGEROUS THRILL SHOW! No tricks, no illusions, performing feats of human endurance and curiosities. Extremely extreme and more bizarre than a bazaar, The Scarred & Dangerous Thrill Show will demonstrate stunts you won’t see anywhere else in the world...don’t even blink!
Behind the first curtain, the man with the palms of steel and a master's master in pain suppression and mind over matter, is Christopher Scarborough. A street performer since the age of sixteen and a graduate of the Coney Island Sideshow School, Chris hails from Baltimore.
Behind the second curtain, a true anatomical wonder and known as the most dangerous MC on the East Coast. Dangerous D was born in Brooklyn, but he now terrorizes the streets of Baltimore. This energetic loose cannon of the carnival will contort his body, mind, and soul for your entertainment.
Scarred and Dangerous Thrill Show will perform on Friday, November 2nd!
CRISPY FAMILY CARNIVAL
THE CRISPY FAMILY CARNIVAL, a modern day vaudeville sideshow, is an authentic troupe of sideshow performers preserving those traditional acts that were kicked out of the American circus during the era of political correctness. Ring-leader of this bizarre family, Mr. Crispy shocks the crowd with his mastery of pain, physics, and human biology. This has led him down the path of the insane to numerous world records and accolades. Mr. Crispy is joined on stage by Acoustic Ross, a solo Anti-Folk artist whose fiercely original take on life is a one-man assault on all things stale and boring. Rounding out the cast are his two beautiful assistants, Tangy Tart and Vanessa Von Thun. Tangy Tart has been singing, dancing and performing in theatre since age 12. Alternative model Vanessa Von Thun is the newest lovely assistant in the Crispy Family Carnival. There’s plenty of fun for the whole family — hilariously, spine chillingly fun.
The Crispy Family Carnival will perform on Saturday, November 3rd!
James Taylor's SHOCKED AND AMAZED! ON & OFF THE MIDWAY
JAMES TAYLOR is the premier writer on the cutting edge of sideshow, the new vaudeville, the “other entertainment”! James Taylor is the man behind James Taylor's SHOCKED AND AMAZED! ON & OFF THE MIDWAY — the world's only journal devoted solely to the entertainment explosion in the weird, bizarre and unusual!
James Taylor is the planet's foremost authority on sideshow. You saw James Taylor and Shocked and Amazed! on The Learning Channel's Sideshow: Alive on the Inside, The Jerry Springer Show, Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel, and Fox Television's Fox Files.
You read about James Taylor on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, in Publisher's Weekly, New York Press, and Johns Hopkins Magazine.
James Taylor knows sideshow and its stunning new wave of entertainers. Sword swallowers, fire eaters, regurgitators, human pin cushions, torture kings, contortionists and motordrome riders look to James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed! as the definitive source for all things strange and bizarre: All things sideshow.
James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed! views the sideshow tradition through a modern lens. Shocked and Amazed! features tell-all interviews with performers and showmen who have never been interviewed on the record. Shocked and Amazed! reports on weirdness as entertainment, features exclusive reprints on sideshow history, and reveals behind-the-scenes photos of sideshow attractions.
RIPLEY RADIO ODDCAST
The Sideshow Gathering proudly welcomes back TIM O'BRIEN of RIPLEY RADIO, who will be recording all weekend for the next Ripley Radio Oddcast and scouting talent for Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Ripley Radio — An On-Demand Oddcast picks up where Robert Ripley left off 65 years ago. For the first time since Robert Ripley signed off his CBS Radio Show in 1947, Ripley's Believe It or Not! is back on the airwaves with a new weekly, hour-long program. Ripley's new radio hour is a journey through the weird, wacky, whimsical, wild, and totally unbelievable world of the odd, strange and unusual.
Each show provides listeners with amazing and absolutely true tales of today as well as unbelievable facts culled from the extensive archives of the company that has been freaking out families for more than 90 years! “Robert Ripley loved telling his stories through mass media,” notes O’Brien. “He was both a radio and television pioneer throughout the 1930s and 40s. I’m sure he would have been a pioneer on the World Wide Web as well.”
In 1997, TONI-LEE SANGASTIANO of SIDESHOWBANNERS.COM , painted her first set of sideshow banners for Coney Island's Sideshows By The Seashore and the Coney Island Museum. Over a decade later, Toni-Lee Sangastiano has painted countless banners and other sideshow-themed paintings for top performers and collectors of sideshow and circus memorabilia. Major commissions include the Shelburne Museum, in which Toni-Lee created a forty-by-fifteen foot bannerline for their Circus Day In America exhibition.
“When I have an image in my mind's eye that needs translating from concept to tangible artwork, Toni-Lee is undoubtedly who I turn to. She's able, like no one before her, to seemingly capture my thoughts and dramatically put them to canvas. Perhaps equally stunning is the relative speed that she's able to do this in, all-the-while thriving on the commissioner's feedback to produce meticulous pieces of both promotion and art. I'm proud to say that her work graces both my home and my office. And, as icing on the cake, she's an absolute pleasure to deal with... one of those rare people that you just LOVE to have around!” — Matt The Knife
“I have the pleasure of owning several of Toni-Lee Sangastiano's Banners. It has been one of the greatest experiences I have had collaborating with her on each project. Each banner is a Work of Art and represents each piece in my Sideshow collection Wonderfully. What more can I say except, WOW!” — J.R. Robinson
“Hey, the banner looks more like me than I do. Impressive!” — George the Giant, sword swallower
Hot Rod Chrissy Photography
HOT ROD CHRISSY PHOTOGRAPHY will have a photobooth set up all weekend at the Sideshow Gathering, ready to capture your stunning likeness. Come by and have your portrait taken!
SIDESHOW GATHERING QUOTES
In creating the Sideshow Gathering, Franco Kossa founded a showmen's club for the modern day sideshow performer. For one weekend a year, we all get together to reunite with old friends, show off, perform our greatest hits, swap road stories, and remember the reason that got us all started in this business is that sideshow is Fun! — Tyler Fyre of Lucky Daredevil Thrillshow
The Sideshow Gathering is a one-of-a-kind cavalcade of astonishing talent, history, and artistry. It's the only place in the country where you can witness such a range of practitioners, both old and new, of a form of entertainment that is the very definition of extraordinary. You are guaranteed to see things that you never imagined, and will never forget. — Stephon Walker (a.k.a., Swami YoMahmi)
The shows are mostly gone from carnivals as are all the old showmen's clubs, and it's the era of the new vaudeville, the new burlesque, the new sideshow, the new variety entertainment. And before just a few years ago, those showfolk had no such clubs, no such associations, no such home. The annual Sideshow Gathering in Wilkes-Barre is the showmen's club for all of variety's future. — James Taylor of Shocked and Amazed!
We live in a day and age of multimillion dollar special effect entertainment be it Pirates of the Caribbean or Vegas. However, there is nothing like being in the small audience of a real sideshow and feeling the heat from the torch of the fire-eater, watching a glass eater's act knowing there is no trick photography, knowing that the performers have real tattoos that don't wash off. No other entertainment can match the sideshow for that. — Dick Zigun, founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, and recipient of the Sideshow Gathering's 2006 Ambassador of Wonder Award
The Sideshow Gathering is the Switzerland of this illegitimate entertainment. It provides a neutral ground for some of the most entertaining egos to gather. It is the only place on Earth where you will get tired of watching someone nail a spike directly into their head. — Keith Nelson of The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus
I'm still humbled by the other performers and the different ways that they present their acts to the public. For my opinion, we as performers are a family. — Sword swallower Red Stuart
The Side Show Gathering is a must for all aficionados of human oddities and performers of the strange and weird! Today's performers of the unusual entertain and amaze. Yesterday's ‘greats’ share past history and experiences with newcomers. It's a three-day adventure like no other I know. — Walt Hudson in Circus Report
It is Christmas, your birthday and your first kiss all rolled up into one great weekend! The Sideshow Gathering is the greatest gathering of freaks (and the folks who love them) in the history of entertainment. If you're a fan of the odd, bizarre and unusual — or if you just plain love a good time — the Sideshow Gathering is the place to be! — Kathleen Kotcher, late editor of Shocked and Amazed!