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Tuesday Tease: The Pretty Things Peepshow

pretty-things-peepshowThe histories of American sideshows and burlesque have been intertwined for at least the last 150 years. “Girly shows” were a popular midway attraction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and for those living in rural areas, the travelling circus provided men with a sexy distraction from a hard life of working the land. Many small towns didn’t have supper clubs, vaudeville shows, speakeasies or burlesque nightclubs (and, remember, this pre-dated the massive distribution of “men’s” magazines), so the midway’s “hootchy-kootchy” tents were a big destination for rural males.

The girly shows were often placed right next to the sideshow tents advertising “freaks” and “human oddities” and both burlesque and sideshow performers were well versed in tempting coinage from the pockets of small town “rubes.” The girly tents and freakshows continued into the 1970’s but began to fade away as the exploitative qualities of both became both apparent and unsavory to the general public. Also, mainstream circus culture became geared towards family-friendly entertainment and, eventually, phased out the seedier elements of the midway.
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