The 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.
But in the 90s, a revival of “cirque noir” began to spread throughout the country. Troupes like the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus out of New York and Circus Contraption out of Seattle began to embrace the darker, seedier elements of circus culture and shunned the family-friendly elements that had taken over mainstream circuses. This revival was happening almost simultaneously with the neo-burlesque movement that was gaining momentum around the world. These retro-revival movements differentiated themselves from circuses of the past by taking something that was once exploitative and making it empowering. These new circuses weren’t run by money-hungry circus bosses but by the performers themselves, and the performers made the final decisions on how they wanted to be presented to their audiences. They also infused their shows with a modern-day DIY, punk rock attitude and work ethic.
It’s from this modern-day revival that troupes like The Pretty Things Peepshow spring and a troupe with such high calibre talent is a welcome addition to both the cirque-noir and burlesque scenes. They bring back the excitement of the travelling midway, going from town to town, shocking, thrilling and teasing their ways into the hearts of audiences across America, infusing their retro performances with a rock and roll attitude. At a typical Pretty Things show, you’ll not only get classic burlesque performance but live music, sword swallowing, fire eating, juggling, glass walking, straight-jacket escapes, aerial and more.
The Peepshow was formed in New York City by burlesque veteran Go Go Amy in 2009. She had been picked up by the Brothers Grim Sideshow, performing on the Warped Tour and Ozzfest and was drawn to the bizarre elements of the sideshow. She felt compelled to form a troupe that combined the beauty of burlesque with the strangely fascinating world of the circus sideshow. So, she teamed up with original core members Donny Vomit and Heather Holliday and The Pretty Things Peepshow was born!
Their current 2013 tour includes cast-members Go Go Amy, Donny Vomit, Lil Miss Firefly and Vivacious Miss Audacious, with live music provided by Pretty Things houseband: The Peeping Toms. Donny Vomit spent six years hosting the Coney Island Circus Sideshow and also worked at Ripely’s Believe It Or Not in Times Square. He’s been seen on countless burlesque and sideshow stages across the country and he is a master of many acts including the human blockhead, whip cracking, animal traps, chainsaw juggling and fire eating. Lil Miss Firefly, “The Midget of Mischief,” has a big list of credits to her name. She starred in the hit show “FREAKS” on the Vegas strip and has toured with Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. She has been in countless music videos and has graced both sideshow and burlesque stages all over the world. Vivacious Miss Audacious is one of the first burlesque performers to incorporate hula-hooping into her routines. She is also the Headmistress of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School Grand Rapids and runs Audacious Hoops along with the performance group, Atomic Hoop Troupe.
We are honored that they have chosen Brown Paper Tickets to ticket some of the shows on their 2013 tour so if they’re coming to your town, be sure not to miss this one-of-a-kind show. You will not be sorry.
Saturday, February 9 I Pretty Things Peepshow at Respectable Street – West Palm Beach, Florida
Friday, February 15 I Pretty Things Peepshow – Lafayette, Louisiana
Tuesday, February 26 I The Pretty Things Peepshow! – Las Vegas, Nevada
Wednesday, February 27 I Pretty Things Peepshow at Moctezumas Bar – Prescott, Arizona
Sunday, March 10 I Pretty Things Peepshow at The Yadda Club – Yadda, Kentucky
Thursday, March 14 I Pretty Things Peepshow at Applause Theater – Pittston, Pennsylvania
For more tour dates, head right over here.
Also, it should be noted that The Pretty Things Peepshow is offering the Artist Tickets for all their shows that are ticketed by Brown Paper Tickets. This supports the families of two former Circus Contraption members that were killed last May in Seattle. A perfect example of how the big national circus family helps each other out. If you’re going to any of their upcoming shows, be sure to pick the Artist Tickets as your format of choice.