What’s in a name? Irony, humor, and nostalgia for the seedy traveling shows of old in the cases of Circus Contraption, Zamora the Torture King, and the Yard Dogs Road Show—just three of the ten or so alternative circuses masterfully profiled in FREAKS & FIRE: THE UNDERGROUND REINVENTION OF CIRCUS (Soft Skull), by Dallasites J. DEE HILL and PHIL HOLLENBECK. This new breed of American barnstormers is inspired by the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow’s successful outing on the first Lollapalooza tour, and like the Rose show, the performers are by turns charming, scary, funny, sexual, and scatological. Hill’s text and Hollenbeck’s photos perfectly capture the raucous wit and energy that enable these postmodern circus tramps to transcend their low-budget roots.
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