Thursday, February 28, 2013

One On One with Jim Rose Circus

Hey, blogspot readers, let's runaway and join the circus!
Though it's been SouthSide's lifelong dream to be part of the big top, she would like to caution you reader that this is NO ordinary circus with clowns and lion tamers. No ...the circus she's hinting at features skills of amazing (and sometimes) humanly impossible feats of magic and trickery that will either leave you astound or doubtful when it's over. Come meet, blogspot readers, sideshow performer, author, founder of Jim Rose Circus and weekly television show "Jim Rose Twisted Tour", Jim Rose himself who will be hosting the London Burlesque Festival, dubbed as "...the most prestigious festival of its kind..." happening May 16, 17, 18 & 19. X-Philes (fans of the Chris Carter series X-Files) will probably recognize his circus from the second season episode titled Humbug where he was featured as Dr. Blockhead (oh btw, Gillian Anderson actually did eat a live cricket as part of a dare during filming). Through the wonderful use of modern technology, SouthSide sent Jim a few inteview questions asking him why most of us are fascinated by the Cirque du Freak shows to if he's consider bringing his circus to American shore at a steampunk festival/show and much more.
SouthSide: Please describe the Jim Rose Circus performance in five (5) words or less. No penalties if it's more than five words.
Jim Rose: thrills chills and doctor bills
SouthSide: Care to explain why you chose those following words to describe your circus?
Jim Rose: You'll see the unexpected. A ticket's good for a seat but you'll only use the edge. It's over-the tope high-flying bone-jarring excitement. Not since Christians were fed to the lions has there been a show this hysterical.
SouthSide: Your resume includes performing at Lollapalooza of '92 and touring with Nine Inch Nails, have you considered traveling with another sideshow/freak troupe?
Jim Rose: [I] don't co-op anything..I rarely tour w/ bands and [I] am best known for starting my own circus called the Jim Rose Circus. That show has done 7 headlining world tours.
SouthSide: Briefly, share how the Jim Rose Circus got its start?
Jim Rose: I lived across the street from the fairgrounds and went to all the traditional circuses, monster truck shows, motorcycle daredevils, freak shows and legitimate theater that came to town. My first job was at the fairgrounds, doing odd jobs like going around selling soft drinks. I fetched soft drinks and cigarettes for the Lobster Boy, the Penguin Boy, the Frog Boy. I was doing that for awhile and then learned to do the human blockhead and learned how to be a motorcycle daredevil. That was my first real job, but I had a little motorcycle accident. I attempted to jump 27 cows and must have landed on some spent cud. I went a bit wobbly, I cleared the cows but still managed to crash. I hurt my back so that's why when I speak to you today I have the posture of a jumbo shrimp.

I kind of gave up on entertaining for a while: I attended the University of Arizona and studied political science, moved to Washington DC and dabbled in spoken word performances, played in punk bands and the like while working on fundraising events for social causes (as well as a stint in car sales). I used to perform at a place called D.C. Space that was back in the day of Henry Rollins and Fugazi, this was right about 1984-85. I was there when that happened, I didn't break because I was not very good at that time, I only got started.
At one of my shows I ran into a little French girl named Bebe who comes from a circus family in France. I began working with her family circus. She introduced me to the European tradition of circus spectacle, which inspired me to research it thoroughly. Her brother is the director of the Royal De Luxe, the largest circus in Europe; one sister and her German husband have the Randalini circus, and I used to travel with them, going around the Lake of Constance. So I learned a great deal about circus stuff and freak shows at that time, I didn't know too much about how to run a freak show. It was hard to find anything about it in the US because it had disappeared for about fifteen years. So I brought some of the American stunts over there and I picked up some Euro stunts, brought them back to the US. I then went to Venice beach where I worked as Jimmy the Geek Rubber Man, I got my presentation skills up doing seven shows a day, seven days a week as a street performer. That is how I made my money - fucking with tourists...

Then I started the Jim Rose Circus and reintroduced American audiences to freak-show attractions in Seattle and it seemed like likeminded monsters sat up in their crypts and started auditioning. Things went so well in Seattle that we went down to Portland,OR and that sold out, and soon we were asked to tour Canada. We became so well known in Canada that we started getting calls to do TV shows and then things exploded. It all happened in about a 6 month period.
SouthSide: So what were the "old fashion" methods you used to find your circus performers before the age of Facebook, Myspace, Craigslist, etc?
Jim Rose: There was a little click of people that were interested in it and there was no place really to perform this stuff. I would go around the clubs in Seattle and talk to the owners about it and they would look at me like I killed the Lindberg kid. I found this little Middle Eastern restaurant that was across the street from my housec alled Ali Baba's, which on Thursday nights they had belly dancers. So I talked to the owners Ali and Baba, whatever I don't remember their names, and I ended up doing a gig. I put up some posters and I thought that I would get about twenty of my friends; instead I got there two hours early and the place was packed with a line outside. Since everyone had gotten in early so they didn't have to pay, I had to start the show going around getting money from everyone. There was this group of people outside who refused to pay and pressed their faces against the window of the restaurant. I was just winging it at the time, didn't even know what my show was going to be since I thought no one was would show up; so I started the show off talking to those people staring through the window. In that melee of people were individuals like Kurt Cobain and a few other names that escape my mind, so I went outside with a plastic bat and told the people they had to pay a dollar or I would hit them over the head with the bat. The people on the inside who had already paid the 6 dollars to be inside got to watch. I turned the people outside INTO the show. Everyone inside was looking outside at me going around collecting those dollars, if they didn't have a dollar I would bop them on the head with the plastic bat. That is pretty much how the show got started, I got back in and did my shit, it was pretty punk. I guess that is why I get some kind of weird credibility, because before that show punk pretty much meant rock and roll, and I pretty much expanded it to include performance type art that wasn't musical.
SouthSide: Have you considered bringing your Circus to any of the steampunk/sideshow freak events on US shore this year?
Jim Rose: [I] love that movement and have been credited for helping to start it and would love too. I haven't been approached. It's a very youthful movement. I guess I've just run out of steam hahaha
SouthSide: I'm sure you have a "doubting Thomas" or two during your travels, how does one win over a non-believer with your feats of trickery and magic?
Jim Rose: life's too short for that energy.
SouthSide: Has there been one particular stunt that you have yet to attempt? Would you do it? Is there one you would never try because it might endanger your life?
Jim Rose: I'm seriously working on a way to put my foor in a running steam boat propeller without getting injured. If I can figure it out maybe I'll get a steam punk gig.
SouthSide: LOL. In your opinion, why is there such a human fascination and/or curiosity for sideshow or cirque de freak performances?
Jim Rose: we all have a pretty good understanding of the human body because we live in one. Any time we someone doing something that we can't it causes curiosity.
SouthSide: Care to share your thoughts about hosting the London Burlesque Festival this year?
Jim Rose: I'm honored. That festival has grown into the largest and most prestigious of its kind and being asked to host it is a real thrill. I can't wait.
SouthSide: Off the top of your head, could you share what you're most proud of?
Jim Rose: One day I had an epiphany "give punk a new tentacle it with sideshow ..the old ways weren't working for that genre anyways so force this stuff into rock clubs ...most of these stunts haven't been seen in 20 years ...there's a lost generation ...fuck it I'm going to try this ...sure beats a cubicle" decision I've ever made. Now there are 100s of troupes all over the world doing it ...every time I see new performers or shows I get a tingle ...half of them don't even know about my show ...that's cool too ...together we brough a slice of lost art back on our own youthful terms.
SouthSide: Any advice out there for anyone who's interested in venturing into this sort of lifestyle?
Jim Rose: be prepared to work harder than any real job and never lose sight of your love for the arts.
SouthSide: Any famous last words for the younger readers who might follow in your footsteps?
Jim Rose: Try to stay away from bear repellent.
SouthSide: Interesting...
For more infromation about Jim Rose Circus, visit his official site or you can find him on Facebook and YouTube. Also for more details about the London Burlesques Festival, go to
Until next time, support your local scene,

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