Gibsonton: Where Carnies go to Die

untitledOrlando glided into my funeral parlour to interview for the open apprentice position. He had only started answering my questions but had to pause abruptly after I squealed loudly. He was from Gibsonton, the retirement place of many circus performers. The most famous Sideshow Performers chose it as their wintering town. They had them all: The Human Blockhead, who could hammer nails into his nostrils; Jeanie the Half Girl and her husband, Al the Giant; Percilla the Monkey Girl; the Anatomical Wonder; and the Lobster Boy, who was murdered killed by a hit man hired by his abused wife. The Siamese Twin Hilton Sisters ran a fruit stand here. And it had the only post office with a counter for midgets.

The migration of sideshow freaks to Gibsonton, Florida began in the 1936 after legendary carnival performers Al “the Giant” Tomiani (who stood 7’11” in his bare feet) and his wife, Jeanie the Half-Girl (she was only 2’1” tall) moved to waterfront property in Gibsonton to start a fishing business.grady

I am I being met with uncomfortable stares? Don’t take life too seriously, people, or you won’t get out alive.

Reports say this: THE SUN IS COMING DOWN OVER GIBSONTON. Howard Huge is heading to Alabama to appear in a Tim Burton movie. Li’l Pete the Fire-Eating Dwarf has fallen asleep in his chair. The carnies at the Showman’s Club are getting ready for the annual Hit the Road BBQ, the final party before the families clear out for the summer circuit. Over at the shacks of the Giant’s Camp, Alex’s mom twists a screwdriver free from her nose as her son applauds. She sniffles and wipes a tear from her cheek. “Makes your eyes water when you do it,” she says. But the Phillips head won’t be passed down at the moment. Alex still has some learning to do, his mom says, before he moves up to the blockhead trick.

percilla

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