Mr. Hamilton, Artisan, Sideshow Performer, and Owner of a Sweet Mustache
Y Spy: Who are you and why are you here?
Mr. Hamilton: My name is Mr. Hamilton, and I am a sideshow performer. I’m here to perform tonight and sell my artwork.
Y Spy: What do you do in your performances?
Hamilton: I do hula-hoop tricks; I put hands and other body parts into mousetraps and rattraps, have shit smashed on my body with sledgehammers. But mainly I talk.
Y Spy: What do you talk about?
Hamilton: Whatever comes to my mind at the moment. I’m called a talker; it’s kind of an emcee, but goofier.
Y Spy: Like a carnival barker?
Hamilton: No, a barker is a hack. We look down on the barkers. With sideshow talkers, there’s an outside talker and an inside talker. The inside talker is more of an intimate emcee and explains what’s happening with the show as you’re watching it. They do a lot of improvisation, cause they’ve gotta work with live audiences, drunks, and morons – and also some really educated, fun people. So you gotta play off of them.
Y Spy: When did you begin pursuing your interests?
Hamilton: I’ve always been a talker. I’ve done a lot of improvisational theater, a lot of street performing. I’ve always been a bit of a ham. The artwork I’ve always done as well, and I realized that I can do these shows and be creative and combine it all.
The first time I put my dick in a mousetrap was last year. We had this ongoing thing where for a hundred dollars I would do it. We played a fetish night at a gay bar in Champagne-Urbana. We performed at this thing, my old troupe and myself. We did the usual offer, and no one’s taking us up on it, when a little voice in the back goes: “Hold on, I’m going to the cash machine!” At that point I realized that I have to do this! I thought about the logistics and physics of it, and thankfully it went off without a hitch.
Y Spy: You didn’t take any practice runs before?
Hamilton: Nope! I’d been putting them on my tongue. The rat traps are very dangerous, though; I would not put my dick in a rat trap. With a rat trap, if you do it right, it’ll hurt like hell. If you do it wrong, you’ll fuck yourself up.
Y Spy: How do you go about making your art?
Hamilton: These are original paintings, and then I took my paintings and made a laser print. These are called bas-reliefs, which are images that pop from a background pieces. The backgrounds are just pieces of wood with fur and bits of fabric on them. With the front, I color copy the painting and use a template to cut everything out, and then I hit it with glitter glue, because everything looks better when it looks like a transvestite took a shit on it.
Y Spy: I’m in full agreement.
Hamilton: You should have seen my prom date! I looked great afterwards! Couldn’t walk right for a week, but I was shiny, like a vampire in the sun!
Y Spy: What do you do when you’re not working conventions?
Hamilton: I’m from Austin, Texas. I emcee once a month at a thing called “Sessions,” which is like an Austin City Limits showcase. I also work at a place called the Museum of the Weird. In future shows I’m going to be traveling with the Oddity Museum. I tour quite a bit with my sideshow, which varies from member to member. I’ve yet to tour with the same person twice.
Y Spy: Is there a reason behind that?
Hamilton: I am a fucking taskmaster! Nah. Circus performers do things called spots. You do a spot somewhere. They are more transient, and they’ll get offers, because there’s not many of us. A lot of people do it, but sideshow performing is a lot like burlesque or poetry. It’s often really horrible, or else it’s all right, or else it’s fucking amazing. There’s a giant gap between all right and amazing, so a good performer is often in high demand. I work with people from Coney Island, and for my next tour I’m probably going to be performing with one or two ex-Jim Rose Circus people.
Y Spy: So you just don’t want to be stuck in one place.
Hamilton: Yes, and it’s also about coordinating. If you’ve ever had a band, doing shows with four consistent people is difficult. One guy has a job and a house, one guy’s a big asshole and no fun to travel with, and another guy’s on drugs. It’s the same thing for sideshow performers, but we have more places to go.
For this particular performance, I’m working with a gentleman who does contact juggling, and I took him up from Texas with me. I’m going to be collaborating with one of the Horror Hosts; he’s gonna be eating razor blades. Another Horror Host from Dark Carnival will be doing a blockhead routine; we’ll be hammering nails into his head. The band Shriek is going to be doing some incidental music behind us. It’s nice to be able to collaborate.
Y Spy: How easy is it to keep your life running?
Hamilton: You have to have the right attitude. Is it easy? Probably not, but it’s all I do. If you love doing something, whatever it is, you’ll have a better chance of success at that thing than anything else. If you hate something, even if you’re successful, you’ll be resentful.
Do I make a lot of money? Sometimes. Most times, not. It’s a feast or famine situation, but I’m always doing what I love doing, so I don’t notice the time going by. We were on the train coming up, and it was a 23 hour train ride from Texas to St. Louis, where we caught a ride with a friend to here. And the gentleman I’m with, he’s bored shitless, while I’m like, that was the shortest train ride ever! But the whole time, I was painting and finishing up my artwork. I didn’t even notice.
Y Spy: What can I expect tonight?
Hamilton: I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, hopefully shocked, possibly amazed.
Mr. Hamilton can be found at www.museumoftheweird.com, and on Facebook under the fan page “Mister Hamilton.”
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