A 2001 story for Stuff, a British men’s magazine.
TALK LIKE A CARNY
“The bag man got his ice and didn’t see no ikey heyman. But with all them lot lice crawling through, we could’ve never made the nut if without the bally and the pickled punks.”
Either a carnival employee or the carnival itself.
Midway window shoppers with no particular desire to win and carry garish, cumbersome, and infantile plush animals.
A brief free performance used to draw a crowd into a paying show. Said to derive from the Arabic expression dehalla hoon used to call belly-dancers and fakirs out for such teasers at Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition. Today the expression is often shortened to “bally.”
Now usually prerecorded, this is the rhythmic, repetitive spiel used to hypnotize patrons into handing greenbacks to the ticket seller or “grinder.”
A sleight of hand from the carny’s magical, yet greasy, bag of tricks. To “gaff” or “gimmick” a game is to rig it. Stitching an extra head on a taxidermied goat would be yet another gaff.
A wheel of “chance” which relies more on a secretly deployed brake than any whims of Lady Luck. The “cradeling” is the lever or pedal that stops the wheel and brings a sadistic twinkle to the carny’s eye.
A “joint” is what a carny calls a midway booth or game. A “flat joint” is a game with no winning numbers. It’s run by a “flatty” to help young men and women learn about the dangers of gambling.
Crappy prizes that cost less than the price of the game.
The “bag man” is the local official given bribes or “ice” to overlook any crooked gaming. Bribes to vice cops are called “juice.” “Slushies” are refreshing drinks made with juice-like flavorings and crushed ice.
The cost of putting on the show. Legend has it that it an angry creditor once removed the nuts from the wheels of all carnival wagons, keeping them until all debts were paid. Now carnies talk about “making the nut” because it’s much more fun than saying “clearing our expenses.”
A fortune-telling booth where a palmist inspects your mitts for signs of gullibility.
In the days predating PETA, the geek’s sideshow performance consisted of biting the head off live chickens or mice. Today, they merely recite lines from old Monty Python episodes.
Exhibition of preserved fetuses, two-headed, conjoined or otherwise uglier than normal. Fondly referred to by insiders as the “the pickled punk show” these monstrosities are given an educational spin by referring to the dangers of prenatal substance abuse. Where local laws or paucity of monster fetuses presents problems, a “bouncer,” or rubber stand-in delivers all the nausea-inducing thrills.
The soggy angry clown who taunts carnival-goers from his perch above the dunking tank.
HALF AND HALF
Sideshow performer with something for everyone. Part male, part female. All hermaphrodite.
The potty. Probably portable and lavishly filled with human waste.