My first job as a professional magician was at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, where I was booked (at a whopping $30/day!) as Young Master Bardford, Magician of the Rhelm. It was an awesome, educational, difficult, sometimes scary, and always memorable job.

One of the best parts was watching and learning from a very talented and experienced street magician Johnny Fox. He was a monster talent with audience management, a gifted (and clean) comedian, a very skilled magician, and… get this… a sword swallower.

I lost contact with him, but just found this link to him in the New York Times

Very cool… way to go, Johnny.

SEYMOUR, Conn. – It’s getting hard for an honest freak to make a living in New York. This is both a cultural and economic fact.

It is also the plight of Johnny Fox, a professional sword swallower and expert in sleight of hand, who until this winter was the impresario behind the Freakatorium, a museum of sideshow curiosities at 57 Clinton Street on the Lower East Side.

Johnny Fox, shown with his wife, Valeria, used to be the man behind a museum of sideshow curiosities in Manhattan.

In January, Mr. Fox’s rent went up and he had to close. Now he has moved his wonders to a farmhouse in Connecticut where the only thing they collect these days is dust.

His narwhal tusks stand in the attic near a loose pile of taxidermic heads. His elephant’s-foot liquor chest sits in the living room, seen by no one but himself.

His two-headed turtle lives downstairs in the basement with a sleepy boa constrictor. Out in the garage – forgotten – are Tom Thumb’s vest and Sammy Davis Jr.’s glass eye.

“I’d love for this stuff to be in New York,” said Mr. Fox, a sinewy and black-haired man of 52. “New York needs this kind of stuff, but who supports it anymore?”

It is a hard question to answer. Mr. Fox discovered that his Freakatorium was not the tourist destination he had hoped it would be. Even with its relatively modest $5 admission fee, it drew only 5 to 15 visitors a day.

When his rent increased in January to $2,400, more than double what he was paying when he opened in 1999, he could no longer make ends meet. Worse yet, it seems his collection is out of step in the current culture of New York. He has tried his best to find a new location, but has so far had no luck.

He was turned away by the owner of a 42nd Street video arcade and made to feel unwelcome at the smut shops. No theater will permit him to set up his collection in its lobby. There have been no takers for his offers, no answer to his pleas.

He has even thought of changing the roguish name of his establishment to cater to a different clientele.

“I figured we could call it the Chamber of Wonders, not the Freak-atorium,” he said. “Freak sometimes has a stigma to it. We could do something family-inviting.

Learn More about my work as a corporate magician & speaker here.

Brad Montgomery
Magician, Renaissance Festival Veteran, and Fan of Johnny Fox

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