Friday, September 12, 2008
Fair Shuts Down 2 Freak Shows
By Leslie Linthicum
Journal Staff Writer
Missing from the New Mexico State Fair midway: a 29-inch-tall female who goes by the name "The World's Smallest Woman." Also missing: "Angel Snake Girl."
The two midway attractions were shut down Thursday by the order of State Fair management, which said a "freak show" is not appropriate for the annual event.
"The fair chose to exercise its right under the contract and term them a freak show," spokesman Michael Henningsen said. "We don't really condone that kind of thing at the fair."
Bob Rohlfs, the law enforcement liaison for midway contractor Murphy Brothers Exposition, said Murphy Brothers responded to a legal notice from the fair's lawyer and shuttered both acts before the 7 p.m. Thursday deadline.
The Journal went looking for "The World's Smallest Woman" at her trailer Thursday afternoon. One friend of hers said she was in the trailer and another said she had gone to stay in a hotel. A carnie said she heard the little lady had "gone to Oklahoma."
Before it closed, the $1-a-person show consisted of the small woman sitting on a couch.
Henningsen paid his buck and saw it Tuesday night, then went to the fair's lawyer to see if it should be shut down.
"The problem was there was a real person that was being exploited," Henningsen said. "Maybe it was her wish to sit on that dirty couch and have people gawk at her. But I don't buy it. It was awful. It didn't belong there."
Rohlfs defended the attraction, which belonged to a subcontractor.
"We thought it was a person trying to make an honest living doing what they know best," he said.
The booth containing "Angel Snake Girl" ("The strangest illusion of all time. The head of a lovely woman and the body of an ugly, scaly 200-pound snake!") was still open Thursday afternoon and Angel seemed cheery, despite the news that she would be out of work in a few hours.
Lots of people were paying $1 apiece to see smiling Angel ("She has no arms, no legs, no bones in her body!"), who looked an awful lot like a normal woman sitting up to her neck in a box with a papier-maché snake curled around her. Thomas Vigil of Albuquerque took a look inside her cage and came out laughing. "It's funny," he said.
Vigil keeps snakes at his house, real ones, pythons, and he did not think Angel was a freak or was being exploited.
"No, not at all," he said. Then he shelled out five more dollars so the rest of his family could take a look.
Human freaks have appeared at the midway in years past. The midway has hosted a sword swallower, "The Headless Woman," "The Man With The Body of a Spider" and "Wild Woman" ("She was raised by alligators!") in addition to a pickled two-headed baby and "Bimbo, the Elephant Skin Dog."
In other Lilliputian news from the fair, the rumors are true: Tom Thumb mini donuts are missing from the fairgrounds this year. The vendor, according to fair officials, decided to skip the fair.