viernes, 2 de julio de 2010

The Enigma

Today's post is  on one of of my favourite sideshow geeks, The Enigma. 

He was born Paul Lawrence and was raised in Seattle, he is a sideshow performer,  geek (performers at carnivals who specialize in swallowing various bizarre objects or live animals, live insects, and so forth) actor and musician, who has undergone extensive body modification, including horn implants, ear reshaping, multiple body piercings, and a full-body jigsaw-puzzle tattoo. 

His tattooing process began on December 20, 1992, under the needle of "Katzen the Tiger Lady," the first woman to have an all-over body theme tattoo.  Katzen and the Enigma later married. 
Together they have a six year old daughter, Caitlin. Katzen states, "In The Enigma I found a person who had the same goals in life and the same ambition behind those goals to make something amazing happen. It was the right timing - becoming the tattooed couple."

To date, The Enigma has had more than two hundred tattoo artists work on him, with as many as twenty-three underway at one time.

As a child he taught himself magic tricks from a magic book, and later taught himself how to swallow fire and swords. In 1991, he was a founding member of the Jim Rose Circus, with which he toured until 1998. 

The Enigma then toured with Katzen, playing music and doing sideshow performances under the moniker "Human Marvels." He performed at Universal Studios Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights event in fall 2007, performing various tricks with fire, power tools, and blades.

He currently performs with Serana Rose in their show called Electric Acid Theatre.

The Enigma has appeared in the The X-Files episode "Humbug" (incidentally also the best X-Files episode of all time) where he played a character called "The Conundrum" a geek who will eat anything, living in a community of sideshow freaks. An action figure of the Conundrum was even created as part of a line of X-Files toys.

He has also appeared on Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. The Enigma was featured in the 2005 documentary film Freaky Circus Guy alongside sideshow performers Katzen, Danielle D'Meux, William Darke. In 2004, The Enigma appeared with Mike Patton, Jane Wiedlin, Karen Black and Katzen, in Steve Balderson's film Firecracker.

The Enigma also makes a habit of appearing at various haunted house attractions all over North America. One of his most famous appearances was at Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, Florida.

Below is an excerpt from interviews with the Enigma and Katzen at the Houston Tattoo Convention (Jan. 18, 1996) and at Northern Ink Xposure, Toronto (June 21, 1999) Transcribed and edited by Steve Gilbert. 
"My career as a performer actually began when I was six years old. That was when my mom asked me if I wanted to take piano lessons. My brother, who is sixteen and a half months older than me, was taking lessons, and of course I wanted to do what he was doing. 

So I started taking lessons and I've been playing ever since. In addition to the piano, my mother kept my brother and me busy with all kinds of other lessons: singing, flute, tap dancing, ballet. The full spectrum. In grade school I was quite an outsider, but treated to talent. I got picked on pretty severely by the other kids. 

I was also always interested in magic. I was in a local magic club. And then when I was sixteen a friend of mine who was also a magician introduced me to a book called Thrilling Magic which had instructions for doing all kinds of strange things. And one of them was swallowing a sword. I said: "That's cool. I gotta do that." And so I taught myself how to swallow swords and eat fire just by reading the book.

At the same time I was playing in bands. So I figured I'd do the sword swallowing and fire eating in between songs and that would be the gimmick that would hook people to listen to my music. I didn't think it would be the other way around. In Seattle, where I grew up, they had these little festivals near the Space Needle, where I would perform for free. I also did street fairs on University Avenue. This was in 1991. One day I was doing a show and a friend said "Have you ever heard of Jim Rose? He does weird stuff like that. You might think he's kind of cool. He's performing at a place called Ali Baba's."

So I went up the street to Ali Baba's and there he was, doing his bed of nails. And he was doing the razor blade trick that Harry Houdini always used to do with needles. You put the razor blades in your mouth and pull them out on a string. It's an old magic trick. I laughed, of course, because having a background in magic, I understood the trick. Everybody was falling for it. But I swallow swords. This is the real thing

We just did these shows for nothing. And then we did more shows, and got bigger. After one of these shows, Jim Rose handed each of us $20 and said: "I'm going to Venice Beach. Don't do anything till I get back. I'll be back in a month or two." So he left, and we were all trading phone numbers during this time. Asking a performer not to perform is like telling someone "don't masturbate." 

So we did our show together anyway. We called ourselves "The Mannix Depressives." Dan Mannix was a guy who wrote a book called Step Right Up. It also appeared under the title Memoirs of a Sword Swallower. It's a very important book.
But as soon as Jim Rose got back to town he was furious. He was going to throttle everybody because we were doing stuff without him. He was the guy who got us all together. 

He was the guy who was going to take us to Japan. He made all these phone calls to us from California with promises like that to keep us from doing anything without him. 

We didn't want to work with Jim because he was such a businessman and we didn't want someone who was going to beat us up on doing this stuff. 

And so we did another show on our own. But it just ended up on Jim's plate anyway, because no one was strong enough to say "No, I'm not going to work for you." Everyone kind of wanted to go and do things and see Japan. Jim was good at dangling carrots.

In fact, before that, in the winter of '91, during the time that Jim was gone, I had improved my act to include lifting weights with my eyeballs and eating insects. Slugs in particular. To lift weights with my eyeballs I would drill holes in quarters and then, with a string attached to glass balls, I would put the quarters in my eyeballs, close my eyes really tight, so that the quarters would actually go underneath my eyeballs inside the skull, and then I would pull up on the weights. Totally original. 

Everybody had a stage name: The Torture King, The Tube, Lifto. I decided to call myself Slug, since I ate slugs. It was a very Northwest kind of thing. I told the Torture King I was going to eat a slug and he said, "No way! That's gross!" And so then of course I had to do it.

I even called the Poison Control Center and said, "My son ate a slug. What should I do?"

They said, "Oh, don't worry about it. He'll be okay." 

So based on that information, which was next to none, I started eating slugs. During the winter of 1991 I thought of another way to improve my act. Here I had a job pressing shirts at a dry cleaner's! I thought: I guess I could be a different color. That's a good idea. Or maybe even like a pattern. I could be all plaid, or....I know! Spiderman battles this guy called "The Jigsaw," but he doesn't even look like a jigsaw. If I had a jigsaw pattern, that would really be cool. I could fill it in piece by piece."


"I met Katzen at Lollapalooza '92 and she had done a few tattoos by hand. I told her about my idea and she said she would be willing to do it, and so in December of 92 I sent her money to buy machines and a plane ticket. She flew up from Georgia and during January of 93 she did all the lines. It was a hard month. There were a lot of intense feelings. I had to move out of my mom's house because, you know, mom probably wouldn't have approved of what was going on."

KATZEN: "To me, the best high is a natural high, endorphin highs. Throughout time people have been taking drugs to induce inspiring visions but I know there are other ways to achieve inspiration. For instance, I think that tattooing is one of the ways people can get to self-knowledge. I think that there are several ways to get to spiritual knowledge and pain and pleasure are definitely keys to it.

A person who goes in for a lot of tattooing, and especially facial tattooing, has to have a strong sense of self . I have to be stubborn in a way, stubborn enough to know that I can accomplish painful goals I set out for myself . I can't walk outside without people asking me "who are you?" I walk with confidence and approachability. The tattooing never stopped me in any way, because I know the route I want to go for. I never once had doubts about it, only obstacles to tackle. It's opened so many doors for me. Good things happen in time. My tattoos have taught me patience. Great things bloom sometimes late, for those with patience to wait." 


Sources: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

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