Friday, September 16, 2011

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

In olden days, the people who worked at the traveling carnivals were called "carnies". They earned a less than stellar reputation by drawing people in with overblown hoaxes, having rigged games, and overcharging whenever they could get away with it.

Theatre Bizarre in Detroit has for years been a place that probably has no equal on this earth. It tries to recreate the ambiance of the old traveling carnivals, with elements of a gory horror movie thrown in. They've got old timey construction and signs, "freak" shows, vaudeville acts, death-defying stunts, and even a few rides. Last year however, the fans of Theatre Bizarre's Halloween party were left feeling like they had been taken in by stereotypical carnies. Driven by their love of Theatre Bizarre, most of them paid $65 for a ticket, and that was meant to include unlimited beer for the night. Out of of nowhere, the city decided to do some selective enforcement of their codes, and in effect put a stop to the event (their timing was a little suspicious, probably with the intent of making it impossible to get all the permits in time). While the organizers knew for for several days that the city was after them, they didn't announce anything to their ticket holders until the day before the event. In those last 24 hours, ticket holders who couldn't go due to unforeseen events had to settle for $25 to unload their ticket. No mention has ever been made of what happened to all the kegs of beer that had been purchased with the ticket revenue.

Tomorrow at the DIY Fair in Ferndale, tickets for this year's Theatre Bizarre Halloween party are going to be sold to the public. The exact same price as last year, but now there's not even the promise of included drinks. All the savings get passed directly on to...well...not the fans.

There's supposed to an "initiation" that happens exactly at 11:23 P.M. at this year's party. My guess is that everyone will be given a t-shirt with P.T. Barnum's favorite quote, "There's a sucker born every minute". After all, Theatre Bizarre wants to recreate the carnivals of yesteryear, and they're damn good at keeping it real.