Coney Island is a time capsule, filled with age-old circus and sideshow acts that have defied belief and imagination for years. Though many haven't had the opportunity to experience the wonder in the flesh, the Pretty Things Peepshow will bring the magic to Knoxville on Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Relix Variety Theatre.
The Pretty Things Peepshow, based in New York City, was founded by burlesque dancer "Go-Go Amy," who longed to make the jump from a part-time gig to a full-time one.
"There's not a ton of shows around for what I do. I thought, 'I want a full job, and one doesn't exist, so I'll just make one,'" Amy said in a phone interview with The Daily Beacon.
She shared her vision with fellow performer and Coney Island veteran "Donny Vomit," a professional block-head, who thought her idea hit the nail on the head.
"When I was 24, I moved to New York with a dream," Vomit said in a performance video on the company's website. "The first thing I did was jump on a subway and went to a little place called Coney Island. That's the people's playground, right there, the birth of the sideshow."
Armed with their sparkly costumes and hammer and nail, the duo recruited "Brianna Belladonna" as their sword swallower and "Frankie Sin" for her impressive burlesque and belly dancing skills. There have been others featured as guest performers, but the guests are switched out in order to keep the act fresh, according to the Peepshow's website. In January of 2009, the group jumped in their trailer and started their journey.
The result: a steamy show teeming with pin-up style burlesque and amazing sideshow performances that has performed at Ozzfest 2010 with Ozzy Osbourne, sung happy birthday to Rob Halford and even traveled as far as Australia for the Wintersun Nostalgia Festival.
"We love Australia," Amy said. "For the festival, we had to do all these public appearances while were there because we were the headlining act, so there was a different classic car to drive us around every day."
Go-Go Amy went on to point out the difficulty in picking one memorable moment in the nearly 700 shows the group has performed over the years. Each theater they go to retains a memory of the last time they were there, according to the burlesque dancer. One mention of Knoxville, and she was back in the Relix Variety Theatre again.
"We love coming to Knoxville, it's been way too long since we were there," she said. "I do remember that I love the theater. It's a really nice place to play, nice stage, big sightline; we always worry about that because we're such a visual show."
However, it's not just the theater that draws the group to Knoxville.
"I think my favorite thing about Knoxville is that we have so many friends there. There's a tattoo and piercing shop, Born This Way, that we are really good friends with. They're actually sponsoring the show," Amy said. She went on to add that the shop has donated a $250 gift card to give away during the show.
Bryan Thomas, owner of Born This Way, was first introduced to the group in Coney Island.
"I've attended some of their shows in the past when they've come through here," he said, "so we just contacted them when we found out they were coming through Knoxville again about sponsorship opportunities."
Don't let worries of the risqué keep you away. After touring the world, the Pretty Things Peepshow is accustomed to adapting their act to the local culture.
"To facilitate working all the time, we have to be able to do the show, at times, in a PG fashion," Amy said. "There are some shows where you need to tone it down a little bit, and some where we can get a little more wild, and so I need all my performers, even the burlesque ones, to be able to perform in a variety of different venues. Hard to find, but once you get them, you keep them."
Tickets for the 8 p.m. show range from $10 to $15 and can buy purchased via a link on the Relix Variety Theatre's website. More information on the Pretty Things Peepshow can be found on its website or Facebook page.