As Mark McKinley puts it, “no collector ever says, ‘I’ve gone too far.'” After 27 years and an official Guinness World Record, he stands by that statement.
Coney Island has seen many changes since it opened its first sideshow in 1880. Theme parks have been developed, bulldozed and redeveloped; newer vendors have replaced old businesses; real estate has been bought and sold—the list goes on. But there are some places, and people, in Coney Island that are determined to keep the old traditions alive. The Coney Island Sideshow School, and Adam Rinn, are among them.
Rinn, who grew up in Coney Island, teaches eager—and brave—students how to eat fire, walk on broken glass and carry a charge in an electric chair. The school usually teaches two four-day sessions per year. Students pay an $800 tuition—a cost that, Rinn explains, will deter curiosity seekers, but not discourage those who are truly hungry to perform sideshow acts—after “graduating,” they’ll make up the tuition costs in a gig or two, he says.
There were five students in the spring 2012 graduating class. Two work at an amusement park on the Jersey Shore and planned to take a bit of Coney Island back with them; another was writing her doctorate dissertation about freak shows; and one student is a stand-up comedian who hopes fire-breathing and other acts of daring will help take her stage routine to another level.
We documented their journey, as this handful of courageous performers do their part to keep the spirit of Coney Island alive.
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Once a year, residents of this mountainous island gather at two churches on opposite ends of town and launch 100,000 handmade rockets — directly at each other.
When Dee came out as a transgender, it meant the end of her marriage to Penny. And that’s when the empowering journey for both women truly began.
As Chinese investment turns this mineral-rich region into a cash cow, does the Southern Mongolian culture have any hope of survival? A few families are willing to fight for it.
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