Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Gathering of sorts

I first went to the Sideshow Gathering in November 2007. I've told the story of how I found out about this amazing convention taking place not far from my house elsewhere. Once I had had my first taste, I was hooked, and the Sideshow Gathering became an annual tradition for me.

The Sideshow Gathering was the product of the efforts of Franco Kossa, who gave it his all every year and routinely spent a good deal of time recuperating in the hospital afterwards. I connected with him on MySpace - this was back when MySpace was still a thing. Facebook was new, or new-ish, but new to me; I think I joined it in 2008, and quickly discovered that a lot of the sideshow performers I had seen at the Sideshow Gathering were there. It wasn't long before sideshow (and, later. burlesque) performers were comprising about half of all my "Friends" on Facebook. But one person who was just setting foot into the Facebook world was Franco. I noticed that he wasn't connected to most of the sideshow performers I had friended on Facebook, so I sent him my lists of links to sideshow performers, and he remedied that.

Franco died in May of 2011. That was the year of the tenth Sideshow Gathering - the big one. It was quite an event. Would there be another one without him?

There was. In November 2012 the eleventh Sideshow Gathering was held, hosted by Todd Robbins. Unfortunately this was the same time that Superstorm Sandy had slammed into the northeast, making landfall through that most holy of sideshow locations, Coney Island. Much of New York City was in disarray. People were in survival mode. Vendors, participants, and attendees found themselves cut off, locked down, unable to make it to the Gathering. But in traditional fashion, the show went on.

It was the last Sideshow Gathering. For now, at least.

But the Gathering went on online. Performers and fans continued to interact across the miles on the Facebook social networking site. Todd Robbins even set up a group, Sideshow Spectrum, to serve as an online gathering spot for people from across the spectrum of sideshow performance and fandom. And it was good.

In September 2014 Facebook began making noises about strictly enforcing its longstanding "real names" policy.

Many sideshow and burlesque performers are among the millions who use pseudonyms on Facebook. There are many reasons for this. Just one is the fact that, as a performer, you want to create a distance between your professional world and your personal life. You interact with fans through your pseudonym, and reserve your true identity for family and friends.

Nonsense, says Facebook, and they have declared that they will begin shutting down accounts of anyone they suspect of using anything other than a real name. Soon.

So in a little while I may be losing my Facebook connections to many sideshow performers I know only pseudonymously. Before that happens, I want to try to gather together as many links to the personal sites of these individuals as I can. And that's what I'm doing here.

It's not a Sideshow Gathering. Instead it's a gathering of Sideshow links. It's the Sideshow, gathered.