Coney Island sideshow

Weird sisters: Sideshow women talk feminism in Coney

The Brooklyn Paper
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A panel of professional women will convene in Coney Island to discuss female independence and entrepreneurship — but don’t be surprised if they show up wearing nipple tassels or bedazzled, lobster claw gloves.

As part of Coney Island USA’s annual sideshow convention, “Congress of Curious People,” a coterie of New York’s most outrageous, beautiful, and admittedly less-than-typical ladies will assemble to tell the world what it’s like to be weird women.

“It will be very much about getting close to these women, who are generally implied as being unavailable to the public,” said Jo Weldon, also known as “Jo Boobs” or “Boobzilla,” headmistress and founder of the New York School of Burlesque, who will be moderating the “Wild Women Panel” on April 18. “Where else can you get so up close and personal to these crazy people?”

The discussion will feature women whose acts range from the traditional burlesque of Bunny Love, to the more bizarre half-woman, half-crustacean boogie of Bambi the Mermaid.

The sword-swallowing male magician, The Great Fredini — one of the original curators of “Burlesque at the Beach” — will add some testosterone to the discussion.

Female performers have long dominated the field of burlesque, but they’re role in Coney Island’s sideshow history is perhaps less well known.

Burlesque experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years — sparking greater interest in the part women played in carnival-style attractions, sources said.

In a change of pace for the women on stage, this week’s panel is less about spectacle and more about education.

Audiences will hear about the history, performances, and styles of America’s least-domesticated women — and perhaps gain some insight into why these wild women do what they do, and do it with such pride.

“I really like the complete and utter unconventional freedom of it,” said Bambi the Mermaid. “Just being able to do super-outrageous performances that are, I know, kind of confrontational, but I like it when people say they were really disturbed. I like blowing people’s minds.”

Coney Island USA [1208 Surf Ave. between Stillwell Avenue and W. 12th Street in Coney Island, (718) 372-5159] April 18, 9 pm. $10. Visit

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 5:32 pm, July 9, 2018
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