Artist James Mundie CGS’97 has long been fascinated by circus sideshow culture—what in the old days some called freaks, and he calls anomalies. [“Freak Love,” July|Aug 2004.] Some 20 years ago, he met a fellow named James Taylor (left, holding forth), who turned out to be the creator-in-chief of Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway, a “perioddical” that features interviews with old-timers and articles about the new generation of “sword swallowers, strong men, and human pincushions who have upheld the old traditions and broken new ground.”
The two became fast friends, and soon Mundie was contributing his illustrations and editorial services.
“Through my artwork and my friendship with James, I’ve met a tremendous number of variety performers and older showmen,” he says. “In due course, it occurred to me that I should be doing my part to document these interesting people.” The result is his latest series of photographic portraits, Exhibitionists.
In this one the talkative Taylor is chatting up Pepper Klopek (center) and Burnaby Orbax, the two Canadians collectively known as the Monsters of Schlock. They had driven to Baltimore from Ontario that day last September, stopping at a Walmart and a Halloween costume shop to pick up props for the act—one of which, Mundie notes, was the “mighty winged helmet on Pepper’s noggin.”
“So James is chatting away as he is wont to do, and I turned to see the sun glinting off Pepper’s plastic helmet,” says Mundie. “I compulsively raise my camera to capture this meeting of sideshow titans.”
He titled the result “James Taylor and the Monsters of Schlock.” A few weeks later, Orbax set “another in a long string of world records for dangerous stunts—this time for having 70 motorcycles ride over him in two minutes,” Mundie says. “Need I mention he was lying on a bed of nails at the time?” —S.H.