I often view Sideshow peeping through my fingers. It’s an art form born of immense courage and skill, with a dose of high pain threshold thrown in for good measure. I had an opportunity to chat with Reggie Bügmuncher, Les S. Moore and Dash Rippington, who are respectively producing and performing at The Official DC Hootenanny Pie Show – One Night Only at, appropriately enough, Dangerous Pies DC, the venue above Dangerously Delicious Pies on H St., on Saturday, February 23 (which is coincidentally International Sword Swallowers Day) at 8:00 PM. Let’s dig in, shall we?
Name, tagline if you’ve got one, how long have you been doing sideshow, and what got you started?
Dash: Dash Rippington, tagline: Dangerously Stupid. Roughly 10 – 15 years. Why? Boredom.
Reggie: Reggie Bügmuncher, tagline: used to be Queen of Philadelphia Sideshow, but I live in California now, so I am building something around “The Perfect 10 … in 1” (*10 in 1 is a common sideshow term where you would see 10 acts in one show) Been at this 15 years-ish. The Pontani Sisters opened my eyes to variety, which led to circus and sideshow. I went full time after seeing how unfit I was for a 9-5 and caretaking for my grandparents. I wanted to really live.
Les: New character is Les S. Moore, the Comedy Cutpurse. I’ve been doing it for about a year. I’ve been performing for more than 30 years as an actor, a variety artist, in sideshow (most notably as Swami YoMahmi and with Cheeky Monkey Sideshow), and this is the next step in my progression as an entertainer. Where Swami Yo was a lovable dork, Les is more sophisticated, more Professor Harold Hill. Also, it’s a stage pickpocketing show which is a new area for me.
Is Swami gone, or are you just diversifying?
Les: Swami is not gone, but after performing that act for more than 15 years, and gaining a satisfying level of success and recognition, I felt the need to expand on what I was doing, and explore something completely new to me.
For the uninitiated, what is the Southern Sideshow Hootenanny?
Dash: To me it’s a wonderful ‘workation’ where I get to see and hang out with friends I only get to see once a year.
Les: The Hootenanny is an annual gathering of sideshow performers where we get to see each other’s work, make new connections, and reconnect with old friends. It’s an opportunity for inspiration and a creative recharge.
Reggie: The Southern Sideshow Hootenanny is a nonprofit organization with a mission to unify the sideshow community, help make it more professionally organized, and improve the lives of its performers through knowledge, learning, professional development, etc. As an organization, we host an annual festival, and hope to hold workshops internationally as we grow.
Dash – you’re a Guinness World Record holder, yeah?
Dash: Yes, two times over. My first Guinness record was taken back by the guy whose record I broke, so I upped the ante and contacted Guinness to see if they’d take the same concept but use rat traps instead. I am still the current holder of Most Rat Traps Released on the Tongue in One Minute.
Do you have a favorite Hootenanny memory?
Les: It’s hard to pick just one. I’d say having the opportunity to spend time with Ward Hall and listen to him tell stories (“cutting up jackpots” in the parlance). I will always remember his very moving and heartfelt speech at the Hootenanny Awards brunch.
Reggie: Not a dry eye in the house.
Dash: Getting to perform as CoffinBox Sideshow with an experimental show, and have an unexpected setback, only to improve through the show. Learned a lot, and where I needed to grow.
Reggie: Doing a workshop on women finding their voices in sideshow with a concussion I got the day before from a ceiling fan incident.
Irony in action.
Following up on women finding their voices in sideshow – is sideshow sexist?
Reggie: Sideshow, like all entertainment, is at a turning point with how it treats and presents women and minorities. Sideshow is, in many ways, unique – in the sense that it welcomed the different and oppressed, while at the same time having its own elements of the same behavior. While it is a safe place for women and minorities and differently abled people, the lack of regulations, human resource departments, and other safety nets you find in other businesses leaves us open to self-police, which can only be as fair and balanced as our community. Depending on the era, it leans in better and worse directions. I find many more steady, fair people in sideshow now than ever in its history. I see so many positive, inclusive young people in sideshow, and I think it’s going in the right direction.
What are you all doing for the fundraiser?
Reggie: I am not sure where I will be for the fundraiser, somewhere in California working. As a Hoot producer, I book the event and performers, and send them annoying posts about music and their acts.
Les: I’ll be doing a portion of my pickpocketing show.
Dash: I’ll be revisiting my origins with my Festival Street Trap animal routine and I’ll also be presenting my present by swallowing swords.
Swords as in multiple?
Dash: A sword, and other items. I have a fly swatter, coat hanger, sai (a ninja weapon) and glow sticks, along with the sword that can be swallowed.
Reggie: A good note – the fundraiser is on International Sword Swallowers Day, and we have two swallowers in the show!
Dash: I just found an affordable option to perform a 6-sword stack with, and that is the goal.
Six swords at one time?!!?
Dash: I have friends that can do many more than 6. Our friend Chris Steele does a 7-sword stack with a twist on removal. Our friend Red has done up to 52 swords at a time.
Just the thought of that makes my esophagus bleed! How do you even get your mouth around 52 swords?
Les: They are paper thin…
What are you most looking forward to at the Hootenanny this year?
Dash: Workshops, performances, and of course sight seeing.
Les: Seeing people I adore that I only get to see once a year, and doing it in New Orleans.
Reggie: I’m always so busy that weekend that the joy for me comes afterwards. Watching performers keep their new friendships going throughout the year, seeing people – who didn’t know each other – now booking each other and supporting each other online. This is the fifth year of the Hoot, and we just got our official 501(C)3 status last summer, which will allow us to build and get grant funding. Everything up to and including this year’s festival has been entirely financially supported by the community and ticket sales. It’s a real feat, and a great example of how we can support each other.
Reggie: Thank you! If there is a general vibe of the people running the Hoot and helping out, it’s that it is a labor of love. We all love this community, and want to see it get stronger.
Come get a taste of what the Hootenanny is all about this Saturday, February 23 with Dash, Les and fellow sideshow/variety artists Sally the Cinch, Anna Steasya, Hot Todd Lincoln, Ri Dickulous, Charlie Artful and Gigi Holliday.
The Official DC Hootenanny Pie Show – One Night Only plays Saturday, February 23, 2019, at Dangerous Pies DC – 1339 H St., N.E., Washington, DC (above Dangerously Delicious). Tickets are available online.