By KAREN SHADE, 9/28/2007
Old-style vaudeville show schedules two performances at Tulsa theater
"Do not try this at home."
Charles Knight said he seems to find himself saying that oft uttered warning of daredevils and soaring virtuosi each time he puts on the black bowler that turns him into Crispy, his sword-swallowing, glass-chewing, fire-breathing stage persona.
But even he’s taking some precautions these days. He trimmed the handle-bar moustache he sported at last year’s performance at Living Arts of Tulsa’s Day of the Dead Festival.
It became an occupational hazard when it caught fire.
Still, these stunts — holdovers from a long-ago era — captured his imagination.
"It's a thrill, all these old acts. They’re playing on primal fears — the things that you just know you're not supposed to do," he said. "It's a thrill and excitement to see someone overcome something that you're not supposed to do."
Watching the amply endowed Boobzilla turn herself into a human cigarette lighter with 50,000 volts of electricity or the lithesome Smidged ascend a ladder made of machete blades are just some of the oddities and old-school feats-with-a-modern-twist to see during the Crispy Family Carnival's performances Friday night at the Nightingale Theater.
The Crispy Family Carnival presents "A Night of Modern Vaudeville" twice for two different crowds. A 6 p.m. show will play to families, while the 10 p.m. show will feature more adult fare.
Parents are encouraged to accompany children watching the 6 p.m. show.
Knight has spent the last year rebuilding his act since returning to Tulsa from a long stay in Denver. For his group's first main event in Tulsa, Knight said he plans to use all the tricks of his trade, which include lamp oil, torches, straitjackets, skewers, broken glass, a bed of nails and a staple gun.
"At the end of the show, I let people come up and give us tips by staple-gunning them to me," he said. "It's $1s and $5s to the body, $10s and $20s to the head and 100 dollar bills directly to the tongue."
Not bad for a guy who admits he used to be afraid of needles.
Fellow sideshow entertainers will exhibit their other talents and tolerances, too, including a scorpion dance with feisty "unaltered" specimens.
Both shows feature the tricks of Bizarro the Optical Illusionist (a magician out of Dallas).
A group of belly dancers will perform during the early show, but they'll make way for Eye Candy Burlesque, billed for the 10 p.m. performance.
Like the sky, things will go a little darker and more dangerous for the second show, but Knight said both shows remain playful, humorous and entertaining, even when he’s staring down the end of a blow gun aimed at the balloon on his head.
"Of course, that never goes right," he said.
THE CRISPY FAMILY CARNIVAL : A NIGHT OF MODERN VAUDEVILLE
When: Friday, 6 p.m. all-ages show (parents encouraged to attend with children), 10 p.m. 18 and older show
Where: Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St.
Tickets: $10 at the door. For reservations or more information, call the theater at 633-8666