Saturday, July 25, 2015

Students Take a Stab at Sword Swallowing

I don't know about this.

Sounds freakin' dangerous.

At WSJ, "Sword swallowers are on edge as TV and the Internet spur neophytes to guide sharp objects down their throats":
Don’t try this at home, the master of ceremonies of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow cautioned, and with good reason.

One performer was reclining on a bed of spikes. Another danced on a pile of broken glass. And his own “human blockhead” act involved hammering a nail into his nasal cavity.

Then there was Betty Bloomerz, who wore a black skirt and fishnet stockings as she moved playfully in time to Louis Prima’s swing classic “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

As about 30 spectators looked on in a small Brooklyn theater, Ms. Bloomerz tilted her head back, placed a foot-long blade into her mouth and, using her tongue, began to move it in time to the music. She let the sword drop downward until its metallic gold hilt came to rest near her bright red lips. Then she pulled it out with a flourish.

Point taken.

But Betty, whose real name is Kiri Hochendoner, wasn’t finished there. Also down her gullet went a wire hanger reshaped into an elongated oval, followed by two 20-inch blades, which she swallowed simultaneously.

“It’s all about safety here,” joked Ray Valenz, the MC. “Safety third!”

The crowd, which included children, shrieked and hooted with each grisly gulp.

Asked about the risks, Ms. Hochendoner, a sword swallower since 2008, said, “I’m not worried about it, I’m thinking about it.”

Specifically, she is focusing on relaxing her throat and esophagus. The more tense they are, the object-swallowing community says, the more chance of injury.

Dick Zigun, founder and artistic director of Coney Island USA, the nonprofit organization that operates the Coney Island sideshow and sideshow school, said he thinks sword swallowing might be his outfit’s most dangerous act.

“Knock on wood,” he said. “I’m very proud of the fact that 30 years into running the sideshow we have not had any major accidents here.”

He credits the school, which offers twice-yearly sword-swallowing classes, with making in-person instruction more available.

The number of professionals currently practicing the ancient art—believed to have originated in India 4,000 years ago—is a matter of debate. Mr. Zigun estimates about 150. Dan Meyer, a Tampa, Fla., practitioner who tracks the profession through his organization Sword Swallowers Association International, thinks the number is closer to a few dozen...
Ahem, I think I'll pass, lol.

Keep reading.

ADDED: Here's one of the dudes interviewed at the piece, Todd Robbins, doing it on YouTube.