Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

AMC's 'Freakshow' comes to Gibsonton area

Freakshow, a reality TV series on AMC, filmed an episode for the show’s second season Saturday in the Gibsonton area.


Freakshow, a reality TV series on AMC, filmed an episode for the show’s second season Saturday in the Gibsonton area.

RIVERVIEW — The red-haired old man wearing a kilt and holding a long contraption made from coat hangers took a deep breath and asked the crowd, "So, do you really want to know how to swallow swords?"

The crowd cheered, and then Red Stuart — who claimed to be the world's oldest sword swallower without volunteering his age — said a poem he has recited hundreds, maybe thousands of times right before jamming large metallic items down his throat: "It's between the lips and over the tongue, behind the heart and over the lungs, watch out stomach, here it comes, this is the way swallowing swords is done."

And with that, Stuart gulped down the coat-hanger contraption, eliciting gasps and cheers. (Stuart did swallow a sword Saturday night, but for unclear reasons decided to recite the poem before swallowing something else.) As he removed the metal from his mouth, however, a stagehand told him he needed to do the whole thing over again — something about the shot not being right.

The AMC reality show Freakshow tapped the Gibsonton area, a community with a long history of being home to sideshow and carnival performers, to host a taping Saturday evening of an episode for the show's second season. The allure of a free freak show brought hundreds to the Museum of the American Carnival. After waiting through intermittent rain, some for more than an hour, the people got their free freak show, albeit one with frequent intrusions from the mechanics of a television production.

By the time Stuart was interrupted, the crowd was actually getting acclimated to the rhythm of a TV shoot. They'd all signed waivers promising AMC they were okay with the network using their images and likenesses. (When staffers ran out of waivers, they had the last dozen or so in line say the words of the waiver while staffers videotaped them with their cellphones; a verbal contract the staffers hoped aloud would hold up in court.)

They'd all seen the cameramen moving in and out of the crowd, and watched as the performers like Stuart, with the opening act Ward Hall's World of Wonders, repeatedly looked over to production staff for approval.

At 7:45 p.m. Todd Ray, the former music producer and owner of the Venice Beach Freakshow, featured in the AMC show, took the stage. Ray's first performer was Morgue, an androgynous young man who got his nickname, Ray explained, because "if you try to do what he does you'll end up in the morgue." Morgue drilled an electric drill bit into his nose, then turned the stage over to Creature, a man with a body covered in tattoos and a head studded with piercings whose act consisted of jumping up and down and acting like some kind of creature.

A few minutes later, Ray took center stage again, and started a short speech intended to inspire crowd energy for 7-foot-8 George Bell, the "Tallest Man in America." Ray got a few words out before a producer interrupted him. Again, the shot was apparently not quite right. Ray smiled, looked at the crowd, and pleaded for patience as the cameramen moved.

"Welcome to TV," he said.

Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or

AMC's 'Freakshow' comes to Gibsonton area 11/02/13 [Last modified: Saturday, November 2, 2013 11:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Judge throws out $458,000 condo sale, says Clearwater attorney tricked bidders

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold on Monday threw out the $458,100 sale of a gulf-front condo because of what he called an "unscrupulous" and "conniving" scheme to trick bidders at a foreclosure auction.

    John Houde, left, whose Orlando copany was the high  bidder June 8 at the foreclosure auction of a Redington Beach condo, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground,  during a hearing Monday before Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times ]
  2. Vision Zero plan to make Hillsborough roads safer to be unveiled


    TAMPA — Vision Zero, the coalition trying to make Hillsborough County safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, is set to unveil its action plan on Tuesday morning.

    Members of the Vision Zero workshop cross Hillsborough Avenue and Kelly Road during a on-street audit of Town 'N Country roads in January. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  3. Pasco EDC names business incubator head in Dade City, will open second site


    Pasco County economic development officials are busy reigniting their business start-up resources following the departure earlier this year of Krista Covey, who ran the Pasco Economic Development Council's SMARTStart business incubator in Dade City.

    Andrew Romaner was promoted this summer to serve as program director of the Dade City SMARTStart Entrepreneur Center, a start-up incubator service of the Pasco Economic Development Council. He succeeds Krista Covey, who relocated to Texas for another startup position. [Courtesy of Pasco EDC]
  4. What you need to know for Tuesday, Aug. 22


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, center, attends a hearing on Monday Circuit Court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater. The hearing was requested by attorneys representing John Houde, left, who filed a motion to invalidate the sale of a $458,000 Redington Beach condo, a deal orchestrated by Skelton, who stands accused of deliberately misleading bidders in a the June 8 foreclosure auction. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  5. Sarasota GOP names Dick Cheney 'Statesman of the Year'


    Former Vice President Dick Cheney will be honored as "Statesman of Year" by the Sarasota GOP, a title that twice went to Donald Trump.

    Dick and Liz Cheney