Boardwalk Sideshows (Gone)
Seaside Heights, New Jersey
By any measure, the shore town of Seaside Heights is a freak magnet. Like other Jersey beach havens, this town's garish boardwalk of bars, arcade games and rickety rides thrive each summer. Yet Seaside Heights creates its own unique experience, especially when crowded with the bored and the desperate on weekends.
On the north end, MTV controls the sand, broadcasting the barely clad antics of frat boys with no necks and their feminine counterparts. Stretching to the south are countless souvenir shops, body piercing surgeries and temp tattoo parlors. Walking in both directions, the eating-disordered peacefully co-mingle; size zero wraiths skitter towards the public purge stations, while modern day Hindenburgs gently dock at the nearest Italian sausage stand.
It is great fun to stroll the boardwalk, much as our forefathers did; and not without a few roadside rewards...
The more upscale and family-oriented Casino Pier offers three muffler men in close proximity. Two half-wits -- one on an elevated miniature golf course -- and a classic M-man. They are moved around a bit each summer, and undergo occasional makeovers (the classic was a Bunyan on our last visit).
Heading south along the arcade promenade, more exotic attractions scream for attention, such as two sideshow booths, the World's Smallest Woman, and the World's Smallest Horse.
The horse is in a pit in the center of a barn-like gazebo. Bales of hay block a free glimpse, so the curious will have to cough up 50. Signs promise the little equine is "Alive," and in the 95 F degree afternoon heat, this isn't necessarily a sure thing.
"10 inches at birth, now fully grown!"
"A HORSE, NOT A PONY."
The horse languishes in this seashore confinement, no attempt at showmanship in the spirit of places like the Land of Little Horses or the nun-run mini-horse farm in Texas. The cashier has no tales of small animal adventure, and seems as miserable as the tiny horse.
We quickly move on to the next spectacle. The World's Smallest Woman is on display in her own booth, a cheery house facade. For a dollar (Special today!) you can see her 29 inch stature and disproportionate bosom, to judge by the poster. She appears as a diminutive Oprah, waiting for our visit. Again, we are assured she is ALIVE, and not just some stitched together, shrunken-headed doll.
We appreciate the classic sideshow hype; no doubt hundreds each day part with a buck to see those size #2 feet and tiny hands.
You can see the World's Smallest Woman yourself if you get to Seaside Heights by Labor Day weekend....