Friday, November 17, 2006

Step right up and save the marvelous Mr. Sideshow.

In beginning my studies of the tattoo community and tattoo history, local artist Permanent Mark (who did the triskell behind my ear) told me about the man in the photo above.

That man is Captain Don Leslie, a living legend in both the tattoo and sideshow communities. The Captain worked in the sideshow for 42 years. He is a tattooed man, a sword swallower, an artist, a firebreather and a true performer.

Permanent Mark has a painting in his shop that the Captain made for him. It features PM as a sideshow performer, like Leslie was. It is designed like the old sideshow promotional banners that the Captain lived so many years under.

Leslie's own writings and interviews with the writers I'm studying have been incredibly helpful in my research. Had I the means to get to Chico and the time to do so, PM would have helped me interview Leslie myself.

But it seems that, at this juncture, that will be impossible.

Captain Don Leslie was diagnosed in August with terminal cancer of the mouth and throat. He was given 6 months to live. At times, he cannot speak. This, I feel, would be absolute agony.

Madame Chinchilla and Mr. G at Triange Tattoo & Museum in Humboldt county have set up donation fund for the Captain to make his final days more bearable. You all can read about that here. Donate if you can, if you're interested in helping someone who has lead such an incredible and full life.

The Captain is one of the last remaining vestiges of a performance tradition that pushed the human body to its limits. The fact that his marvelous body is now failing him is really the irony of show business.

He is an amazing man--and I hope that Chinchilla and Mr. G will receive enough donations to help his final days be as good as they can be.

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