Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Coney Island Freaks

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Talking to Strangers: Coney Island Freaks

People always ask, "How do you swallow a sword?" It's like, "How do you have an orgasm? I don’t really know how to explain it to you."

by Anita Flores


Ray Valenz and Betty Bloomerz

Ray,  you’re the host of the Coney Island Sideshow. How long have you been hosting?
Ray: This is my third year as host.

You do the human blockhead trick.  In the very beginning how did you know you were capable of doing it? Was there terrible trial and error?
Ray: In the very beginning there was no trial and error. I just jammed something in my face and thought it was neat and I learned how to do it without hurting myself and now here we are.

So you and your sister, Betty Bloomerz, are both in the show. Did you come up in sideshow together?
Ray: We actually found our own ways separately. I started out as a magician.
Betty: We’ve been like, best frenemies ever since we’ve known each other. So as brother and sister, Ray, you’re like the stink to my barf.
Ray: You are the beauty to my beast.

In your act you threw an apple at me. Do you have any remorse about that? Have you ever scared the shit out of audience members before?
Ray: I have no remorse about throwing the apple at you. I would’ve have thrown myself at you had it been appropriate. I’ve scared a good amount of people with the electric chair bit. I bring girls up, sit them in the electric chair and zap them for five minutes. It’s like torture that they have to put up with and I get to do it eight times a day, five days a week.

Do you ever pull girls from the audience that you want to sleep with?
Ray: Guilty as charged. There are an elite group of women I like to bring onstage. I call them the “high voltage hotties.” I bring up the hottest girl in the audience, a lot of things come into account for the hottest girl. Is she with a guy? Does he look like her dad? How is she dressed? I bring up someone that’s eye candy, then I make suggestive jokes the entire time, give them a little wink.

Do you date within the sideshow community or do you try and venture outside out of it for dating prospects?
Ray: I don’t date sideshow performs anymore because my ex-girlfriend turned out to be using me to get into the sideshow. So when things deteriorated that was the big and she can’t work at the sideshow. Now I exclusively try to go after women that have nothing to do with the sideshow. Regular girls think I’m like…

Criss Angel?
Ray: Don’t say that! They think I’m like the rock and roll guy that their daddies warned them about which you know, so yeah I like normal girls.

So Betty, do men ever try and hit on you after shows? What do they say?
Betty: It depends on if they’re drunk or not. But they’ll usually come at me very aggressively about sword swallowing like, “I bet a lot of guys ask you if you can do this or that.” Or they’ll play it real sweet like, “Where are you living? How did you get into this? Do you have a boyfriend, is he in the show?” So they’re either kind of psycho or they’re just crude right off the bat.

What about preppy dudes? You like them?
Betty: I think preppy guys are into anything that looks like oral sex. Obviously they see a girl swallowing a sword and it has the connotation of oral sex.

So people asking you about sword swallowing and oral sex?
Betty: Women will come up to me after shows like, “Can you show me how to do that?” But you know, it’s so much harder with a guy because with a sword you can stop and pull it out but if you’re with somebody and they’re getting carried away, you can’t really control what they’re doing as much. It’s like, how do you swallow a sword? How do you have an orgasm? I don’t fucking know how to explain it to you, good luck!

As a contortionist, is being able to bend your body in different ways make you more adventurous, sexually?
Ray: It’s like pretzels, fucking.

Why do you think people that do sideshow have a lot of tattoos?
Betty: It’s a sensory thing, it’s that needle grinding into your skin. For me, I just wanted to see what it felt like.
Ray: It’s all part of being an outsider, you know what I mean?
Betty: The people without tattoos, they’re the weird ones.

What is the biggest misconception about sideshow performers?
Ray: People think we’re these wild freaks that go home and swallow swords by ourselves because we’re just that weird. In my experience most people that work at this sideshow are super plain and not that wild when they’re outside of work. I bore myself when I’m not at work.

I hate meeting people at bars, are there any other places  I can meet people other than the internet?
Ray: I tend to find my favorite girls on trains and train station platforms. I’m like, “Hey you ride this train all the time? My name’s Ray.” And then it all goes from there.

Do you ever wear your stage outfits offstage when you’re being intimate?
Betty: Oh hell yeah, that’s where they come from. I just started wearing clothes on top of underwear.

My friend hasn't had sex since she and her boyfriend broke up a year ago. At what point should she be concerned that she hasn't been with anyone?
Ray: It is strange to go a year without sex. I hope she masturbated a lot. A year without sex. That’s a terrible year.

What is your idea of the perfect first date?
Ray: Come out to Coney Island, take them to the taco stand. A trip on the Wonder Wheel, the swinging car. Then fireworks on the beach, Friday night: seal the deal.

Can you tell me about your first romantic sleepover?
Ray: 16 years old, first time I’m gonna have sex. Beautiful girl I’ve had my eye on forever. I get drunk and 8 whiskey shots later this girl decides to drag me into the closet. I’m letting her do what she wants since I don’t know what I’m doing. Unfortunately I got whiskey dick, and so she called me the punk rock Bob Dole.

What do you like to wear to bed? I like to pretend you have a very normal routine.
Ray:  I like to wear an avocado mask to shrink the pores, I don’t snack.


Aaron, what is the devil’s threesome?
A devil’s threesome is two girls and one guy.

How did you realize your talents, how did you realize you could walk on glass?
I was born with a disease called Ehlers-Danlos , that made me naturally a contortionist. My bones and joints and skin are all elastic cells essentially so sideshow kind of found me. I moved to New York City and I was a vegan chef here and I was working with a girl who used to do the “bed of nails” at Coney Island sideshow and she introduced me to the scene here.

Your skin is stretchy including all appendages?
Yes I’ve hung weights from my penis for shows.

How far can you stretch your penis? Do the ladies like it?
Well, women don’t usually notice since it only stretches when it’s limp. When it’s hard, it is what it is. The farthest I’ve stretched it is 15 inches, almost down to my knees. But it’s very elastic so the second I let go, my penis goes right back to it’s original size.

Do you have any sort of ritual of preparing for a full day of shows?
Yes. Putting on the clown make up. I wear clown face everyday all day long. Literally the only time I don’t have it on is when I’m sleeping. Waking up and looking into the mirror, turning into the clown is very ritualistic.

Has anyone ever gotten hurt from sword swallowing?
Many people have died sword swallowing and every sword swallower  I know has had a serious injury or almost died from doing it. I almost killed myself back in October sword swallowing.

Aaron, what would it take for you to be in actual pain or are you past that?
I feel pain. I don’t think I like pain as much as I like intensity. Like an orgasm in comparison to pain, it’s all the same to me as long as it’s not mediocre.

It sounds like pain and pleasure go together. Do women know this when they meet you, going into things?
I’m brutally honest on a first date, it’s absolutely gnarly what I will say to a girl on a first date. I know that I’m pretty fucked up, so I want to weed out the girls who aren’t very quickly. I’m just like right on the table, if you can’t handle what I’m saying then you’re probably not gonna be able to handle what I do to you in the bedroom.

Have you approached girls with blood on your face before, like fresh from a performance? Has that actually worked for you?
[Laughs] Yeah that has. That works quite frequently. Well you know, I’m the naked clown. Anywhere other than Coney Island I perform fully nude and you’d be surprised, if you take your clothes off in a bar, you’re the guy that girls wanna talk to. It happens quite frequently. The bloody naked clown gets laid quite frequently.

Are there sideshow groupies?
Yes. I’m dating one right now! I’ve slept with three and I’m dating one of them right now.

So what happens after a show, they just approach you?
Yes, this one kind of followed me for about a year, cyberstalking me and pounced on me whenever she was in New York. She’s like the uber sideshow groupie, she’s slept with anybody who’s anybody in sideshow.

Are there any sworn enemies of sideshow?
Well, I love sideshow and I love magic but when you mix the two I think it muddies the water if you have a magician at a sideshow. If one thing is an illusion then it all appears to be an illusion.

That’s like whenever I give away the secrets of glass dancing in my performance, the first thing I say is: “You know the biggest secret is that there’s not really a secret at all.” Things kind of are what they appear to be in the sideshow and they’re the exact opposite in magic.

Do people ask you about sword swallowing and oral sex?
Yeah, I tried to swallow a dildo and it doesn’t work because it’s too wide, but a blade goes down so nice.

As a contortionist, is being able to bend your body in different ways make you more adventurous, sexually?
I’m a contortionist and I’m currently sleeping with another contortionist…It’s pretty strange, we literally try to tie each other into knots.

I’m great at starting conversations, but I don’t know how to be flirtatious because I’m self conscious. What’s the first step towards flirting for a shy person?
Things exist in the contradiction of themselves. So if you’re shy do the opposite. Strip down naked in front of them. Don’t walk on eggshells around them, throw the fucking eggs in their face and then you’re like, “Well shit, there’s no fear.”

What do you guys like to wear to bed? I like to pretend you have a very normal routine.
I sleep in clown face and nothing else.