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.


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