Come on, feel the metal

It would be easy to play innocent and imagine that Tim Cridland's day begins very much like anyone else's. Have breakfast, take a shower, brush teeth, comb hair. But Cridland is Zamora the Torture King, and his daily routine includes jamming sharpened bicycle spokes through his biceps and smashing concrete blocks on his chest; he'd be as likely to shove a toothbrush through his cheek as use it on his teeth. He has to accustom his body to such things so his performances in Zamora's Touring Sideshow will be flawless and, more important, painless and bloodless.

Zamora was a founder of The Jim Rose Circus, but left when it got too silly (three words: Mexican transvestite wrestling); apparently, circus freaks have ethics too. He wanted a sideshow of classical acts such as sword-swallowing and fire-eating--which he has been doing since he was 15--so he created a two-hour show that uses traditional sideshow acts combined with yoga, hypnosis, and pain transcendence. During the course of his show, Zamora dances on broken glass, breaks wooden staffs on his chest, stands on eggs without breaking them, bends hot metal with his bare hands, and suspends his full weight on a sword blade. He also eats light bulbs and follows up with The Internal Floss--he swallows a piece of twine, makes an incision in his abdomen, and pulls out the twine with forceps. And, because he says traditional acts aren't exciting enough to drag people away from television and movies, he spices them up. Sure, Zamora does the traditional the laying-on-a-bed-of-nails gag, but only when four audience members stand on him or a Volkswagen Jetta drives over him.

Zamora's Touring Sideshow also features Flexx the Rubber Boy and George "The Giant" McArthur. Flexx, who can dislocate both shoulders, begins his act by wiggling himself through such objects as an unstrung tennis racket and a toilet seat. He is also a master of enterology, the art of getting into small spaces rather than escaping from them. His highlight is the D-escape, in which he climbs into a straitjacket, chains his own legs together, and then encloses himself in a box the size of a small pet carrier. It would be an even better trick if it involved McArthur, who measures in at 7 feet 3 inches.

--Shannon Sutlief

Zamora's Touring Sideshow happens Friday at Club Clearview, 2803 Elm St. The Phantom Rockers open. Admission is $5, and doors open at 9 p.m. Call (214) 939-0077.

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Shannon Sutlief