Macabre Midway

Welcome to the land of rusty poles and panels, hastily assembled to dangle you hundreds of feet in the air. Only careful maneuvering will keep you from trampling in mud, discarded Frito pies and puddles of vomit. A wide boulevard is filled with overheated teenagers exercising their groping skills while toddlers attach cotton candy to unwary strangers. Willing suckers step forward to pay $3 to capture a poor-quality stuffed animal or a NASCAR-embossed mirror. Yep, there's nothing like a carnival.

It's only natural that after years of clutching wads of ride tickets while munching on an undercooked corn dog, you may long for amusement that's more sophisticated. Those familiar with The Church--the Lizard Lounge's goth alter ego--will know that a carnival hosted there is bound to be more adult than what you'd find at any fairgrounds or supermarket parking lot. And so it is with the Carnal Carnival, a faintly fetish-flavored festival featuring fashion shows, burlesque and modern dancers and sideshow freaks.

Visitors will be welcomed to the fair by Wicked Jello, John Chaos, Freaky Love, Mr. N. Visible and Bizzaro, all featured performers in Bizzaro's Future Circus. If you have the stomach for it, these sideshow performers will torture their bodies for your sadistic pleasure. These folks thrust their faces into shards of glass, puncture themselves with sharp metal objects and swallow all kinds of non-tasty, non-edible items. We cringe during an eyebrow wax.

Odds are high that the pale, pierced and tattooed will also be out in force--especially on the runways, showing off the fashions of Jennifer McCarty of Sacred Heart Rubber and Tracy Robertson (aka Batty) of Azrael's Accomplice Designs. Austin-based McCarty molds rubber to her creative will and into a variety of bras, skirts and other fashions, while Robertson expresses "style and grace with a hint of rebel" in her edgy women's wear.

The carnival atmosphere might even induce some fetish models to slip out of their street wear into something more scandalous. The ladies of Burlesque on the Fringe plan to do exactly that, putting their own unique spin on the classic art of striptease. The troupe includes Jami Deadly, a "cross between a 1950s blond bombshell and queen of the undead"; Athena Fatale, a saucy dominatrix and master--uh, mistress--of the whip; and Angela Ryan, a sultry redhead with "a very extensive wardrobe of naughty costumes." Their routine will keep the audience on their toes since, as Deadly says, "Putting on a good show is just as important as taking off our costumes!" Couldn't have said it better.

Woven between and within these acts is a three-part production by performance art dance company Esprit de Corps. The group, which was the opening act at last year's Fetish Ball, will tell the story of a proper lady who, upon a visit to the carnival, is tempted by some "ladies of the night" to become one of them. We won't tell you the ending of this singing and dancing spectacle--mostly because we don't know it, but also because we don't want to spoil the enticing performances by Toni Pollard as the lady and Leslie Cramer as the madam plus a troupe of other talented dancers.

Sadism, rubber, carnies--we're not saying it's for everyone. Adventurous tastes may be whetted, and tame tastes may be challenged, but, hey, at least you probably won't be throwing up as much as you would on the Zipper.