Eli Bowen (“The Legless Acrobat”)and Charles Tripp (“The Armless Wonder”) were turn of the century human marvels. They performed feats of dexterity and strength for circus and carnival sideshow audiences. They are most famous for a single photograph. It shows the two riding a tandem bicycle, using the only limbs they had. Bowen steered with his arms while Tripp peddled with his legs.
That old photograph guides episode 7 of AMC’s Freakshow. Jesse Stitcher, the Half Man, and Jim Goldman, the Armless Wonder visit the Venice BeachFreakshow to talk about their lives and their successes, and to demonstrate that there isn’t anything they can’t do. They’ve played sports, and they’ve worked successfully outside of the sideshow. Jim is shown shaving and threading a needle with his clever feet. At the end of the episode, they do ride a tandem bike down the Venice Beach boardwalk, with Jesse steering and Jim peddling.
The episode is a nice lesson about the capabilities of those who aren’t like everyone else, but I do take issue with Todd Ray’s seeming belief that the performers who inspired the episode, Bowen and Tripp, merely posed on a bike rather than riding it. Of course they had to pose for the slow shutter of an antique camera. We have no reason to think that they couldn’t actually ride a tandem bike together.
The episode also includes the Ray family dilemma over whether or not to have Chang and Eng, the conjoined bearded dragons, surgically separated. The two beardies don’t seem particularly comfortable, but who can really tell? After a visit to the vet and an x-ray that indicates that the surgery is possible, the Ray family ultimately decides to leave the dragons as nature made them. Surgical risks are great when pets are involved. And, let’s face it, separating the two would be a terrible business decision…”and now presenting the formerly conjoined Chang and Eng!”
Episode 7 was entertaining and informative, and it continued to show us what truly sets the Venice Beach Freakshow apart…the human wonders.