The Yard Dogs Traveling Road Show is rolling back into town, ready to prove that a Yard Dog can, indeed, learn new tricks. "Nail your hat to your head and hide the wine," says the carny's barker, Eddy Joe Cotton. "Did I mention the Œdancing girls, dancing girls, dancing girls'?"
Born as Zebu Recchia, Cotton spent much of his youth haunting Denver's seedier pool halls before hopping trains across America. Those experiences turned into his critically acclaimed book, Hobo, and led him to Tobias the Mystic Man at the Hall & Christ "World of Wonders." Tobias and Cotton quickly became friends and assembled a quirky crew of traveling tramps, each of whom honed a carnival skill and became part of a burlesque-inspired jug band and sideshow christened the Yard Dogs. "Seems the talent comes out of the hustle. For some of us, the hustle was there first," Cotton says. "Maybe we were just trying to get by, and this seemed like a good way to do it. It was like that when I worked for the carnival, too. Everyone had a hustle."
Fire-and-brimstone- swallowing Hell-vis, electrifying Guitar Boy and the stunning beauties of Black and Blue Burlesque will join Tobias and Cotton on stage, where a junk band will play, swords will be swallowed and trombones will howl. "We're vaudeville -- or a modern version of vaudeville," says the always dapper Cotton. "Historically, the closest thing we come to is a mix of old-time carnival girl show and real old-time medicine show. Throw in a well-dressed homeless man trying to sell you his shoes outside a bus depot so he can buy a Greyhound ticket to see his mom, and you'll get the Yard Dogs Road Show."
The Yard Dogs will amaze townies at 9 p.m. tonight and tomorrow at Bender's Tavern, 314 East 13th Avenue. Admission to tonight's show is $6, with Oakhurst opening; tomorrow's cover is $7, with Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots warming things up. For more information, call 303-861-7070 or visit www.eddyjoecotton.com/yarddogs.html. -- Kity Ironton
Get Your Freak On THURS, 3/31
You all remember that kid in junior high whose only schoolyard talent was a proclivity for self-abuse and grotesque theatrics -- especially if you were the shrewd hooligan who collected lunch money from spectators during recess. Dallas journalist J. Dee Hill has penned a book on these glue-eaters and amateur staple-ists, who've grown up and graduated to more extreme exhibitions of contortion, sword-swallowing and electrocution. Freaks & Fire: The Underground Reinvention of the Circus profiles a dozen alternative sideshow troupes, with photographs of their curious vaudeville by Phil Hollenbeck. Hill's is the first book to examine the rise of the alternative circus as an outsider-cult phenomenon, and it includes a section on the Yard Dogs Road Show, which is in town tonight and tomorrow at Bender's Tavern (see story, left). Copies will be on hand for signing by hometown hobo Eddy Joe Cotton after the Yard Dogs' performances. For event information, call 303-861-7070; for more on Hill and his book, visit www.softskull.com. -- Jared Jacang Maher
On the Wild Side FRI, 4/1
When Bob Berkeley, an avid collector of mid-century design, retired his retail outlet, Wazee Deco, he was left with an empty gallery space to fill. So his son, Roy, stepped in and reshaped the room -- which is adjacent to the Berkeleys' photography studio at 383 Corona Street -- in his own slightly left-of-center vision. The result is The Other Side of Wazee Deco, a showcase for the kind of artwork that Roy calls "a little weird" -- not to mention fun and silly. We prefer to tag it "daring over-the-sofa art for folks with a sometimes dark sense of humor."
As an introduction to the gallery, Berkeley will host an April Fool's Day grand opening tonight from 6 to 9 p.m., featuring a sale of artist trading cards -- mini-masterpieces that are among the most affordable forms of art on the planet. Proceeds will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; for more information, call 303-298-1188. -- Susan Froyd
Lip Shtick Let's do the Time Warp again. FRI, 4/1
Some of my fondest adolescent memories are of driving into the big city with my best friend to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For two tormented teens questioning their sexuality, the film, with its sexually ambiguous/adventurous characters and its liberating theme of "Don't dream it, be it" was a lifesaver. So I was thrilled to find out that the Colorado Elusive Ingredient found a new home for its shadow-cast Rockyshow at the Oriental Theatre, 4335 West 44th Avenue. Starting tonight, the glorious playhouse will host the midnight delight, offering up an accommodating stage, shabby-but-elegant design and aging-starlet ambience. What better setting for virgin sacrifices? Tickets, $7, can be purchased at the door or in advance at www.orientaltheatre.net.
Meanwhile, across town -- way, way across town -- the Pinnacle Dinner Theatre, 9136 West Bowles Avenue, is staging its own Rocky Horrorproduction. Now, I'm a hopeless nerd and a loyal fan after all these years, but even I am having trouble swallowing the idea of Dr. Frank-N-Furter at a dinner theater in the 'burbs. Still, Brad, Janet and everyone's favorite Transylvanians are stepping into the lights beginning this Wednesday, April 6, for a ten-week run. Denver's own Bat Boy, Nick Sugar, will play the good doctor -- and he may well be the production's saving grace. Might we assume Meat Loaf will be served?