Heavy lifting 

Jim Rose Circus returns to the town where it made its debut

What: Jim Rose Circus

Where: GLC

When: May 11, doors at 9:30 p.m.

Four wrestling Mexican transvestites could be part of your entertainment this weekend.

If you can stand the pain.

The Oxford dictionary may define circus as a "n. scene of lively action, an arena for sports and games," but the Jim Rose Circus show offers up its own unique definition.

Since the Jim Rose Circus made its professional debut at Buffalo Bill’s 11 years ago performances have always included people lifting extremely heavy things from various vital body parts, taking pop culture to a whole new Dadaist level.

"All the action is below the family belt – with eight or nine new surprises!" crows Rose, mastermind of the show.

Balancing lawnmowers on the upper lip, and various tattooed and pierced people with contortion skills are things you might see.

Comments on body modification and discussions of self-mutilation are part of the Ambient inc. Web site, where the Jim Rose Circus link can be found, and piercer and piercee exchange views.

Make no mistake, there’s pain involved. But that isn’t the focus of conversations.

Rose, who has always found Canadian audiences extremely supportive of his show, posted his Web site to a .ca address for that reason.

In a program chock full of things to catch the eye, it’s hard to imagine what those could be for a person like Rose, who comes across by phone as congenial, well-spoken, and with the air of an experienced show performer.

"The U.S. is a bunch of entrepreneurial promoter sharks, OK?" he says, from a hotel room in Chilliwack, where he’s taken his crew to practice.

He quickly emphasizes the support of Canadian promoters.

"Twelve years ago most artists came from Ireland, hands down, and now they come from Canada, and promoters here will takes risks with things that are new."

His shows have always revelled in the shocking and the extreme, with characters like Lifto, Trailor Trash Guerro and Billy Martinez the Barrio Bottom.

Rose has been performing since elementary school in Arizona, where he attended a school for performing arts. After writing a wacky school play in Grade 6, show direction seemed to be his destiny. Director Steven Spielberg and Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter are among the school’s graduates.

Growing up next to state fairgrounds, Rose worked a soft drink vending stand at age 12, where he saw bands like the Doors and Jimi Hendrix pass through.

Rose got into acting before developing his show. After making their debut at Buffalo Bill’s the Circus then played Vancouver and a college circuit. Lollapalooza ’92 thrust his taste for the weird into the limelight, and he then toured with bands Nine Inch Nails and a then unknown Marilyn Manson.

And just what is the continuing appeal of his shows?

"Maybe I’m a trainspotter, seeing trends before they become popular. I mean now a guy with two tattoos and an earring is your next-door neighbour, right?" says Rose.

"I think the appeal of the show is that [audience] get to see something before it becomes popular. I wrinkled my brain along the way!" he laughs.

In a good way, a bad way, or another way?

"Oh in a good way. I made a documentary entirely about the brain," he adds. BBC produced the special, aptly titled, The Brain, which was covered by the Wall Street Journal, and Hustler magazine, all in the same month.

That dichotomy is not unlike Rose’ life.

In private, he takes long walks on the beach with his wife of 14 years, Bebe, in Maui, Hawaii, where he lives.

"Being the persona of Jim Rose, I don’t mind that at all, but I play golf five times a week, and do a lot of gardening. That’s probably my real world."

Rose’s work has been documented on video, through Rick Rubin’s American Recordings, and in print in the book he penned called Freak Like Me.

That book was completed in just 11 days.

"Eleven days sounds like an impossibility, but these are stories I told a thousand times to people in bars. I wrote that book in my head in bars for years – it took a lifetime."

Catch the spectacle of the weird at the Jim Rose Circus on May 11 at the GLC.


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