Those daring performers with hooks in their knees.
This entry is not for the faint of heart. During the Hampton Roads Tattoo Festival, I discovered a lot of things and this was one of the most uncomfortable and incredible shows I ever experienced. Let’s face it; experienced is the best word here. The show was heart stopping and visceral; pulling the crowd in and including them in the horrifying majesty which is a TDH suspension show. I’ll give you one more warning: In BOLD this time “Suspension is hanging by hooks placed through the skin”. If this scares you or makes you queasy please just wait till my next blog post and skip this one. However, if you like the strange and unusual and are intrigued by people who take entertainment to a different level than you are used to then we are going to have some fun.
Now if you’ve read my about me page you know I briefly mention I was a radio DJ in the 80’s and 90’s when we became local celebrities and regularly appeared before large crowds. Whether introducing the next act at a concert or hanging out giving away cash at the local mall before “Tiffany” came out and performed for 300 screaming fans. The point I’m getting at is a little taste of celebrity taught me I thrive on the crowd like a vampire subsists on blood. I know entertainment believe me; I hung out with New Kids on the Block and can define both torture and entertainment. Ok it was for one performance with NKOTB but still it wasn’t pretty!
The PA system announced Team Throw Dem Hooks (TDH) would be on stage performing and I grabbed my gear and all of my pre-conceptions then headed over there. My first impression was how professional everyone involved seemed to be. Mandy was the performer being hooked up and about to be lifted above the crowd. The rigging was strung in such a way that suggested confidence, experience and, as I mentioned, professionalism. Once I found a good spot I decided that trust was an important word to add to my notes. I had absolutely no doubt that Mandy implicitly trusted the men handling the preparations and I actually became more excited about the event and started working my way around to get a better angle.
The handlers began lifting Mandy very smoothly and as strange as it sounds very gently. She was lifted to about four feet and suddenly one of the handlers pushed her to get her swinging and the show was on. Mandy’s swing took her from the wall to the very edge of the stage. Like others there I gasped and cringed a bit; after all here’s an attractive girl with hooks through her skin hanging off D-rings from the ceiling with an unexpected look of bliss on her face.
I had been told how strong skin is and knew it was the largest human organ but I had NO idea it was this strong. Several times I just watched in awe through my lens as the skin, obviously taut, fully supported each performer. After several minutes Mandy returned to earth and the handlers cut her free. From my vantage point the small holes made by the hooks were the only damage and the elasticity in the skin pulled it back to its original shape.
I quickly moved around the stage as the emcee kept the audience entertained and our next performer was being prepared. On stage Kyleena had a hook on both sides of each knee and was about to be suspended upside-down. Again I was speechless but knew I had to act. I spoke to one of the other cast members, Cat, who got me permission to be on stage under the rigging and out of the way. All I could do was continue shooting and drink in the spectacle. I do not mean that as anything but complimentary. The more I replay the show in my mind the harder it becomes to offer a negative viewpoint. These are talented performers cut from the cloth of Barnum’s side shows keeping people entertained and mesmerized.
It’s not for everyone but you should take the time to investigate for yourself and experience the visceral thrill the show offers. I guarantee suspension will get your heart pumping and leave you wishing the show were longer.