'Penguinpalooza' for the Illustrated Penguin at Sideshows by the Seashore

Coney weirdos stage benefit super-show for fallen freak

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Freaks gotta stick together — and in Coney Island, that’s just what they’re doing.

The oddest inhabitants of the People’s Playground are throwing a sideshow extravaganza aimed at lending a hand — though it might not look like any hand you’ve ever seen — to one of their own.

Last month, Jason Brott — called “The Illustrated Penguin” for his extensive body art, short stature, and having hands but no arms — was forced to leave Sideshows by the Seashore to get medical care in his native Baltimore for complications related to his rare condition.

His departure from the famous freak show, where he won fans over the past two years by performing on the bed of nails and inserting metal spikes into his nasal cavity, has worried his friends.

“We’re all of us, a really close-knit family,” said Ray Valenz, who joined the sideshow at the same time as Brott two years ago. “Now the worry level is up, and he’s on everyone’s thoughts.”

Valenz — a hype man, fire-eater, and grandnephew of rocker Ritchie Valens of “La Bamba” fame — said he knew Brott was struggling not just physically but financially, too, with hospital bills and living expenses.

So he and the Penguin’s friends decided to help.

“I thought, ‘We do shows all the time for our own gain, so why not do a show to benefit Penguin?’ ” Valenz said.

And so Valenz conceived “Penguinpal­ooza,” a one-night only super-sideshow spectacle, where all of the proceeds go to Brott.

The fund-raising event will star Coney’s favorite freaks including Amazon snake-handler Serpentina, pierced power-lifter Baron von Geiger, and burlesque queen Lefty Lucy, among others. Even Sideshows by the Seashore and Mermaid Parade founder Dick Zigun will come out of semi-retirement to help Brott, a performer Zigun has known for over 10 years.

“I love Penguin so much I plan to get on stage at his benefit and certainly embarrass myself,” Zigun, the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Coney Island,” said.

Valenz said the show will also feature an auction for one-of-a-kind Coney prizes, including a special event banner from the sideshow’s in-house artist Marie Roberts, along with items from Coney Island Lager maker Shmaltz Brewery, boardwalk wood-repurposer Huckster Fabrication, and the sideshow’s own gift shop.

“The whole community is coming together to support him so he can not only pay his medical bills but live like a regular person,” Valenz said.

Penguinpalooza at Sideshows by the Seashore [3006 W. 12th St. at Surf Avenue, (718) 372–5159 in Coney Island,]. Aug. 29, 9 pm, $15.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at Follow him on Twitter at

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.