When Tim Cridland was a junior high kid in Pullman, Wash., hed take sewing pins in his home economics class and push them through his forearm skin.
It was the start of a long career.
I learned quickly that this was something that could amuse my classmates, he remembers, but not amuse my teachers.
Cridland, who has spent the past two decades defeating pain as The Torture King, is the main attraction of Hellzapoppin, a traveling sideshow revue. The blend of vaudeville and freak show makes a stop Friday, Aug. 17, at Neurolux, 111 N. 11th St. in Boise (9 p.m., $10).
When I reach him by phone, its the noon hour. Whats he eating for lunch? A light bulb?
Thats actually dinner for the show, he says. I stay away from those until nighttime.
In addition to chewing and swallowing lighting equipment, Cridland likes to lie on a bed of nails while audience members stand on him. (I try to get at least 1,000 pounds of people weight stepping on top of me.) He swallows a string, then tugs it out through an incision in the front of his torso. (Ick.)
He plunges skewers through his face and the deep tissue of his arm a jarring display that caused fainting at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally last week. The Hellzapoppin show performed seven straight days at Sturgis, Cridland says, separated from the crowd by a barricade.
Right in the front row, theres this huge biker guy, Cridland says. He kind of slid down that.
The skewers are painful to watch. Perhaps even more uncomfortable than they are for Cridland, who uses his mind to alter his reaction to pain. (Doctors at the UCLA Pain Management Clinic hooked him up to machines to try to figure this out.)
Yet Cridland, 48, is normal enough to talk to. His fascination with body control began innocently as a kid raised near two universities with a professor for a dad.
It kind of came out of magic, he says. A lot of kids were into card tricks and stuff like this. But there was one book I had that had magic tricks, but also descriptions of the Middle East and sword swallowers. What intrigued me about that was this was the real thing. This wasnt a trick.
Since Ive been very young, Ive had a different relationship or idea of what pain is. I wasnt really buying into the mass idea of pain.
Hey, its a living. Hes a regular on cable TV, where hes been on shows such as Ripleys Believe It or Not! and Stan Lees Superhumans.
But Hellzapoppin is more than just Cridland. Its billed as an underground rock n roll circus, complete with dark humor, burlesque dancers and stunt performers including a Swedish sword swallower named Maryanne Madgdelen.
Jamming metal down your throat normally is Cridlands territory, but, It looks better to have a pretty girl do sword swallowing, he explains.
Cridland is meticulous about his techniques. Hes a stickler for sterilizing those skewers. Hes never been hospitalized from his act. Occasionally, though, he does experience a second thought when he performs.
Like the time he let an SUV drive over him while lying on a bed of nails.
You see a car tire a few inches from your face, he says, its never a good feeling.
- Reckless Kelly fans are probably wondering why the raucous country-rock acts next Boise gig is Feb. 1, 2013, at the seated but larger Morrison Center. Did the band outgrow the Knitting Factory?
Dont worry, this wont be a quiet evening with Reckless Kelly! multi-instrumentalist and singer Cody Braun explains via email. We are just trying something different. We will be doing several theater shows next year and plan on working up a show that is geared for that type of venue. ...
We have not outgrown the Knitting Factory, Braun adds, but have outgrown the way they treat the band and mostly our fans. At the Morrison Center nobody will be pushed around by meathead bouncers or screamed at to get the f--- out of here the second the show is over.
Ouch. Bands and venues do sour on one another. Thats life. So it only seems fair to hear from the Knit.
Its obviously upsetting that Mr. Braun feels that way, says Knitting Factory Entertainment COO Greg Marchant. We take pride in the many strong relationships weve earned over the years, and wed certainly be willing to sit down and discuss any issues with this band outside of a public forum.
- Hypnotist and comedian J Medicine Hat, who performed many times in Boise, died this week. A few more details are on my blog.
- Also on the blog, Im giving away tickets to the Joe Walsh show Aug. 22 at the Revolution Center.
Michael Deeds column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life.