I was a friend of John’s, we met in 2007 on the way to the Sideshow Gathering in Pennsylvania. I got a ride there with him and Bob Blackmar, and on that ride he told me story after story of life on the road. As a young sideshow performer myself, it was a very inspirational car ride. I ended up rooming with him at the hotel and there he showed me his old scrap books from the days when he ran his own show, told me stories about Otis Jordan and even gave me one of his old pitch cards and some magic wonder mice on top of that! When he spoke about the old shows and Coney Island, I felt like I was there. I felt like a little kid again, seeing a sideshow for the first time. During the course of the next few days we talked and joked, gossiped about what was going on in the world of sideshow, we talked about Jam Auctions and pitching and his dream of moving to the Philippines and pitching there. He gave me his “seal of approval” that weekend and it has really meant a lot to me.
John had such a colorful history, he was friends with most of the sideshow greats, he knew so much and had so many stories to share. Sadly the stories he didn’t get to tell, won’t be heard. The ones he did tell though, will be forever remembered by his friends and passed down to other generations.
I will always remember John as a passionate, caring person that had a hunger for the strange side of life. He affected so many people in his lifetime, including myself. He was an inspiration to me and everyone in the business. John Bradshaw, will be remembered as the man that started the Coney Island Sideshow, a show that is now world famous. Without John’s contributions to sideshow, who knows what shape the business would be in today, he helped peak the publics interest, therefore giving guys like me a job. The sideshow community thanks him for that.
John will live on in the hearts of showmen, sword swallowers, blockheads, glass eaters and fire breathers, historians and fans of the strange. His legacy will continue.