They've performed at the Lincoln Center in New York City with Ornette Coleman and Laurie Anderson, been censored in most of the 50 states, and been denied entry to Canada on at least one occasion. They're the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, and for the past four years the New York-based troupe has toured the country, providing curious audiences with the kind of grotesque, marginally exploitative spectacle that was long ago cleansed from family entertainment-oriented circuses like Barnum & Bailey's.
Mr. Pennygaff swallows swords, corkscrews, and coat hangers at the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.
San Francisco crowds have long been obsessed with the strange and absurd, and the Bindlestiffs understand that a good, old-fashioned freak show should not be confined to a shadowy tent, but appreciated as the main event in itself. It is in this spirit they invite you to be a rube on the midway for Philomena, the lovely broken glass-walker who also wields a mean whip; Kinko the Human Blockhead, who uses a power tool to drill holes in himself where there were never meant to be any; and Mr. Pennygaff, the sword-swallower who also has a hankering for wire hangers and other unusual objects. These are just a few of the human freaks who will be on display when the Bindlestiffs hit town; watch, as well, for the Autonomadic Bookmobile, selling subversive titles too hot for even some of San Francisco's seedier stores. Show times are 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at CELL Space, 2050 Bryant (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is $8-15; call (510) 848-1463.