Venice Beach Freakshow performers and fans hold defiant last stand as it shuts down after 11 years, a bearded lady also get married
The Venice Beach Freakshow has shut down after 11 years, blaming growing tech company Snap for taking over their building. Performer Jessica Holmstead, the bearded lady, marked the day by getting married.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (APRIL 30, 2017) (REUTERS) – The Venice Beach Freak Show, a staple tourist attraction for the past 11 years, has shut its doors for the final time on Sunday (April 30) with a celebration – the wedding of the Bearded Lady.
Hundreds gathered in front of the building to cheer on Jessica Holmstead, 32, who wore a long blue crushed velvet dress to offset her ginger beard, tying the knot with Craig Burlingame, 49, her boyfriend. Holmstead holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for the longest female beard.
Surrounding them as they exchanged their vows were some of the Freakshow performers, Asia and Morg who swallow swords, Bob Heslip ‘the bubble boy’, who suffers from Neurofibromatosis, a genetic disease that causes lumps to form over his entire body, and others.
But while the troupe and hundreds of supporters celebrated, they were protesting at the same time, accusing Snap, maker of the popular mobile messaging app Snapchat, of spoiling converting the stylishly funky beachfront neighborhood of Los Angeles into an corporate park, driving up real estate prices and displacing working-class residents.
“When the building was bought by their (Snap’s) investor friends, they immediately started talking about kicking us out,” said Todd Ray, 50, owner of the Venice Beach Freakshow. “So as far as I am aware, they (Snap) will be taking over the building and that’s it. It’s going to be an office and not the Freakshow,” he added.
Snap, part of the so-called Silicon Beach movement that has seen high-tech firms flocking to Southern California’s coast, occupied a single seaside bungalow at its inception four years ago but has since expanded to multiple properties within Venice and adjacent Marina del Rey.
The protesters accuse Snap of buying up whole blocks of real estate and illegally using many properties zoned for residential use as office space.
“Frosted glass, stainless steel, go elsewhere. Not here man,” said 28-year-old sound engineer, Gal Bushy, who came to support the Freakshow cast on their last day. “This is the real deal. This is one of the few gems, one of the few authentic places in the world and this gentrification is going to ruin it.”
Breann Morris, a tourist from Las Vegas, says that while she feels bad for the Venice Beach Freakshow, she understands Snap as well. “When it comes to a space like this business is business, it is what it is.” she said.