Funhouse Exit Girls

Funhouse Exit Girl AnnieI understand how from the outside it looks like I’ve been slacking off. There’s been no new videos on my channel, blog posts have been minimal, and I haven’t even been showing off a lot of new art. I have however been creating new art. For clients. I’ve been staying busy enough with freelance jobs that I can remove everything else from the “You’re not being productive enough” part of my brain which haunts me whenever I try to relax.

Recently I was asked to do a series of girls getting their skirts blown up. The client who contacted me about this told me about how back in the day at the carnival, just outside of the funhouse exit, there was a grate on the floor that would shoot up air to blow the skirts of the ladies. And it was outside this exit men would gather to bare witness. What he was asking for were a series of three drawings to commemorate this memory from his youth. These always turn out to be my most favorite jobs to dive into.

Funhouse Exit Girl Traci sketch
Funhouse Exit Girl Traci sketch

I have a folder I keep off to the side filled with people and things I hope to use for a drawing in some way or another. A majority of the images are of girls and other people I find beautiful or interesting. And several of these were referenced for this particular project, including Betty Page, Traci Lords from Crybaby, and Playboy’s Annie Fanny, which is probably the easiest to spot in these. And I knew they’d each make adorable Petty Girl style pieces.

I always begin with a sketch. And in this case I sketched all three ladies before bringing them to Illustrator for digitization. Then I trace the sketches in black and white. After the basics are complete I bring them onto the same page to unify them. Make sure they’re similar enough to be a set, but different enough to compliment each other. And then I start the search for a color scheme. In this case a Red, White & Blue theme worked perfectly for redhead, blond & black hair.

Funhouse Exit Girls in black & white
Funhouse Exit Girls in black & white

At each step along the way I make sure the client is happy with the way things are going, and I always leave room for revisions, tweaks and even a complete redraw at times. Then the final step in these was to make that funhouse exit background that would bring them all together.

I’m telling all of you this for two reasons. One is because I’m really proud of how these turned out and wanted to show them off. And the other, I love being hired for jobs like this, and for anyone who does hire me, this is how a job gets done.

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How to Document your Park

Aug 3, 2016
Hello Bob,

My names Atilio and I’m a 24 year old living in Calgary Alberta up north in Canada! I’m a huge fan and have been following your art for the last few years. I've been into photography for a few years now and after lot of thought and inspiration from your work I've decided I want to branch off into anthropology as well.

Calgary has a few locations not too different from Union Square and I’m going to try and create a documentary about the people of these areas. I was hoping I could get some advice from you as your art has been a huge factor in my decision to start this project!

I've never created a doc and really have no idea what I’m doing! What kind of equipment do you use for your videos and any advise that would help make the locals more receptive to being recorded and photographed? i hope to hear back from you and id really appreciate your time.

Best wishes,
-Atilio

 

Hey Atilio,
I'm definitely pleased to hear that I've inspired you to do something similar to what I was doing at Union.

Interestingly enough, when I first found myself at the Square I had no plans at all about documenting it in any way. I just fell in love with that park the minute I saw it. It was such an amazing place for people watching. It's those two factors that made it a great documentary possibility. #1 Amazing people watching. #2 Falling in love with the place.

It wasn't until after a couple years into hanging out there I realized I had to have a camera to start filming what I was witnessing there. At first I bought cheap little cameras that didn't exceed $200 and took mediocre photos, and really crappy videos. Mind you, this was around 2004 before digital photography & HD videos got as popular and affordable as they are now. And I'd already had the online presence with Jesus Dressup so I was ready with a platform to showcase my work.

Looking back, the thing I had most in my favor in regards to making people receptive to being photographed, and/or simply allowing me to shoot what I wanted whenever I wanted, was seniority. The more time I spent at that park and the more years that passed, the more comfortable I felt, and the people there just got used to me always being there. They'd even approach me wanting to be interviewed. Then when it came to filming the eccentric regulars like Wendell, Signs or the crusty punks who'd normally shun photographers, I was able to develop a relationship with them before pulling out the camera at all. As time passed and I reached the 8 to 10 year mark I was permitted to film almost whatever I wanted because the people there simply knew who I was, what I was doing, and were even there to back me up if I looked like I might be getting a bit nosey to someone unfamiliar with me. Then it wasn't until probably 2012 or so that I really developed a skill for interviewing. Now that I think about it, that started with me interviewing Shaggy for Year In Reviews. That's probably when I discovered I could basically use the same method of getting information out of anyone.

It also didn't hurt making it all into a game on the postcards to get people involved. Having something tangible to show gave me credit of sorts when approaching strangers and getting them interested in being interviewed on camera.

Around 2008 or so, after the Amazing Strangers section of my site started to actually get noticed by making the Peepers famous I had a fan email me telling me to "Check your PO Box." When I got to the post office, inside waiting for me was a brand new $500 Canon Powershot SX50 HS. I asked the anonymous emailer why he got it for me and what he wanted in return for such an expensive gift. He simply replied "I'm sick of watching the crappy quality of your stuff, but I love what you're doing there." All I had to do was promise him I'd continue to document and upload NYC for him to see. That began my love for the Canon Powershot. And it's the 2012 model that I prefer most. It has the most dependable mic, the farthest zoom reach, and has lasted the longest of the followup models I bought later.

As for editing, I've always just preferred the iMovie program that came with my Mac. As long as I was able to move audio & video around easily, and maybe a few special effect options like slow motion and fading clips together I had all I needed. All of it I found easy to teach myself over the years.

Since I started the one thing I wish I would have invested in earlier would have to be external hard drives. I've lost plenty of photos and videos that I'd give anything to have back simply because I was a cheapskate and put off buying something to back everything up on. Now I have a stack of them, and I'm so pleased to have everything safely saved in several places. In my opinion getting something like a 3 terabyte Toshiba is easily affordable, will store years and years of footage, and could save you lots of heartache in the future.

I think the biggest challenge for you will be finding a place as easy to find subject matter as Union Square was for me. I've asked people from all over the world (who were visiting NYC) if they've ever seen a park like Union in their travels, and almost unanimously the response has been, "Nope. Not like this." But I'd be really interested to see what you can come up with there in Calgary Alberta, Canada. I've yet to see anyone else documenting a park like I have, and to me it seems like an obvious hobby for any filmographer out there.

Thank you for the compliments. I hope I answered your questions thoroughly enough!
Normal Bob

 

Thank you so much for the advice Bob! I was not expecting such a thorough reply I greatly appreciate it! 

I hope to start this project soon after some more investigation into the different areas of my city. Luckily I have almost identical equipment to your own but I'll definitely be picking up a hard drive for back ups! It's awesome to hear about the gifted camera and doesn’t surprise me at all your works incredible and you have a lot of fans! 

Once i get this whole thing kicked off I want you to know you’ll be credited in any video I produce and I’m absolutely honored to be mentioned on your site! thanks again for everything bob! 

Best wishes,
-Atilio

 

Hate Mailer Repents

July 22, 2016
Hi Bob,

Once, a few years ago, when I was younger and not nearly as clever as I thought I was, I stumbled across your Jesus Dress Up site and was outraged. I sent you an email and told you that I was not a Christian (which was a lie) but that you shouldn't mock or belittle the beliefs of someone else. You drew a sketch of Hitler thanking me for not judging him.

I didn't find it amusing, at the time. I was even more deeply scandalised, and troubled, but after growing and learning and getting a few life experiences under my belt, I remembered this just the other day, and was wondering if you could send me a copy?

I now run events which are designed to help people unpick their belief systems and discard what doesn't make sense (which, when it comes to religion, usually means all of it); I'd love to show them this sometime and use it to provoke some discussion.

If memory serves, I even made a typo, which I was perhaps more upset about being published publicly than the fact that I'd been so quickly and blatantly shown to be illogical.

Hope you're well,
Luke.

 

Luke’s email to me from 10 years ago…

Sep 2006

How small minded and retarded do you need to be to create a site mocking someone elses religion. I am not personally a Christian, but I would never go as far as to openly scron and poke fun at something other people strongly believe in and hold dear.

Get a fucking life
Luke

Hitler Thanks Luke – 2006

Hitler: “Thank you Luke. At least there’s one person who wouldn’t have scorned me!”
Luke scorns no belief
© 2006 normalbobsmith.com

July 22, 2016

 Hey Luke,

I always love it when I get to hear back from "Hate Mailers" years later no matter if they changed or not. I'm always a little happier to hear there's been a change of heart however. I rarely get appreciation for the sarcasm I once responded with. Here's the page it appeared on then, and remains to this day.

I'll be sure to update it with these emails. I hope you don't mind. I'm sure others will find it just as fascinating as I do.

How old were you when you sent that?
What lead you to change your beliefs?
Do you remember how you stumbled across my site in the first place?

Thanks for the email! I'm happy there weren't any long lasting hurt feelings.
Normal Bob

 

July 26, 2016
Hi Bob,

Oh wow. That message was worse than I remember. I must have thought that swearing would increase my chances of being taken seriously. Ha.

I was seventeen when I send that email. I was what you might call 'on fire for Jesus' at that time, and I literally would have just been Googling 'Jesus' and noticed the website. I still remember how incensed I felt about it.

Broadly speaking, I guess my beliefs shifted due to a gradual conflict between what science had to say about the world and what was being sold to me on Sunday; though, that probably wouldn't have been enough without a host of other personal relationship factors in that environment taking some pretty bizarre turns.

If it ever looks like I'll make it to NYC, I'll be sure to send you a message and we can have a drink and I'll tell you the whole story; even as 'deconversion' stories go, it's a doozy. If you ever find yourself in Australia, let me know. There are certainly no hurt feelings here.

Yours, Luke.
barredsubjects.com

Jolly Cat

goofy man cartoon
Hat In The Cat Matchgame Postcard art

It seems even when I’m far far away the Amazing Strangers continue on with their lives, and the drama of Union Square moves forward without even the slightest bit of nudging from yours truly.
Last Christmas I got a distressed email from the one and only Jolly Cat himself accusing me of slander for the videos I’d been posting of him over the years. He emailed me years prior about removing them and I politely obliged. But then he kept showing back up at the park and doing the exact same show for us again and again! So I put them back up.  Then finally,  back in December he sent me another email, and it went something exactly like this:

Hi Bob,
I noticed after you deleted my videos you posted them back up. This is slander and here is why. My characters actually bring lots of laughter and joy to many ppl and receive big applauses but on some days like when you caught me in the park ppl weren't laughing and I looked really bad. It is a false representation of what I do.

I am letting my manager know about this and if you don't delete all my videos he will contact you with the next steps we must take. I hope we can handle it now.

Sincerely, Vinny Hat in Cat
Dec 29, 2015

In response to this I decided that the videos weren’t all that important to me, so I took them down and replied:

Jolly Cat
Good to hear from you! I don't believe it's slander to show video of you not making people laugh. Maybe if you were making them laugh and I edited it so they weren't. But showing exactly what happened isn't lying, or slander, or any kind of deceit at all. It's showing what happened. There's nothing illegal or protected about showing video of public performances.

The problem is that you're blaming the audience instead of your act. I thought that was the joke? Apparently not.

Normal Bob
Dec 29, 2015

Despite all of this I granted his request.
Now, 6 months later, what do I see? Jolly Cat performing his trademarked act on America’s Got Talent with exactly the same results I witnessed every single time at the park. And here is that amazing video.

The way I found out about this AGT video was Shaggy calling me up frantically asking “Where are all your Hat in the Cat videos?!? I can’t find them!”

After explaining why I took them down Shaggy showed me Jolly Cat’s television debut. My jaw dropped, and then I put them all back up again.

I’m sure I’ll probably hear from him again, but none of what I filmed was edited or taken out of context. It’s what Shaggy, I and many others had to bare witness to when he chose to perform in front of us. So with great pleasure I bring you back to the Original Hat in the Cat, more famously known as “Jolly Cat” as we all know him from Union Square NYC!

And to Jolly Cat – I think the burden is on you (or better yet, your manager) to produce and distribute video of you making people laugh. It is not my responsibility. I mean, if I do not witness it, it is impossible for me to film it. Right? And portraying your show as something other than what I see would be committing High Perjury! Then I’d have to let my manager know about this so he could contact your manager about taking the next steps in regards to all of this.

And this is the first time I ever saw and recorded Jolly Cat back in Feb 2009.

Artist, Atheist, Anthropologist