Johnny Meah

The Czar of Bizarre


Posted by Johnny at 08:48AM on Nov 3, 2003

From the Home Office

We're back! After an extended leave we are back and busier than ever. Johnny's first novel, "Polidore" is out now. Written from the perspective of a road weary warrior, Meah escorts you to the shadow world behind the bigtop and advises, with a wink, that it may not be exactly what you expected to find back there. Order your's directly from Johnny and get it signed -- more details below.

Now you have something to read while waiting for the next episode of HBO's "Carnivale!" Speaking of "Carnivale," here is a recent interview/story from the St. Pete Times about Johnny's work on the show as a historical consultant:


That's all for now. Enjoy



BUSKERFEST 2003 - by Johnny Meah

"So what's a Buska?", the man with beads of perspiration on his forehead wanted to know. His New York accent had whittled away large chunks of the word Busker and we were standing not in Manhattan but in the sweltering heat of Chicago. I launched into probably the tenth explanation of the word that day. I'd done it so many times in the course of Buskerfest 2003 that I'd managed to condense the answer to a short paragraph.

If you're in the lower echelon of the entertainment business, where I've spent most of my life, you already know about the obscure English word. Busking means that you perform in a non-traditional setting, (the street), and hope that your little offering is well enough received that your audience responds "in kind" with a monetary offering. Said offerings are usually tossed into a hat, empty instrument case, etc., hence the phrase "working a hat."

There are several stark realities about busking. To start with, you'd better be pretty good at what you do, otherwise you're going to spend a lot of time eating bologna sandwiches and sleeping on your friends couches. You quickly discover that you're not exactly working to the opera crowd and, even if your act is good, you won't make a living unless you learn how to "work your tip," (audience). You must be able to create an audience, (called "building a tip"), out of passersbys who couldn't care less about what you are doing. Then you have to be entertaining enough to hold their attention -- remember, you just diverted them from some other destination. Next, you need to telegraph the money pitch before you actually get around to asking for it at the end of the act. Last of all, you have to be able to cope with days where, despite having mastered all of the preceding, you wind up with two bus tokens and a chewing gum wrapper in your hat.

Sideshows, Rennaissance Festivals and busking are very similar in the use of crowd psychology. Psychology, however, still has it's grey areas and I'm sure there were days when even Sigmund Freud opened his door to an empty waiting room. The point is that, no matter how adept you become as a street entertainer, you may still have a few of those bologna/couch days.

There was much for me to like about this year's Chicago Buskerfest, far more than simply performing. It was produced by my friend John Mills who, beyond being a top notch producer, is one of the nicest people on the planet. Several of my friends were there, acts that I've worked with in the past but who I don't get to see too often. Many new friends were made, most memorably Jeff Cobb, a sword act that I've been aware of but never met before. A couple of late night jackpot sessions in the bar at the Hyatt Regency, presided over by the High Priest of Perversity, Danny Lord. As I said before -- a lot of things to like.

And I sold a bunch of books! Strangely enough, my new novel, Polidore, started out being the only reason I did the date to begin with. The original plan was that I'd do a book signing and occasionally perform. This quickly gave way to performing and occasionally selling books. It all worked out very well.

There were two performance areas, one across from the Hyatt on Stetson Street, the other, where I was located, in the courtyard of the Illinois Center on Michigan Ave.

As I was packing up after my last show on Saturday, two women passed me and one commented to her friend, "what's THAT all about?" Thinking that I needed to do my busker speech again, I mechanically began my explanation. The woman held up her hand to interrupt me, saying, "I know what THIS is about," then pointing toward the curb, "what's THAT about?" I looked in the direction she was pointing in and saw four hairy-legged young men in tutus doing chorus line kicks on the sidewalk. They had no connection to the event whatsoever! Maybe, taking a cue from the idea of "Casual Friday" in offices, this was "Cross Dressing Saturday" in Chicago. Who knows?

-Johnny Meah

Autographed copies of Johnny Meah's "Polidore" now available!

Anyone who's enjoyed Johnny Meah's writing in the widely acclaimed banner art book, "Freaks, Geeks and Strange Girls," his magazine articles or his serialized internet stories, will find his first novel, Polidore, fascinating. Now you can get an autographed copy from the Czar himself! Send check or money order for $16.50, (shipping included) to:

Johnny Meah
315 5th Ave N.
Safety Harbor, FL 34695

If you want to order online with a credit card then visit:
( to pick it up.
***Note: Copies purchased online are NOT autographed***

Get 'em before they're gone!

Forget about the crowds, the bad parking, and the obnoxious clerks this year and let the Czar make your holiday shopping easy and fun!

SIGNED & NUMBERED LIMITED EDITION prints of Johnny's most popular banners are now available for a limited time -- once they are gone we won't be printing any more so grab 'em fast!

Run, don't walk to: (


Copyright © 2001-2005, Johnny Meah | | Why?