Step right up, be amazed

November 08, 2007|By Brad Schleicher | Brad Schleicher,Sun reporter

It's not unheard of for a married couple to go into business together. While some might open a bakery or sell antiques, others eat fire, swallow swords and dance on stage with a 12-foot albino Burmese python.

For Tyler "Fyre" and "Thrill Kill" Jill Fleet, performing these kinds of death-defying stunts is all in a day's work.

They will bring their awe-inspiring routine to the Lo-Fi Social Club tomorrow to celebrate the publication of volume nine of James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed On and Off the Midway, a Baltimore-based periodical devoted to sideshow and variety entertainment.

James Taylor, editor-in-chief of Shocked and Amazed, couldn't think of anything more fitting to liven up his periodical's release than performances by acclaimed sideshow artists.

"Publication parties are like watching paint dry," says Taylor. "Shows are sexy - books just end up on a review page."

Tyler and Jill Fleet, two of Taylor's close friends and colleagues, are also accomplished sideshow performers.

Naturally, they fit the bill.

For four years, Jill Fleet helped Taylor create the Palace of Wonders in D.C., a venue that opened last year and is dedicated to offbeat performance and memorabilia.

While most sideshow artists focus on one particular act, the Fleets are a mixed bag of tricks. They have practiced many different aspects of sideshow for years - striving to be as versatile as possible.

Although Jill and Tyler Fleet perform together, each brings specialties to the stage. Tyler Fleet's skills include fire-blowing, sword-swallowing, inverted escape and "the human blockhead," a technique that involves pounding nails into the ears and nostrils.

Before performing nationwide, Tyler and Jill Fleet had very different starts in the sideshow business. Jill learned a lot of her routine from Tyler. But Tyler was more of a self-starter.

He taught himself to swallow swords under the supervision of experts while working at Coney Island.

"He didn't study under anyone," says Jill Fleet, "but his roommate, Frank `The Fire God' Hartman, was always around to make sure Tyler didn't accidentally kill himself."

Jill Fleet, on the other hand, does limited sword-swallowing. Instead, she dances burlesque with the help of her 12-foot albino Burmese python named Conan and a 10-foot boa constrictor named Taker.

She also lays on a bed of nails and accomplishes a feat that she calls "the miracle of life in reverse."

The Fleets seem almost unaffected by the idea that their routines could cause either of them to become injured or die.

But they say it's the level of trust in their relationship that makes it easier.

The two were married last Valentine's Day in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator. They even have matching horseshoe-shaped rings.

"It was the most Americana thing we could do," says Tyler Fleet.

Tyler "Fyre" and "Thrill Kill" Jill Fleet will perform with Tim "Zamora the Torture King" Cridlin tomorrow for the release of volume nine of "James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed On and Off the Midway" at the Lo-Fi Social Club, 1825 N. Charles St. Admission is $10. Tickets are available at the club's box office. Information: go to lofisocialclub.com.

brad.schleicher@baltsun.com

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