Believe it or not, we didn’t just become sideshow entertainers overnight. It’s true. If we had a penny for every time we were asked “How do you do that?!” or “What’s the trick?” we would be hog happy! The answer is always the same, “Years of practice” and “Everything you see is real, there are no tricks”. Some believe and some will always remain skeptical. But isn’t that what sideshow is partly about? Making folks believe what they are seeing, right before their own eyes! That, my friends, is what compels us to move forward daily, creating new stunts, adapting old stunts to reflect the wonders of society today, and pushing our own physical limits to see what we are truly capable of.
Captain Stab-Tuggo performed on stage, for the first time, a million years ago. Alright. Not quite a million years ago, more like, 13-14 years ago. And he wasn’t Captain Stab-Tuggo. He was simply Chris Steele.
Dating back to 1997, Chris had an interest in human body suspension. Throughout his life, he was always one to push limits, and this physical challenge was quite enticing to him. He spent years researching, familiarizing himself with the process and privately suspending a small group of individuals. This was in the very early movement of body suspension in the southeast and the majority of the public was squeamish and even repulsed by the process of placing hooks in people to suspend them in the air. Once confident in his skills, he approached a club in Spartanburg, SC for the opportunity to perform body suspensions at a show. Ground Zero not only invited him to do so, they put him on a headlining act, The Torture King and Slymenstra Hymen’s Girly Freak Show. That night, Chris took to the microphone on stage for the first time (well, if you don’t count that Talent Show in 3rd grade when he sang “Looking for Love”) and proved to be a natural at keeping the crowd engaged and excited, as well as smack talking hundreds of folks. It was also this night that his passion for sideshow was ignited.
Chris had always displayed a love of incredible circus acts and death defying stunts. While he forged a path as the founder of Psychotic Suspensions, based out of Atlanta, GA, he was consumed with another thought. That of sword swallowing. As the years passed, he again researched the process and art of swallowing a sword. There is not much to go on. See, sword swallowers are a unique group of individuals, and they do not readily share their skills. Why would they? It is a proven deadly stunt. Most sword swallowers are self taught. Time passed, and before even attempting it, he ordered his first sword. A Starfire Short Sword 30″ in length with a 24″ blade. Upon arrival, he immediately began training his body to accommodate the straight blade. Months later, as he was practicing, he severely injured himself and put the sword away.
As an entire year passed, he was met with some life changes. We bought our first home and welcomed our youngest daughter, Ava. But, the call of the sword was too overwhelming. After time had eased the memory of the pain he endured, he once again brought the sword out and this time, THIS TIME he perfected his skill. Within a few months, he registered with SSAI (Sword Swallowers Association International) and began adding classic sideshow stunts to build a repertoire as the basis for a stage show. He developed the name Captain Stab-Tuggo as an homage to individuals he looked up to for years (Captain Don Leslie and Mr. Lifto) and as a nod to his industry, body piercing (Stab). I was supportive and his biggest fan. But we realized after we booked our first public gig that we wanted to deliver something fresh. There were several one man sideshow acts traveling the country. What he needed was a sidekick. And that’s where I come in.
He’d called me Maybelle for years. I do indeed have a “real” name, but even my folks call me Maybelle, so that other name is fading slowly. There are a few people that address me by my Christian name, and I must say, I do love it. It rings odd in my ears now, though. And so it became Captain Stab-Tuggo (and Madame Maybelle). He would perform solo many times, and when opportunity allowed, I would jump on a gig with him, but it wasn’t a regular occurrence.
After performing publicly for about 3 years, a great opportunity came up. “America’s Got Talent” approached him about auditioning for Season 6. We didn’t feel that we were ready for national television and decided not to pursue it. They were incessant. He auditioned in NC, and was advanced through to the live auditions in Atlanta. It was then that they asked if he had a partner. So we choreographed a routine and nailed it. Once we were advanced through to the Vegas rounds, the producers asked if we would be alright with the act going by “Captain & Maybelle” rather than “Captain Stab-Tuggo & Madame Maybelle” (too long for the TV bylines apparently (ha!). We actually liked it immensely and have never looked back.
There you have it. How one man’s thoughts became a reality through determination and evolution. He goes for shock, I go for laughs! We have a live stage show that lasts more than an hour, with a myriad of classic sideshow stunts that are reflective of our humor and twisted delivery. We are edgy, classy, and a little bit trashy. We are southern fried.