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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: Meet The Bizarre And Wonderful Cast Of The Venice Beach Freakshow

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Two-headed animals, a five-legged dog, a girl who can eat fire and a man who can insert a meathook through his face: just a few things a visitor to the Venice Beach Freakshow can expect to see.

"Say 'no' to normal” is the motto of Todd Ray, owner of the Venice Beach Freakshow. Ray, who was a successful music producer before retiring to stranger pastures by opening the beach side attraction in 2006, campaigns against the mundane with his entire family through their live shows and their unscripted AMC program, Freakshow.

Ray, a loquacious barker who embodies the carnival mentality in dress and demeanor, believes that 'normal' is dead, as what’s considered normal changes with each generation. As a collector of oddities (objects and apparently, people), destroying the concept of normal might seem counterproductive, but he insists that the show helps others feel like they fit in and have a home.

"This isn't a freak show to freak people out," he said. "It's to encourage them to celebrate our differences, but more than anything to remember that this is the most magical planet in the universe."

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The entire Ray clan is involved. Ray’s wife Danielle acts as "Freakshow Mama," his son Phoenix is a co-owner of the business and his daughter Asia is a performer in the show. She swallows swords, eats fire, endures electric shocks and contorts her body.

Yesterday at a media meet-and-greet, we got a chance to meet the family as well as a few cast members. Jessa, 'the bearded lady,' holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest beard on a woman, measuring a lush 11.5 inches. Amazing Ali and hype man Wee Matt McCarthy, who were married on the last season of Freakshow, are known as The Littlest Married Couple in the World. (Ray found Ali, who had been a bartender in Indianapolis prior, on Facebook and invited her to come to Venice.) And then there's Morgue, who had previously worked as a street performer, who can insert meat hooks into his nose and out his mouth or drill a nail up his nose just shy of his brain. On occasion, these performances inspire what Ray calls "falling ovations."

Even the Ray family's pets match their love of the weird; a collection of two-headed turtles, a two-headed snake and a two-tailed iguana live in the shop, and Danielle brought her five-legged dog, Rocky, to the event. In addition to the live animals, the shop is full of other oddities and taxidermy, including a two-headed goat.

Creature, who is covered from head to toe in tattoos and piercings, was also present, though mostly in the form of yelling outside and barging in unexpectedly. Danielle threw him out and Ray was heard muttering about 'drama.' My best guess is that this was all part of the act and we’ll see the conclusion of this scuffle on the next episode.

Season 2 of Freakshow premiered on May 6, and airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on AMC. Or, you can just head down to 909 Ocean Front Walk in Venice and see for yourself for $5. Check their Facebook to make sure they’re not closed for filming before you head out.

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