By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange Tempe
Some kids wish they could run away and join the circus. Ray Valenz wished for something slightly stranger.
After almost five years of working for Buffalo Exchange in Arizona, Ray took a vacation to New York and visited the famous Coney Island Sideshow. Eight months later, he was hosting it.
Besides emceeing the show, Ray displays his award-winning juggling (with machetes) and performs a human blockhead routine that’s not for the faint of heart. Tabbed “The World’s Greatest Living Mexican Fire Eater”, his most popular act, “Latino Heat”, combines this skill with a musical tribute to his great uncle, legendary rocker Ritchie Valens. Wrap it all in a comedic patter that keeps a sometimes squeamish crowd at easeand it’s not hard to see why his rise to the top of this quirky profession has been so quick.
(Commercial break: since this is a Buffalo Exchange blog, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that Ray’s on-stage outfits are all from Buffalo. Okay, back to the program …)
From June through September, The Coney Island Sideshow runs seven days a week, eight shows a day. In the off-season, Ray produces a nationwide traveling freak show & burlesque tour. While this hectic pace may seem like a recipe for job burnout, he has no plans of slowing down. When asked why he’s chosen this unconventional career, Ray’s response is simple: “What could be better than entertaining people for a living?”