Deep Throat: Running With Swords
werd: fox photography
werd: james niche
Some of you may have heard of her, but many in the current ACT:LIVE community may have not. Riley the sword swallower.
I met her at the Ludachrist show this past May, and have kind of lurked behind her since then.
She's an outspoken, brash - well, self-confessed bitch. But she's a lot of fun and can do things you only wish your girlfriend would dream of.
I sat down with her in High Falls this past week, got interrupted by an obnoxious woman visiting from Seattle (I mean that in the best way, if she's reading this), and got to find out a little more about what she does. Uncensored.
Peep this girl for those of you that don't know her. This was a fun interview for me. I got the fire breathing act and all.
ACT:LIVE: So does this type of entertainment run in the family?
Riley: I had a family member that was always doing forks and knives (swallowing) around the house, but I’m the only one that can do a sword or anything larger than a knife.
ACT:LIVE: Where did you grow up?
ACT:LIVE: Ahhh, where life is worth living, apparently. I spent my senior year there. Do you still live out there?
Riley: I still live out there, with the parents, yes.
ACT:LIVE: Milk it, I guess. (laughs)
Riley: Well, insurance costs and medical expenses are ridiculous for me. I have bipolar disorder and narcolepsy, it’s much cheaper living at home paying those bills.
ACT:LIVE: Narcolepsy is what again? When you fall asleep a lot?
Riley: It’s different than excessive daytime sleepiness; narcolepsy is where you can feel it coming on. Some people even hallucinate a little bit, like you’re half dreaming.
ACT:LIVE: Does it ever affect your performance?
Riley: No, not really because I have adrenaline going.
So, I’ve been living at home to save money and have been doing this on the side. The sword swallowing isn’t just a hobby for me either, it’s a second income and a valid form of entertainment.
ACT:LIVE: I’d have to agree.
Riley: I think if less than a hundred people can do it out of millions, you have a market.
ACT:LIVE: What’s the craziest thing you have swallowed?
Riley: Drumsticks, glow sticks. Glow sticks are really awkward because I can feel them hit the bottom of my stomach, they’re very blunt. Once I start snakin’ ‘em in there it’s more like an endoscope at that point.
ACT:LIVE: I know you have a hammer and nail in your routine, and I see a hammer in your case. What’s all that for?
Riley: The big black rubber hammer is to pound the drumstick down my throat, it’s for effect. I can do it without the hammer, but it looks cooler.
I use the little hammers to do the human blockhead. I pound a screwdriver into my face, in my nose to be exact.
Riley: The human blockhead routine any person can do, you just have to have the balls to do it. Your sinuses go up, then back, so it just depends on how big your sinus cavities are.
ACT:LIVE: Did you need to have an x-ray before hand to figure yours out?
Riley: No, but I did happen to have an MRI done when I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy. That’s where I saw my septum is sort of deviated. I think I have one of the brain pictures on MySpace. Not everyone can say they have a picture of their brain. I’m gonna frame that some day.
ACT:LIVE: How does a typical show play out for you?
Riley: It depends on where I’m doing it. I’ve been doing a bit more burlesque lately, which starts with more of a strip-tease. I also incorporate the sword into that, while setting it on fire. I’ll also throw in some comedy, depending on the audience, but audience participation is one key ingredient.
It also involves smoking a lot of pot so I can find the clientele more tolerable. (laughing) No, but really, all performers should be sober when working. Any level of intoxication can cause dangerous mistakes and accidents.
When I performed with My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, I spent a lot of time in the audience to get a feel for who I was working with and to see who would be good candidates to bring up on stage.
That show taught me a lot on how to be prepared and how to work with an audience.
I am also creating a new stage case so I can operate a little more “spur of the moment”.
ACT:LIVE: Are hecklers ever a problem?
Riley: Hecklers and drunken guys are usually the worst, but in Long Island we almost had to kick out two drunken GIRLS.
Another sword swallowing female, whom I believe holds the record for most swords swallowed at one time (10 maybe?), was performing with multiple swords in her mouth while a man attempted to slide a folded bill onto her waist causing the swords to scissor and tear her insides. Not pretty.
ACT:LIVE: That was another question I had. Safety must be a huge issue for you.
Riley: Yeah, that’s a story I always share with the security wherever I am working because I do not want to have to deal with the same problems in my life.
That’s another reason that sideshow acts in general, need to be compensated fairly for performing as well. A lot of club owners and promoters think I’ll be happy performing for free drinks or free promotion.
Free drinks don’t pay the bills for me and they certainly won’t pay my hospital bills when I get scissored someday. I know the economy is what it is, but they need to think more realistically. This is a valid profession and an extreme form of entertainment, not a dog and pony act. Remember, I AM PUTTING SWORDS IN MY BODY.
ACT:LIVE: Have you injured yourself yet?
Riley: No, nothing more than singing my nose hairs while fire breathing. I want to start letting people light their cigarettes off my sword while it’s on fire.
ACT:LIVE: That would be dope.
Riley: There was a time when I swallowed a coat hanger and called myself the five foot three fetus. At Club Diablo, in Buffalo, it was a hit.
ACT:LIVE: Do you create your own costumes or do you buy them?
Riley: Yeah, I take a lot of random pieces, like that bra I had on earlier, and add my own flair to them.
We have another girl in the troupe that makes pasties, but I don’t really go with those because I feel it distracts people from what I'm up there to do. Of course I add a bit of sexuality to the performance, but I’m not a stripper.
ACT:LIVE: How often are you out of town taking your act with you? (Lady with large ass and shopping cart rolls by on the bridge making it painfully hard to hear Riley or anything else for that matter.)
Riley: I’m not too far past Syracuse usually, but I have made it out to Long Island for a performance. It was at a fetish ball they were having there. A lot of people involved were pretty sick and couldn’t make it out for the event, but it was an art show as well, so I displayed some of my paintings.
The Long Islanders all like to think they’re tough so they were giving me a hard time before the show, but I think it’s funny because those same guys would be hitting on me as soon as they saw my show. They like to try to find out what else I swallow. (laughs)
ACT:LIVE: I’m sure you get a lot of men asking the same old question.
Riley: I look at them and think to myself, “They are definitely under a foot long; they don’t need a sword swallowed.”
It’s great I can talk about this stuff with you because in the mainstream media, certain topics have to be censored.
ACT:LIVE: I’m glad too, let’s talk about more sword swallowing. (laughing)
Riley: One rule, don’t sleep with anybody that knows. Tell them afterwards.
The worst was when a man was hitting on me with his knowledge of Arthur Shawcross.
I told him I was a Charles Manson kind of girl.
ACT:LIVE: So, you prefer to not be raped and dumped in a river, but to be stabbed and have your baby cut out.
ACT:LIVE: I wanted to plug your website for you, is that new or has it been around for a while?
Riley: It’s been up for a while; I just started revamping it recently. I’m adding new pictures and material.
I manage the site by myself; I’ve been doing HTML since I was like twelve. I actually like talking about this for a change; I get bored with the sword talk. (laughs)
ACT:LIVE: Well, I’m going to end this with the plug of your website again, along with a plug on your upcoming events. Thanks Riley.
If you want to check out Riley's work, you can check out these links below.
RILEY ON THE WEB
A reminder, this Friday at TILT is a party that you really should be at. You can check out the interview below and find out more, but the Bachelors of Science are not an act to be missed. Peace Kiddies...
Right now we're listening to:
Reece Q "Space Bass" ("Quote To Self", 2008, ACT:LIVE MUSIC)