Local freak show performer Jenn O. Cide, who bills herself as a professional weirdo, discusses the lifestyle with a friend.
It’s a world unlike anything most people have ever seen, fueled by adrenaline, where it rains broken glass and blood. It’s a world ruled by big stage productions and mercilessness to one’s own body.
And standing on the helm of this devastating derailment of basic decency is Las Vegas’ very own Jenn O. Cide.
Born and raised a few blocks from the Huntridge Theater, Jenn O. Cide was born Jenn Neal, and has never fit in with the crowd.
“I tried being normal a few times and it had disastrous results, so I said ‘fuck it’ and decided to just be me,” said Jenn, who bills herself as a professional weirdo.
Her fascination for performance began at the age of 12 while interning for the Huntridge Theater for sound production. At 14, her life was forever changed when she saw Sal the Human Salamander breathe fire. She dove head first into the world of sideshow freaks, begging Sal to teach her everything.
“He sat me down and was like, ‘OK, you ready, you think you can handle this shit?’” Jenn recalls with sighs and laughs.
In a test of wills, Sal gave Jenn a 12-inch nail and got ready to hammer it through her nostril into her skull, Jenn held her ground and agreed. This stunt of trust was all Sal needed and the legacy of the freak show was passed on. Sal has since retired but Jenn O. Cide is going strong.
At 16, Jenn began belly dancing, which opened up a lot of new avenues including the addition of working with swords and fans, adding a new level to her fire performance. It was also at this age that Jenn earned her GED and hit the road for Washington state, where she earned an associates degree in audio production from the Art Institute of Seattle.
Jenn suffered a setback at 19 when she broke her back after returning home. She broke it again performing nearly 18 months later.
“Doctors were, like, ‘you have to stop, you have to get a real sit down job because your body can’t physically handle it anymore,’ so I decided to go to law school.”
She got her bachelors degree in philosophy at 26 with a minor in criminal justice from UNLV. But the sideshow was calling; Jenn was approached by some big acts she simply couldn’t ignore.
“I basically said ‘fuck it,’ I don’t want to do a sit down job until I absolutely have to, I really love this, and that was eight years ago,” Jenn said with a big smile.
Jenn O. Cide is infamous around Las Vegas in the performance art scene. As this reporter learned, you can ask anyone if they’ve heard of Jenn O. Cide and almost everyone has a smart remark, gruesome face, or sweet thing to say about the larger-than-life professional weirdo.
“Oh yeah! That chick is crazy,” said Michael Quine, a photographer and video editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I saw her at the Amazing Jonathan’s Halloween party, she sat on a bed of nails and ate a light bulb, wild and crazy stuff.”
“It’s fun, with her there really are no boundaries, and she’s a real sweetheart,” said P Moss, owner of the Double Down and Frankie’s Tiki Hut, and who works with Jenn regularly for Punk Rock Bingo and Halloween events.
Jenn O. Cide recently worked some events for the Hard Rock Hotel, including the Fetish and Fantasy Halloween Ball and with Mötley Crüe during their residency and tour. She also provided the other freaks for the Mötley Crüe sideshow, including aerialists, stilt walkers and the Midget Motley Crew, through her talent agency Freak Show Talent.
She’s worked with everyone from Swing Shift Sideshow to Criss Angel to The Killers, and has even appeared on America’s Got Talent. She has plans to tour with Skinny Puppy in the near future.
Jenn O. Cide cuts an imposing figure, standing 6-foot, 3-inches without heels, her hair is green and purple and slithers down the shaved sides, she’s covered in piercings and tattoos. Fiercly self-reliant, most of her elaborate costumes, stage props, and fire tools are all hand made.
She’s your ultimate example of a modern renaissance woman.
“I eat glass. I dance on broken glass. I put my face on broken glass. I staple bills all over my body. I do fire breathing, fire eating, fire dancing. I do human pin cushion…yeah.”
If you would like a chance to see her live, she is the MC for the monthly Double Down installment of Punk Rock Bingo, which is held every first Wednesday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. To hire her slew of freaks, hit her up at freakshowtalent.com or her official website, jennocide.com.