Johnny Fox (performer)
Fox grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, and saw his first sword swallower at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, when he was eight or nine years old. At approximately the same age, his father gave him a book about Harry Houdini that inspired Fox—substituting spaghetti—to recreate the magician's trick of swallowing a key on a string and then regurgitating it.
Fox began performing magic and comedy while working as a waiter in Saint Petersburg, Florida. He learned sleight-of-hand in the 1970s from Tony Slydini, an Italian magician known as "the Master of Misdirection". In his early twenties, Fox was performing in Boulder, Colorado, when he heard that his act had been stolen by a competing magician. He was inspired to begin swallowing swords in order to have "an act people couldn't copy easily". It took him eight months to master the technique, although he has injured himself on a few occasions. Fox estimated in 1999 that he was one of twenty professional sword swallowers in the United States, noting that this was many more than when he began.
Fox can swallow up to 22 inches of steel. Besides regular swords, his act has included swallowing a retractable tape measure, a giant screwdriver and a neon glowing sword plugged into an outlet. His act also included eating fire until he learned that the chemicals used in the trick could seep into his liver.
Fox has appeared at venues including comedy clubs (such as Caroline's), casinos, and tattoo conventions, as well as special events such as an Aerosmith album release party. His television appearances include the Late Show with David Letterman, a 1992 Jonathan Winters television special, and a Maalox commercial in which he swallowed light bulbs. He was featured in the 2003 documentary Traveling Sideshow: Shocked and Amazed by Jeff Krulik.
Although he performed among other acts presented throughout the weekend-long festival, following entertainment by the band, Radio-Free Carmela  on May 1, 2009, Fox was honored as the featured performer at the opening ceremony of the annual Avenida de Colores,  a festival of chalk painting by professional artists from around the world and talented local school children on closed streets in historic Burns Square in Sarasota. His act also closed the festival.
Fox is the resident sword-swallower at the annual Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, and has performed there since 1981. He has performed at the Sterling Renaissance Festival in Sterling, New York since 1997. He occasionally works as a consultant for other sideshow artists.
In June 1999, Fox opened the Freakatorium, El Museo Loco, a museum of side show curiosities, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In the face of low numbers of visitors and rising rent, the museum was closed in January 2005. Fox was partly inspired to open the museum by his childhood visits to Hubert's Museum and Flea Circus in Times Square. His collection of oddities includes narwhal tusks, an elephant's-foot liquor chest, a two-headed turtle, a vest owned by General Tom Thumb, and the glass eye of Sammy Davis, Jr..
- Feuer, Alan. "Pickled Piglets and Other Curiosities, in Exile." The New York Times, 2005-06-04, p. B1.
- Louie, Elaine. "A Man Who Lives by the Sword." The New York Times, 1999-06-06, The City Weekly Desk.
- Montgomery, David. "Strange Attraction: As Sideshows Vanish from the Midway, a Film Recalls Their Glory Days." The Washington Post, 2003-10-24, p. C1.
- "Open Up and Say AHHH!" CNN Live Today. 2002-09-03
- Sarasota History Alive! This Week Newsletter - April 29, 2009
- Murphy, Justin. "Fare thee well for 2011." The Citizen (Auburn), 2011-08-22.
- Lee, Jennifer. "A Sword-Swallowing Collector Closes an Odd Little Museum." The New York Times, 2005-01-01, p. B6.