Johnny Fox (performer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Johnny Fox, performing as a sword swallower at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in 2007

Johnny Fox (born 1953 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is a professional sword swallower and sleight of hand expert.[1]

Early life[edit]

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.[1][2] 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.[2]

Performance career[edit]

Fox began performing magic and comedy while working as a waiter in Saint Petersburg, Florida.[3] He learned sleight-of-hand in the 1970s from Tony Slydini, an Italian magician known as "the Master of Misdirection".[1] In his early twenties, Fox was performing in Boulder, Colorado, when he heard that his act had been stolen by a competing magician.[2] He was inspired to begin swallowing swords in order to have "an act people couldn't copy easily".[2] It took him eight months to master the technique, although he has injured himself on a few occasions.[2] 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.[2][3]

Fox can swallow up to 22 inches of steel.[3] Besides regular swords, his act has included swallowing a retractable tape measure, a giant screwdriver and a neon glowing sword plugged into an outlet.[2] His act also included eating fire until he learned that the chemicals used in the trick could seep into his liver.[1]

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.[2][3] 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.[3][2][4] He was featured in the 2003 documentary Traveling Sideshow: Shocked and Amazed by Jeff Krulik.[3]

Although he performed among other acts presented throughout the weekend-long festival, following entertainment by the band, Radio-Free Carmela [1] on May 1, 2009, Fox was honored as the featured performer at the opening ceremony of the annual Avenida de Colores, [2] 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.[5] 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.[3] He has performed at the Sterling Renaissance Festival in Sterling, New York since 1997.[6] He occasionally works as a consultant for other sideshow artists.[1]


In June 1999, Fox opened the Freakatorium, El Museo Loco, a museum of side show curiosities, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.[1] In the face of low numbers of visitors and rising rent, the museum was closed in January 2005.[1] Fox was partly inspired to open the museum by his childhood visits to Hubert's Museum and Flea Circus in Times Square.[1] 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..[1]

Personal life[edit]

Fox married his wife, Valeria, an Argentine dancer and photographer, while they were atop elephants in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2002.[7] They reside in Connecticut.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Feuer, Alan. "Pickled Piglets and Other Curiosities, in Exile." The New York Times, 2005-06-04, p. B1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Louie, Elaine. "A Man Who Lives by the Sword." The New York Times, 1999-06-06, The City Weekly Desk.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Montgomery, David. "Strange Attraction: As Sideshows Vanish from the Midway, a Film Recalls Their Glory Days." The Washington Post, 2003-10-24, p. C1.
  4. ^ "Open Up and Say AHHH!" CNN Live Today. 2002-09-03
  5. ^ Sarasota History Alive! This Week Newsletter - April 29, 2009
  6. ^ Murphy, Justin. "Fare thee well for 2011." The Citizen (Auburn), 2011-08-22.
  7. ^ Lee, Jennifer. "A Sword-Swallowing Collector Closes an Odd Little Museum." The New York Times, 2005-01-01, p. B6.

External links[edit]