Oprah and Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy

Civilians and even celebrities volunteer for public ridicule -- that's entertainment

Back in the good old days of America's adolescence -- that robust, heedless century between the gold rush and World War II -- an important sector of show business centered on freaks. Tom Thumb, Koo-Koo the Bird Girl, Clicko the Bushman, Charles Tripp the Armless Photographer, Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy and scores of anonymous wretches abased themselves grotesquely for the amusement and astonishment of paying customers at circuses, carnivals and storefront "dime museums." However, as the modern forms of popular entertainment arose -- radio, television, Madonna -- freak shows grew scarce. Geeks disappeared altogether. Show business became sanitized, anodyne. Niceness prevailed.

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