Absinthe @ the Spiegeltent

Thursday, August 10th, 2006 | All Things, Arts

Spiegeltents (“mirror tents”) were an early-20th-century European creation; these hand crafted pavilions were used as traveling cabarets, dance halls, bars and entertainment salons. The one at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 through September is one of the few originals remaining in the world. Since being built in 1926, the elaborately decorated tent of colorful leaded glass, mirrors, teak, brocade, and velvet, has traveled throughout the world before making its way to the southern tip of Manhattan last week.

The tickets were all for general admission seating (the spiegeltent seats up to 320 in the round), so we arrived at the pier early to line up. Heartland Brewery set up a biergarten outside the tent, so we could drink in the beautiful bridge views with our Summertime Apricot Ales.


Beer Garden

3 Bridges

Just before showtime, ominous storm clouds began rolling in from Brooklyn. The first drops of rain came down just as the doors opened; by the time we made it to our seats (second row again!), we could see the water pouring down the outside of the stained glass windows. The torrents of water began pooling in the tent overhead, causing the roof to sink lower and lower with the weight. I was half-convinced that the tent canvas would burst from the strain, and collapse — drenching, and possibly electrocuting, us all. Thankfully, my fears remained unfounded; those Belgians built a stronger tent than I gave them credit for.

The Absinthe show was a risqué mix of vaudeville, circus and cabaret. The acts were as varied as they were original: a pair of gymnasts, performing wince-inducing feats in pinstriped suits and bowler hats (…until the finale when they stripped down to Union-Jack emblazoned briefs), a high-flying trapeze artist, a sultry hula-hoop twirler, a bare-chested bathtub acrobat, a bubble magician, cabaret singers. Even emcee Miss Behave got into the act, cheekily interacting with the audience and showing off her own weirdly impressive deep-throating skills.

Despite several postings — including one prominently displayed at the box office — advising that the show was NOT SUITABLE FOR MINORS, someone had actually decided to bring a six-year old boy to the performance. As the comedian Red Bastard observed, “Well, the kid’s gotta learn sometime!” Indeed: his act was followed by Ursula Martinez’s unforgettable magic striptease, which had the male members of the crowd — and a few female members — howling in appreciation. Check out her site for a description of the “Hanky Panky” act. No photos of that one.

Trapeze Artist

Red Bastard


Bubble Man

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