Photo by Anthony Mair
Jenn O. Cide
The Freak Show Artist
Most everybody’s got an answer handy to the question, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?” For Jenn Neal, however, this takes some time. There are just too many moments to sort through.
This is a woman who first started piercing herself at age 13 (she has “only” seven piercings now, down from a peak of 30 … all of which were in her face); who got her first tattoo a year later (today, the left side of her body is practically covered in ink); who earns a living by walking on glass … and stapling her face … and breathing fire, swallowing fire and belly dancing with trays of fire on her head.
Who goes by the name Jenn O. Cide onstage.
What’s the craziest thing she’s ever done?
“Hmm,” she says, taking a drag of her cigarette, then responding matter-of-factly: “Suspending a friend of mine from her outer labia from a large steel rod at the Amazing Jonathan’s Halloween party. That was pretty intense.”
And now you know one of the reasons why Mötley Crüe hired Neal to help with the production design for the band’s three-week residency next month in The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel. Her task? “Put together their freak-show shit!” That includes finding midgets and stilt-walkers and flesh-hook suspension artists, for both the concert and the after-party in the casino.
The Crüe gig is hardly Neal’s only iron in the, ahem, fire this year. The 6-foot-3, 32-year-old Las Vegas native will be going back on the road as tour manager and sound engineer for ohGr and then, she hopes, as tour manager for the Canadian industrial band Skinny Puppy; she’s been hired to work several flesh-hook suspension conventions all over the world; she’s editing a new book by drummer Martin Atkins, one of the godfathers of industrial music; she’s been approached by the Sultan of Oman in the Middle East to perform at the monthlong Muscat Festival; and she’ll continue to tour-manage musician/comedian Richard Cheese and his band, Lounge Against the Machine.
“I’ve been really lucky in that everything that I’ve ever loved, I’ve been able to make a job out of it: piercing, haunted houses, sideshow, belly dance, fire, sound, tour managing,” says Neal, whose career in entertainment dates to the age of 12 when she worked at the legendary Huntridge Theater. “Somehow it’s just worked out where people will pay me to do shit that I love. Fucking hell, it really does not get any better than that.”