With the DuQuoin State Fair ending today, I thought I would pass along my favorite Fair story circa 1993. This one is contained in “Exactly As I Remember It.”
Zambora the Gorilla Woman
(DuQuoin, Illinois, circa 1993)
There is no better grandfather in the world than Fred Bishop. He was born for the job. His instincts are uncanny. No matter what Zec’s age, Papa Bishop has been able to maintain an incredible connection with him. No better illustration could be offered than what happened last summer. We traveled to DuQuoin to attend the State Fair with mom and dad. Melissa and Lydia bought wristbands so they could ride rides all night free. The rest of us felt that spinning in tight circles, going upside down and hurtling about might interrupt our intentions of eating everything at the fair that was not tied down, living or too hard to break teeth. After an evening of eating and riding, we were winding down and walking through the midway. Melissa and Lydia were attempting to regain equilibrium and the rest of us were trying not to throw up.
Over the other sounds of the fair, I heard a loud speaker system stating some pretty miraculous news. Just to our left was the lair of Zambora the Gorilla Woman. The promise was clear; for just one American dollar, you could enter the exhibit and witness the beautiful Zambora transform into a 400-pound gorilla before your very eyes! On the front of the exhibit were paintings of the beautiful (and scantily clad) Zambora and of a fierce and mighty Gorilla. The line for the spectacle primarily consisted of tattooed people wearing black World Wrestling Federation tee shirts. The excitement was overwhelming them. I watched them enter like sheep, gladly offer their dollar fleece and disappear from sight. In seconds, an explosion occurred inside the exhibit, the door burst open, smoke poured out and toothless people ran screaming from the gorilla formerly known as Zambora.
After a quick cigarette, Zambora (now changed back into a woman) was out in front again chained to a cage with a Python wrapped around her neck. The announcer was hard at work scaring up another crowd. Melissa and I looked at the gathering people with pity. “Who would possibly waste a buck to see that drivel?” I inquired. The second the sentence emerged from my mouth, I saw them. There in the middle of the line! Sandwiched in between a braless fat woman smoking a cigarette and three skin-headed juvenile delinquents were dad and Zec. They had their eyes firmly glued upon Zambora, American dollars in hand and were enjoying the moment like a man who may never have another one. In minutes they were herded with the others inside. Soon, I heard the explosion and Dad and Zec ran from the smoking exhibit. It was then it occurred to me; Zec has the best grandfather in the world. Every young man should get to go to the fair with someone like Papa Bishop and see Zambora turn into a gorilla all in one night.
Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the author of “Exactly As I Remember It’ and “Re:member.”