October 6, 2011
Six Flags Great Adventure Exposes the Local Talent Behind the Terror
Colorful characters define Six Flags Great Adventure’s Fright Fest. Among more than 150 witches, blood-thirsty vampires, murderous barbers, chainsaw wielders, mental patients, deranged doctors, mutant hillbillies and dancing zombies, several outrageous personalities and the masterminds behind them bring something unique to Fright Fest that cannot be found at any local hayride or corn maze. Fright Fest has helped turn these everyday New Jerseyans into icons of terror.
The Ghoulmaster – Toms River’s Pete Carter
Michael Jackson impersonator, filmmaker
It’s no accident that the iconic Ghoulmaster character bears a resemblance to the King of Pop in both appearance and movement. Character creator Pete Carter of Toms River, N.J., a professional Michael Jackson impersonator, first joined Fright Fest in 2000 as a street performer. His Ghoulmaster character, clad in a black leather bustier, top hat and platform boots, has since become synonymous with Fright Fest.
Since 2006, the park has continually expanded Carter’s role through The Awakening ghoul procession and stage show, the creation of his own street show, and since 2010, a full stage production dedicated to his character, Ghoulmaster’s Ghosts.
When he is not performing as the evil Ghoulmaster, Carter travels across the country as a King of Pop impersonator. He often takes his moves to Atlantic City where he makes appearances at Boogie Nights at Resorts Casino and Hotel. Carter is also a film-maker and editor, and Ghoulmaster’s Ghosts showcases some of his creative work.
Dead Man’s Party Choreographer – Long Beach Island’s Ashlé Dawson
‘So You Think You Can Dance’ finalist dances around the world
Ashlé Dawson of Long Beach Island was just 15 years old the first time she danced at Six Flags Great Adventure. Since that time, Dawson’s career has taken her to exotic places, made her a household name among young, aspiring dancers and given her a forum to share her gift of dance.
Following several years as a performer in Dead Man’s Party, Dawson was a top 4 finalist on FOX's inaugural season of So You Think You Can Dance in 2005 at age 21. She was known as the show’s “most versatile dancer,” as her specialties range from contemporary to lyrical, salsa, hip hop, jazz, African and Afro Cuban, reggaeton, waackin, popping and even ballet. She has since performed and taught internationally, including Asia, Mexico, Europe, South and Central America and Puerto Rico. During the last few years, she has danced with Prince Royce, Don Omar, Victor Manuelle, Gloria Estefan, Andre 3000, Zion, Mickey Rooney, Olga Tannon, Flex, Winsin y Yandel, Aventura, Fonseca, and Juelz Santana. She appeared on MTV's "MADE" in August 2010 and performed with Cirque du Soleil in 2011. Even with her hectic international schedule, she has choreographed Fright Fest’s iconic Dead Man’s Party show for the past six years.
Dawson, who moved to northern New Jersey last year, founded and directs Ashlé & Co., a pre-professional dance company based in New Jersey, and is also the co-founder of "IF" The Intensive.
Demon Barber of Main Street – Hightstown’s Antwan Michael
Former American Idol hopeful, off-Broadway performer
Although this is his first year joining Fright Fest, Antwan Michael is no stranger to performing. This 20-year-old from Hightstown, N.J. has graced the stage in a national touring production of “The Color Purple” as Young Harpo, as well as an off-Broadway production of “Rent” and many local community productions. He was also honored with an invitation to sing at the White House for Congressman Elijah Cummings. It was in 2010 when he made the top 43 of FOX’s American Idol that he realized that performing was what he wanted to do. “I've been performing since I was 3 years old and I know that being on stage is where I belong. Music and performing is what I was born to do,” said Michael, who is currently working on his first EP.
Michael’s Fright Fest character is a departure from his typical roles, exploring the more sinister side of mankind as the Demon Barber of Main Street. His one-man show chronicles a tale of heartbreak and loss and features songs from Wicked, Sweeney Todd and Phantom of the Opera. Guests can experience the Demon Barber at the Liberty Square Gazebo on Main Street.
Behind the Tortured Faces – Toms River’s Tony Mandile
Artist & movie FX master transforms Fright Fest
Tony Mandile, a Toms River native, began lending his make-up and airbrush talents to Fright Fest in 1999, the first year of the Alice Cooper's Brutal Planet attraction, where he was sought out for his airbrush artistry. Since that time, Mandile’s creations have become increasingly more elaborate…and disturbing.
His career as a special effects make-up artist began in 1995 with local legend Kevin Smith’s View Askew Productions, and he has been making his mark on feature films for the past 16 years. In addition to his work as a special effects make-up artist, he wrote and directed his own feature film “Midnight Mass” in 2001 that was released by Lions Gate Home Entertainment to the worldwide video market.
Mandile’s company, Anatomy FX, LLC, manufactures a line of retail prosthetic appliances and props to the film industry. This will be his eleventh season with Six Flags Great Adventure’s Fright Fest.
Local Average Joes Become Chainsaw-Wielding Zombies and Psycho Clowns
By day, Pete Tirella of Seaside Park is a mild-mannered middle school language arts teacher in Point Pleasant who runs a surf camp during the summer. But by night, Tirella has been scaring the wits out of park goers for seven years as a chainsaw-wielding zombie. Tirella, a married father of two young boys, was a fan of Halloween and became mesmerized by Fright Fest zombies—so much that he became one.
Kyle Covill of Levittown, PA began his Six Flags career as a veterinary technician in the Wild Safari, but the lure of Fright Fest called him to the theme park. Once Covill put a clown costume and fluffy, blue wig on his large, 6-foot-1-inch frame, he knew something horrifyingly magical had happened. This married father with a young daughter, now a wildlife inspector with the U.S. Division of Fish and Wildlife, has been an integral part of the dreaded “Circus Psycho” area for the past five years. Guests can often find Covill stalking Circus Psycho with his hideous, half-melted clown face.
Nearly 40-year veteran of comedy and magic
Doc Swan has been a professional entertainer since 1973. This 56-year-old showman from the Philadelphia area performs magical comedy and variety acts all across the country in major theme parks and state fairs.
Swan has a long history with Six Flags Great Adventure. He was once an unicyclist in The Great Arena in 1978 (now the Northern Star Arena) and performed at Fright Fest in 2004 as a freak/side show act. He is returning this year to perform Doc Swan’s Magical Comedy show for families in the Adventure Theater, part of the newly-themed Safari Kids section. His show features a combination of magic, side show twists and comedy, perfect for fans of all ages. “I've loved Halloween long before it became the popular holiday it is now and performing my offbeat acts is a perfect tie-in with the theme,” Swan said.
Freakshow performers Donald Thomas and Heather Ramon, a.k.a. Heather Holliday
Coney Island icons Demented Donny and Haunted Heather
Donald Thomas moved to New York City from Norman, Oklahoma to pursue a career in entertainment in 2004. His schedule is packed with performances year-round between sideshow stunts at Coney Island during the summer and traveling with a vaudeville troupe during the winter.
Thomas works side-by-side with his Fright Fest Freakshow partner Heather Ramon, also known as Heather Holliday. Holliday was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. She became the world’s youngest sword swallower at age 19 after taking an internship at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. At age 26, Holliday now performs more than 500 shows per year and can swallow one or multiple two-foot swords at a time.
Thomas and Holliday aim to shock audiences with sword swallowing, fire breathing, human blockhead (hammering nails into the head) and many other daring acts. They have been starring in Fright Fest for five years now, formerly taking the stage with magician, lecturer, author and actor Todd Robbins. Freakshow can be found in the Boardwalk/Circus Psycho section of the theme park.