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Selling all that glitters -- and then off to join the circus

Inexplicably, no one bought the corset made from flattened olive oil cans, or the homemade bottlecap/can pull-tab headdress.

Old clothes, spare housewares, an Ikea chair or two? Any tag sale can have those. But if you wanted aerial silks or metal corsets, you had to be at the "Punk Rock Flying Circus" tag sale last month -- where Naomi Bennett was selling her stuff and running away to join the circus.

Specifically, she's leaving town next weekend to enter a new five-month professional training program run by Nimble Arts in Brattleboro, where she'll study trapeze, tightrope, and Chinese pole.

The move is no surprise from Bennett, 28, a performer who has already taken circus classes in Venice and Paris. Depending on your walk of life, you may know her as a Cambridge after-school clowning instructor; a teacher-in-training at O2 Yoga in Somerville; a barista at the Porter Square Books café; a living statue at Faneuil Hall last summer; or "reverse" drag queen "Nomi Sparks" (she pretends to be a man dressing as a woman).

She has also performed with DIVA Dance Theatre, the Grindhouse Marionettes, and Leah Callahan's Illegitimate Theater Company. "The last six months, most of my income has been coming from art," she said.

With this background, it's also no surprise that Bennett had some unusual items to sell from the apartment she's shared with about 30 roommates over five years. The low-ceilinged rooms overflowed with performance paraphernalia, with the list including a wet- suit top, a feathered headdress, the book "Brecht on Theatre," a can of Ace Ready-Mixed Patching Plaster, a pair of Sesame Street undies trimmed with plastic frogs, a Pez dispenser, stuffed animals, and a plastic zucchini.

In rounding up the big-top merchandise for the Dec. 17 sale, Bennett got help from a perhaps unexpectedly pragmatic source: professional organizer Melanie Arzt. "Her stuff is unbelievably colorful," Arzt enthused. "Everything is a conversational piece." Arzt met Bennett in a dance class.

As at any tag sale, some of the best pickings went quickly, including an adorably ferocious dragon puppet and a package of "Inflatable Big Boobs." An early bird took the theremin. People lusted after Bennett's dancing-girl lamp -- a fringed shade on a long-legged base -- until she finally had to label it as not for sale.

Many of the 20 or 30 visitors stayed for a good hour, including Dana Klepper-Smith of Boston, 21. "I love it. This is like my type of stuff," she said while rummaging among the white go-go boots. She also picked out a unicorn play set for consideration.

"Scratch," whose real but little-used name is Alex Newman, MC and director of the Boston Babydolls burlesque troupe, has performed on the same bill s as Bennett and admired her costumes. He bought the aerial silks, which are "long, very strong pieces of fabric... for doing acrobatic work," and also made off with a headless-man costume, its neckline capped with gory red rubber. "It's a business expense," he noted. His companion, who performs as Betty Blaize, snagged every last peacock feather.

They weren't the only attendees from the theatrical world. Cambridge playwright Lynn Liccardo, who met Bennett while taking her water aerobics class, made off with a fluffy white dress that will come in handy should her newest play be produced.

Still, a few gems went unnoticed, including the headdress and corset, which Bennett wore as a "living statue" on July 4 until "it was raining and started thundering and several people informed me that I was a huge lightning magnet."

She won't be needing the theatrical paraphernalia from now on. "I'm not doing the same sort of performance" art, said Bennett. "I'm hoping to go more professional," joining perhaps a European or traveling Cirque du Soleil-style troupe."

With $1,005 in hand after the six-hour sale, and with some second-hand stores and classified ads in her future, she was well on her way.

Danielle Dreilinger can be reached at

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