The REAL Schitt’s Creek: Las Vegas strip show Spiegelworld buys California desert town for $2.5 million

A Las Vegas circus has bought an entire town in the Mojave Desert with the goal of turning it into a “circus town.”

Spiegelworld, which performs performances that blur the lines between acrobatic and burlesque performances, bought Nipton, California, in 2022 for $2.5 million in cash.

Like the show Schitt’s Creek – in which a formerly wealthy family tries to sell a town they once bought as a joke – the unincorporated town of Nipton was up for sale for years after being bought on a whim by a couple in the 1980s. for $200,000.

The parallels are not lost on Spiegelworld founder Ross Mollison, who narrated The Wall Street Journal “Imagine it’s Schitt’s Creek, but owned by a circus.”

Mollison and his team have already begun overhauling the unincorporated town, working with its 25 or so residents to get it ready for the big summit.

A hotel in the small town of Nipton, California, on the northeastern border of the Mojave Desert Preserve

A hotel in the small town of Nipton, California, on the northeastern border of the Mojave Desert Preserve

Acrobats perform during a Spiegelworld performance.  The group recently bought a town that they hope to outfit into a full-blown circus

Acrobats perform during a Spiegelworld performance.  The group recently bought a town that they hope to outfit into a full-blown circus

Acrobats perform during a Spiegelworld performance. The group recently bought a town that they hope to outfit into a full-blown circus

Spiegelworld bills itself as a 'raunchy' show and an 'engaging playground for adults'

Spiegelworld bills itself as a 'raunchy' show and an 'engaging playground for adults'

Spiegelworld bills itself as a ‘raunchy’ show and an ‘engaging playground for adults’

Spiegelworld is putting on a series of themed shows, including one billed as an “immersive adult playground” that is “unashamedly raunchy and undeniably hilarious” and “holds up a mirror to the desires and desires lurking deep within your soul.”

The show hopes to spread that experience – which consists of scantily clad men and women performing acrobatics, dancing, singing and telling bawdy stories and jokes – all over the town of Nipton.

“What if a daring circus troupe bought a small town in the middle of the Mojave Desert?” The Spiegelworld website reads. ‘A living city where artists and craftsmen can retreat to dream and create? A place to tell stories around the campfire? A place to dine under the stars and wake up to panoramic mountain views?’

Mollison plans to fill the city with play areas, a large outdoor art park, shelter for visitors in an underground bunker, and a restaurant nestled among the many eucalyptus trees dotted around the city’s desert landscape.

‘I don’t want to build a resort. This is a very high end circus. At the same time it is full of character and personality.’ Mollison told The Wall Street Journal. “There could be an element of permanent Burning Man,” he added. The city already has a number of sculptures that were used during previous Burning Man festivals.

The desert landscape around the town of Nipton, California

The desert landscape around the town of Nipton, California

The desert landscape around the town of Nipton, California

One of the few stores in the small desert town of Nipton, California

One of the few stores in the small desert town of Nipton, California

One of the few stores in the small desert town of Nipton, California

Old cars painted as sculptures in the desert town of Nipton, California

Old cars painted as sculptures in the desert town of Nipton, California

Old cars painted as sculptures in the desert town of Nipton, California

The Spiegelworld team has been working to prepare the city for its eventual opening and has disposed of at least 250 tonnes of waste since the project began.

The company has been forced to grapple with damaged infrastructure in the city, including tangled old electrical systems, clogged septic tanks, a shed full of rotting old mattresses, discarded appliances, and even a half-buried old tank wagon in need of removal.

“There were a lot of plasters that we really had to fix,” says Frank Stebel, who has already moved to Nipton with his partner Alex to run the revival project.

“It felt so strange and community-oriented,” Alex said. “We could definitely see that there was a lot of work to be done.”

A Spiegelworld acrobat performs atop a large sculpture previously used at a Burning Man festival

A Spiegelworld acrobat performs atop a large sculpture previously used at a Burning Man festival

A Spiegelworld acrobat performs atop a large sculpture previously used at a Burning Man festival

A former Burning Man sculpture that made its way to Nipton, California

A former Burning Man sculpture that made its way to Nipton, California

A former Burning Man sculpture that made its way to Nipton, California

Tipi frames stand in the desert outside of Nipton, California

Tipi frames stand in the desert outside of Nipton, California

Tipi frames stand in the desert outside of Nipton, California

Nipton is right on the northeastern border of the brutally hot Mojave Desert Reservation, a location that was once at the intersection of two wagon trails. The town was founded in 1905, having first been established as a simple mining camp by prospectors passing through the region.

A few shops and a small one-story hotel have been built over the years, and little has changed since then. The town was bought in the 1980s by Californian Jerry Freeman, who picked it up on a whim to surprise his wife Roxanne Lang.

They owned the town together until Jerry died in 2016, and a year later, Roxanne sold it to the cannabis company American Green Inc., which wanted to make Nipton an oasis for marijuana-smoking social media influencers.

Spiegelworld performers walk into Nipton in a promotional video announcing the company's purchase of Nipton

Spiegelworld performers walk into Nipton in a promotional video announcing the company's purchase of Nipton

Spiegelworld performers walk into Nipton in a promotional video announcing the company’s purchase of Nipton

Three Spiegelworld artists made a human tower in an ordinary performance

Three Spiegelworld artists made a human tower in an ordinary performance

Three Spiegelworld artists made a human tower in an ordinary performance

A roller skating performance at a Spiegelworld show

A roller skating performance at a Spiegelworld show

A roller skating performance at a Spiegelworld show

An acrobat performs at a Spiegelworld show in Las Vegas in 2020. The company plans to turn Nipton into a circus town

An acrobat performs at a Spiegelworld show in Las Vegas in 2020. The company plans to turn Nipton into a circus town

An acrobat performs at a Spiegelworld show in Las Vegas in 2020. The company plans to turn Nipton into a circus town

But the company stopped paying Roxanne, and she shut them down and reclaimed the city. It came back to market in 2021, and she met with interested buyers from religious sects, technology investors and “some people from Brazil, one of whom was a dentist,” she told the Wall Street Journal.

Spiegelworld’s purchase of Nipton brought with it some caveats, including the remains of Jim Eslinger, who has lived in the town for 14 years and was the de facto mayor for a long time.

“I’ve met quite a few acrobats,” Eslinger said. “They’re great people and what I hear is they have really good shows.”

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