Jules Leotard

Name sound funny to you? Well it shouldn’t! They named the garment after him, not the other way around!

Some sources say he was born August 1, 1838, but others say he was born as late as 1842, with the day unknown. He was the son of a gymnasium owner/ instructor from Toulouse. He originally studied for the law but wound up emulating his father. Fooling around in his father’s gym, he worked out on trapeze bars, ropes and rings, eventually inventing several new tricks that have since become standard: the mid-air somersalt and leaping from trapeze to trapeze. He was hired to perform with Cirque Napoleon in 1859 and was an immediate sensation. Within a couple of years, he was a star of the music halls of London and Paris. In 1867, a song was written about him “The Man on the Flying Trapeze”, still popular today. He died in 1870 (possibly of cholera), and a few years later it became standard to refer to the close-fitting athletic costume he popularized as a “leotard”.

To learn more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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