Today is the birthday of Sealo, the Seal Boy (Stanley Berent, 1901-1980). Berent was born with a condition known as phocomelia; he was born with his hands growing out of his shoulders, and no arms in between. According to lore, he was discovered whilst working as a paper boy. From the 1920s through the 1970s, he performed in the sideshows of Coney Island and toured the world, always advertised with a banner that exaggerated the extent to which he resembled an actual seal. Interestingly, for many years he had an animal partner who was not a seal, but a chimp named Toby. In 1976, he retired to Gib’town, the famous retirement community in Florida for former sideshow freaks.
In 2001, Matt Fraser (best known for his role on American Horror Story: Freak Show, honored Sealo with his one man show: Sealboy: Freak.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.