Young Amar Nath Dutt (1884-1937) was sent by his Punjabi parents to Edinburgh to study medicine. Somehow he wound up chucking all that and touring with Ruth St. Denis as part of one of her “Oriental” dance numbers. In one account he says he learned magic by watching the Indian fakirs back home, and made his debut by challenging Chung Ling Soo during an Edinburgh performance, matching him trick for trick. In another version he learned magic in American sideshows. However it evolved, early in the last century he was touring American vaudeville and British music hall as Ram Bhuj, turbaned, robed and esconced in an elaborate stage set depicting a Hindu temple and surrounding mountains. Subsequently he became Linga Singh. Among his illusions; the supporting of a girl on the points of three upraised swords; the teleportation across the stage of a large carriage full of people using only the “power of the eyes”; and the ability to mix up sand piles of different colors and then (this is the magic part) sort them back out again. After his death of pneumonia at age 53, all of his stage effects and illusions were burned in a ceremonial pyre per his instructions.
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. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.
A bit more info – he was actually conned into going to the USA from India at 17 by the fake “Prince Ranji of Baluchistan” who claimed he was hiring a retinue to accompany him to the coronation of Edward VII in 1901, but was really trying to get staff for a new Indian restaurant in New York. After a few adventures in the USA, Europe and South America he ended up late in 1911 performing as Linga Singh after a short time performing as Ram Bhuj. He never went back to India and eventually, after a long performing career, he more or less collapsed on stage a couple of days before his death late in 1937.
The stories about medicine at Edinburgh and challenging Chung Ling Soo were all part of the fantasies he told about himself, although he did probably spend a short time touring in Europe with Ruth St Denis.
P.S. he was my grandfather!
You realize this gives you license to share much more with us! How nice to hear from you! And you have a standing offer, if you’d like to share photos, family anecdotes etc. We’ve done this in the past with relatives of Eddie Foy and Ming and Toy, and have a series in the works with a descendent of a long-lasting Irish vaudeville dynasty. So we’d LOVE to hear more! and thanks so much for writing! Made my day!
And I do have a lot of information that I’ve uncovered about him, plus quite a lot of memorabilia thanks to eBay and other sources….
I mailed you on Facebook