Koo Koo the Bird Girl
Minnie Woolsey (ca. 1880-1960) was born in Georgia, U.S.A. with a rare condition that caused her to be small in stature with a prominent, bald cranium, a small chin, large ears, and a case of mild retardation. She was also nearly blind and toothless. Originally billed as Minnie-Ha-ha, she was originally exhibited at carnivals dressed in an American Indian costume. “Koo-Koo” was the character assigned to her by Tod Browning for his 1932 movie Freaks, in which she dances an impressive shimmy. In her Koo-Koo costume (a feather suit and headpiece) Minnie does indeed somewhat resemble the Warner Bros. cartoon character Tweety Bird. Koo-Koo also happened to be the pre-existing carnival persona Betty Green, also known as the Stork Woman, also in the movie Freaks. This has caused a lot of Koo-Koo-Konfusion.
Koo Koo continued to be Minnie’s sideshow persona for many years, although in later years she is reported to have been “The Blind Girl from Mars” at Coney Island.
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.