Today is the birthday of Betty Lou Williams (1930-1953). Born to a poor Georgia farming family she was born with a parasitic twin growing out of her side. She began to be exhibited in New York by a showman named Dick Best at the age of one; by the following year she was discovered by Robert Ripley and exhibited in the very first edition of his Odditorium. She made so much money at her work she was able to buy a large ranch and put all 11 of her brothers and sisters through college. In addition to the lure of her dough, she also blossomed into a beautiful young woman, making her an attractive prospect for young lotharios. The lore is that one of these absonded on her, lettuce in hand, breaking her heart. She died of a severe asthma attack at the tender age of twenty three. According to Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA, she once performed in the very building where his Coney Island Circus Sideshow is now based!
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.
For more on silent film history don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc