Fred Van was a half-and-half or he-she who claimed to have been born on this day in 1908. Like most in this line, he was not a true hemraphrodite, but a female impersonator who merely made up half of his body to appear female. He claimed to have been in the movie Freaks although he does not appear in the credits and the main he-she in that movie was Josephine-Joseph, although he may have appeared as an extra. In 1933 he appeared under the name Francis Ferrell in the International Congress of Oddities display at the Century of Progress exhibition (world’s fair) in Chicago. (Whether he is the same he-she as “Frances Francis” I do not know). At the time he claimed to have performed in every state and on “all the major vaudeville circuits”. Fred Van’s later years in sideshows were spent as a performing geek, although he did take his wig out of mothballs one last time to appear as Freda-Fred for sideshow impresario Ward Hall in the early 1970s.
To learn about the history of vaudeville, 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 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