Today is the birthday of Robert Wadlow (1918-1940), the tallest man ever recorded (at least the tallest since Goliath). At the time of his death, he was 8′ 11.1″ tall, but I’ve always been fond of rounding it off to nine feet. By age five he was already 5′ 4″…by age ten, he was 6′ 6″, a good deal taller than most adult men. The out-of-control growth was due to an abnormally overactive pituitary; doctors said the process had shown no sign of abating at the time of his death. (Nor did it kill him directly, despite his death at the young age of 22. He perished as a result of a blood infection from a blister caused by his leg brace. Because of circulation problems, he couldn’t feel sensations in his feet).
Shy by nature, Wadlow was only beginning to have something of a public life at the time of his death. He had done a tour with the Ringling Bros. sideshow when he graduated from high school in 1936. Following that he did a promotional tour for the shoe company that had provided him with free custom made shoes. There are life-sized statues of him at many Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditoriums.
Here’s a little segment on him from the Guinness Book’s television program:
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 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