Dagobert Roehmann (sometimes given as Dagmar Rothman, 1920-1952) was one of the sideshow world’s most legendary geeks and regurgitators. Billed as Waldo the Great or “the Human Ostrich”, his act consisted of swallowing objects, including small living creatures, and then using his highly developed muscle control to spit them up again. Not only could he do coins, eggs or lemons…he could also do living goldfish, frogs and mice.
He’d developed the skill at carnivals in his native Germany. He happened to be performing in Austria at the time of the Anschluss in 1938. Being Jewish, he fled to Switzerland, which proved to be just a stepping stone to the U.S. Whereas previous American sideshow geeks tended to be costumed as wild men, Waldo was classy and wore a tuxedo. He ended up playing at most of the premiere venues for his type of act at that time: Coney Island, Ringling Bros circus sideshow, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditoriums, and Hubert’s Museum in Times Square.
Sadly, despondent over an unrequited love, he committed suicide in 1952.
To learn more about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
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Interesting stuff. There is a youtube clip, showing an old episode of Modern Marvels, that features Times Square. Joe Franklin is one of the featured commentators. He tells a story on it of Waldo the Great dying due to him swallowing a high watt light bulb, flipping the switch on, and the bulb ruptured, hence killing him….