Clico, the Wild Dancing South African Bushman

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Clico (1857-1940) was actually Franz Taabosh, a Bushman native of what is now South Africa. Fond of, and skilled at, his native Khoisan folk dances, the four foot tall Taabosh was first presented to white audiences in his native country by a man named Captain Hepston, who became his manager. Success at home inspired them to tour in England and France in 1913. From here, they jumped to the U.S. in 1917, where Taabosh performed at Dreamland Circus Sideshow in Coney Island, and toured with the Ringling Brothers sideshow.

The act had its stereotypical aspects. The name Clico derives from the “click” sounds of his native language. The leopard skin costume he wore was pure showmanship, and his patter included nonsense about how he needed to have chimpanzees with him in order to sleep at night (chimpanzees are not native to the Kalahari desert, where Taabosh is from). On the other hand, his dances were the real McCoy, making his performances of greater artistic, anthropological, and moral value than the scores of other wild men, many of whom were professional geeks (i.e., bit the heads off chickens), presented in the most terrifying light possible, and for the most part were African Americans who weren’t actually from Africa. Clico retired in 1939 just a few months before his death.

To find out 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.

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And please check out 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

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