Eko and Iko were actually George Muse (1893-1971) and Willie Muse (1892-2001), two Albino African American “twin” brothers from Roanoke, Virginia. The lore is that they were kidnapped from their hometown as children, and taken on the road by first the Al G. Barnes Circus and then Ringling Brothers. Their hair worked into woolly dreadlocks, they were billed variously as the “White Ecuadorian Cannibals”, the “Sheep Headed Men”, the “Sheep Headed Cannibals”, then finally the handle that took: the “Ambassadors from Mars” or the “Men from Mars”. (It was the fancy tuxedos that justified the diplomatic title).
In 1927, when they came through their hometown with the circus, they were reunited with their mother, who was appalled to learn that though they had been performing for 18 years, they had never been paid anything beyond their room and board. She attempted to sue for $100,000. The young men missed performing, though, so they went back on the road in 1928. In the 30s they worked Dreamland Circus Sideshow in Coney Island, and toured Europe and the Far East. In 1937, they rejoined Ringling Bros.; by the time they retired in 1961 they were with Clyde Beatty. George passed away in 1971. Willie was 108 when he finally followed his brother in 2001.
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.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy 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