Martin Laurello (born Martin Emmerling in Nuremberg Germany in May 1886) was born with the unique gift of being able to turn his head around 180 degrees backwards. The above photo may look like it was photoshopped, but it was not. There are many photos of him performing this stunt online. He’d begun exhibiting himself professionally in Europe, then moved to the U.S. in 1921. Billed as “the Human Owl” and “Bobby, the Boy with the Revolving Head”, he performed with Dreamland Circus Sideshow in Coney Island, Ringling Brothers and Ripleys Believe it or Not. His last known performance was in 1952. Accounts paint him as a Nazi sympathizer — graphic proof, it seems to me, that racists have their heads screwed on backwards. (My question is “Why did he change his name to ‘Laurello’?” That seems a little more Fascisti!) Laurello passed away in 1955.
Here’s a clip of him in motion; apparently when he was with Ripley’s he was billed as “Joe” Laurello:
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