Today is the birthday of Franceso Lentini (1881-1966). He was born in Rosolini, Sicily, and technically he had MORE than three legs — his total inventory was three legs, PLUS a fourth foot growing out of one of those legs PLUS two sets of genitals. In actuality the extra parts weren’t really “his”; he had an incomplete conjoined twin growing out of him.
When he was eight he moved to the U.S. to perform with Ringling Brothers, and he would later work for Barnum & Bailey (then a separate organization) and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West over the course of his 40+ year career. His compeers in the sideshow called him “The King.”
He was known for his wit. When someone would ask about the difficulty in buying shoes, he would say he bought two pairs and gave the spare shoe to his one-legged friend. Unusually, the third leg was fully operational; Lentini would entertain crowds by kicking a ball with it, or sitting on it like a stool.
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