Today is the birthday of Dolly Dimples (b. Celesta Herrmann, 1901-1982), one of the most famous of all sideshow Fat Ladies. Originally from Cincinnati, Dolly weighed 150 lbs in the sixth grade; 300 lbs when she left high school; over 400 lbs a year after that. Her career began in 1927 when she visited the Happyland Carnival in Michigan and it was noticed that she weighed 50 pounds more than the Fat Lady they were then employing. Her husband had recently been laid off from his job, so when the sideshow offered Celesta a position, she took it.
Billing herself as Dolly Dimples (sometimes Jolly Dolly and “The World’s Most Beautiful Fat Lady) the 4’11” woman swelled up to 555 lbs over the next few years thanks to a strict regimen of high calorie foods. In the 1930s she began working for Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus, her professional home for the remainder of her career. It all ended with a major heart attack in 1950. Scared for her life, Dolly lost 443 lbs in one year two months by limiting herself to baby food, thus meriting an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for fastest weight loss ever for a woman. Out of a job? Nope! She wrote a diet book! And lived another three decades to extol the virtues of moderate eating.
To find out 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.