Today is the birthday of Joan Whisnant (1923-1998). Born in Red Fork, Oklahoma, Whisnant came into the world without any arms, but was taught by her parents to do everything everyone else does…with her feet. She could eat with fork and knife, turn the pages of books, wash dishes, brush her hair and embroider. Her parents kept her out of the sideshows, but she did learn a performing skill: she was able to play the guitar. And that was the avenue through which she got some attention in her teenage years, playing publicly at state fairs and in a Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium.
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.
And 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