Today is the birthday of Clifford Thompson (1904-1955), billed variously as “The Scandinavian Giant”, “The Wisconsin Paul Bunyon” and “Count Olaf”. While billed as being 8’7′ tall, the reality (as was typical in the business) was probably about a foot shorter. Thompson only appeared in actual sideshows for about eights years: four years for Al G. Barnes, four years for Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey. After this for many years, he worked in sales and did advertising endorsements for milk, beer, shoes, and automobiles. At age 45 he went back to school, earning a law degree, practicing for four years. He was not only the tallest lawyer in history but the tallest man ever to appear in Hollywood films. His credits include Seal Skins (1932) and Murder in the Private Car (1934). Thompson liked being “tallest”, famously (and foolishly it turns out) calling out Robert Wadlow to see who truly measured up. Wadlow took him up on it and handily dwarfed the little fellah in public in his own hometown, quipping “When you grow up you will be an awfully big boy”.
To find out more about show business 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