In the Swim with Chester Dolphin

Chester Dolphin (Charles H. Dolphin, 1907-1986) was a minor show biz figure to be sure, but knowing about him adds color and depth to our overall portrait of American variety entertainment.

Hailing from Worcester, Massachustts, he initially worked circuses and fairs with Everett Dolphin in an act called the Dolphin Brothers (not be confused with the New Wave band). Later his partner was his wife Charmon Dolphin, who provided comedy and sex appeal. His list of skills is impressive: He swallowed swords, sabers, scissors, carpenter saws and pokers, was a top notch balancer and juggler, and rode a unicycle. He could do a headstand on a globe, and balance balls on top of a cane. Dolphin is known to have performed at Ripley’s Odditorium at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, and toured with the Royal American Shows. After WWII service he travled the length and breadith of America performing at nightclubs and presentation houses at least into the early 1950s. In 1951 he performed on Cavalcade of Bands on the Dumont Television Network, along with Joe Frisco, Shep Fields and His Orchestra, et al. He then toured on a bill with the U.S.O. during the Korean War. In a Minneapolis paper, I found that a veteran mentions having seen him perform over there along with Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Jay Palmer and Doreen (a comedy magic act), The Half Brothers, Oscar Peterson Trio, Larry Weeks, and Jack Benny. Sometime after this, Dolphin returned to Worcester, where he died at age 79.

For more on variety arts history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,