Archive for the Conjoined or Parasitic Twins Category

You MUST See “Bound By Flesh”

Posted in Conjoined or Parasitic Twins, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Movies, Movies (Contemporary), Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2014 by travsd

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Everyone within the sound of my voice: you MUST see Leslie Zemeckis’s wonderful, definitive new film about the Hilton Sisters. As the Mad Marchioness said last night, Zemeckis is really carving out a special niche for herself as a trad show biz documentarian. First the terrific Beyond the Burly Q , which kind of has the last word on the post-burlesque of the mid-twentieth-century (by virtue of all the interviews she got with the old gals before they expired); and now Bound by Flesh, which is as eloquent about the entire world of sideshow as it is about the amazing and ultimately sad lives of the Hilton Sisters.

You can get a little background on these conjoined starlets at my previous post here. But Zemeckis’s film told me much that I didn’t know, or didn’t realize. To wit:

* I always think of the sisters as English, because they were born in Brighton England, but they spent the bulk of their formative years based out of San Antonio, Texas, which, come to think of it, explains their accents.

* Up until the mid twentieth century it was extremely rare for conjoined twins to survive beyond infancy. I mean, we all know they’re rare, but perhaps we don’t realize HOW rare. Basically, all of them who ever lived are well known.

* Their story is unexpectedly moving and thought-provoking, and Zemeckis treats it with heart, humanity and balance. As in her burlesque movie, she gets into the nitty-gritty of the question of exploitation, and we hear expressions of both sides of this issue. On the one hand, a series of guardians mistreated and abused them. On the other hand, they were cared for and didn’t have to worry about food and a roof over their heads. UNTIL they fought for and achieved their emancipation; then they most assuredly DID have to worry about those basic facts of life. Just like the rest of us, you might say. Except…uh?

And their story has particular resonance because it is so extreme. All “born freaks” were the royalty of carnivals and sideshows and thus made lots of money. But the Hilton Sisters were an extreme case. They were perhaps the only human anomalies to ever make a hit in VAUDEVILLE because they were beautiful, could sing in harmony and play musical instruments. And not only that, for a time, they were commanding TOP vaudeville salaries, at one point $2,500 a week, the sort of money that only the Eva Tanguays and Sophie Tuckers were making. In today’s money that’s probably the equivalent of ten times that. And they were of course in Tod Browning’s Freaks. So when they fell, the fall was so much greater. They went from vaudeville, to burlesque (a bit seedier), back to carnivals, to their depressing exploitation film Chained for Life, to operating their own hot dog stand (at which they literally cooked food and served customers), to being virtually homeless and finally finding work at a local supermarket. How those brave, brave ladies could have faced the day sometimes…it’s inspirational even as it’s sad. Sometimes it’s an act of heroism just to be alive.

And Zemeckis gets the very best talking heads in this film, not just people who knew the Hilton Sisters, and folks from San Antonio’s local Witte Museum, but King of the Sideshow Ward Hall, and the great James Taylor of Shocked and Amazed and the American Dime Museum.

Chillun, this movie is REQUIRED VIEWING. If you can’t make it to the theatres where it’s playing, see it streaming on Amazon like we did last night. Here’s all the dope: http://www.boundbyflesh.com/

New Hilton Sisters Documentary Opens Tonight!

Posted in Conjoined or Parasitic Twins, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Movies (Contemporary), PLUGS, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2014 by travsd

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Very excited! Bound By FleshLeslie Zemeckis’s new doc about the conjoined Hilton Sisters opens in New York (IFC Center) and in LA today! It’s also available on demand, so I think you know what will be on my agenda this weekend.

For my full article on the Hilton Sisters go here.

For my review of Zemeckis’s previous film Behind the Burley Q go here. 

And for the full scoop on Bound By Flesh, go here. 

Ronnie and Donnie Galyon, World’s Oldest Living Pair of Conjoined Twins

Posted in Conjoined or Parasitic Twins, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , , on October 28, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Ronnie and Donnie Galyon (b. 1951), the world’s oldest living pair of conjoined twins. Born in Dayton, Ohio joined from the sternum to the groin, they share a set of organs and thus cannot be separated. They were exhibited since their early childhood with Coleman Shows and others, toured Latin America for a time (when the climate grew unfriendly for freak shows domestically), and appeared with Hall and Christ toward the end of their career. They have been retired since the 1990s, apart from the occasional television appearance on shows like Jerry Springer, and documentaries on the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel.

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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To learn about silent and slapstick comedy please see 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

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Millie and Christine McCoy, The Two Headed Nightingale

Posted in African American Interest, Conjoined or Parasitic Twins, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , , , , , on July 11, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of the conjoined twins Millie and Christine McCoy (1851-1912). Born into slavery in North Carolina, they changed hands several times in their early childhood, finally winding up in the hands of Joseph Pearson Smith, who initially owned them as slaves. When freed by the 13th amendment, the girls opted to retain Smith as manager. Billed as “The Two Headed Nightingale” and “The Carolina Twins”, the girls sang, danced, played music and spoke five languages.  They were also invariably billed as “Millie-Christine”, as though they were a single entity. At various times during their long career they worked for P.T. Barnum (initially at the American Museum, later at his circus), as well as at various dime museums and sideshows. Briefly in their childhood, they had also toured England when in the hands of a couple of promoters who had essentially kidnapped them. After several years of retirement, TB eventually took them in 1912 at the age of 61.

To find out more about  the history of show businessconsult 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 Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

 

The Tocci Brothers

Posted in Conjoined or Parasitic Twins, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Italian with tags , , , , , on July 4, 2013 by travsd

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Giacomo and Giovanni Battista Tocci were conjoined twins born in Locana, Italy born on either July 4 or October 4 somewhere between 1875 and 1877. The pair were unique in possessing separate sets of organs and appendages in the upper halves of their bodies, but sharing everything below the pelvis. This meant a single pair of legs; each boy controlled the leg on his own side, making walking very difficult. (To get around in private, they sort of clumsily crawled; in public they would use a wheelchair). According to the many doctors who examined them, the boys were mentally healthy and intelligent, and by the time of their adolescence spoke several languages.

From infancy they were exhibited throughout Europe at medical institutions and similar venues in every major city west of Russia. From 1892 to 1897 they toured dime museums and sideshows throughout the United States; seeing them inspired Mark Twain to write “Those Extraordinary Twins” and Pudd’nhead Wilson. After their U.S. tour, the twins retired to seclusion in Italy. The year of their deaths is not known; accounts range from 1906 to 1940.

To find out more about  the history of show businessconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Mary and Margaret Gibb, America’s Siamese Twins

Posted in Conjoined or Parasitic Twins, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Sister Acts, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , on May 20, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Mary and Margaret Gibb (1912-1967). Born in Mount Holyoke, Massachusetts, they generated publicity from the time they were born, having been one of the first pairs of twins to be delivered without caesarian section. The pair left home to go into vaudeville at age 14, presenting an act in which they sang, danced and played the piano. Billed as “America’s Siamese Twins” they also toured the U.S. and Europe with Ringling Bros, Barnum and Bailey, and Cole Bros. Circuses. They remained in show business until they were 30, then opened in a store in their hometown, where they sold their own handmade craft items. By 1949 they had retired completely.

To find out about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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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 Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Yvonne and Yvette McArther

Posted in African American Interest, Conjoined or Parasitic Twins, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Women with tags , , , on May 14, 2013 by travsd

 

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Today is the birthday of Yvonne and Yvette McCarther (1949-1992). Born joined at the top of the head, it was predicted that they would be unable to walk and that they would both be mentally challenged. Neither would prove to be the case (in fact, it was determined that they had above average intelligence, which leads me to wonder if Kurt Vonnegut had gotten inspiration from them for his novel Slapstick of Another Kind). Only the first six months of their lives were spent in a sideshow; they toured with the Royal American Circus to help pay off their medical bills. Later, however, they did travel around the country and tour as gospel singers. In 1987 they began living on their own, in their own apartment. They passed away on December 15, 1992, and were discovered two weeks later.

Yvette and Yvonne McCarther Standing for Camera

 

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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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

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