Archive for the Fat Women and Men Category

Happy Fourth from Jolly Ema

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Fat Women and Men, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Women with tags , , , , on July 4, 2016 by travsd

050e0215b0fdbe889d7327bcaf67486f

I could learn nothing about Jolly Ema beyond what it tells on this postcard, and the weight they give (if it does indeed say 620 lbs) is probably a matter of creative interpretation. But this I do know: she was clearly patriotic, and probably filled her paper plate with copious second and third helpings of BBQ at the sideshow picnic (yes, I know they didn’t have paper plates back then, just surf with me). At any rate — a relic from a time when Americans of this girth were people we bought tickets to see as curiosities, and weren’t roaming the shopping malls in huge numbers. In fact, think of Jolly Ema as you celebrate today. Or do as I will — and try to forget her.

Blanche Gray

Posted in Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Coney Island, Dime Museum and Side Show, Fat Women and Men, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Women with tags , , , , , on November 3, 2013 by travsd

12937017_113677760533

A cautionary tale with a sad ending. Blanche Gray was born in Detroit in November 1866. At the time of her birth she weighed 25 lbs, proportions that killed her mother a couple of days after her delivery. By the time she was 12 years old, at the relatively normal height of 4 feet 8 inches tall, she weighed 250 lbs.

By October 1883, Blanche now weighed 517 lbs, and things were looking up for her. She’d gotten married to a young man named David Moses and had become a professional entertainer. She was living in New York, had performed at Coney Island, was just ending a three week run at the Bowery Museum. She was just about to embark on a national tour, with Philadelphia as her next stop. But it all ended abruptly when her rapid weight gain (67 pounds in one month) killed her. She died in her sleep on October 26, 1883, a little bit shy of her 17th birthday.

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

safe_image

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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Celesta Geyer, a.k.a. Dolly Dimples: “The World’s Most Beautiful Fat Lady”

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Fat Women and Men, German, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Women with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2013 by travsd

g01

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 businessconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Chauncey Morlan

Posted in Circus, Dime Museum and Side Show, Fat Women and Men, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , , on April 27, 2013 by travsd

321216_243509025681345_182486071783641_399875_2035114039_n1[1]

Today is the birthday of Chauncey Morlan (1869-1912). Morlan was said to have weighed 140 lbs by age seven; by the time he joined Adam Forepaugh’s show at age 15 he was over 400. Morlan became one of Forepaugh’s leading attractions, eventually reaching a weight of 748 lbs. While working for that show, he met and wooed Annie Bell, the Ohio Giantess, whom at 490 lbs was a little slip of a thing alongside her husband. Their 1892 wedding at Huber’s 14th Street was a major media event, with hundreds of admissions-paying onlookers in attendance. The two continued to work dime museums for their remaining years. Annie passed away in 1909. It is said that on the rebound the recovering lover often looks for the opposite of she whom he has just lost. Thus it was that in 1909, Chauncey married 100 lb. Stella Manning.

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

safe_image

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 Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Happy Jack Eckart

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Fat Women and Men, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , on April 18, 2013 by travsd
This is undoubtedly adorable...unless you find it terrifying, as I do

This is undeniably adorable, unless you find it terrifying, as I do

“Happy” Jack Eckart (1874-1937), the son of a Fort Wayne cigar maker, weighed 19 lbs. at birth. At the time of his passing at age 63 he weighed 739 lbs and had to be buried in a casket six times the normal size. He went into the sideshow business when he was a 265 lb boy of ten, working first for P.T. Barnum, and later for the Great American Shows. A born joiner, he often billed himself as “The World’s Largest Moose” or “Elk” or whatever lodge was applicable at the time (the banners in the above refer to the Elks”). He often had himself photographed naked or in a racy Greco-Roman outfits. Most differently sized performers die young as a result of complications arising from their conditions. Jack was still going strong in his sixties after a half century in the business, expiring only when a trailer truck smashes into his automobile.

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.

safe_image

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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Clyde “Tiny” Hicks

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Fat Women and Men, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , , on April 7, 2013 by travsd

3686476_1_l

Born in 1919, Illinous native Clyde “Tiny” Hicks got with it in 1945 when he joined the Standard Shows in Wyoming as a fat man”. Claims about his weight ranged from over 500 lbs to a whopping 762. Later, he worked for Ringling Bros. sideshow, and for Ward Hall at Madison Square Garden and regional tours. Hall reported he couldn’t get Tiny to take any bookings in the South under the superstitious belief that the South was “no good for fat shows” (he’d once had a minor brush with the law there). Tiny was a fixture in the sideshow world for 20 years before retiring to his hometown in Warren, Illinois.

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

safe_image

And don’t miss 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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Jolly Irene

Posted in Circus, Dime Museum and Side Show, Fat Women and Men, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Women with tags , , , , on February 24, 2013 by travsd

12938706_113682943282

Some prodigies are born, some prodigies are made. And still others are deferred. Amand Siebert (1880- 1940) was a perfectly average 120 lb pound woman until she gave birth to her first child at age 21. Then her glands suddenly went out of control. She didn’t stop growing until she was nearly 700 lbs. Using the handle “Jolly Irene” she toured initially with the Ringling Bros. side show (it was common for circus fat ladies to use the adjective jolly as part of their names, as in “fat people are jolly”, but Irene was also said to have a cheerful personality). When she got too large to ride in the passenger cars in the train she restricted herself to playing with Ringling only during their New York runs, and for the rest of the time made her home base Coney Island.

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. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.

safe_image

%d bloggers like this: