Archive for the Giants Category

Eddie Carmel, The Jewish Giant

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Giants, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Jews/ Show Biz with tags , , , on March 16, 2014 by travsd
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Famous 1970 Diane Arbus portrait

Today is the birthday of Eddie Carmel, The Jewish Giant (1936-1972). Born in Tel Aviv, not far from the stomping grounds of the Biblical Philistine Goliath, Carmel was raised in the Bronx and did most of his performing at the legendary Hubert’s Museum in Times Square. Advertised as 8’9″, he may have been as much as a foot and a half shorter, although he sure looks to be the hyped height in photos:

3/15/02 eddie carmel in times square upi photo 7/1/61

Carmel was normal-sized until he was around 15 or 16, when acromegaly set in. In addition to his work in circuses and sideshows, he was in demand for advertisements and appeared as monsters in two films, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962), and 50,000 B.C. (Before Clothing) (1963). He also worked as a professional wrestler. He retired in 1969 for health reasons.

Sound Portraits did a wonderful radio documentary and accompanying book about him. Learn about that project here. 

Said to have the deepest voice in show business, Carmel was also in demand for voice overs. Thus, this fairly inexplicable 45. Jeez, he must have been a good sport.

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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Monsieur E. Bihin, the French Giant

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Frenchy, Giants, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , , on December 15, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Jean Antoine Joseph Bihin (1805-1873). A native of Belgium, he grew to a height of between 6’8″ to 8′ feet (reports vary). Beyond this advantage, he could act and sing, and was a skilled strong man and comedian. After achieving fame touring fairs and circuses across western Europe, he moved to the U.S. in 1840. He worked at P.T. Barnum’s museum, where he once got into a fight with Colonel Goshen. Barnum interceded by demanding they save the altercation until there were time to properly promote it and sell tickets. Bihin also worked with Colonel Nutt in a 1862 production of the play Hop o’ My Thumb. He is also reputed to have done some p.r. work for the Union during the Civil War, and is reported to have been married from 1849-1863. The marriage is said to have ended in divorce on the grounds of cruelty. (This and the fact that M. Bihin is said to have employed the N word during the brawl with Goshen begins to paint a not very flattering portrait of the man. But information is admittedly scant).

He is buried in Green-wood cemetery so look here for a photo of the marker ere long.

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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Clifford Thompson, The Wisconsin Paul Bunyan

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Giants, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2013 by travsd
He's the gentleman in the middle

He’s the gentleman in the middle

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 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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Mme. Abomah, the African Giantess

Posted in African American Interest, Coney Island, Dime Museum and Side Show, Giants, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Women with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2013 by travsd

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Thanks, Susan DeCarava, for alerting me to the existence of this amazing person. 

October, 1865 was the birth month of Ella Grigsby (later Williams), later billed as Mme. Abomah, the Tallest Woman in the World.

Abomah’s height was generally given out to be between seven and a half to eight feet, although the reality was probably closer to just under seven. She was working as a cook in her native South Carolina  when she was hired by Frank C. Bostock for a tour of the British Isles in 1896. Bostock was known as “The Animal King”; he specialized in presenting menageries of African wildlife. He renamed Ella, making her into Mme. Abomah (Abomey being the then-capital of Dahomey, now known as Benin), giving her out to be an African warrior princess. She was billed as a Dahomey Amazon, a real life caste of female bodyguards who protected the tribal chieftain. Over the course of her 30 year career she was to tour not only Britain but most of continental Europe, Australia and New Zealand, South America, Cuba and of course the United States, where she worked in Coney Island and with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.

The lovely Marie Roberts, the resident banner painter at Coney Island USA (and a terrific artist independent of that) has immortalized Mme. Abomah in her banner art. See! (Mme. Abomah is the tall African American lady):

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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.

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

Willie Camper

Posted in African American Interest, Dime Museum and Side Show, Giants, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , , on October 1, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Willie Camper (Guicel Willie Camper, 1924-1943). Hailing from the Memphis area, Camper was advertised as being eight and a half feet tall, probably “showmen’s license” (he was probably several inches shorter). He appeared in the sideshows of Wallace Brothers Circus and Bantly’s American Shows before dying of a heart attack while performing in Martinez, California at age 20.

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.

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

Noah Orr, the Ohio Giant

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Giants, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , on September 19, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Noah Orr (1836-1882). Standing 7′ 3″ in stocking feet (but nine feet in his military boots and hat), he went to work for P.T. Barnum’s American Museum in the 1850s and later worked for Barnum’s circus, touring Europe as well as the United States. During his last four years he traveled with the Lilliputian Opera Company, a troupe of little people, in their production of Jack the Giant Killer. He is buried in his hometown of Marysville, Ohio.

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.

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

Texas Jim Tarver

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Giants, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , , , , , on September 17, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of James Grover Tarver (1885-1958). During his 26 years with various sideshows (1914-1940) he was billed at different times as “Texas Jim”, the Texas Giant” and “What-a-Man-Tarver”. Shows he ran with included Hagenbeck-Wallace and Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey. Those dimensions on the pitch card are almost certainly exaggerated. There is a legend that was replaced at Ringling Brothers by Texas Jack, but it looks to me like they both retired around the same time. Tarver spent his last years working on his Arkansas farm.

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.

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

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