Archive for the He-Shes Category

May-Joe, The Three Legged He-She

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, He-Shes, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Spare Parts with tags , , , , , , on October 16, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of George Francis Ethinger (1905-?). Born with a parasitic conjoined twin, George possessed three legs, three buttocks, two stomachs and two kidneys. In addition to this (s)he was a pseudohermaphrodite, born in the No Man’s Land betwixt genders. Billed as May-Joe, the child was exhibited by the team of Bolus and Startzel until the age of four in the sideshows of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East Show. For a time the child’s parents tried to exhibit him/her in their native Ohio but with much resistance from local authorities, The photographic record indicates that May-Joe lived through adolescence: whether (s)he continued to work in sideshows through adolescence, or whether the family merely sold pictures is unknown. Other professional names used by May-Joe included Joe-Pearl, Josephine-Pearl and Elsie-Lynn.

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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For more on 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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Happy Birthday to Bearded Lady Vivian Wheeler

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, He-Shes, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Women with tags , , , , on August 9, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Vivian Wheeler (b. 1948), notable in these annals for oh so many interesting reasons. Wheeler was born a hermaphrodite; since her parents already had two sons they had the male organs removed, making her technically female. But like her mother and her maternal grandmother, she continued to produce in profusion one attribute most females do not possess: facial hair. As a child she helped pay her own way by working in sideshows. As a young woman she tried to settle down, shaved her beard, went through several failed marriages and had two children, who were later put up for adoption. (Because of her male bone structure both were delivered by cesarian section). By 1981 she was back in the sideshows, often billed as Malinda Maxey. She has been in the Guinness Book of World Records numerous times since 2001 for possessing the longest female beard, which has ranged in length from 11 to 17 inches. In 2010 she receive a huge amount of international publicity when her biological son tracked her down: the headlines “Adopted Son Discovers  His Mother to be a Bearded Lady” spread like wildfire around the world; articles about the incident continue to run to this day.

Here is a local news segment about her incredible story:

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.

Freda-Fred

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Drag and/or LGBT, He-Shes, Human Anomalies (Freaks) with tags , , , , , , on February 22, 2013 by travsd

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Fred Van was a half-and-half or he-she who claimed to have been born on this day in 1908. Like most in this line, he was not a true hemraphrodite, but a female impersonator who merely made up half of his body to appear female. He claimed to have been in the movie Freaks although he does not appear in the credits and the main he-she in that movie was Josephine-Joseph, although he may have appeared as an extra. In 1933 he appeared under the name Francis Ferrell in the International Congress of Oddities display at the Century of Progress exhibition (world’s fair) in Chicago. (Whether he is the same he-she as “Frances Francis” I do not know). At the time he claimed to have performed in every state and on “all the major vaudeville circuits”. Fred Van’s later years in sideshows were spent as a performing geek, although he did take his wig out of mothballs one last time to appear as Freda-Fred for sideshow impresario Ward Hall in the early 1970s.

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.

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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 Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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