Archive for the Professional Uglies Category

Show about Julia Pastrana “The Ugliest Woman in the World” Opens Tonight

Posted in Human Anomalies (Freaks), Indie Theatre, Missing Links/ Wild Men, Professional Uglies, Radio (Old Time Radio), Women with tags , , , on June 13, 2013 by travsd
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Art by Carolyn Raship

A few months ago I blogged about Julia Pastrana on the occasion of her much overdue burial (Read all about her and it here).

Now her story is a theatre piece in the Brick Theater’s Sound Scape Festival opening tonight. Read all about it here:

The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, The Ugliest Woman in the World

Written by: Shaun Prendergast
Directed by: Gyda Arber
sound design by Steve Sabaugh
Starring: Linus Gelber, Amanda LaPergola, Michael McKim,* Irene Menendez, Ken Simon,* Julia Wolfermann
*Appearing courtesy Actors’ Equity Association

Performed entirely in the dark, Shaun Prendergast’s play tells the entirely true story of sideshow freak Julia Pastrana, who toured the world both in life and in death as “The Ugliest Woman in the World.”

Performances June 13 9pm, June 15 9pm, June 23 8pm, June 25 9pm, June 29 8pm

part of the sound scape festival at the brick
Tickets: www.bricktheater.com • 718.285.3863

 

 

 

 

Grace McDaniels, the “Mule Faced Woman”

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Professional Uglies with tags , , , , on April 30, 2013 by travsd

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Despite what her unfortunate name suggested Grace McDaniels (1888-1958) did not resemble a mule. She was born in Numa, Iowa with a condition called Sturge-Weber Syndrome which by around age 30 had degenerated to such a point that she joined Harry Lewiston’s Circus as a freak (a designation she understandably objected to). In 1935 she joined F.W. Miller’s sideshow after winning an “ugliest woman” competition. Grace preferred “mule-faced” to “ugly” in her billing and was generally mortified by the attention she got from her condition. Audience members were known to scream or faint; some reported nightmares in the aftermath.  In early years she tried to cover her anomaly (which began as a wine colored birthmark) with make-up; later she wore a veil in public.  Raped by a carnival worker, she gave birth to a son she named Elmer, who grew up to be her manager. Elmer turned out to be cruel and abusive, stealing from Grace and her employers in order to cover gambling debts. This happened just as she was becoming more dependent, the growths on her face swelling to the point where she couldn’t speak. Eventually, the sideshows stopped hiring her. She died at age 70. Elmer died shortly thereafter of cirrhosis of the liver.

To find out about  the history of the variety arts, consult 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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Also 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

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Willie “Popeye” Ingram

Posted in African American Interest, Dime Museum and Side Show, Horror (Mostly Gothic), Human Anomalies (Freaks), Movies, Professional Uglies with tags , , , , on April 5, 2013 by travsd

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Decatur, Alabama native William Ingram (b.circa  1930) learned at the age of four that he had a unique gift: the ability to thrust his eyeballs up to an inch outside of their sockets. He joined up with Walter L. Wanous & Sons, an Alabama based sideshow that toured with carnivals throughout the country. People who saw him perform live reportedly never forgot the experience. His unique skill garnered him attention in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the Weekly World News, and a role in the 1974 film The Freakmaker a.k.a. Mutations with Donald Pleasance.

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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Mary Ann Bevan, “The Ugliest Woman in the World”

Posted in Coney Island, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Professional Uglies, Women with tags , , , on December 20, 2012 by travsd

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She said that; I didn’t say that! She said that!

Born this day in England in 1874, Mary Ann Webster married Thomas Bevan in 1903, and began to develop the condition known as acromegaly soon thereafter. Bevan must have loved her very much; he not only stayed with her, but subsequently collaborated with her on the inception of four children.

When he passed away in 1914, it was necessary for her to find work. Starting in 1920, she found it at the sideshow at Dreamland in Coney Island. She also worked for Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey before she finally passed away in 1933. (Acromegaly is a condition that causes unnatural growth of the extremities. Bevan suffered from headaches and blindness, and no doubt it was the condition that shortened her life).

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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Carrie Akers, a.k.a “The Wart Hog”

Posted in Circus, Dime Museum and Side Show, Fat Women and Men, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Little People, Professional Uglies, Women with tags , , , , , on December 19, 2012 by travsd

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Carrie Akers, the dwarf fat lady was three feet tall and weighed 300 lbs — and she was mad about it. So much so that she left P.T. Barnum after working for him only a couple of years in the late 1880s. None of her co-workers, including Barnum, could stand to work with her. It is for this reason, and not for her size or looks, that posterity remembers her as “The Wart Hog.”

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available 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.

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