Archive for the Spare Parts 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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Frank Lentini, The Man With Three Legs

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Italian, Spare Parts with tags , , , , on May 18, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Franceso Lentini (1881-1966). He was born in Rosolini, Sicily, and technically he had MORE than three legs — his total inventory was three legs, PLUS a fourth foot growing out of one of those legs PLUS two sets of genitals. In actuality the extra parts weren’t really “his”; he had an incomplete conjoined twin growing out of him.

When he was eight he moved to the U.S. to perform with Ringling Brothers, and he would later work for Barnum & Bailey (then a separate organization) and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West over the course of his 40+ year career. His compeers in the sideshow called him “The King.”

He was known for his wit. When someone would ask about the difficulty in buying shoes, he would say he bought two pairs and gave the spare shoe to his one-legged friend. Unusually, the third leg was fully operational; Lentini would entertain crowds by kicking a ball with it, or sitting on it like a stool.

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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Myrtle Corbin, The Four Legged Girl

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Spare Parts, Women with tags , , , on May 12, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Josephine Myrtle Corbin (1868-1928). Myrtle possessed an extra set of small, doll-like legs. Corbin was a dipygus; her axis had split during her development as an embryo. She actually had two pelvises, and each of the inner legs went with one of the outer ones. In addition, one of the outer legs was club-footed. She dressed all four legs in the same socks and boots. Her father had exhibited her since infancy; when she was 14 she hired by P.T. Barnum. Later she worked for Ringling Bros. (then a separate organization), and at Coney Island. At age 19, Myrtle retired from show business and married Dr. Clinton Bicknell and gave him five children. It is rumored that two of them were produced with one vagina, three with the other.

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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William Durks, “The Man With Three Eyes”

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

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Today is the 100th birthday of Bill Durks (1913-1976), the “Man With Three Eyes”. The irony is that his third eye was painted on with make-up, but he was easily unique-looking enough without it. His condition, known as frontonasal dysplasia, essentially meant that he had a split face: a seriously cleft mouth, and a nose that was divided into two separate parts. His eyes, which were set far apart, had been closed over when he was born and had to be surigically opened up. Only one of them worked.

For his first 40 years he had been a sharecropper in rural Alabama. He never learned to read or write, and he could barely speak due to his condition. He performed with a local carnival before touring with Kelly-Sutton Shows, Goodings’ Million Dollar Midway, Hall & Christ Shows and James E. Strates Shows, and he eventually appeared in Hubert’s Museum in Times Square, and in the 1973 Brian de Palma film Sisters. Durks was married to Mildred D. Durks, the Alligator Skinned Girl and they were billed as the “World’s Strangest Married Couple.” When she passed away in 1968, he retired to Gibtown, the retirement community for carny folk in Florida.

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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George Lippert: Two Hearts, Three Legs, But Only 14 Toes

Posted in Dime Museum and Side Show, German, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Spare Parts with tags , , , on April 7, 2013 by travsd

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George Lippert (1842-1906) was born in Bavaria, Germany with two functioning hearts and three functioning legs (sort of). His right leg split off into two, one of which was normal-sized, club-footed, six-toed and not good for walking, and another one that was malformed, terminated in a knob and had three toes. Ironically it was this second one he walked upon,  in the manner of a peg leg. The only known images of him are pitch cards based on an illustration, so it’s difficult to know how accurately written descriptions of his physiognomy accorded with reality. (The fact  that his career took place well into the era of photography makes one want to regard the claims with at least a particle of caution).

He didn’t go into show business until age 33, when he came to the U.S. to work for P.T. Barnum. After 24 years as a performer he retired, broke. Though he billed himself as the “Original” Three Legged Man, by then he had competition in the person of Francesco Lentini, whose third leg apparently had more to commend it. In 1906 he contracted TB and one of his hearts stopped beating. The other one continued working for another two weeks.

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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Alzoria Lewis and Johanna Dickens

Posted in African American Interest, Coney Island, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Limbs, Missing or Small, Little People, Spare Parts with tags , , , , , on February 23, 2013 by travsd
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Dickens on the left, Lewis on the right

 

Alzoria Lewis and Johanna Dickens were presented jointly on Coney Island sideshow stages from the 1930s through the 1950s. Though unrelated, they were usually presented as “sisters” or “cousins”.

Alzoria (sometimes rendered as Alzora), born in 1912, had severely stunted limbs, six fingers on each hand, and an uneven distribution of toes (six on one foot, one on the other). She would crawl onstage on all fours, and was billed variously as the Turtle Girl, the Walrus Girl, and the Pig Woman. Though she was born and raised in Brooklyn not far from the Coney Island stages where she performed, her spiel consisted of a long tale of woe describing fictitious origins in the deep South. At a certain point, she was also known as Alzoria Green (she was married twice).

Dickens, a dwarf born circa 1920s, was billed as the Bear Girl.

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.

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Betty Lou Williams: Four Legged Beauty

Posted in African American Interest, Coney Island, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Spare Parts, Women with tags , , , on January 10, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Betty Lou Williams (1930-1953). Born to a poor Georgia farming family she was born with a parasitic twin growing out of her side. She began to be exhibited in New York by a showman named Dick Best at the age of one; by the following year she was discovered by Robert Ripley and exhibited in the very first edition of his Odditorium. She made so much money at her work she was able to buy a large ranch and put all 11 of her brothers and sisters through college. In addition to the lure of her dough, she also blossomed into a beautiful young woman, making her an attractive prospect for young lotharios. The lore is that one of these absonded on her, lettuce in hand, breaking her heart. She died of a severe asthma attack at the tender age of twenty three. According to Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA, she once performed in the very building where his Coney Island Circus Sideshow is now based!

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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For more on silent film history 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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