Step right up, Step right up! The show is about to begin as we explore the world of the circus and those who made and make a magical place to visit. The tradition of the circus has a long incredible history as we learned from last week, but that history lesson is not over today as I will make it point of how history and even film has influenced the circus.
For months month’s now we have explored the world of the circus and those performers we call freaks, although the term itself it derogatory and should not be used today, this is what they were referred to. I stand by using the terms of those times, but we must always remember these were human beings that should have been treated better but weren’t always. Many of the performers we have profiled lived incredibly sad lives and some lives very exciting lives t a great deal of money for their talents and eccentricities. These performers did not have a lot of options to live a normal life and many times society outcaste them living many no choice but to join a circus or freak show to make a living. Today these people hopefully would be respected and even maybe have a rockstar status for their differences, but society is still a cruel place today.
Can you imagine if the Elephant man existed today? Or Lobster boy or any of the other performers I have profiled here. Its hard to say if society would accept them or run-in fear over their differences. One type of performer that has seemed to have a normal life is “Little People”, where today many little people are incredible performers in film and television like one of my favorite Warwick Davis who has been in multitude of films like Willow and Harry Potter.
There are so many performers that have been forgotten or their stories go untold because of little or no real information other than a picture and some history, but they existed. Some of the so called freaks were not freaks at all, but unusual in their appearance all human beings of course, but it’s sad that we as society exploited that to make money and bring fame.
Previous Profiles and Stories
T.A. Valenzulea (The World’s Biggest Man) (B. 1886, D.1925)
Jennie Quigley (August 20, 1850- March 11th, 1936)
Issaac W. Spraque and Peter Robinson (The Original Thin Man)
The Muse Brothers
Edouard Beaurpre (Worlds Tallest Man)
Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man)
Stephan Bibrowski (Lionel the Lion-faced Man)
General Tom Thumb and Admiral Dot
Ohio Bigfoot Lady
Grady Stiles (Lobster Boy)
The Pinheads Pip/Flip and Schlitizie-
Myrtle Corbin (The Four Legged Girl)
Koo-Koo the Bird Girl
The Siamese Twins –
Prince Randian (October 12, 1871 – December 19, 1934)
Also nicknamed Pillow Man, The Snake Man, The Human Torso, The Human Caterpillar was a Guyanese-born American performer with tetra-amelia syndrome and famous limbless sideshow performer of the early 1900’s, best known for his ability to roll cigarettes with lips.
Brought to the United States by P.T. Barnum in 1889 at the age of 18, and a popular Coney Island carnival and circus attraction for 45 years. In 1932, he was features in the film Freaks, in which he is seen lighting up a cigarette with a match.
Born with no arms or legs in Demerara, British Guyana. He was Hindu and spoke Hindi, English, French and German. According to the passenger manifest of SS Parima from April 14, 1917, he had lived previously at Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. With his wife, known as Princess Sarah and their 5 children Mary , Richard, Elizabeth and Wilhelmina Randian. Working in 1920’s for Krause Amusement company living in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Randian wore a one-piece wool garment that fit tightly over his body, giving him the appearance of a caterpillar, snake or potato moving himself around stage by wiggling his hips and shoulders. His best-known ability rolling and lighting cigarettes using only his lips, but he was also capable of painting and writing by holding a brush or stylus in a wooden box that he reportedly constructed, painted and affixed a lock to by himself.
Randian died at 7:00 PM on December 19, 1934, aged 63 of a heart attack shortly after his last performance at Sam Wagner’s 14th street museum in New York.
Randian lived life couragiously with no arms and legs but still continued to live his life even with a wife and family. Another example of those who beat the odds of survival despite there disabilities. What is interesting is that is was not the only performer who lived with no limbs, there was another named Violetta who also had a lengthly career as a sideshow performer.
Aloisia Wagner aslso known as Violetta Born 1906/1907 also born with no legs or arms with the same condition as Randian. Born in Hemelingen, Germany.
Leaving her birth city on March 23, 1924 with her stepbrother and manager, Karl Grobecker, aboard the SS George Washington, arriving in New York on April 3, 1924. According to the ship manifest, Aloisia had blonde hair and green eyes, was 3 feet tall and was allowed into the U.S. for 25 weeks to work for Samuel W. Gompertz in his dreamland Circus Side Show.
Performing many years in several sideshows and freak shows as a singer and oddity, including Coney Islands Dreamland, The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and mighty Haag Circus.
Violetta moved herself by hopping from place to place on the bottom of her torso, and was able to manipulate objects with her mouth enough to comb her own hair, dress herself, thread a needle, and a sew. It was stated Violetta was married and wore her wedding band on a gold chain around her neck, though no other information is avilable on her husband.
Both great examples of performers who worked to have some normalcy in their lives but treated like props and of course freaks.
I continued to see interest in my pieces of the circus as the list continues of those performers that are at times forgotten in the circus but I hope these articles bring those performers to light once again and hopefully even bring those performers you have never heard about, seeing how the circus of yesterday is still revelant despite not having many circuses like before.