Sam Alexander had
more real human oddities in his show than any showman of modern
times. I will always be grateful to Sam for the many times he
aided us over the years. I tremendously admire his courage and
strength of character. When he was a young man with a promising
career in legitimate theatre in Chicago, he was a victim of a
severe explosion. On reflex he held his arm to his face which
saved his eyes. The remainder of the flesh on his face was
literally blown off the bonal structure. Over a year in a
hospital followed, then a convalescent home. A doctor fashioned
a mask to cover his wounds. He was broke but gave no thought to
welfare or charity. He needed to work, to earn a living. Aware
of "The Billboard" a trade publication, which at that time
covered all forms of showbusiness, from reading it at the
theatre. He obtained a copy and learned a large carnival would
be playing a few miles away.
He made his way to the lot and found the sideshow owner, Pete
Kortes. Asking if they could use him, Pete asked Charley LeRoy
his show manager who said the three words which changed Sam's
life, "Two Faced Man . Sam would appear on stage wearing the
mask, turn his back to the audience, then turn facing them again
exposing his fleshless face. The effect was startling. Some
people would faint, the Phantom of the Opera was pretty in
comparison. Quickly learning the business end of sideshows, Sam
in time became partners with Charles Cox with the sideshow on
Clyde Beatty Circus, and later for some years with Lou DuFour at
major amusement parks and fairs. As he made money, it was spent
on plastic surgery to rebuild his face. It took a fortune and
over twenty years for over seventy operations. There had to be a
lot of pain and certainly discouragement when progress was slow,
but I never heard Sam complain. If ever anyone had a reason to
be bitter or feel sorry for themselves, he would have had that
Also on that show was Betty Broadbent, The Tattooed Lady, whose
family was prominent in Philadelphia society. A very intelligent
and educated lady, she vacationed in Atlantic City when she was
seventeen. There she got her first tattoos. Her family was very
displeased at this. She then had her body covered and became a
professional tattooed lady.
She appeared with all leading shows here and abroad. Married
three times ours was the final show she appeared with before
retiring to her home at Riverview, Florida, where she utilized
her education in botany and horticulture. Her gardens were a
showplace and provided gorgeous surroundings for her many pets.
She and her husband enjoyed their last years doing what they
Betty talked little
of her early life, but once disclosed to me that she regretted
having that first tattoo.
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©1991-2007 Ward Hall,
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