Sam Alexander

 

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 right.

 


 

 

Betty Broadbent


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 enjoyed most.

 

Betty talked little of her early life, but once disclosed to me that she regretted having that first tattoo.


Ward Hall

 


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