BALLY, FREAKS & GIRL SHOWS ON THE MIDWAY

 

The best draw for a 10-in-1 Sideshow is a strong Freak. I noticed that there was some discussion on one of the Discussion Groups about what is the best draw for the Sideshow. I think everyone has there own opinion in fact there is an old saying that I think is true. People whoís opinions are changed against there will, are of the same opinions still. But from my experience if you want to do the best and want to draw the most, you must have some human freaks to sell. I donít mean just manufactured freaks but you need to have people who have deformities, the "Born Freaks".

 

I always like to sell a Giant, a Midget and a Fat Person, because now you are selling live fairy tales to the children. Jack Sprat could eat no fat his wife could eat no lean. Then you go on to the Jack and the Bean Stock and the Lilliputians, the Midgets, you can make a story out of them that is a pretty story. "The Giant is so tall his head nearly touches the top of this tent and when you go in there walk right up to his stage and extend your hand way up to the Giant and he will reach way down to you and personally shake you by the hand ". There are many funny things you can say about the Fat Person and so on. This is apposed to what I would call the horror freaks.

 

Like Percilla the Monkey Girl,

 

"She has a bluest green completion like a Mangabey Monkey, she has long black silky hair all over her face and body like the hair of an ape.

 

The Alligator Skin Man,

 

"He has skin that is scaly and rough like the hind of an alligator so rough so tough you can strike and light a kitchen match on it, you can hardly penetrate his skin with a sharp needle." Youíre not selling anything pretty, now your selling the horror-a-bles.

 

Schlitzie, she was "Schlitzie the Monkey Girl",

 

"Her head is no larger than a grapefruit and it comes to a point like an ice cream cone, when you feel the top of her head you will find itís soft like a sponge do to the incomplete bone structure of the skull. Why she has no more brains than a monkey." Now your selling some horror yet at the same time it is a characterization and they have seen Zippy in the comic books and now they can relate to that. Now you can go on and on.

 

Tattooed Ladies, I had several ladies that worked for me and I never sold them as just a Tattooed Person.

Lorette didnít have anything special tattooed on her body but the story I would say,

 

"This lady is not just tattooed with designs you would find on the body of a Sailor, this lady has etched into her flesh reproductions of Famous Works of Art. You will see the paintings of Van Gough, Michael De Anglo and Leonardo Da Vinci reproduced by tattooing in her flesh making her truly a walking talking human art gallery."

 

For Artoria that was true because all of her work or at least 90 percent of it was from religious paintings and was beautiful work. But if we put her in the blowoff it becomes another story. "Back here you are going to see a woman who is not a born freak, but a man made monstrosity".

 

Hereís the Bally I used for the her blowoff,

 

"Ladies and Gentlemen tonight in this tent you have seen some very strange human freaks, people that were born differently than you or I. But behind this curtain we are going to present a person that is far stranger then any other person that you have seen in this tent. But the women that you are going to see back here tonight was not born a freak of nature. When she was a young women she was very beautiful. She married a man three times older than herself and he was so insanely jealous of her that he purposely set out and marked her body in such a way that he thought with all of the markings on her body that no other man would give her a second look. She is no longer a young woman now she is an old widowed lady. But the marks that her husband put upon her body so many years ago are still there and will remain on her body until the day she dies. When she reveals the marking on her body to you here tonight what you are going to see might shock you, it might embarrass you, may possibly offend you but believe me she is someone you will never forget." Once they went inside blowoff they saw the Tattooed Lady.

 

One of the other attraction that was use very successfully in the blowoff was the half and half. The best one I ever saw or heard of was with me for twelve or thirteen years she was Diane Díelgar. First I want to tell you what we did on the Bally. We sold it strong on the front. Back in those years, I am talking about the fifties now, every winter I would be doing musical reviews in theaters. Each year I would take one set of the old wardrobe, we werenít going to use next year, (the one we were going to replace) and use it on the sideshow. One year I had all the people dressed in Rumba Costumes, another year I had them all in Black and Silver White Ties and Tails.

 

We would play some music and I would try to have four or five girls, we would almost do a little production number out on the Bally. I would juggle the fire and Harry would throw some knives, we would have someone with a snake and do the regular thing with the sword swallower or the blockhead. I would make the regular opening, we had this little runway it was about three feet wide and six feet long it extended from the front of the Bally out into the Midway. Across the Midway from the runway we had this little tower that had spot lights on it. We focused the lights to shine right on the end of that runway. We had a marquee like a theater marquee on top of this Bally with a lot of running lights. The switches were all controlled by the ticket seller in the right hand box.

 

When we got done with the rest of the opening, I would say "Now Ladies and Gentleman I want to bring to the stage probably the strangest living human being in all of the world today. You have read about her in Life, Look and Time magazine. Walter Winchell said "She is the Strangest Human Being possible on this Earth". Ladies and Gentleman here is the star of our show Diane DíElgar". As the kids would part and she would sweep up the stairs and right out on the end of that runway. She would carried this fan which she would then open, it was a six foot white Ostrich feather fan. She would hold the fan up behind her head, she always wore Valencia Anna-stog-ee style gowns and she had a beautiful wardrobe. The minute that she hit the end of the runway, (we didnít usually bally her in the day time, because there were too many families but at night we would change it and do this) the lights would go off the Bally and the spot would come on her. I would say " Ladies and Gentleman here is Diane DíElgar, this is a person that you have talked about and have heard about. Diane DíElgar is sometimes referred to as a half man, half woman which is totally incorrect. Diane is not a half man, half woman, Diane is all woman and is all man a true living human hermaphrodite, who have the sexes of both male and female. She can legally dress as a man or a woman, she could marry legally a man or a woman, because she could become the mother or father to children. She prefers to express the female side of her personality. She is married and the mother of two children a girl eight and a boy twelve. Tonight we are going to invite those in the sideshow tent into a separate private theater, where away from the eyes of the children, on a high stage, under bright lights you are going to see revealed to you, that Diane is a real true living human hermaphrodite. Diane does have the sexes of both the male and the female. This is presented in a clean, moral and refined way. There is nothing seen, said or done that would offend the most fastidious lady in the audience. But you are going to see her exposed just as plain as you see the palm of my hand."

 

"At this time I am going to ask Diane to tell you about her most unusual guarantee." Then I would hand her the microphone to her and she would say, "That is correct Ladies and Gentleman just as this man has told you that I am a true living human hermaphrodite. I do have the sexes of male and female and tonight when you are in my private theater there on a high stage under bright lights, I will expose my body to you and you will see for yourself, with you own eyes, unveiled, undraped, unashamed the sexes of both male and female. Now if there is within the hearing of my voice any member of the medical profession we invite you to come in to our show free as my guest, and you may if you wish at your discretion step upon the stage with me and personally examine any part of my body. Should you find any part of me to be a fake or fraud we are bonded to present that member of the medical profession with a cash reward of $10,000. To the rest of you we will say this, if I am not exactly as you have been told, not only will we apologize about taking up your time and refund your admission, (she would then pull out a big bundle of bills) we will present each one of you a hundred dollar bill for taking up your time." Now that was pretty strong but she was capable, after all she was a man who was dressed as a woman, who was doing this, talk about a dramatic actor. This was a person who was so good, that one time we had a doctor from the Johns Hopkins Hospital he was a diagnostician and when he left that annex enclosure, he believed that he had indeed examined a human hermaphrodite.

 

Once the tip was on the inside of the tent if we were doing real big business we would do about three acts and the blowoff part of the tent, the annex was just a small part of the tent. So if we had a lot of people in there and we were doing a big business we would do three acts and then we would do the half and half. Then we would do three more acts and then back to the half and half.

 

In other words she would just have enough time to do her part of the show and turn them out, then she would start another one.

 

We would charge an extra twenty five cents, then we would charge an extra fifty cents once in the annex. Once inside all they saw was that she had big feet and breast like a woman. But she never removed the top part of her attire. We would talk to them and show them the hair on her arms. Tell them that she need to have a shave everyday and then we would say, "Now Ladies and Gentleman we did say that you were going to have the opportunity to see, now I will discreetly expose my sexual organs to you. I make no apology but we do make an extra charge. For those of you who wish to stay and see this part of my demonstration it is fifty cents." She would point to my partner, who at that time was Harry Leonard, she would say "my husband here will pass among you at this time and collect from you fifty cents each, he will make change for you and if you wish to stay step right to this side, if you wish not to stay you may exit on out and see the rest of the sideshow".

 

We were going for twenty five cents on the front, we were getting seventy five cents on the inside you can figure it up. It was very strong! It finely got to be in the late fifties that you couldnít have girl shows on the Midway, they couldnít work every week and you couldnít have sex attraction in the sideshow.

 

I am often asked WHY, was it public opinion? Public opinion had nothing to do with it! What happened was by the time this transition was taking place, it took place because instead once a year for a week when the carnival came to town at the fair with their Hoochie Koochie show and girl reviews, about the same time there were night club owners opening up topless bars, then topless and bottomless bars. These business had to be licensed, they pay taxes and they provide employment. Back in those days we paid Bally girls seventy five dollars a week. The clubs supported all these people and paid taxes which has a triple effect on the county government.

 

Iím sure that back in those days some of the local officials would except some gratuities and look the other way. Which allowed the wonderful world of wickedness that the carnival brought to town with the gambling games, games of chance and girl shows to go on.

 

Now the local government didnít want the carnival coming in and competing with their cash cows which would take away from the local clubs.

 

I was told about a year ago when I said "Isnít it wonderful that they have cleaned up the carnivals. This fellow told me that the carnival men wasnít the ones who wanted to clean it up. What happened, (I have heard this story told a thousand different ways) was the carnival came to town or circus if it was a griff show, the old sheriff would come out and he said "hey nobody came down town to see me, how come you didnít come to see me?" "Well, Sir we didnít need to come see you because we donít have any gambling games this year." "You donít, well you better go and get you some because I want my five hundred dollars!" (SMILES AND LAUGHS)

 

Thatís what happened when the carnival would bring in a little wonderful wickedness but now the carnival canít bring it in itís already there. Itís a hundred times worse than the carnival could have ever brought to town. The last hold out for the girls shows were Vermont and Maine and they were the gold rush of the girl show world. That would of been the last places the girl show would have been and it was very lucrative for the shows. There were fairs up there that would book in six or seven girl shows. I remember the last time I visited the little celebration in my home town in Nebraska, my Aunt was still living. So we went out to the fair and walked around the Midway. They only had two girl show that year and my aunt said "You know they only have two girl shows this year, they have always had three and sometimes four." She said "you know I wouldnít ever go into one of them, but I am always glad to see them here because they make for a bigger fair." ( SMILES AND LAUGHS)

 

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