by Slim Price
When I first met Frank Lentini he was
featured with Fred Sindell's Cavalcade Variety Show, about 1949,
My first ten in one... He was a man who radiated gentleness and
wisdom. My best guess is that he was in his late 40's then and had
a charisma I've never known since.
As far as I know, he was first exhibited as a baby and was the
"toy of royalty." I know that his mastery of languages was not a
false claim because he was able to converse easily with our
audience and in New York and they were a very mixed bag of
ethnicity. He is also known as the person who named Giants Camp
in Gibsonton, Florida during a conversation with Al Tomaini.
His wife was as genteel as he, and reminded me of Barbara Belle
Geddes, the star
of "I Remember Mama."
I was just a punk, but he always had time to show me bits and
pieces of showmanship and presentation. Far more than that though
he showed me by example that dignity, listening, and kindness were
perhaps the most important things in the world.
He liked to amuse himself by the way. He would put on a raincoat
so no one could see his third leg and stand in the back of the
bally while our talker extolled his virtues!
Most of his act consisted of Q and A, and one day an audience
member asked smugly how he dealt with the third leg. His answer
always stuck in my mind and even now fifty years later, I can
still hear his gentle answer, "If you lived in a world where
everyone had just one arm, how would you cope with two?"
Frank Lentini was my mentor. I remember his gentle Italian accent
and his sense of humor. Here is another little story that happened
during my first season with the Cavalcade Variety at Coney Island
in 1949. Sindell was the owner and he asked me to nail up a couple
of occupancy signs at the sides of the stage, it was during
Lentini's turn on stage.
Because I held him in awe and respected all the performers in the
show anyway I tried to be inconspicuous, not an easy thing with
big signs, a ladder and hammering. I spent an endless amount of
time tapping the hammer trying to be quiet, until he got fed up
with me and came to the edge of the stage, took the hammer out of
my hand and neatly nailed the sign up. He told me in that
wonderful accent, "Atsa how you do it carpenter!"
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The Slim Price Collection
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