TWO BIRD GIRLS
Elizabeth "Betty" Green's
Elizabeth "Betty" Green's
background is obscure. According to Tod Browning, director of
Freaks, Betty Green was "a Jewish girl from Springfield,
Massachusetts who owned five apartment houses." Other claim she
was simply a movie fan who appeared in Freaks with the hope of
getting actor Ronald Colman's autograph. One thing is certain,
though - despite what many of her contemporaries claimed, Betty
wasn't just an unfortunate-looking woman. Her appearance
suggests that she suffered from some genetic condition and most
accounts indicate that she was at least mildly mentally
deficient. It seems she had quite a sense of humor about her
condition, however, and was perfectly willing to don a feathery
bodysuit, big fake bird feet and a gigantic plume on her head
and dance around like a bird in front of spectators.
When Betty was cast in Freaks,
she had to share billing with another Bird Girl, newcomer Minnie
Woolsey. It's unknown what Betty thought of the competition, but
to this day the "Koo Koo, the Bird Girl" title is mostly
associated with Minnie, while Betty is remembered as "The Stork
Woman" or, more enigmatically, "Molina, the Pinhead". It seems
that these names were used only for the movie, however, and when
filming ended, Betty went right back to being Koo Koo.
Minnie Woolsey, born in Georgia
in 1880, was afflicted with a unique form of "bird-headed"
dwarfism or nanocephaly. In addition to her unusual facial
features, she was blind, mentally handicapped, toothless, and had
only fine wisps of hair on her odd-shaped head. The story goes
that she was rescued from a dismal life in a Georgia insane asylum
by an enterprising showman, and began her showbiz career as
"Minnie Ha-Ha", a play on North Carolina's Minnihaha Falls.
"Minnie Ha-Ha" dressed in a phony American Indian costume and
spoke jibberish to sideshow audiences.
By the time Minnie landed a
role in Freaks in 1932, the sideshow world already had a "Koo Koo,
the Bird Girl" - Betty Green - but this didn't stop Minnie's
managers from dressing her in a feathery costume, too. Though she
has no lines in Freaks, she made a lasting impression on
moviegoers when she shimmied on the table during the wedding feast
of Cleopatra the aerialist and Hans the dwarf. Thus it was Minnie
who was best remembered as "Koo Koo", not Betty Green, although
the two are frequently confused. Later, Minnie worked at Coney
Island as "Koo Koo, the Blind Girl from Mars", where she
confounded spectators by failing to respond to visual stimuli. Her
blindness is just one of a host of symptoms that characterize some
types of primordial dwarfism.
It's unknown exactly how long
Minnie was with the circus or when she died, but some accounts
claim she was still living (and was nearly run over by a car) in
1960, making her at least 80 years old.
Text Courtesy of Elisabeth
If you have a question you would like
to submit email us at the
to the Blow-Off
Back to Main
photos are the property of their respective owners whether titled or
"Sideshow WorldTM" is the sole property of John
Robinson © All rights reserved.
sideshowworld.com sideshowworld.org sideshowworld.net sideshowworld.biz sideshowworld.info
is the sole property of John Robinson © All rights reserved.
E-Mail Sideshow World