The Wild Man was a staple of the sideshows, whether it was in the form of Wild Men of Borneo (Waino and Plutano or their imitators); glomming geeks, who bit the heads off chickens; or just men acting like savages. One of the most famous of the wild men was Clico, the Wild Dancing South African Bushman, was exactly that. Clico, whose real name was Franz Taaibosh, was an actual African Bushman, who loved to dance.


According to his "Life Story." Taaibosh was discovered in the Kalahari Desert by one Captain Hepston. While pursuing ostriches with a bow and arrow, the Bushman suffered a leg injury. Hepston came to his aid, then looked after him, eventually "tamed" him. An essay by Neil Parsons in Africans on Stage: Studies in Ethnological Show Business postulates that Taaibosh was more likely born into "captivity" on a farm. Hepston, who had been living as a farmer in South Africa, met the talented little Franz (he reportedly stood just over four feet tall) and decided to mold him into an entertainer. Managing Bushman in show business appeared to be a much more lucrative line of work for Hepston.

Around 1913, Hepston took Taaibosh to the stages of England and France, where he performed his Khoisan style of step-dancing. He caught the attention of Coney Island Dreamland manager Samuel Gumpertz, as well as scouts from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. Taaibosh and Hepston crossed the Atlantic in 1917 to begin working at the Dreamland sideshow and shortly after with Ringling. Taaibosh was called Clico, for the Bushman "click" language. A Ringling agent named Frank Cook befriended clico and asked to become his legal guardian. Since Hepston had no written contract with Clico, Ringling's lawyers were able to wrest the Bushman away.


In 1919, at a press conference at Madison Square Garden in New York, Clico proved he could speak beyond clicking. He announced that he had lived with apes for years and that he never felt at home unless he had a chimpanzee around his cage. Clearly, he had been prepared well in the art of ballyhoo. A newspaperman at the press conference put a damper on the story by claiming to recognize Clico from a livery stable in his Minnesota hometown. Either the journalist was mistaken or Clico had simply found some grunt work between gigs.



In addition to performing, Taaibosh once accepted a moonlighting position at the Field Museum in Chicago. He posed as a model for sculptors, representing his race, and thus became immortalized in the natural history museum's anthropological collection. Though Taaibosh was around sixty-eight at the time, he claimed to be one hundred, Museum personnel believed him.

Clico enjoyed a long career dancing as a Wild Man, even into his elder years. Like nonprofessional wild men, he was said to enjoy cigars, beer, and women. Taaibosh finally retired in 1939 and died in Hudson, New York, on August 31, 1940.


Above text excerpt from Marc Hartzmans American Sideshow






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