miércoles, 28 de septiembre de 2011

Vicky Unus

The Legendary Vicky Unus performing her act of incredible strength and endurance. 

Article from The Times 1963:

On the tanbark trail, the top status symbol is a private stateroom in the circus train. The occupant is always a center-ring star. As Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus last week moved out of winter camp just south of Sarasota, Fla., and began its 93rd national tour, one stateroom was reserved for the youngest person ever to have one—an 18-year-old girl.

Her name is Vicki Unus, but she will be billed as La Toria as she spins in the air on the Roman rings. Her performance lasts seven minutes and occurs 32 ft. up, with no nets. For four minutes or so, she does such maneuvers as swings, splits, twists, roll-ups, hand stands, half crosses, and one-arm planches.

Seat Brusher. Then she goes into the grand finale of the golden rings, the one-arm swing. She hangs on with one hand while her body turns over and over itself like an eccentric propeller. She does it maybe 75 times, 100 if it is an opening night. Last winter she set the alltime record: 125.

Vicki is the daughter of F. F. Unus, the man who stands on one finger. The Unuses, like most circus stars, live in Sarasota. In Sarasota, even the high school has a circus. Three years ago Vicki told her father that she wanted to perform. Vicki was 5 ft. 3 in. and 125 Ibs. Said her father, with a pro's cold cynicism: "What will you do, brush off the seats?" Vicki lost 10 Ibs. and went into training under the great Lalage, whose real name is Wolfgang Roth.
Word Eater. 

She worked seven days a week, three hours a day. Where others often get much of their training as apprentices performing in public, she held out until she had perfected herself to the caliber of the center ring. Carrying a large plumed fan and wearing golden shoes, she is the new star of the traditional aerial ballet—one of the circus' four production numbers—and people of the circus have already compared her with the late, indubitably great Lillian Leitzel, who died 26 years ago in a fall in Copenhagen.

As a new face in the pin spots, she is part of a freshman class that includes East Germany's Prince Von, who puts skates on his hands and glides down two wires from roof to floor, and Mexico's Señor Antonio, the first aerialist in Ringling history to consent to do a hand stand while swinging on a trap bar at the top of the arena. As a child of the circus, Vicki Unus is proud to be La Toria and take her place among them—and among such old B.&B. stars as Harold Alzana, the high wire king, Trevor Bale, the big cat man, the Flying Gibsons and the Hanneford Bareback Riders. But she is proudest of all to be in the same show with F. F. Unus, her father, who has long since outlasted all competition in the art of standing on one finger, but who has just been forced to learn how to eat his words.

Read more: 

domingo, 25 de septiembre de 2011

Trance of the Undead

sábado, 24 de septiembre de 2011

Edinburgh Abandoned Open AIr Pool 1983

This Open Air Pool in Edinburgh was opened in 1938. All images by Alan Fergus, Thank you Eric for this awesome find! 

martes, 20 de septiembre de 2011

fun with Cadavers

I came across Warner and Edmonson's fascinating book Dissection while touring the Old Operating Theatre museum in London.

The hardback book features revealing shots of medical students all dressed up and posing for their class picture including the medical cadaver. These pictures were commonly taken throughout the late 19th and early 20th century in the United States. 

 The effects range from humorous, as students have a little fun with the medical skeletons and cadavers, to downright disturbing in nature, as the photos illustrate the more troubling aspects of the medical history of the United States, particularly it's treatment African-Americans and poor whites who made up a majority of medical cadavers throughout history. 

These mostly poor, African-American and some white men's remains are awkwardly posed, and exposed on the dissecting tablet, surrounded by medical students. It was common for students to have a class slogan on the dissection table for the photo, such as "He lived for others, he died for us." 

Common photos include cadavers or skeletons posed to appear lifelike, participating in a game or cards or drinking, or posed as doctors, dissecting one of the living. How much of these exercises were intended to lighten the mood? Perhaps break some of the tension involved when dealing with remains and death, or do they speak to a more sinister aspect? 

Some of these messages posted below corpses verge on the troubling or horrific; "all coons smell alike to me" is scrawled below the remains of one african-american cadaver.  

The book lends an interesting perspective into how the treatment of medical subjects; death; and human remains are treated; the meaning of respect of toward the dead, and who receives that respect has changed, and in some cases how it has not. Most importantly, one can gain a level of understanding of the deep-seated mistrust and fear that many people living in this country continue to have of medical institutions.

skeletons posed for the camera.

Game of cards with skele friend.

Many Cadavers were those who could not afford proper burial, or who had no living kin.

Greeting Card from Medical Student

"A Student's Dream" These enactments were popular.

"A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever."

Information and photos Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

domingo, 18 de septiembre de 2011

Circus dreams!

viernes, 16 de septiembre de 2011

Deliver us

and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us,

martes, 13 de septiembre de 2011

Johnny Eck

"I met hundreds and thousands of people, and none finer than the midgets and the Siamese twins and the caterpillar man and the bearded woman and the human seal with the little flippers for hands. I never asked them any embarrassing questions and they never asked me, and God, it was a great adventure."

"If I want to see freaks, I can just look out the window."

 John Eckhardt, Jr. was born on August 27, 1911 to Amelia and John Eckhardt, Sr. at their home in Baltimore, Maryland. Eck was born with a truncated torso due to Sacral agenesis. Though Eck would sometimes describe himself as "snapped off at the waist", he had unusable, underdeveloped legs and feet that he would hide under custom-made clothing. He was one of two twins. The other brother, Robert, was born a normal, healthy child. Johnny, though healthy, was born with no lower half. His body stopped just below the ribs. "Oh my lord, he's a broken doll." cried one of the midwives as Johnny came out. However, in his 79 years on this earth Johnny Eck (his name was shortened by his first manager) accomplished more than most people with legs. He was a sideshow performer, artist, photographer, magician, Punch and Judy operator, expert model maker, race car driver, swimmer, gymnast, actor, train conductor, traveler and all around Renaissance man...

All that and he only reached a height of 18 inches tall!
He never let his lack of legs prevent him from attempting anything he dreamed up. Someone once asked him if he wished he had legs? "Why would I want those? Then I'd have pants to press." was his reply. 

With that healthy attitude and the sunny disposition that everybody loved, it is no wonder why he led such a full and happy life. 

Thankfully for us, Johnny Eck was two things- a shutterbug and a packrat. During his career, Johnny turned his camera onto the world he lived in . Whether it was a group of friends wiling away the hot summer days on the white marble steps of his home in Baltimore or to capturing quiet moments behind the tents on various midways throughout the country Johnny shot it. Not only did he shoot it, he developed and printed his own pictures in the small darkroom he set up in the basement of his house. Most of the examples presented here are from the original vintage photographs or negatives.
Johnny with twin brother Robert
 If he hadn't brought his camera with him everywhere, or if he hadn't saved all the negatives and prints, it would be next to impossible to imagine what kind of people and activities had filled his life.
Thank you Johnny for not throwing anything away... 

The Johnny Eck Museum Collector describes the museum history "We began collecting Johnny Eck material shortly after his twin brother Robert died in 1995. Since that time our goal has been to accumulate anything and everything that pertained to the incredible lives of twin brothers Johnny and Robert Eck(hardt). 

It has been a wonderful journey, pouring over hundreds and hundreds of family letters, photographs, drawings and diaries. Listening to Johnny's audio tapes, 78 rpm records, and hearing the stories related to us from people who knew them. The deeper we go into their lives and the more we learn, the more impressive their story becomes.
Their life spanned nearly 8 decades. 

Early Pitch Card circa1920
Allowing them to witness some of the greatest and most tragic events of our times. World Wars 1 and 2, the Great Depression, Space Travel, Vietnam, Computer and other technological advances. 

Through all the worlds ups and downs they managed their lives with a resilience that most people lacked and a sense of pride and will that was unmatched. They took their act on the road, traveled the country with various circus and sideshow outfits. Worked at Chicago's Century of Progress, The Canadian Exposition, Robert Ripley's Odditorium and starred in Tod Brownings classic film Freaks in Hollywood, California to name a few. Nothing could get in the way of these two boys. Nothing. 

So ladies and gentlemen, come on in and experience our amazing collection of memorabilia from the personal belongings of Johnny and Robert Eckhardt. Most of what you will find in here has never been presented anywhere before..."

From a very early age, Johnny Eck learned to not only read and write, but also type. He he was a voracious letter writer and always kept a diary his entire life. He saved the carbons from all the business related letters he sent out to various show owners, managers, actors, magicians, etc. 

He also saved every letter, postcard and greeting card (his favorite) that was sent to him over the years. Reading all these correspondences is a wonderful, personal look into everything that was going on in Johnny's life. 

A photo taken by Johnny
Some are as mundane as what the weather was like or who stopped by to see them and how their dogs are feeling. To other, more personal letters, which discuss their hard times getting work, ongoing fueds with their neighbors, future plans, upcoming sideshow adventures, etc.

Johnny also made extensive notes on the pages of books, magazines, newspapers and bibles. They offer an insight into how other peoples words affected Johnny. He was in a constant search to find out why he was the way he was and reading helped him to find the answers. 

When sideshows lost popular appeal, the Eckhardt brothers settled in Baltimore. There, they bought and ran a penny arcade until a business tax forced them out of business. In the 1950s, the brothers bought and ran a used children's train ride in a local park; Eck acting as conductor. Eck also became a screen painter, having learned the craft from William Oktavec, a grocer and local folk artist who invented the art form in 1913.

Eck would sit on the steps of his porch with his Chihuahua, Major, telling stories about his life. He and his brother often performed Punch and Judy shows for the children who would come to visit. However, the Eckhardts' neighborhood was increasingly becoming less safe with drugs and crime. 

The 1980s brought more guests as the video release of Freaks attracted a new generation of fans with whom Eck wasn't entirely comfortable, telling a friend, "You'd be surprised to see these 'avid' fans. I say they are crazy." He also lamented not having the money to provide these visitors with a small sandwich or a Coca Cola as he was plagued by money troubles. Eck also had a long-time feud with his neighbor.
In January 1987, the then 76-year-old Eckhardt brothers were robbed in an ordeal that lasted several hours. One of the two thieves mocked and sat on Eck while the other took his belongings. Thereafter, Eck went into seclusion and the brothers no longer invited visitors into their home.
On January 5, 1991, Eck suffered a heart attack in his sleep, dying at the age of 79 at the North Milton Avenue home where he was born. Robert followed him on February 25, 1995, aged 83. They are buried under one headstone in Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore.


Information and photographs from The Johnny Eck Museum