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Monday, October 31, 2011

Sideshow king recalls heyday


JAY CONNER/staff

Gibsonton's Ward Hall talks about life as a sideshow promoter with film producer Leslie Zemeckis.

Paul Catala

By TBO.COM

Published: October 31, 2011

GIBSONTON -- Although the curtain has mostly closed on the era of circus midway "freak shows," the memories of some who lived the life are being preserved through books and film documentaries.
And Los Angeles-based film producer-director Leslie Zemeckis is spending two months interviewing and filming those who lived during the midway show heydays for her second feature documentary, "The Hilton Sisters: A Story of Two Sisters, Together Always."
The film, about sideshow and Vaudeville stars Violet and Daisy Hilton, who were conjoined twins, is being shot around the United States at locations known for carnival and midway activity.
Zemeckis and videographer Jon Dunham spent about two hours Wednesday interviewing renowned sideshow promoter Gibsonton's Ward Hall for the film.
Zemeckis, wife of "Forrest Gump" director Robert Zemeckis, sat with Ward, 81, reeling in recollections of his years promoting sideshows and acts.


Hall will be featured in a film about the Hilton Sisters.
The Hilton Sisters, born in 1908, were trained musicians, singers and dancers. They were "discovered" by magician Harry Houdini.
As the camera rolled, Zemeckis asked Hall about his recollections of his career as "The King of the Sideshow." He said although the days of the "Turtle Man," "Monkey Girl" and "Human Blockhead" may be gone, the interest in those who are different will remain.
"But there's something about seeing the people in person. The main thing is I believe there are other freaks out there who would love to be in the sideshow; they made a good living," he said. "It's important to document these historic facts."
"The Hilton Sisters" should be completed by fall 2012.

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