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Friday, December 16, 2011

Ward Hall, famous Floridian and 'King of the Sideshow' Entertainer,

owner of a traveling sideshow business; Gibsonton; age 81


Ward Hall [Photo: Michael Heape]

from: Florida Trend Magazine.com

by Art Levy

» For years, I partnered with a marvelous knife thrower. I was a ventriloquist, but I also stood in as his knife-throwing target for 17 years. I was hit in the head. I was hit in the nose twice, once in each arm and once in each leg. I'd light a cigarette and hold it in my mouth, and he would throw the knife and cut the cigarette in half. When I got hit in the nose the second time that was it, and we never did the cigarette trick again. The act kept getting shorter and shorter because anytime I got hurt, we'd take that trick out of the act.
» Gibsonton, Florida, used to be the worldwide home of the freaks. There were 75 to 85 human oddities who lived here at the peak, everyone from Sealo the Seal Boy to Priscilla the Monkey Girl.We had alligator-skinned people, fat men, fat ladies, dwarfs, giants, people with claws, people with no arms. I can introduce you to all the freaks now in 10 minutes. I'll take you to the cemetery. That's where they're all at.
» I had just turned 15 and I answered an ad I saw in the Billboard newspaper that they wanted a sideshow magician and fire-eater for the Dailey Brothers Circus. It was a small circus, and I thought it would be a good place for me to learn, so I answered the ad. I got a telegram back from the sideshow manager offering me the job, and the old nosy landlady in the walkup we lived in didn't give it to me. She waited until my father came home and gave it to him. So he looked at the telegram and he said, 'Well, what in the hell is all of this about?' I said, 'Dad, I'm not asking you. I'm telling. I'm going to go with the circus.' He said, 'Well, you might as well go ahead and do it. You'll get it out of your system and be home in two weeks.' Well, I'm 81 years old now, and my two weeks still aren't up.


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