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Saturday, June 15, 2013

BOOK REVIEW--

Queen of the Air: The greatest circus story ever told


Crown Publishing
from:  chicagoreader.com
Posted by Aimee Levitt
06.14.13
It would be pretty hard to screw up a biography of Leitzel, the great circus aerialist. But the first time Dean Jensen tried writing Queen of the Air, 30 years ago, he did.

Leitzel, also known as Lillian Leitzel, was the world's biggest circus celebrity back in the 1910s and '20s, when circus performers still were celebrities. (Apologies to fans of Siegfried and Roy.) Her claim to fame was her rope act: she would dangle from a loop attached to a rope high above the audience, and then she would flip her entire body over her head. She did this by dislocating her shoulder; if there wasn't music playing, you could hear a click as it slipped in and out of its socket. At every performance—and the circus had two shows every day—she would do more than 100 flips at one time.
 
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courtesy Dean Jensen
Leitzel, hiding her right arm, damaged by her rope trick

Leitzel was tiny—four feet nine inches tall, 95 pounds—and beautiful. Her romantic life was active, to put it diplomatically (she had a predilection for older gentlemen who were generous with gifts), but her great love was her third husband, Alfredo Codona, a dashing trapeze artist. They first met as teenagers in 1909 in Chicago when both were performing with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, she as part of the headlining act with her mother and aunts, he as an extra, but they didn't marry for nearly two more decades, after he became of the few people to master the triple somersault and was nearly as famous and well paid as she was. (The ceremony was in 1928, also in Chicago, and Leitzel kept Alfredo waiting at the altar for three hours.)
READ MORE--
http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2013/06/14/queen-of-the-air-the-greatest-circus-story-ever-told

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