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Strange as it Seems was a show of 32 acts including savage natives from North Lazon, Philippine Islands, Pygmies from Batwa, Central Africa, and many odd and wondrous attractions.

Trylon Tidbits

In a newspaper interview, Helen Ruppert, the concessions cook, noted the performers “don’t like to be called freaks, you know.” However, all media, including the Fair’s publications, continued to use the term. Mrs. Ruppert, who prepared lunches of pork chops, peas, fried potatoes and pineapple pudding, declared: “There hasn’t been a fight or a murder yet” among her patrons.

Joe Rogers was the king of the Amusement Zone, running these concessions: Strange As It Seems, Gang Busters, We Humans, Nature’s Mistakes, Seminole Indians and Rendevoo, a low-priced restaurant.

The concession had sixteen stages for its forty-two acts. Each stage had a motorized curtain to introduce the performer. The performers had their own dining room and showers.

A transcontinental airlines refused passage to Li Po Sui, the Chinese hairy man, because officials believed he would be repulsive to other passengers. When he arrived at the concession, it was discovered he was a chain smoker, multiple packs daily, and his expensive habit was covered as part of his contract.

Some of the performers: a man who was slowly turning to stone, a gentleman who grew eight inches taller at will, and a father and son who together accounted for twenty-four fingers and thirty-two toes, eleven-year-old Jang Krishnan who had a 6¼-inch tail at the end of his spine, and Olga, the headless woman.

The main acts that disturbed the patrons included the boy who pushed a spike through his head, the eyelid weight-lifter, and the Cuban eye-popper. The hospital at the concession handled 50 to 150 cases a day.

When FDR Jr. and Bruce Cabot visited the man who wrote on rice, the artists inscribed a piece with a donkey and “For a Third Term.”

Flexible Freddy informed his audience that he was now the father of a “bouncing baby boy” and distributed rubber cigars.

Betty Broadbent started her professional life as a trick rider and roper. When the show would arrive at a new town, Miss Broadbent gravitated to the nearest tattoo parlor and gradually filled her body with “more art that the Metropolitan.” She admitted she could not wear a low-cut evening gown as Raphael’s “Madonna and Child” practically covered her back.

The performers lived off the fair grounds. So as to not disturb people on their way to and from their work, the Bearded Lady wore a black mask and the woman with the longest hair carried it over her arm.

When Broadway comedian Beatrice Lillie began leaving the Bearded Lady’s performance, she yelled out: “You came to see our show and walked out just when I went on. Now, Miss Lillie, I went to see you in ‘Set to Music’ – and I didn’t walk out on you!”

Strange as it Seems
Photo 1653448
Courtesy of the NY Public Library