Female ventriloquists are pretty rare. So it's always weird to find a forgotten one, especially one who might be remembered for garnering the first Emmy award ever given. Shirley Dinsdale might have been talented, but Judy Splinters was surely ugly as all get-out.
This 1945 radio show (not embeddable) features her act in its prime, starting after the 3-minute mark.
1947: The entertainment at gunmaker Melvin Johnson's dinner party was a balloon-clad model whom guests (apparently a bunch of old men) shot at with a pellet gun between courses. To the guests' great frustration, the balloons failed to break.
In 1940, Rev. Hansen started touring around the U.S. with his family, putting on a show in which he used trained birds to demonstrate lessons from the Bible. Newsweek (Dec. 10, 1951) offered this description of the act:
A typical show opens with a six-canary choir accompanying Mrs. Hansen (on the vibra-harp) in "The Star-Spangled Banner," while an oriole pulls a string that hoists a flag on a tiny pole and a parakeet shinnies to the pole top to pose as an American eagle.
Other birds ride on a tiny electric train, eat at tables, and climb ladders while the Hansens appropriately quote the Bible. For example, when Tiger the canary sits on Catnip the cat while daughter Sylvia watches (see picture), Mr. Hansen quotes Isaiah 11:6, "... the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the faitling together; and a little child shall lead them."
Mr. Hansen feels that the whole act is "a demonstration of faith. Pete is not afraid of the flaming hoop because he knows I am holding it. Muggs has to stretch out his neck to swallow a sword that's as long as he is, but he has faith in us."
Amazingly, Hansen was able to continue putting on his Bible Birds show for 60 years, until he died in 2002. See Roadside America for some more info.
Bimbo's 365 Club is still an active music venue in San Francisco. But, according to news on their own website, they seem to have abandoned a long proud tradition: Dolphina, the miniature live nude woman who swims in a fishbowl with goldfish.
IT’S AN ILLUSION A catacomb of tunnels in the bowels of the club leads to a small room containing a rotating platform on which the live “mermaid” reclines, naked. A periscope with angled mirrors projects her image up into the fishbowl where it appears that a tiny mermaid, about six inches long, is floating in an underwater grotto.
One at least hopes that the statue to an ideal Dolphina, erected in 1952 inside the club, still has a place of honor.
Headline writers had a lot of fun with this story. Ruth Shepler was an Iowa barmaid who had a signature bar trick which involved pouring a bottle of beer into a glass while the glass was balanced on her ample "frontage." She could reportedly balance up to four glasses simultaneously.
But when the IRS heard about this, they decided that her trick was really a cabaret show, which meant that she should have been paying cabaret taxes for the previous three years (1952, 1954, and 1955). And they demanded these unpaid taxes, which by their calculations amounted to $44,694.
Shepler hired a lawyer to fight the IRS. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any news reports that tell how her case turned out.
Orto's gimmick is that he would eat and drink things while submerged in a tank of water. According to Newsweek (June 30, 1947), "Here his barker tries to convince skeptics he is smoking a cigarette while submerged."
Sounds like quality entertainment!
EXPENSIVE SHOW — Cigarettes pass as money in most European countries these days. So when this street entertainer in Rome put on an underwater smoking act, he was really burning money. The "Aquarium Man" in the tank smokes a whole cigarette before the fascinated crowd. Later he ate and drank under water while the announcer harangued the crowd.
—The Daily News (Huntingdon, Pennsylvania) - Jun 23, 1947
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
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