Friday, January 29, 2010

Best of DHTISH, Surly it was Kismet

This is one my most favorite images - my late friend Gary Barnhart shared this with me when I wrote my first book. The image is of aerialist Betty Fox and the Godino twins high atop the fabulous Hotel Harding in Marion Ohio during the wee years of the depression.  

Fox was in town after performing with a circus at the Marion Star Auditorium on North State Street. The Godino's were going to open for a vaudeville review at the fabulous new Palace Theater across the street from the hotel the following day. Betty was checking out and the twins (and their wives, who were twins as well) were checking in. Hotel Manager Virgil Dye seized the moment and hustled all five up to the roof to capture the moment, which parlayed into a postcard and sold in the hotel gift shop.

But who were these people and why is their meeting a star crossed moment in time?

Betty Fox was a true dare deviltrix. (Words are always elegant when you add the "trix" on the end to make them more feminine.) There isn't a lot about her out there today. When I called the Columbus Public Library and asked if they had information Betty, I got an immediate "she did what?" And when I said she was a pole sitter (like it says on the picture) the reference librarian launched into a "Sir, we don't have information on that topic..."

It took me another 90 seconds to get her calmed down.

I didn't know that "pole sitter" was a dirty term. I guess we both got some education on popular culture during that phone call.

Fox made an entire career of hanging out of buildings, walking across wires that birds thought were put there for them to perch upon, and sitting on flagpoles when that was the rage. She also had an act with Benny Fox (her husband or brother, no one seems to know for certain) in which the pair would do all of the popular dances of the day on a 2X2 square platform forty feet above the ground. She performed into the 1960s, and to my knowledge died at a ripe old age, and not from falling off of anything. She's what we would have called a survivor. God love her.

The Godino's were Siamese Twins (I know I should PC term of "conjoined twins" but its so antiseptic!) who were attached at the butt muscle; they shared no organs, or other systems. Today we'd just snip them apart, and make them a human interest story on the Nightly News.   But back then, in Manila you didn't fix these types of things: you abandon them, which is exactly what the parents of the infant twins did. Out of sight, out of mind, as they used to say. Well, the twins were adopted by well connected government official who pampered them. They grew up, married twins (the non conjoined type), and developed a stage act where they put on roller skating shoes and rolled across the stage and did figure eights on while playing Melancholy Baby and Glow Worm on their violins. They made a good living at it while it lasted. The curtain came down on the Godino's in 1935 the one twin got sick and died, and a few hours later, the other twin went.

My favorite Godino story though is the one about their driving exploits - I found it in a newspaper out of Philadelphia from the 1920s. Seems that the Godino's loved automobiles and they loved to drive. SO their adoptive father, God love him, bought them a car with a right hand steering wheel so Lucio could drive and and a second car with left hand drive so Simplico could have equal time behind the wheel (or is it the other was around); Daddy loved his twins and wasn't playing favorites. They were notoriously bad drivers, and terrified everyone in the capitol city as they sped through the streets driving Paris Style (using only the horn and the gas pedal) and eventually the Manila authorities took both cars away from them and forbade them from driving again.


Because they couldn't figure out how to arrest the bad driver without also arresting the innocent one in the passenger seat at the same time.

As Yule Brenner said, "it is a puzzlement."  See, siamese twins come full circle!

So for these exotic people all to meet in Marion Ohio, on the roof of our tallest building, - it truly was Kismet.

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