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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hilton Hysteria In Middletown!


Novelty Act Writ Large

Those sweethearts from Freaks were a busy conjoined pair in years leading up to, and after, the Tod Browning classic of 1932. North Carolina had a stake, it seems, in Siamese twins. The Barnum-exploited originals, Chang and Eng Bunker, retired to my home county, had a passel of kids, went broke after our side lost in the Civil War. A hundred years later, the Hiltons were traveling with a Freaks revival when their roadshow sharpie left his troupe high/dry near Charlotte. The gals wound up weighing meat at a local market through much of the 60's, died in 1969. This vaude appearance was much earlier, 12/26/28, in Middletown, Ohio. Everyone from miles around was figured to be there. The Hiltons did scores of stops like this, real talent an augment to the physical novelty. Male performers would often come out and dance with the pair, one such swain a young Bob Hope. Also-on-Sorg-bill The Burns Twins are hopelessly outclassed for being mere twins, and not conjoined. Statistics at the time said nine sets of Siamese twins had been born in the last 200 years, so chance of copycats crabbing the Hilton's act was nil. There's a recent documentary about the girls. Apparently, they were abused pretty badly by handlers. The duo has a large fan/cult following. Their other movie, a starring one (Chained For Life) has shown up on TCM, and is available on DVD.

4 Comments:

Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

I streamed the documentary on Netflix a while ago. It's pretty good.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

There was also a Broadway musical, "Side Show", that had two acclaimed but short runs on Broadway. It's apparently having a long life in regional productions.

4:31 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

You got me Googling Hilton Twins and Charlotte; pretty interesting story. The house that they died in is still there and so is the Park 'n Shop building where they worked. Seems like they were finally treated well in the last few years of their lives.
Thanks for all your hard work that you put into Greenbriar.

8:18 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

I read somewhere that the Hiltons appeared once on Charlotte-Channel 3's "Horror Theatre," which I used to watch every Friday night, but I must have missed this occasion.

Thanks for your kind words about Greenbriar, MikeD.

10:29 AM  

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