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Friday, July 06, 2018

Other-Worldly Vaudeville On View


Spit Fire and Like It!

Freaky vaudeville could be off-putting, at least in hindsight to us, but were audiences of the day so timid? We're told of folks run screaming away from Freaks in 1932, but I'm wondering now if that's myth. Truth perhaps is forebears being lots tougher than moderns give them credit for. They knew human oddities from fair grounds before freak showing was banned most places. Vaude acts had to be different to thrive, so sought weirdest ways to startle and entertain. To that arena came Hadji-Ali, upchuck king of unsettling acts. He'd swallow anything, then spit it up. Would Hadji be permitted on a stage today? He's here thanks to an elegant ad I found from Sacramento, where Hadji flamed through week of 11-14-23. It's as well they didn't book him a following frame, as I'm not sure Thanksgiving dinner would go down so well after a dose of Hadji. How best to describe his act? Best probably not to try, except to say he drinks kerosene and spits fire, and that, according to lore, was itself short of the topper, which got more outrageous over years he performed. In fact, for projection Hadji had, he could have set the back row ablaze. People then loved outrageous things the human body could be made to do. Would they still if offered a modern Hadji? We can see the original in a seven minute segment of Politiquerias, the Spanish language version of Laurel and Hardy's 1931 comedy, Chickens Come Home. It's part of a DVD set, Laurel and Hardy: The Essential Collection. Hadji does his startling thing, less spectacularly than it would have been on large stages he could muss up with more abandon. Other performers would recall Hadji with awe (Judy Garland spoke longingly of him in later interviews). When Hadji left, there would be no one to even attempt stuff he did.

2 Comments:

Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

IIRC after Hadji died in the late '30's, his body went on tour.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW_EB0yBS5c

10:21 AM  

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