This Is Me--2019 A to Z Theme

This blog is part of my life journey. I've got places to be and people to see along the way. Hope you'll join me and maybe join in the discussion...

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog.

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Monday, November 9, 2020

The Side Show Never Ends ( #BOTB Results )

 Old friends can be like a fine wine that we savor as pleasant thoughts linger in our memories or they can be like leftovers gone bad in the refrigerator leaving a bad smell.  I think it's time to clean out my fridge...

The Year of Side Show


Arlee in Ottawa Ontario
                            Arlee Bird in Ottawa Ontario

      The yearly vacations that my wife have taken have been the highlights of the past decade plus-- those years since I lost the last job I had until being forced into retirement.   During those years we were able to spend quality time with family and friends, including those who have since passed on.  If I had still been working we would not have been able to take such lengthy trips.  Fortunately, my wife was still deriving a good income from her teaching job and with her summers off we had several weeks that allowed us to travel.  They were good times.  Some of the best.

       One of the most memorable summers was that of 2016.  We drove north from Los Angeles to British Colombia and then for several days traversed the breadth of Canada to Quebec where we veered back down into the United States via New England as we continued to stays in New Jersey, Tennessee, and Texas before heading back home to California. 

       It was a grand tour filled with so many amazing places and so many wonderful people.  And so so many good memories.  Part of those memories were in the music that served as our soundtrack for that remarkable summer trip. 

      Shortly prior to embarking on that journey I discovered a musical that latched onto my interest like few have ever done.  I have long been a fan of musicals and finding the Broadway musical Side Show was an exciting discovery for me.  As I recall, I first heard a song from the musical on some radio show and it so captured my attention that I began investigating this hitherto unknown to me musical.

        After discovering that two different Broadway show recordings had been released I then found that most of the songs could be found on YouTube.  As I listened to the songs on YouTube it was a quick decision for me to locate both versions on Amazon and order them before we would leave on our vacation trip.   We would have our trip soundtrack.

        We listened to both CDs daily, sometimes more than once and even repeatedly. I memorized every detail of the music.  My wife and I would try to decide which version was best.  Our preference would change from day to day, but the two of us fell in love with the musical.

         Part of the draw for me was the story--it was based on true life characters.  The Hilton Sisters were very attractive twins who performed in vaudeville and films.  They were hugely popular in Europe and the United States.  What made them particularly unique was the fact that they were Siamese twins conjoined at the hip.  Their attractive appearance made them all the more appealing to audiences.

          Gaining fame and popularity in side shows and stage show circuits, they caught the attention of Hollywood.  You may have seen them in their most well-known film, Tod Browning's Freaks. After that film appearance their popularity lessened and they struggled to keep working.  They starred in one more film in 1951.  Chained for Life was loosely based on their lives and the musical Side Show seems to have taken some ideas from that film.  After that it was tough times for the Hiltons.

           My late former boss Philip Morris from Charlotte NC used to tell stories about meeting them in the sixties when he was working as a theatrical agent. Morris related how he was in a grocery store and saw them bagging groceries.  Apparently the store manager had felt bad for them and gave them the job since they were now essentially destitute and nearing sixty years old.  Philip Morris befriended them and found them occasional jobs at movie shows and other appearances.

           The deaths of the sisters seems especially poignant in our time. Sometime around New Year of 1969 they had contracted Hong Kong Flu (the pandemic that killed millions from 1968 to 1969) and Daisy died.   No one can say exactly what transpired at that point, but the forensic investigation suggested that Violet Hilton probably lived on another 2 to 4 days with her dead sister at her side.  They were discovered on January 4, 1969 after the grocery store owner reported to police that they had not shown up for work and he feared the worst.

           It's a sad story, but we got a decent musical from it.  Granted the musical has never gained much traction with the critics or the public, but I think the subject matter was perhaps too politically incorrect for our times.   Despite that, at least the Hilton Sisters got some final recognition that will live on for many.  In 2018 the city of Brighton and Hove, England honored them with a plaque in front of the house where they were born. At least they have some kind of legacy.  

          If you're a fan of musical theater I recommend that you check out some of the recordings that can be found on YouTube.  I'd like to see a movie made of the show, but I doubt that it will ever happen.



Battle of the Bands Results


          My most recent Battle used three different songs with the same title of "The Devil You Know."  Two of the choices were pretty standard modern rock fare by the artists Kovacs and Blues Saraceno" while the third came from the Broadway musical Side Show.  

         If you read my opening story then you can likely easily deduce that my own favorite tune was the one from  Side Show.   But I really liked the other two picks as well.  That's why I used them of course!  As I might have expected, my choice was the least favorite.  And Blues Saraceno's song sounded pretty good to me too.  Not a bad outcome over all.


Final Vote Tally

Kovacs                  4

Side Show             3

Blues Saraceno     5                 



Next Battle on Sunday November 15th

          Lord willing and I don't choke to death on my face mask, I'll have another Battle of the Bands installment on my usual 15th of the month appearance.  

   

        Do you have any Facebook friends that actually aren't friends and you really don't know?  Have you ever purged your friends list?   What has been your greatest benefit from being on Facebook? 





          

20 comments:

  1. Fortunately I'm not on Facebook.
    I knew one of them died before the other but not that it was the Hong Kong Flu. Such a shame they died destitute.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alex, the story of the Hilton sisters is indeed a sad one. Strange how there was a pandemic when I was in high school and college and never knew about it until this year.

      Lee

      Delete
  2. What a sad story! I did not know anything about the Hilton sisters. As we discussed in the comment section, Side Show was not my first choice and I was not a fan. But I was too dim to guess ahead of time how you would vote, or I'd have cranked back my very pointed comment about the musical number.

    I knew you'd be able to give some interesting food for thought about the good points of it, and you did.

    I will do some research and decide on that basis whether to try listening to the whole thing. That may seem the wrong way to go about it, but it is pretty much my policy with entertainment. I don't even watch movies without reading the plot first. I want spoilers. I don't like surprises and I DO want sunshine and joy. If something is a downer, it is extremely rare that I'll bother; there would need to be some other, overriding reason about the film/musical/play to subject myself to emotional distress. Life dishes out enough of it. This very sad true story is probably not something I'll fill my thought with, but we'll see.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. 6-Gun, Side Show is essentially an old-school style musical in the tradition of what we grew up with. Maybe more West Side Story than South Pacific if you get my meaning.

      But it's an old school story about a time in history that many today might not be able to appreciate or even understand. As for the musical being a downer I don't see it that way at all. There are conflicts and tragic circumstances, but the ending is rather affirming as it celebrates the bonding of siblings and overcoming obstacles that we face in life. The story in the musical ends at a high point of the sisters' career and doesn't head into the darker sadder territory of being destitute has-beens. I think you might enjoy the music as well as the story.

      Also, I found the film Chained for Life to be a rather interesting depiction of certain aspects of the lives of the sisters since the film is biographically inspired with an interesting added twist that presents an interesting philosophical/legal dilemma. Sure it's low budget with very poor quality, but I was able to get past that part okay.

      But then, I'm a bit of a circus nut as you know and that includes the offshoots like carnivals and side shows. Not everyone appreciates that part of history especially in our time.

      Lee

      Delete
  3. Whast a shame that Side Show would not be made or shown again in this politically correct era of ours. Most people do not read history and how these shows, albeit profiting off of the misfortune of others, actually became family and really were close knit. The sisters were quite good in Freaks and loved the scene where the one is being kissed by her fiance and you see the other gal quite delighted. It is such a shame they died like they did and the sister left must have been scared to death. what a sad ending.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Birgit, I seen several documentaries and read stories about side show performers and nearly all of the performers were pleased with the opportunities they were given to make a decent living from their circumstance in life. Otherwise they might have led pretty isolated sad lives in relative poverty.

      Lee

      Delete
  4. Such a sad story Lee.
    I llook forward to the next BOTB.

    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yvonne, a sad story yet the sisters did have an interesting life for a while at least.

      Lee

      Delete
  5. I thought the film "Freaks" was quite the interesting piece of celluloid. Didn't know how they died so that was intersting to find out.

    Re: Facebook, I just did a recent purge (the weekend of the 7th & 8th) of my circle of friends, mostly due to the very hard left turn in their political viewpoint (I'm a moderate Republican and while I can tolerate some opposing viewpoints, due to having very tolerant Democratic real world friends, I can't tolerate the extreme TDS that some of my FB friends were showing), and only a few who were either dead or inactive. May do another in the future to purge a few more inactives though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GB, I first heard about Freaks back in the sixties when it was mostly unavailable to be seen. Now TCM shows it fairly often. It is interesting.

      I don't mind opposing viewpoints expressed with intelligence and rational thinking. Name calling and profanity doesn't go well with me though.

      Lee

      Delete
  6. I haven't done a purge, but I have unfollowed a lot of Facebook friends because I don't care to see their hateful rhetoric as I try to have fun and find good books to read. If the rhetoric continues, however, I'm going to clean house. Four years has pushed the limit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patricia, I can scroll past the rhetoric yet I'd prefer it not be associated with me. I'm primarily annoyed with those folks who will jump in to condemn or criticize views I post while otherwise never communicating with me about anything else. I don't see them as friends in any way.

      Lee

      Delete
  7. So sad I have Facebook but rarely post much other then trival crap

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Jo-Anne, I don't usually post much other than notices about my blog posts and rarely does anyone seem to pay attention to those.

      Lee

      Delete
  8. Lee,

    My favorite won this round but WOW, what a tight battle!

    Thanks for sharing the story of your vacation ties with the musical and oh how sad to read about the twins demise. I remember as a child going to the carnival to see signs for Siamese twin boys. They looked so so sad, even miserable and I thought how could anyone do this to these poor boys? The public gawked at them and called them freaks. That's just awful and heartbreaking.

    My Facebook friends list is cluttered with people I really do not know. Occasionally I will go through it and unfriend people who aren't inactive with me at all. The only benefit Facebook is a gateway to spot checking on good friends to make sure they are ok, otherwise I try to not be on anymore than I have to because of all the negative vibes.

    Have a great day, my friend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cathy, I'm pretty sure you are referring to Ronnie and Donnie Galyon who died this past July 4th. They were about my age having been born in October of 1951. I remember seeing them in an amusement park in Bowling Green Ky and thinking the same thing about how sad they looked and how weird that we were gawking at them while they were just hanging out watching TV while ignoring their onlookers.

      There are some excellent documentaries and interviews about them that you could probably find on YouTube. From what they've said, they had good lives and they didn't mind the people looking at them--they just got used to it. After all they had been on display since they were babies and they understood their own uniqueness.

      From their life on display they made enough money to help their parents and allow them to eventually retire in their own home and lead a good life in their final years.

      Lee

      Delete
  9. I have to admit, this was not the Hilton Sisters or Philip Morris I'm used to hearing about! I don't feel like I'm a fan of musicals, though I enjoy them. But I think I'd probably like this one.

    I had surprisingly never heard of the Hilton Sisters before (except for Paris and Nicky during the mid-2000s, but they weren't born when these Hilton Sisters were popular), but they sounded so familiar I had to go and look something up: American Horror Story had a season called Freak Show which featured attractive conjoined twins, and as it turns out, Bette and Dot Tattler were also loosely based on Violet and Daisy Hilton.

    Theirs such a sad, gruesome death. Not *how* they died, but because Violet lived for another few days. ::shudders:: I can't even imagine.

    Good for you for purging Facebook! I think about it almost daily, because mine is so full of people I don't ever interact with, and vice versa. And things took such an ugly turn this election year. So many people have always thought it was just okay to come on my own timeline, in a response to my post, and argue with me when I didn't ask for advice or thoughts or anything. I don't get it. I don't go arguing with them on their posts, unless they ask for thoughts, and usually not even then. I am probably doing to do a small purge myself when I find time. But I'm definitely trying to figure out how to make lists more quickly, because I am through with not being able to post what I want on my own FB without people who disagree coming in and stirring up trouble, even if that wasn't their intention. Actual friends and family have gotten a pass, but I'm not doing that anymore.

    Kim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kim, you might want to check out the musical soundtrack on YouTube and read up on the story on some of the Google entries about it. The Hiltons had an interesting life with some intriguing aspects that aroused the curiosities of folks in their day. Their death and decline of their career was unfortunate, but it's not all a sad story. And it's a strange story.

      Facebook to me is more valuable for keeping in touch with family and actual people I know. Years ago I thought it might be good for marketing, which having a page is okay for that, but I don't need to see posts that I don't care about.

      Lee

      Delete
  10. A lot of my Facebook friends are people from my pro-science groups, whom I've never met in real life. A lot of them are deep into woke politics and virtue-signalling, so I'm surprised so few of them seem to have unfriended me after I finally came out on that platform as opposed to gender ideology and in support of J.K. Rowling. I had to block a few friends who were particularly nasty in attacking her, and all other women who support her. And of course, my own little brother also blocked me after sending a lot of abusive DMs trying to make me accept the woke groupthink. One of many reasons I'm politically homeless.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Carrie-Anne, politically homeless...I like the term. I can relate.

      Lee

      Delete

Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.

Lee