Australia's got talent
Amazing talent showcased from the early 1900s
5 November 2015
As I go about my work as a reference librarian, I come across many stories both entertaining and whimsical. When I find ephemera or articles about performers, I often say to myself that I would love to have seen this—our instant video technology has come too late for these fantastic entertainers, who will never appear on Youtube for a new audience to be fascinated with for five minutes.
The Fredo Brothers – tumbling violinists
These two brothers named Bubs and Lar, toured extensively throughout Australia and New Zealand, originally with their parents as part of their act, but gained great notoriety once they left their parents behind. They enthusiastically tumbled, cavorted and performed sensational aerobatic tricks whilst playing their violins. Needing to be useful off the stage, the brothers also painted sets for the shows they toured with.
First mentioned in 1899, they were still performing in the late 1940s, where there were just two mentions of them in 1947 in the Trove newspapers. A search of our large PROMPT (Australian performing arts programs and ephemera) collection showed them advertisied in the Fuller's shows. They live on in Trove.
Clara Bussing Brown – the original bubble girl
The original bubble girl, Clara Bussing Brown, toured with her husband Frank as the La Tours in 1916. Soap bubble juggling appeared to be a popular act with several others doing similar performances but Clara is noted as the 'original soap-bubble girl'. A skill that has not survived the following decades, shall we ever see bubble juggling performed on stage again?
We have a single piece of ephemera showing Clara and her husband as the La Tours which helped to highlight these performers. Our flyer is also signed by the couple. The La Tours are also in Trove with many of their performances promoted in the newspapers.
The La Tours were brought to my attention through one of our reference enquiries. This one originated from the United States and the enquirer delighted that her great grand-aunt was in our catalogue.
George McMillan – the human hen
As there is always one New Zealander that gets to try his luck in the Australian editions—Wellington man George MacMillan was a sausage linker by trade and ex-pole sitter who attempted to hatch six chicken eggs by clutching them to his ‘hairy chest’ and roosting up a pine tree.
Sadly no chickens were hatched from George’s eggs, but the saga went on for weeks over Christmas in 1954 with several newspapers reporting on a weekly basis, including the disaster when “Human hen” breaks egg. Not content to just hatch the eggs, it was done 30ft above the ground on a platform, on a pole.
Follow along with George in Trove: The Human Hen