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Arts & Culture

Finding Humanity At The Sideshow

side_show_coney_island_1910_bain_news_service.jpg
Bain News Service
/
Library of Congress
Coney Island, A Free Show, between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915

Cartoonist Bill Griffith based his legendary character Zippy the Pinhead on Schlitzie, a real life sideshow 'pinhead' who appeared in Todd Browning's 1932 film Freaks. Early audiences were appalled by Browning's use of real sideshow characters to seek revenge on those who treated them cruelly.

Griffith's graphic novel is his effort to understand Schlitzie and the sideshow family who cared for him. We talk to Griffith and a member of Schlitzie's sideshow family.

Also this hour: the man who saved thousands of premature infants by exhibiting them in incubators at the Coney Island sideshow.

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Colin McEnroe and Jonathan McNicol contributed to this show, which originally aired May 2, 2019.

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