Ward Hall - King of the Sideshow, a biography of the most colorful showman ever to live, is now being written to be published in 2014. Read more
This project was successfully funded on August 8, 2013.
About this project
“Join the Circus Like You Wanted to When You Were a Kid.”
Ward Hall literally ran away and joined the circus in 1944 when he was a “kid” living in Colorado. He was 14 years old, a 10th grade dropout, and had only enough money saved for the bus ticket to the Big Top of the Dailey Bros. Circus. By 16 he was performing in a sideshow and by age 21, he owned a sideshow!
Hall has often been called a modern-day P.T. Barnum and the
last-of-his-kind sideshow promoter. He's a national treasure who is loved and revered by showfolk, sideshow historians and fans the world over. – Kathleen Maher, Executive Director, The Barnum Museum
Today, 69 years later and countless circus and side show, vaudeville and burlesque house performances under his belt, Ward Hall is still in the business. He plans to retire when he reaches 100 so he can “see the world.” Now 83, he is the undisputed King of the Sideshow.
With a show still on the road, Ward Hall celebrates his 70th Year on the Midway in 2014!
Ward Hall - King of the Sideshow has worked with a monkey girl, a half-lady/half man, numerous fat men, countless sword swallowers, fire eaters, several giants, big snakes, big rats and little horses. He has mastered juggling, ventriloquism, and the art of enticing thousands of curious onlookers to part with their money to go inside the tent of his world-famous sideshows.
Hall is The Silver Throated King of the Carnival Talkers.”
Sally Rand in the TV Show “Carny.”
For nearly 50 years, Ward and his partner C.M. (Chris) Christ have owned and operated sideshows, animal shows, magic shows, and illusion shows with such fashionable names as Magic on Parade; Wondercade: Aquarama water circus; Gladiators vs. Mankillers wild animal show; World Attractions; Sky High Circus; the Wonder Circus; the Pygmy Village; and the World of Wonders. He has exhibited the World’s smallest woman, the World’s tallest giant, and employed Pete Terhune, the mighty fire-eating dwarf for more than 50 years.
In addition to owning or co-owning sideshows and circuses during his career, he has written four books, four musical stage productions, been in more than 100 films and TV specials, performed at Madison Square Garden and the Lincoln Center in New York City and has sung at Carnegie Hall. He is in the Hall of Fame of both the Outdoor Amusement Business Assoc. (OABA) and the International Independent Showmen’s Assoc. (IISA)
He has operated the sideshow for many big time circuses, including: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Toby Tyler Circus, the Al G. Kelly & Miller Bros. Circus, Circus Vargas (where he was part owner of the circus for several years), Beatty Cole, and the E.K. Fernandez Circus.
In the colossal world of thousands of showmen, none have proven themselves over the long term to be more successful, long-lasting or more popular than Ward Hall. He is the undisputed grand old man of all showmen.
A Long Overdue Biography is on its Way
In February 2013, at the showmen’s expo and trade show in Gibsonton, Fla., Ward asked me to be his biographer – to write his official biography. I was quite honored, and now my monumental task for the rest of this year is to pull together the man’s amazing story and condense it to a 400 page book that will both entertain as well as educate the reader. I will be chronicling this elite showman’s life and loves, passions and projects, successes and failures, his financial highs and lows. Most of all, I will preserve the amazing stories that he has told and that he has experienced over the years.
Ward Hall - King of
the Sideshow will be a book unlike any others. It
will be full of amazing stories and sideshow and circus history, but it will also be lavishly illustrated with dozens of photos never seen before, not only of Ward and his two long-time partners during the years, Harry Leonard and C.M. (Chris) Christ, but also of some of the amazing acts with whom they have worked.
Meet Tim O’Brien, the author of Ward Hall - King of the Sideshow
I am Tim O’Brien and I have been chronicling the circus, sideshow and outdoor entertainment industries for nearly 30 years. I was senior editor of Amusement Business magazine, a weekly trade publication of the outdoor entertainment industry, for 18 years, and was the head of communications for Ripley’s Believe It or Not! for 10 years after that. At Ripley’s I was national spokesperson and was responsible for booking sideshow acts and entertainment into Ripley’s properties world-wide.
"I can think of no better person to chronicle the life and times of the last great sideshow empresario than Tim O'Brien. Besides being a magnificent writer, Tim has a deep understanding and appreciation of the world of the American sideshow. I truly look forward to reading this book." Todd Robbins, Showman
I am an award-winning photo-journalist who has followed Ward Hall’s career over the past 30-plus years and have photographed and quoted him extensively during that time. During my career, I have written and had published more than 5,000 stories about the industry and have had more than 3,000 photos published. I have had 13 books, plus numerous reprints and updates published.
“Tim has the experience and the writing acumen to create a biography of Ward Hall that will be an amazing tribute and a lasting legacy to one of the greatest showmen to ever live.” – James Taylor, Sideshow Historian
The writing and researching stage for the book is well underway. I have gathered thousands of words written by and about Ward. Countless hours have been spent in the libraries of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, and in the Museum of the American Carnival in Gibsonton, Fla., researching extant documents, photos, sound recordings and video.
Additional hours were spent perusing Ward’s own archives, (un-organized boxes stuffed with amazing memories). I was impressed and sometimes overwhelmed by the quantity of material that I found. Ward himself was at times surprised, having left those memories behind 50 years ago.
I have now entered the primary research phase of the project, one in which will be the greatest contribution to this biography – the personal and revealing stories and adventures as told by Ward himself and those who know him personally. Material that has never been written down, stories only voices have told. I plan to talk with his colleagues, fair managers, circus owners, promoters, entertainers and other interesting people who have worked closely for, with and against Ward and his partners over the past seven decades. I am sitting down with each and will have the tape recorder rolling. I am excited about what still remains undiscovered.
Due to the travel needed for this second phase, it will be the most expensive stage of the book’s research. Your support of this project will help in many ways and will allow me to spend the needed time to do justice to this homage to a true American Legend. It will also help fund every step of the project, including:
- Travel for primary research
- Transcription of recordings
- Professional editing
- Photo acquisition and scanning
- Creative layout and design of the book
- Printing of the initial run in both soft and hardcover
The book will be published and marketed by Casa Flamingo
a company solely owned and operated by Tim O’Brien and headquartered in Nashville, Tenn.
Ward is an articulate talker and to fully appreciate what this man is all about, one needs to interact with him. The book will provide that opportunity, as do most of the thank you gifts for your participation in getting this book published.
The awards have been created with personal interaction in mind. You will find several opportunities to meet with and/or talk with Ward Hall - King of the Sideshow. How would you like to have lunch with Ward and his friends? How about receiving a personally recorded bally message from Ward? How about joining Ward at the Florida State Fair for a personal tour of his World of Wonders Sideshow? They are all available to you!
I've provided several opportunities for you to create memorable experiences of a lifetime with the greatest showman ever to live. It's something to tell your grandchildren about. Take a look, and if there is nothing there that makes your sword go down easy, and you would like to participate in this project, please communicate with Tim O’Brien and we will see what we can do.
Also, if you are out of the US and would like to help out, go ahead and make your pledge and let drop me a quick note and we can work out shipping costs, etc., on a one to one basis.
If you have not taken a look at the video at the top, please do so, it's the brilliant work of New York City-based photographer Andrew Brusso, a long time friend of the sideshow industry, thanks Andrew!
Risks and challenges
I see no problems in finishing this project or am I anticipating a major delay. I am a trained and seasoned journalist and I have dealt with deadlines for the past 40 years - deadlines on which my job and career depended - so I learned to meet those deadlines on a daily and weekly basis. I plan to do so on this project as well. Personally, I can't wait to see the finished book, I'm excited.
One caveat: Although Ward is in good health and active as this book is being written, he is 83 years old. For some reason if he is not able to help fulfill the promised awards, his partner C.M. Christ, Ward’s partner of 48 years, will fill in. We totally expect Ward to be around and still active in the business for many, many years to come.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
Pledge $2 or more
THE TICKET BUYER - It costs $2 to get into Ward Hall’s World of Wonders sideshow, so we thought it would be a good amount to help get you into this project! We’ll pass along a heartfelt “thank you” to you on our Facebook page and will send some good Karma your way!Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge $10 or more
THE FAN - Special thank you, signed by Ward, on a postcard of the book cover art mailed to you.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
Pledge $20 or more
THE TALKER - Ward will sign a classic, 8 x 10 photo of himself and we will mail it to you.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
Pledge $30 or more
THE SNAKE CHARMER – Softcover book signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien. This is only a few dollars more than the anticipated retail cost of the book. So basically, what you are doing here is pre-ordering and helping us produce the book - at the same time. You will be among the first to receive it by mail.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
Pledge $50 or more
THE GIVER – This one is for the giver, the person who doesn’t want anything but to be a participant in this great project that will pay homage to a great American Showman.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $60 or more
THE BLOCKHEAD – Softcover book signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien, and an 8x10 classic photo signed by Ward. You will receive printed acknowledgement in the book.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
Pledge $100 or more
THE JUGGLER – Softcover book signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien, a signed copy of Ward’s out-of-print book, “My Unusual Friends, ” and an 8x10 classic photo signed by Ward. You will receive printed acknowledgement in the book.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
Pledge $250 or more
THE BED OF NAILS – You will receive a personalized message/bally from Ward that you can use as a phone message, use it on your web site, or give it as a very unique gift to the sideshow lover in your life! (two minute length limit, and we reserve the right to edit your message) You send us the information and he will record it. You will also receive a hardcover book signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien, and a signed copy of Ward’s out-of-print book, “My Unusual Friends.” You will receive printed acknowledgement in the book.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
Pledge $350 or more
THE PERSONAL PITCH – You will receive a personal phone call from Ward or Tim. (with a 15 minute limit). Also, you will receive a hardcover book signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien, and a signed copy of Ward’s out-of-print book, “My Unusual Friends.” You will receive printed acknowledgement in the book.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
Pledge $500 or more
4 backers Limited (26 left of 30)
THE FIRE EATER – This is a Limited Edition of the hardcover book that contains an audio CD of Ward telling stories and performing some of his best bally speeches of the past. Ward and author Tim O’Brien will sign the book. You will also receive a signed copy of Ward’s out-of-print book, “My Unusual Friends,” AND you will receive special “all-star” recognition in the book.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
Pledge $1,000 or more
1 backer Limited (19 left of 20)
THE SWORD SWALLOWER – Spend a few hours and dine with Ward, Chris, his partner of 48 years, and Tim O’Brien, the author of the book. You will be invited to our luncheon in Gibsonton (Florida) during the 2014 International Independent Showmen’s Assoc. Trade Show & Extravaganza, Feb. 4-8. We’ll walk the trade show with you and then take you on a personal tour of the adjacent Museum of the American Carnival. You need to get here on your own and find your own place to stay, but we will ply you with food, drink, stories and the memorable experience of a lifetime. You will receive a hardcover book, signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien. You will receive special “all-star” recognition in the book. The date of the luncheon will probably be Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, but could change one day either way. If you can’t make it you can send a friend. The book will come to you in June, along with a photo of you and Ward at the luncheon.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
Pledge $2,500 or more
THE BLADE BOX – You get the whole basket of goodies as previously described, but not the VIP lunch or the tour as outlined in The Sword Swallower. Here’s what you get: a postcard with book cover art; a classic 8 x 10 photo signed by Ward; 5 softcover books signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien; 2 signed copies of Ward’s out-of-print book, “My Unusual Friends;” a personalized message/bally from Ward that you can use as a phone message, use it on your web site, or give it as a very unique gift to the sideshow lover in your life; 5 hardcover books signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien; a personal phone call from Ward or the author (with a 15 minute limit); a limited edition of the hardcover book signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien with an audio CD of Ward telling stories and performing some of his best bally speeches of the past; and you will receive special “all-star” recognition in the book.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
Pledge $5,000 or more
0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)
THE SHOW MANAGER – Come to our VIP luncheon with Ward, Chris, his partner of 48 years, and Tim O’Brien, the author of the book, during the International Independent Showmen’s Assoc. Trade Show & Extravaganza in Gibsonton, Fla. To be claimed during the show. Feb. 4-8, 2014. Private tour of the trade show grounds during the biggest event of the year for showmen. Ward and Chris will give you a personal tour of the adjacent Museum of the American Carnival, with an opportunity to meet some of Ward’s friends and colleagues. Then we head over to the Florida State Fair where Hall and Christ’s World of Wonder Sideshow will be in operation. Ward will introduce you to the performers. All admission prices and transportation to and from the fair are included, but you will need to get to the Showmen’s Club on your own and have a place to stay. You will receive a hardcover copy of the book signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien and you will receive special “super-star” recognition in the book. The date of the luncheon will probably be Feb. 6, 2014, but could change one day either way. If you can’t make it you can send a friend. The book will be sent to you in June, along with a photo of you and Ward at the luncheon.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)
THE SHOW OWNER – In addition to us showing you all kinds of love and gratitude, we will create a specially bound edition of Ward Hall – King of the Sideshow. You will also get 10 copies of the regular hardcover edition signed by Ward and author Tim O’Brien, 10 signed copies of Ward’s out-of-print book “My Unusual Friends,” a personal phone call as described above in Personal Pitch; you will receive the personal bally/message from Ward as described above in The Bed of Nails; an audio CD of Ward telling stories and performing some of his best bally speeches of the past; and you will be invited to our VIP lunch and a tour as described above in The Show Manager. You will receive special “mega-star” recognition in book. If you can’t make the luncheon, you can send a friend.
The book will be shipped to you in June, along with a photo of you and Ward together at the luncheon.Estimated delivery:Only ships to: United States
- (35 days)