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
Support this project
- (35 days)