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The Story of How I Became the Tatoo Queen

Tatoo Queen

pitchcard pamphlet, six page fold-out with three photographs, circa 1940

A story of star-crossed lovers, brought together at last by a transformation suggested by a sword swallower. How a bearded woman become a tattooed lady — the stuff of a Harlequin romance novel on the carnival midway. More literary than most pitchcards, this text (presented below in its entirety) seems to be a reprint of a magazine article by an unknown author.

FOR FIFTEEN YEARS John Carson and Jean Furella were in love. They would meet and sigh and part, broken-hearted, like lovers crossed by Fate through the ages. For there was a barrier between them that seemed insuperable. The barrier that kept the lovers apart was a long, luxuriant, dark, silky beard.

The couple discussed their plight one day with a mutual friend of long standing. The friend is Alec Linton, who is famous all over the United States and many foreign countries, where he has thrilled countless thousands with his artistry. Mr. Linton is a swallower of swords. He works in circuses and in carnivals. And Mr. Linton, miraculously, came up with a solution of the problem that had been sorely trying his two friends for so many years.

“Why not,” said Mr. Linton, “have your beard removed? You say that you want to stay in show business; well, suppose you remove your beard, and then, while it is being done, you get yourself tattooed.” Mr. Linton leaned forward in his seat, tense with the excitement of his inspired thought, but careful, nonetheless, of the wicked blade that he had been cleaning after his sword swallowing act. “Then,” he continued, “you will still be able to work in circuses and carnivals, because you will be just as great an attraction. A tattooed lady is an even greater rarity than a bearded lady.”

Tatoo Queen

MRS. JOHN CARSON, the former Jean Furella, had tears in her eyes, although she was smiling joyfully, as she told the story of the happy solution of her dilemma.

“I was one of the few real, honest-to-goodness bearded ladies in the business,” she said. “Most of the bearded ladies you see around are fakers. And I was happy, except that I loved John here, and he loved me, but he just couldn’t see his way clear to marrying me while I had a beard.”

John Carson has been a circus and carnival worker all his life. He ran away from his home in Youngstown, Ohio, before he reached his teens. He followed a circus that came through Youngstown, and he was, successively, a water boy, then a roust-about, and after he reaced [sic] maturity, a barker.

“It was eighteen years ago,” said John Carson, “that I first laid eyes on Jean. She had just joined our show — the Hagenback and Wallace Circus, it was — and she was 14 years old and beautiful. What I mean is, she had a gorgeous figure. But she had this beard. There are a lot of girls around a circus, you know, a lot of beautiful girls. But I could never take my mind off Jean, even with the beard.”

Mr. Carson shook his head ruefully. “I loved her, all right, but I just couldn’t bring myself to make love to her. I just couldn’t kiss her. It always seemed to me it would be like kissing my uncle.”

Tatoo Queen

Jean laughed. “I never did get kissed,” she said, “until three years ago, when my beard was finally all off, and John and I became engaged. It was just like I always thought it would be. It was like electricity.”

Tatoo Queen

That’s a sweet story, but imagine what a draw a tattooed bearded lady would have been!

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All Images and Text © James G. Mundie 2003 - 2011