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Koo-Koo of Ringling

"Koo-Koo of Ringling" is copyright    2000 by James G. Mundie. All rights reserved.  Reproduction prohibited.

Pen and Ink, 9 x 6.5 inches, 2000

What can be said about Koo-Koo the Bird Girl other than that she was an odd little thing? Her stage persona was certainly unique.

Koo-Koo's real name was Minnie Woolsey, a native of Georgia born in 1880. For a short time she performed in a semblance of a Native American costume under the name “Minnie Ha Ha”. At another time, she was “The Blind Girl From Mars”, but the Bird Girl was Koo-Koo's most enduring identity.

Koo-Koo's performance consisted of wearing a furry body suit and doing a peculiar dance. Dwarfish in stature due the skeletal disorder Virchow-Seckel syndrome, Woolsey had a bald head shaped quite like that of a baby bird, a resemblance that was enhanced by a prominent nose, a receding chin, and the magnifying effect of her rather thick spectacles.

Koo-Koo was among the sideshow performers featured in Tod Browning's infamous Freaks (1932). In the film, she performs her feathered shimmy atop the banquet table at the wedding feast. She is alleged to have still been performing at Coney Island as late as 1960.

Here I have based my portrait of Koo-Koo somewhat on Hans Holbein's portrait of Anne of Cleves.

A photograph of a sideshow front featuring Koo-Koo may be seen here.


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All Images and Text James G. Mundie 2003 - 2018