Saturday, February 15, 2014

JOHNNY ECK: KING OF THE FREAKS

Johnny Eck (left) with his co-stars in FREAKS (1932)
 Known at the height of his popularity as "King of the Freaks", the human torso who went by the stage name of Johnny Eck would go on to accomplished more with his life (79 years) than most "normal" people.

Born John Eckhardt Jr. in Baltimore, MD on 27 AUGUST 1911, he lived all of his life in one house. With his "normal" twin brother, Rob, they enjoyed a long, lucrative career capitalizing on Johnny's condition. While some may call it exploitation, it is a credit to his bravery and fortitude to make a name for himself . . . and make a fairly good amount of money at it to boot.

Eck is most famous for his role in Tod Browning's FREAKS (1932), but he enjoyed a long and varied career as the amazing "Half-Boy", including stints with Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, and Rilpley's Odditorium. Eck claimed that Browning wanted to make another film with him, this time with him as the product of a mad scientist's creation, but the project never got off the ground because of the stigma that FREAKS had caused at the box office.

Among other talents, Eck was an accomplished photographer, painter and model maker. He built his own race car and fully-functioning train, and fashioned an entire model circus out of wood.

Collector of "Eckiana", filmmaker Jeffrey Pratt Gordon, has over the years amassed a huge collection of Johnny Eck's possessions, much of it acquired right out of the house where he lived all of his life. The collection is on display through March at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Below is an article from the UK "body art" mag, BIZARRE, that tells more of the life and accomplishments of Johnny Eck, a truly remarkable individual.




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