Bound By Flesh: The Story of Violet and Daisy Hilton
By Alex Doll (Producer, Performer and Textual Maven for ‘Shocked & Amazed: On and Off the Midway’)
From the opening moments of the film it is clear that the public lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton consisted almost exclusively of a series of carefully composed press releases. The film, directed by Leslie Zemeckis (Behind the Burly Q), explores the arduous journey of two very unique women, struggling to establish personhood in a world that would scarcely acknowledge them as anything other than “freaks.”
The men in Auntie’s life (and there were several) were referred to as “Sir” by the twins. Between Auntie and her “Sirs” the sisters were fiercely mistreated, enduring near constant physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their guardians. Whisked around the world from the age of 3, and performing with lukewarm success in Germany and Australia, the Hiltons attempted to take on the US market, landing in San Fransisco in 1915. Originally denied entry into the United States due to their condition rendering them “medically unfit” for access, Mary Hilton created a media frenzy that mounted pressure on local authorities until they finally granted the twins passage. Mary’s biological daughter, Edith, and Edith’s partner, Myer Myers (a balloon salesman from Australia), took over the care of the sisters when their “Auntie” passed.
In the 1920’s, when the girls were in their teens, they were placed on stages with vaudeville legends, appearing on the same bill as Charlie Chaplin and tap dancing with Bob Hope. The Hiltons’ early vaudeville careers were a roaring success, netting them a profit of up to $5,000.00 a week, of which, they saw none. Their various managers and guardians ensured the twins were unable to profit from their own prosperity, and after considering the advice of Harry Houdini, who implored the girls to educate themselves on their public persona through newspapers and other media, the sisters pursued liberation through the justice system. Lawyer Martin Arnold helped to secure emancipation for Daisy and Violet in January of 1931, after which, the twins were awarded approximately $100,000.00 and approached life on their own for the first time.
Impoverished and desperate, the aging sisters implored the owner of the Park N Shop in Charlotte to take them on full time, incentivising the prospect by stating that he would only have to pay for one person. Wearing dated clothes and relatively out of touch with the world at large, the grocery store’s break room became their stage. Supported by the local church and the surrounding community, the twins enjoyed the simplicity and solace of life out of the spotlight for the remainder of their days, though, some might argue they never stopped performing.
James Taylor’s Shocked and Amazed!
It’s the end of the century and weirdness is everywhere. Carnival images are used by fast food joints, soft drink companies, basketball players, rock stars—everyone wants to be a freak. Everyone wants everyday to be a SIDESHOW!
James Taylor has been predicting this for a decade! James Taylor is the premier writer on the cutting edge of sideshow, the new vaudeville, the “other entertainment”! James Taylor is the man behind James Taylor’s Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway — the world’s only journal devoted solely to the entertainment explosion in the weird, bizarre and unusual!
James Taylor is the planet’s foremost authority on sideshow. You saw James Taylor and Shocked and Amazed! on The Learning Channel’s “Sideshow: Alive on the Inside,” “The Jerry Springer Show,” “Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel,” and Fox Television’s “Fox Files.”
You read about James Taylor on the front page of the “Wall Street Journal,” in “Publisher’s Weekly,” “New York Press,” and “Johns Hopkins Magazine.”
You heard James Taylor on Mancow Muller’s “Morning Madhouse” and NPR’s “The Derek McGinty Show.”
James Taylor knows sideshow and its stunning new wave of entertainers. Sword swallowers, fire eaters, regurgitators, human pin cushions, torture kings, contortionists and motordrome riders look to James Taylor’s Shocked and Amazed! as the definitive source for all things strange and bizarre: All things sideshow.
James Taylor’s Shocked and Amazed! views the sideshow tradition through a modern lens. Shocked and Amazed! features tell-all interviews with performers and showmen who have never been interviewed on the record. Shocked and Amazed reports on weirdness as entertainment, features exclusive reprints on sideshow history, and reveals behind-the-scenes photos of sideshow attractions.